Why Marketing Cannot Only Be Measured on MQLs

Marketing & Sales Sharing Risk & Rewards

How many times have you been in this meeting? The marketing team has delivered their goal number of MQLs, but sales has not come close to hitting their quota. Then, the finger-pointing and the blame game begins.

“We wouldn’t be below quota if the sales team could close these leads,” shouts the CMO.

“We wouldn’t be below quota if the marketing team actually delivered high-quality leads,” replies the VP of Sales.

This same scenario plays out across the country in thousands of meeting rooms in thousands of companies, regardless of what industry they’re in. It’s estimated that around $1 trillion is lost in company budgets every year due to marketing and sales misalignment. And yet, the rivalry between sales and marketing teams continues to not only exist, but in some organizations ends up being the crux of the operational inefficiencies leading to the downturn of the company.

To get to the bottom this divisive structure on the two sides of the table, we need to look at goals. How are marketing and sales teams structured, and how are companies measuring their successes? The sales goal is easy – meet quota. Marketing gets a bit squishier. When marketing teams lean too hard on the number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) delivered, they are missing the bigger picture and dodging the purpose of their position. In order for there to be a cohesive alignment between marketing and sales teams, marketers need to be less worried about MQLs and more worried about the bigger picture: Building pipeline and revenue for their companies.

The Limiting Factors of MQLs

It is not uncommon for a marketing team’s success to be based entirely on the number of MQLs that they bring in for a business. On the surface, this makes sense. This is a metric that is directly tied to marketing activity. If a marketing team is being successful, logic would dictate that the number of MQLs they’re bringing in would go up.

There’s one obvious problem with this line of thinking, however. When marketing is only focusing on the number of leads coming in, they have no accountability for what happens to that lead further down in the funnel. When assigning goals for marketing teams that are entirely focused around the quantity of leads, it is possible that the quality of these leads will slip. We then get into the scenario outlined above – everyone is pointing fingers and holding resentment for one another because someone isn’t doing his or her job right.

Enter “Smarketing” Goals

No, this isn’t just a clever combination of sales and marketing. It’s a fundamental shift in the way your organization views the two departments. A simple solution to this problem is to revamp what “success” looks like to a marketing team. A variety of mitigating metrics and tools have been added or developed to try and bridge this gap or shine success on marketing, but none have successfully eliminated the core of the problem: There is no shared risk or reward across marketing and sales.

So, imagine this: Instead of grading marketing teams on the number of leads they bring in, use actual pipeline value and revenue goals to measure marketing effectiveness and success.

You might be thinking, “Isn’t pipeline and revenue growth a sales metric?” In short, yes, but it’s time that we realize sales and marketing teams should not be considered separate entities – they are merely two sides to the same coin.

When sales and marketing teams sink or swim together, the finger-pointing stops almost immediately. An MQL gains a meaning to a sales team that translates into their language. Marketers will focus on the leads that make the most sense and are the most likely to turn into revenue. Sales teams will be happier with the quality of leads being delivered because they have worked with the marketing team on discovering what leads are most likely to lead to revenue. Essentially, tying everyone’s success to pipeline and revenue growth prevents anyone from being the victim – or the sole hero.

The benefits to shifting goals for marketing teams are not just hypothetically a good idea. According to Frank Vella, Chief Revenue Officer at BlueJeans Network, companies see a 67 percent improvement in closing sales and a 36 percent increase in customer retention in companies with aligned sales and marketing goals.

Making The Transition to One Team, One Goal Organization

The road to building pipeline and revenue for companies is not a short one, but the shift to aligning marketing and sales goals is largely based around company culture.

  • Start at the top. Insist that your sales and marketing executives demonstrate cooperative nature of the new relationship and the shared risk/reward involved.
  • Stop compartmentalizing marketing and sales and start thinking of them as one team with different functions. Go to happy hours together. Have a team meeting that involves people from both sales and marketing with the discussions based on pipeline and revenue goals. One team, one goal.
  • Build cross team trust. Take the time to ensure all team members know the value they are responsible for. From content creation to SDR outreach, everyone has a role and makes a difference on the bottom line. Not only should someone be aware of their own contribution to a company’s revenue goal, they should also be aware of everyone else’s roles and contributions to the bigger picture.
  • Do not forget the importance of developer or product demonstrations. Marketers need to know how to market a product, sales needs to know how to sell it. Encourage your development team or your product team to discuss the ways that your product or service is evolving, which will help both sales and marketing stay in the know and plan for future engagements.
  • And now, for our shameless plug: Establish a reporting source that not only allows metrics that matter to be shared, they can serve as benchmarks that can be used to create data-backed actions to meet revenue goals.

Beyond the obvious benefit of a less toxic company culture, aligning marketing and sales goals just makes business sense. By throwing aside MQL count as the golden standard for marketing efficacy, marketing, sales and the executives will have greater visibility into attribution as it relates to revenue results. Furthermore, creating revenue-centric marketing teams empowers marketing teams to demonstrate a clear return on marketing investment with shared risk and reward with the sales department.

Frankly, if it’s a move that gets us away from the norm of shouting matches and playing the blame game, I’m all for it.

Creating Winning Playbooks for Marketing & Sales

Another way to improve the dynamic between the marketing and sales is to create winning playbooks for key stages of the funnel. Download the eBook, Creating Winning Playbooks for Revenue Success, to get more out of your MQLs and the opportunities in the pipeline.


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