New Research Shows Sales and Marketing are Finally Starting to Make Nice

October 30, 2018

From an outsider’s perspective, sales and marketing misalignment never made sense. You have two teams, both dealing with potential customers, both ultimately responsible for revenue generation, generally avoiding habitual collaboration.

But when you talked to sales and marketing pros, the divide at least became understandable. The two roles traditionally have differing responsibilities, often with contrasting expectations. It’s also been argued that perfect harmony is a pipedream, that tension between the teams can be beneficial. And let’s be honest, total alignment, while advantageous, hasn’t been an across-the-board prerequisite — sales and marketing teams have hit their numbers without tight-knit collaboration. Though when this has happened, it’s typically because other ideal conditions exist, such as strong demand.

All that has changed with the digitization of the buyer’s journey. Now that customers get most of their information from marketing content, a fumbled sales handoff can be more costly than ever. Buyers with options aplenty no longer have the time or patience to proactively make sense of an incongruent experience. Onto the next option.

Message received, according to LinkedIn’s 2018 State of Sales Report, which revealed that 44% of sales executives now work more closely with marketing than in years past. Those who work “very closely” or “closely” with marketing has grown 35% since the 2016 survey.

Closing the Sales and Marketing Divide Widens the Possibility of Success

It’s reasonable to assume that sales-marketing synchronization should boost success rates, and our numbers bear that out. Top sales professionals are 13% more likely than their peers to say they work “very closely” or “closely” with marketing as it relates to prospecting. When asked to rate marketing’s importance in closing deals, with one being a very small role and 10 being a very big role, 57% of the top sales professionals rate marketing’s importance at an eight or above. Only 41% of average salespeople feel the same way about marketing.

A Data Divide Remains

While it’s clear that more sales and marketing teams are embracing collaboration, the conditions for co-opted efforts could be improved in most cases. Silos still exist in the form of disparate technology platforms, each with its own data, definitions, and KPIs. Only one in five sales professionals sees a significant overlap in the data used by marketing and sales to target prospects.

It’s understandable, then, why only 22% of sales professionals describe leads from marketing as “excellent” and why only 42% say they’re merely “good.” Without matching criteria backed by shared data definitions, labeling a lead as “sales-qualified” will always involve more guesswork.

Orchestration from a Surprising Source

Millennials are used to taking heat, but they can’t be blamed for the sales and marketing divide because our survey shows they’re among the most responsible for solving it.

Data in the new State of Sales Report shows that top-performing millennials are 23% more likely to to say they work “very closely” with marketing than Generation X, and 73% more likely than Baby Boomers. This collaborative mindset is paying off; millennial sales pros were 56% more likely than Gen X to say they see “excellent leads” from marketing, and 115% more likely than Baby Boomers.

Get the Full Story

The shrinking divide between sales and marketing is one of the most prominent narratives to emerge in this year’s findings, but there are plenty of others worth noting.

To get yourself totally up-to-speed on where B2B selling stands as we look ahead to a new year, download the LinkedIn 2018 State of Sales Report.