The Sales and Marketing Divide: The Top 10 Causes of Misalignment

Can't we all just get along?

The sales and marketing divide is an extremely prevalent challenge facing organizations today. 

You can see it in the eyes of employees and leaders. 

Just ask a VP of Sales, “How’s your marketing program supporting your sales efforts?” 

*Eye roll*

Or ask a CMO, “Is sales effectively converting your qualified leads you’ve worked so hard to get?”

*Eye roll*

Then there’s sales reps who just think marketing is doing arts & crafts projects all day. 

And don’t forget the marketer who thinks that all sales reps are just toddlers who want more / better leads. 

While it all makes for amusing jokes about the age-old, stereotypical clash between departments, the sales and marketing divide is no laughing matter. 

Misalignment collectively costs organizations an immeasurable amount of money and resources every year. 

Top Reasons for the Marketing and Sales Divide with Recommendations to Solve Them

1) Departments Focusing on Different Metrics & Goals
2) Lack of Strong Advocacy and Culture
3) Absence of Mutual Accountability & Visibility
4) Messaging is Inconsistent
5) Sales Development is Struck in “No Man’s Land”
6) Marketing Fails to Gather (or Listen to) Sales Feedback
7) Sales Lets Qualified Leads Accounts Slip Through the Cracks
8) Poorly Documented Processes & Fragmented Tooling
9) Frustration-Inducing Meetings
10) Lack of Coordinated Plan of Attack

1) Departments Focusing on Different Metrics & Goals

At the end of the day, sales and marketing’s core responsibility is to drive revenue. Without it, the lights go out.

End of story 

So, it seems logical that sales & sales development focuses on closing deals & generating pipeline while marketing focuses on generating leads to fill the pipeline. 

Here’s the reality.

The metrics that organizations choose to track heavily influence behavior, priorities, and strategy.

Take scenario #1 as an example:

  • When marketing is accountable for  generating a high volume of leads, they optimize for PR, mass-appeal content, and have a lower focus on segmentation
  • Then, sales development struggles to meet their qualification / meeting set numbers
  • Ultimately, account executives start complaining that “the leads are weak” and pipelines bog down with unfit accounts

Takeaway: Even though marketing is doing its job in this scenario, they’re not optimizing for revenue and bookings. 

Compare this to scenario #2:

  • When marketing is accountable for qualified pipeline and revenue, they optimize for trade shows & events, heavy-hitting content for the bottom of the funnel, and have a higher focus on segmentation
  • Then, sales development can work with a smaller number of highly qualified leads & accounts 
  • Ultimately, account executives see marketing as allies because they are helping drive qualified pipeline and revenue 

Takeaway: Give marketing some sort of ownership over the revenue number. This should promote the right prioritization and behaviors to facilitate alignment.


No Spam. No Nonsense.
Just Quality Content To Your Inbox

2) Lack of Strong Leadership Advocacy & Culture

Without strong working relationships between department leaders, there’s little likelihood of any meaningful cross-team collaboration or execution taking place. 

It takes the right culture and a mutual respect of differences for departments to work together. That starts with leadership. 

Think of it this way. 

  • When sales needs marketing support, the sales leader needs to have a working relationship with their marketing counterpart to rally resources
  • Conversely, when marketing needs sales reps’ support, the sales leader needs to give the order and hold their team accountable. 

With a strong culture at the top trickling down, teams will work together and get work done. 

Without it, they’re prone to rivalry and competing agendas.

Then nothing gets done. And goals are missed.  

Takeaway: Alignment and strong culture starts at the top. If your head of sales and head of marketing can’t get along, don’t expect the teams to effectively work together. It’s like having “mom and dad fighting in the car.”

3) Absence of Mutual Accountability & Visibility

In situations where there’s a lack of visibility into progress within other departments, the only thing that’s left to do is assume. 

When assumptions are made, they’re usually not pleasant. 

With negative assumptions, trust degrades..

And relationships move at the speed of trust. 

This creates a vicious cycle that can quickly spin out of control if left unchecked. 

Takeaway: Revenue attainment, pipeline generation, meetings set, leads generated, account engagement, etc all should be accessible in shared dashboards to promote trust and collaboration.

4) Messaging is Inconsistent

It can be challenging as a frontline sales rep or marketer to zoom out and examine the big picture “buyer’s journey.” Naturally, each focuses on their own area. The issue with this is that gaps can form. 

When an organization isn’t aligned on storytelling, value propositions, personas, unnecessary friction is introduced into a number of areas. 

The first underlying penalty is marketing’s tendency to generate content & resources that don’t support the big picture or sales narrative. 

Consequently, this increases risk of “buyer confusion.”  Today’s prospects aren’t just looking for content, they’re looking for insights. That’s hard to do when marketing and sales narratives don’t line up. 

