Sales executives have been perpetuating a trick on marketing for the last 15 or so years. A trick that will make or break your career. You need to be cognizant of it and not let it happen… ever. There’s generally two types of marketing and sales organizations in the B2B space. I’ve professionally witnessed both sides of the coin. One allows marketers to do what they do best – support their number one customer, Sales. The other, is a drag on both the Sales and Marketing departments.

This post will be a little “acronym-ee” since this topic is so full of them. Sorry in advance, but we’ll try to use them as sparingly as possible. Since there’s so many acronyms, below is a quick reference guide:

  • MQL – Marketing Qualified Lead
  • SQL – Sales Qualified Lead
  • SLA – Service Level Agreement
  • ISR – Inside Sales Representative
  • SDR – Sales Development Representative (equal to an ISR in most cases)
  • TOFU – Top of the Funnel
  • MOFU – Middle of the Funnel
  • BOFU – Bottom of the Funnel
  • CRM – Customer Relationship Management

Here’s how the Sales trick works. Sales complains about the quality of the MQLs. As a result, management moves SQLs into Marketing as a KPI. That means that Inside Sales reports to Marketing and the SDRs are moved over to that department.

Marketing and Inside Sales are two totally different disciplines that require completely different ways of thinking and personalities. In fact, it’s arguable that most senior marketing leaders aren’t even qualified to manage ISRs or SDRs. They should be lead and mentored by sales professionals, not marketers.

As a result, both Marketing and Inside Sales will most likely perform inefficiently because they can’t focus on what they do best. In the model described above, senior marketing leaders could pull designers, copywriters, developers, etc. from their work and have them dialing for dollars the last week of the month if the goal doesn’t look like it will be reached. It’s that person’s job that’s on the line if it’s not met.

Marketers should be focused on providing MOFU products (content) and BOFU products to support Inside and Outside Sales, all while filling the marketing funnel with leads to harvest for MQLs.

Let’s recap the reasons this trick is a bad idea:

  1. Inside Sales is not a marketing discipline
  2. Most marketing leaders are not qualified to train, mentor and manage SDRs and ISRs
  3. Keeps marketers and Inside Sales from focusing on their respective disciplines

Moving KPIs up-funnel doesn’t solve problems, it creates them.

If this sounds like a bunch of BS, then the awareness and knowledge stage of the marketing and sales funnel isn’t very valuable to you. That’s perfectly fine. In this case, get rid of the entire Marketing department, buy lists, and just have an Inside and Outside Sales force only.

Be honest with yourself and do the right thing for your company. Don’t waste your money on marketing. I’m totally serious. If you believe you can run a successful business with only bought lists than get rid of the marketing department. It serves no purpose if it only cranks out SQLs. If it works for you, great.

Workflow and Benchmarks for Sales and Marketing

Here’s what Sales and Marketing department workflow should look like for optimal results. Marketing collects leads, turns 10% or more of them into MQLs, then hands them over to Inside Sales. Inside Sales takes the MQLs, turns 10% or more of them into SQLs, then hands them over to Outside Sales. Outside Sales takes 10% of the SQLs and turns 10% or more of them into new business. The benchmarks could very slightly, depending on the industry.

How to Prevent the Trick from Happening to You

The whole root of this problem stems from Sales’ perception that the MQLs are poor quality. They may or may not be, but that’s the argument. It could just be an excuse because Sales isn’t hitting their numbers. Both reasons are possible, too. The implied solution is to move SQLs into Marketing. That way, the lead quality will be forced to improve.

In order to avoid this complaint, B2B brands must make an adequate SLA. This is a contract that both Sales and Marketing agree to and sign off on. It states the exact definitions of a lead, MQL, SQL, Opportunity and any other subsequent steps built into the organization’s CRM.

Once everyone signs off on it, nobody can complain about the leads anymore because they’ve agreed on the attributes and definitions of each type. In insures both Marketing and Sales are doing their jobs and holds everyone accountable for what they do and don’t deliver. When an appropriate SLA is in place, nobody from either department can pad or fake their numbers. If they can than it’s not a proper SLA.

Whether you’re a seasoned marketing veteran or an intern, take this article and put it to good use. Recognize the signs of moving Sales KPIs up-funnel and what detriments it can bring to a Sales and Marketing organization. Likewise, moving KPIs down-funnel is a bad idea, too. Sales people should be selling, not creating their own MOFU and BOFU products. With their input, that’s our job. With any luck, B2B Marketers that read this will be spared the experience of chasing SQLs.

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Chad Pollitt
Chad Pollitt is a decorated veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and former Army Commander; a member of a Forbes Top 100 List, and the Director of Marketing at DigitalRelevance (formerly Slingshot SEO). He’s a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and has been designing online campaigns for over 11 years. His other digital marketing related articles have been published in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and websites throughout the world. Follow him on Twitter @chadpollit.

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