I’m a marketer who does NOT battle with Sales. In fact, we collaborate on budget decisions, attend each other’s departmental meetings, and share input and ideas for better all-around execution. In other words, there is no need for us to ‘bridge the gap’—we don’t have one. However, this chasm does exist in many companies, with Marketing blaming Sales for failure to convert leads and Sales blaming Marketing for sending lousy leads. The struggle is real.

But while the reason for this Great Divide is understandable, it doesn’t have to be this way. For all the endless finger-pointing, neither team may actually be responsible. If you don’t have a symbiotic relationship between your Sales and Marketing teams, look a little higher in the organization to find the culprit.

Measure the Metrics That Matter

Does anyone know of a Marketing executive who isn’t tied to metrics of some sort? Of course not. Without metrics, it’s impossible to determine what actions drive results. So the metrics themselves are not the issue. Here’s the real problem: marketers are often measured by “fluff” metrics, and their compensation is then tied to them.

Measuring web traffic is a perfect example of fluff metrics. Everyone loves to see an increase in web traffic. But if web traffic is up 50% and leads are down 30%, how does that traffic increase benefit the business? Why should someone get a bonus for this? Web traffic is an indicator of success, but not a metric that guarantees results.

Tying fluff metrics to compensation opens the door for fraud and ultimately, a lose-lose situation for the company as a whole.

Let’s take a look at how this might happen.

(This may or may not be based on a real story…)

Catherine is the Director of Marketing, with a salary of $100,000/year and bonus incentives of $20,000/year. Her bonus package depends on:

  • Driving 5,000 unique visitors to their website each month
  • Delivering 100 SQLs per month
  • Generating 300 leads per month

As you can imagine, Catherine is quite motivated to earn her additional $20k. But current monthly marketing activity is only driving 3,000 visitors to the website and 50 SQLs. Catherine panics and contracts a third-party to artificially inflate traffic, and delivers 100 SQLs (knowing that only 50 are actually sales-qualified). Catherine continually receives her monthly bonuses and she’s very happy. But the Sales team misses quota each month and they are NOT very happy.

I probably don’t even have to tell you how this ends, right?  

The Sales team spent half their time following up on leads that were clearly not sales-ready and as a result, they missed their quota (and bonuses). The reps blamed Marketing for sending bad leads—which they did. And while Catherine may have felt some remorse, she still believed Sales got at least 50 high-quality leads and if they didn’t convert them to opportunities, that’s on them. The CEO didn’t care who was to blame—he only knows his annual revenue goals are in jeopardy.

In this case, the gap widened between the two most critical parts of the organization and the company suffered.

Message to the Metrics “Police”

Here’s how to set your Marketing and Sales teams up for success:

  • Identify metrics that truly reflect actions and results that support your goals and your bottom line. Don’t get caught up in fluff metrics.
  • Be careful in how you tie metrics to compensation. If numbers can be inflated to ‘check the box’ of the bonus requirements, the company suffers in the long run.
  • Encourage your Sales and Marketing teams to seek out mutually beneficial solutions to convert leads to opportunities more successfully. An effective lead to SQL process enables your teams to drive more revenue together (and bicker a lot less).

Final Words

Is every Sales/Marketing conflict directly related to fluff metrics and compensation? Of course not. But this absolutely happens in some organizations and it’s damaging to the employees on both teams, as well as the company as a whole. If you’re a marketer and your success is tied to fluff metrics, speak to your boss and suggest changing those to Metrics that Matter.


Wise Message to the Marketer – Don’t be Catherine. Hollow numbers will only preserve your job for so long.