Maybe that’s why so much content goes unused..

Takeaway: Adopt standard messaging and use Sales Enablement Tools to centralize resources

5) Sales Development is Stuck in "No Man's Land"

Amidst the tug of war between marketing and sales, sales development often gets caught in the middle. It’s usually a matter of should they report to marketing or sales?”

Theoretically, SDR/BDR teams should be a bridge between the departments. 

There are two general routes that happen:

  • #1 SDR’s are aligned to a leads-focused marketing team, then they optimize for converting higher amounts of low quality, low impact opportunities.
  • #2 SDR’s are aligned to a revenue-focused marketing and/or sales team, then they optimize for lower amounts of high quality, high impact opportunities. 

Ask any sales rep if they’d rather fill their pipeline with junk deals or quality opportunities. 

Takeaway: Ensure that Sales Development shares accountability

6) Marketing Fails to Gather (or Listen to) Sales Feedback

In general, marketing has a tendency to be more data-driven. 

While this is by no means a bad thing, this can lead to a disregard for qualitative feedback. 

And since sales is generally more qualitative in nature, it’s no surprise the differing communication styles cause friction. 

Takeaway: Sales leadership should compile and send rep feedback to marketing about key results and customer insights. Marketing should review on their own first, then the two sides collectively can discuss. 

7) Sales Let's Qualified Leads & Accounts Slip Through the Cracks

Nothing drives a marketer crazier than finding a qualified lead or engaged target account in the CRM ignored by sales. 

After all, it takes serious time, effort, and money to drive those leads to begin with. 

On the flipside, sales should be encouraged to be selective about what leads & accounts they spend their time with. 

Enter, the SLA. Organizations who agree and commit to following an SLA for lead qualification and handling report much higher levels of alignment (HubSpot State of Inbound).

Takeaway: SLA’s should be put in place between departments to first determine what makes a “qualified lead.” The SLA should also define a range of time in which sales follows up with qualified prospects. 

8) Poorly Documented Processes & Fragmented Tooling

Where strategy ends, execution begins. And nothing sets a good strategy for failure like poorly documented like bad process and siloed tools. 

According to Walker Sands, almost 40% of companies don’t have an integrated stack of tools. 

Takeaway: Sales Enablement (storage drives), Sales Engagement Platforms, Marketing Automation, and other tools should all sync with a CRM. For the collective departments, the CRM should serve as the source of truth for all information.


9) Frustration-Inducing Meetings

Nobody likes sitting in a room listening to their colleagues over-explain new initiatives or results. 

An inability to have a healthy debate about respective goals and progress also doesn’t help. 

Yet, sales and marketing meetings tend to drag out and leave little room for discussion! 

Takeaway: Cross department reviews and accountability meetings should be concise, but also leave room for Q&A. Also, if meetings can be replaced with a quick email or group-chat, do so and save the group’s collective time and focus. 

10) Lack of a Coordinated Plan of Attack

Let’s take ABM and ABS out of the equation for just a moment. 

On the surface level, sales and marketing should at least work together to agree on the basics of an ICP like

  • Geographic
  • Industry 
  • Job function

That’s mostly a given.

Now, consider a few examples that happen when there’s coordination into exactly what accounts are being targeted. 

  • Marketing creates webinars and other resources for highly targeted audiences
  • Sales attends trade shows where top prospects and accounts are set to attend
  • Sales Development has a far easier time with qualification since the work is done up front
  • Leadership has a shared goal
  • Finance allocates spend to initiatives that move the needle with strategically selected companies, not just anyone that gets caught in the net

Of course, a healthy flow of strong inbound leads never hurts. 

Takeaway: There’s nothing stopping any company from establishing sets of “Tier 1” and “Tier 3” accounts. It just takes a coordinated effort between marketing and sales and a commitment to investing time & resources to converting those accounts.  

Next Steps

Our intention is to help you pinpoint the root of the causes for the sales and marketing divide. If nothing else, this should serve as preventative maintenance as your organization grows and evolves. 

 For next steps, take a look at our resources for target accounts and buyer personas. Both are key foundational elements account-based strategies that’ll bring your teams closer together.

Zach Sergio

Zach Sergio


Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

January 16th, 2020

Zach Sergio

Zach Sergio


Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Stay In The Loop

Subscribe to receive tips to help you refine your account based strategy! And if you ever need the tools & technology to help you get the job done, start with FoxBound.


Get actionable, real-world advice and resources delivered to your inbox.


Book More Qualified Meetings with Cold Email


We analyzed 3M+ emails and identified 9 key characteristics across top-performing campaigns. Grab a checklist and uncover what we found!


We use cookies to deliver a better browsing experience, personalize content, and analyze website traffic. By continuing, you agree to the usage of cookies. Learn more here.