If I had to point to one issue that’s most pervasive the among my B2B technology clients, it’s tension between the sales and marketing team.  What causes this discord?  The typical scenario looks something like this:

Revenue isn’t meeting expectations and the CEO and board of directors want to know why.  They start with the sales team leader who immediately points the finger at the marketing department, claiming that poor lead quality and nurturing is the culprit. The CMO points back at the sales leader, citing the huge quantity of leads in the hopper that no one on the sales staff has bothered to qualify.

While there is always plenty of blame to assign, the CMO is almost always the fall guy.  Why?  The reason is simple – sales produces revenue, and marketing is a cost center. CEOs will do back flips to keep the sales people happy because if they’re not motivated, nothing gets sold.

This is why the CMO is the most-likely -to-get-fired executive in the board room.

If marketing is just dumping a bunch of unqualified leads into the sales funnel to show volume, failure is assured. Sales reps aren’t gatherers – they’re hunters.  They aren’t going to follow up on leads without assurance that there’s an opportunity to make a sale.

How do sales reps look at leads?  They consider budget availability, authority, a need for the product and a concrete time frame for purchase. And if they’re left to boil the ocean to pick out solid leads, it’s just not going to happen.

While the marketing folks are focused on lead generation volume, warm leads are neglected and falling out of the funnel simply because the sales staff can’t identify them. This not only forces marketing to scramble to amass new leads by also limits sales to a very small pool of sales-ready opportunities.

And then revenue plummets and people get fired.

Experts estimate that on average it takes a range of 7 to 15 touches to qualify a lead as sales-ready – and it’s marketing’s job to nurture leads. It’ s pointless for the sales team to spend time and effort on what isn’t clearly an opportunity. And, while vetting prospects has traditionally been a sales function, automation has changed the game and marketers need to take charge and bubble quality prospects up to the top.

While automation delivers a high volume of leads, it’s the relationship building and personalized attention that ultimately drives conversion. If the sales team can’t figure out who to focus on and how, sales drop and marketing ends up on the chopping block.

This is why it’s critically important for marketers to stay focused on setting up the sales team to succeed. The key is to bridge the gap between automation and the personalized touch through lead vetting and nurturing. When the sales team is supported optimally, everyone wins.