Your sales team will tell you who your best prospects are. Well, 16% of the time

Lottie O'Donoghue B2B Branding, B2B Strategy, Customer Experience, Industrial, Professional Services, Technology

When approaching any new project, one of the most valuable pieces of work anyone can do is speak to the people buying the products: the customers. Anyone who has worked in B2B long enough will tell you that the ability to do this can vary from tricky to borderline impossible. Rarely are customers free to chat, but, even if they are, how likely are they to want to chat about their buying behaviours to a nosey marketing agency?

In their absence, the next best thing is the sales team or, in some organisations, the customer success team. The people most closely aligned with the customers, who get to hear the problems and challenges customers face, day-in, day-out. Beyond the challenges themselves, the real value from these conversations comes from the anecdotes that bring the culture of the clients’ category to life in insightful ways.

The terminology and the nuances that no amount of desk-research on Google will ever realise. It’s this research that provides fresh perspective on how to approach designing communication strategies that will resonate with customers and will drive prospects from mild interest into actively wanting to learn more about a brand.

Separating fact from fiction

An article published on Marketing Week by Jon Lombardo & Peter Weinberg on ‘Quantifying the misalignment of B2B marketing and sales’ discussed the analysis of 7,046 companies on LinkedIn by the LinkedIn Customer Insights Team. This research highlighted that the average ‘alignment’ between B2B marketing and B2B sales is just 16%.

For two teams that should be working hand in glove, this statistic highlights that, in reality, it appears to be a more siloed approach.

The difference isn’t just a matter of opinion

Irrespective of your view of the role of marketing, the role of the two functions is different. The article uses the analogy of two circles: one representing marketing, and the other representing sales:


Both equally important. But, when you look at these two functions through the lens of the total number of buyers each discipline will reach, you get this:


While this alignment is great in theory: that the people Marketing is communicating with are the same as those sales is speaking to. The reality is somewhat different:



A challenge that transcends organisations

There are many reasons why this is an issue, but the starting point is to create clear definitions of the two disciplines. A simple search on X (formerly Twitter) reveals the widespread lack of clarity surrounding the role of marketing within an organisation:


If the very people whose role it is to ‘do’ marketing can’t agree on its role, how should other departments be expected to understand what it’s for, what it does and where it begins and ends?

Rather than add more conjecture into the mix, it’s useful to look at Mark Ritson’s definition in a Guardian article entitled: Marketing is not the same as sales | Mark Ritson | The Guardian

“The role of the marketing department is to play the long-term, strategic game of not only attracting customers, but retaining them.”

The important phrase here is ‘long-term’. A simple way to think about it is sales being focused very much on conversions in the short-term (the 5% of a total audience in-market to buy at any given moment), where marketing is focused on both the long and the short. As Ehrenberg-Bass states, 95% of B2B buyers are not in the market for your products.

Mark goes on to say:

“Marketing and sales are both crucial to an organisation. But they are crucial in different ways and for different reasons. If marketing were the same as sales it would be called sales. Marketing managers need to understand this difference, understand the implications of this difference, and then spread their understanding across their organisation. Not better or worse than sales. Not more or less important. Just different.”

But how can you create greater synergies between sales and marketing and what practical steps can you use to align these two disciplines?

In part two, we’ve collated our advice and recommendations on what you can do today — and in the future — to create marketing programmes that are fully aligned with sales and designed to create seamless experiences for the very people they’re designed to attract, influence and convert.

Lottie O’Donoghue

Lottie O’Donoghue

Lead Business Development Manager

A marketer through and through, before Velo, Lottie led the marketing function of a scale-up tech SaaS platform moving to the world of agencies to run Accenture’s ABM and marketing activity across EMEAR.  Now, Lottie leads the agency's teams for new business clients across brand strategy projects through to websites and campaign activation. She also owns Velo's own marketing, too.