Sales failing to convert four in five marketing leads: how to better align these departments


Research suggests that it is critical for marketing and sales to work together to create best practices, deliver more quality leads, and drive higher-impact deals. Unfortunately, in Australia, many companies are misaligned when it comes to marketing and sales, as marketers focus on top of the sales funnel, while sales reps close deals at the bottom of the funnel.

According to research from Marketo and ReachForce* , half of sales time is spent on unproductive prospecting, with sales ignoring as much as 80% of marketing leads. Although, these numbers are worrying for Australian business owners, research suggests that if companies overcome the misalignment between sales and marketing, that businesses will be 67% more efficient at closing deals.

So how do Australian business owners get these two departments to effectively work together? Here are some tips that will help you get started:

1. Lead Scoring

The most crucial thing about marketing and sales alignment is the importance of engaging prospects at the right time. Lead scoring is a method of ranking leads for their sales-readiness, agreed upon by both sales and marketing. In order for your organisation to be well-aligned, effective lead scoring is critical. By implementing lead scoring into your marketing automation platform, the wasted time and resources between marketing and sales can be addressed.

There are many different types of lead scoring, each measuring specific metrics that organisations can observe and use to make decisions regarding prospects. Lead scores help marketing teams identify top prospects through what is called a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).

MQLs are prospects whose lead score adds up to a value that is agreed upon with a combination of metrics such as demographic/firmographic “fit” score, engagement score, and buying intent. Once the marketing team has used lead scoring to identify an MQL, they can hand the prospect over to sales, as they are considered primed and ready. This drastically reduces wasted time for both the marketing and sales departments on clients that are not yet ready, therefore, teams reduce time wastage and can run more efficiently. Once sales follow up on MQLs, they can then be transformed into a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).

A Sales Qualified Lead or SQL is a lead that has been accepted by sales after demonstrating BANT characteristics: Budget, Authority, Need and Time. Ultimately SQLs are prospects that the sales team consider to have a high potential to purchase a product.

By scoring leads, sales and marketing teams can effectively identify interested prospects and engage them at the right rime, reducing time wastage and improving productivity, overall resulting in a much more aligned team.

2. Organised Lead Routing

When a business receives leads, it is critical that they are appropriately and effectively routed at the right time, and to the right department. Business leaders should be seeking to drive fairer distribution of leads to the right people. A key marketing and sales exercise is to investigate the quality and quantity of lead flow in each department. Language preference, passing more highly qualified leads to more senior members of sales teams, and in some cases, a round robin may be the easiest and most balanced way to distribute leads.

Often sales teams are unaware of the processes in place for follow-ups and how certain steps need to be followed in order for activities to be logged. Businesses should organise training sessions with sales to advise them of the correct processes. Feedback loops are an excellent way of asking the team whether they are seeing patterns in how leads are coming into view.

The last consideration is designing an articulate lead routing engine and to have enough resources to manage it versus a simpler routing engine with less maintenance overhead.

3. Well Defined Marketing and Sales Handoff

It is important that leads are handed off appropriately in order to avoid time and money wastage and possibly even the loss of a sale. To make this possible, organisations must have an effective workflow and procedure for handing qualified leads off to sales. For organisations to improve handoffs, it is important that they put the right processes in place for their employees to ensure a fully functional and aligned team.

Service-level agreements (SLAs) should be integrated into marketing and sales teams in order for sales to be accountable for leads that have been passed over. By implementing SLAs, it ensures that sales are following up with given leads over a set period of time.

Another way to ensure marketing and sales are aligned is by defining lead quality. Whilst a significant amount of time is spent defining the stages of the funnel it is imperative that both sales and marketing teams spend equal time on defining the quality side of the metric.  Otherwise the two departments will begin passing the blame if a potential sale is lost, creating animosity between the two teams. The priority should be able to analyse good sales months and look back upstream to see what the key trigger points were to fuel the sales.  The same should occur for bad months– look back without blame, but with a focus to learn what you did (and didn’t do) and correct it.

If organisations are having troubles with marketing and sales alignment, then they should consider these tips to point them in the right direction. Alignment of both departments is possible however it is essential that they work together towards this common goal.


About the author

Bill Binch is the ANZ Managing Director at Marketo, a digital marketing software and solutions company based in San Mateo, California with offices all around the world.