I recently had a chance to ride in the car with a colleague “up north” where we passed the drive time solving most of the world’s problems and then some. One of the interesting problems we discussed was how often sales people will rush to complain about marketing’s lead generation efforts. It usually starts with the typical sales pipeline review between sales rep and sales manager. During this review, the sales rep invariably uses “the leads are weak” excuse for their shallow level of pipeline activity. The sales manager having been a rep once upon a time can appreciate this excuse because they too once had shallow pipelines and never seemed to get what they wanted from marketing in terms of “ready to sell” leads. The sales manager then reprimands the rep for lack of activity, but proceeds to package up the information and relays it on up the chain of command.
We mused that each month, the sales review story about “weak leads” goes much like a fish story that keeps growing with each telling of the tale. Eventually, the head of sales has to explain the larger sales pipeline to the CEO at the executive staff meeting. In a not so veiled fashion, the head of sales offers up poor lead generation as the ultimate reason that sales is behind the eight ball in trying to make their numbers on such a shallow pipeline. This public airing of marketing’s ineffectiveness causes the big boss and other keepers of money to question the value of such “large investments” in marketing. This in turn causes real harm to the marketing budget and eventually results in cuts that have to be absorbed by programs that drive leads. This causes the volume of leads to go down further and the process repeats itself until there is a new head of marketing and more than likely a new head of sales. Does this story sound vaguely familiar?
So, why do sales people complain about the leads they get from marketing? Lets say that 3/4 of the leads are in fact crap. That still leaves a 1/4 that have good potential. But as described above, complaining about marketing leads just causes program cuts and even fewer leads.
What would happen if sales people continually encouraged their marketing counterparts and offered up public praise for them as a part of the sales pipeline review process? Who knows, that positive feedback might actually make its way around the horn and cause the keepers of money to increase the amount they spend on marketing. Of course, this scenario already happens albeit infrequently. Smart sales professionals know better than to bite the hand that feeds them. Their positive reinforcement often gets them extra help from marketing which simply means better results for everyone.
Creating a culture where marketing and sales work together in strong alignment is obviously the ideal. Making that happen requires strong leadership from the CEO, the head of sales and the head of marketing. How does the old cliché go, don’t bite the hand that feeds you lest you starve…