The 5 Most Common Mistakes Sales and Marketing Teams Make, and how Data Fixes Them

It’s costing you a lot, and the solution is right there.

The Problem: Sales and Marketing Aren’t Using Data Effectively

It has become something of the maxim for many modern companies. We most recently read it in Forbes, who writes “industry expert Gary Cokins has repeatedly said that companies are “drowning in data, but starving for information.” And while this maxim has humorous connotations when it comes to swimming in a sea of data and just looking for that one little bit of actionable information the reality is much more troubling. And if you find that this drowning/starving metaphor applies to you then the situation is more dire than you might think.

We don’t mean to be dramatic, but the situation really is that serious. According to Forbes “83 percent of CIOs believe data is a valuable asset that isn’t yet fully utilized.” Essentially what this is saying is that there is a valuable asset hiding in the data, everyone knows it, and yet no one can seem to figure out how to use it.

Why is that? There are many possible explanations. One possible reason could be that data analysis is time consuming and costly. Industry expert Gary Cokins also thinks that “Among organizations, there is fear of being measured, knowing the truth and being held accountable.” In other words the information that comes in the hard light of data’s day might not be what most organizations want to hear. But we are here to tell you that, no matter what you might find, it is always worth a look.

So where should an organization start using data effectively? We recommend right at the ROI generating twin engines of your organization: sales and marketing.

This post is going to deliver a step-by-step guide in how to use data effectively at every stage of the sales and marketing funnel. For more information on how to align sales and marketing, see our previous post on 5 Simple Strategies to Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams in 2017.

Confusion About What Qualifies

In our previous post, we mentioned the importance of getting sales and marketing to agree on what constitutes a qualified lead, whether it be MQL, SQL or SAL. This is the first mistake that many sales and marketing teams make: they disagree on what qualifies a lead. This miscommunication leads to marketing generating tons of bad leads while sales is griping for more educated, ready-to-buy prospective clients in their workday. The experts at PersistIQ define the problem this way, “After you have an SLA in place and know who is responsible for your inbound leads, the first step is to qualify those leads. Simply put, is this prospect a good match for your product/service or not?”

This is also the first place where data analysis can help. If you are using a CRM or sales performance platform (if you are not, we highly recommend starting in order to remain competitive) then you are already gathering all the data about what qualifies a lead not just in a general sense but which leads are most qualified for your specific industry and sales processes. All you need to do is track which of the leads that marketing generates make it down to the purchase stage in the least amount of time and you will know that any lead coming from this source or meeting these circumstances should be considered a high priority. It’s using data analysis to come up with your own set of qualifications rather than relying on an outside source.

Know What Content Qualifies

All of the qualified leads that you identify in step 1 had to come from somewhere, and in the modern marketing landscape that means a specific piece of content resonated with them. Luckily most websites and CRMS are tracking what pieces of content most prospective buyers are interacting with. Once you have that information in hand you can start to not only tailor the rest of your content marketing strategy but can solve one of the biggest marketing blunders of our time: producing content that goes nowhere.

Forrester Analyst Lori Wizdo defined the problem and the solution in this way: “you need to make sure that the content that you’re distributing to your prospects, the content that you’re presenting to them either remotely or in person, matches exactly what their needs are so you can have smarter conversations with them.” When a piece of content fits those criteria then the prospective client moves through the pipeline more smoothly and sales can know that the content the prospective buyers are reading earlier in their journey is qualifying them in the best possible way.

Look for Quality, not Quantity

We get it: everyone wants to see results quickly. For a new CEO coming into an organization with floundering sales the most immediate answers could be something like “hire more salespeople” or “generate more leads.” Quite frankly these are shortsighted, foolish answers to a more complicated problem and smart leaders will see the benefit in adopting a little patience and looking for quality, not quantity. In other words, the quick fix might improve the outlook in the short term but can actually end up hurting your organization in the long run.

According to the experts at SMA, “Stuffing more leads into a flawed sales process will not resolve a sales effectiveness problem.” So how does data solve this problem? Simple. Use the data in your CRM to track your sales process and look for flaws in the system rather than trying to stuff more leads into a flawed system that will only drop what you spent time and money to build. We recommend using the data to see where most prospective buyers get stuck in the sales process. Which step is taking more time than any other, and where do you see the most drop-off? With that information in hand you can start focusing your training and efforts where they can actually do some good.

One Set of Scoring Metrics

Most sales organizations have multiple branches and multiple clients across multiple countries. If you sell anything online then you definitely do. And while we understand that people are different no matter where you go this buyer diversity leads many CEOs into a trap that seems all too reasonable: have different scoring metrics for different regions. While it might seem like this approach makes sense top marketers and sales organizations now know something different: have the same metrics for your entire organization.

According to the experts at Marketo “This centralized approach has greatly helped us evaluate the quality of top-of-funnel leads coming in and understand our program performance.” When you have a different set of scoring metrics around lead qualification then your performance analysis suffers and your sales organization will blunder on as it always has. However, if you use data to generate a reasonable set of statistics then you are already well on your way to the most efficient means possible of making sure that all leads, no matter where they come from, are qualified. To find this data we recommend looking first at average lead generation to purchase time over a period of months and years for the whole organization: this will give you a historical perspective you can use to set your centralized scoring metrics.

Know What Your Qualified Leads are Costing You

By this point you should know what qualifies a lead, what content creates that qualified person, that you have an efficient sales process ready to receive them and that all of your leads across your organization look and feel the same in terms of scoring metrics. This is an enviable position for any CEO to find themselves in, but there is one final piece of the puzzle- getting to this point should not cost the company too much money. This is often a trap that many organizations fall into- they create sophisticated processes that generate qualified leads but, due to a trial-and-error approach in getting there they find that they are in a less rosy financial picture than when they started.

So how does data fix this problem? According to marketing and sales expert Eric Vidal “be more ROI focused as you approach metrics. For example, calculating the customer acquisition cost (CAC) could be a good way to determine the success of your marketing campaign, and that’s a measurement sales could get behind.” Essentially what you need is for your sales and marketing teams to agree on data metrics when it comes to the marketing activities. While marketing might be ecstatic that their email was opened and had a high clickthrough rate they need to discuss those same metrics with sales so that a correlation can be made. If that email did not result in significant higher sales then perhaps it is time for a new approach. Your CRM is gathering this data and a sales enablement platform can connect the dots to track marketing efforts all the way downstream. This way the C-suite can ensure that only the most cost-effective methods are being utilized.


The world of sales and marketing is a tricky one to navigate, full of pitfalls and dangers. The world of data acquisition and analysis could be your roadmap to not only avoiding these common mistakes but capitalizing on utilizing data the right way.

If you would like to learn more about aligning sales and marketing leveraging data, download our free E-book ” The War is Over: The ultimate guide to aligning sales and marketing”.

5 Simple Strategies to Integrate Your Sales and Marketing Teams in 2017

It’s a problem as old as companies themselves, but 2017 brings fresh challenges and solutions to the age-old problem.

The Problem: The Roles of Sales and Marketing is Changing

Aligning sales and marketing has always been a difficult proposition. Molly Soat of the American Marketing Association defines the problem most succinctly when she writes “For most companies, marketing’s job is to generate leads, and sales’ job is to turn those leads into clients. In practice, though, marketing and sales need to work in tandem, aligning their roles and goals to ensure that ROI becomes the responsibility of the whole organization, not individual teams.” And therein lies the difficulty- getting sales and marketing to work together has always been difficult because the two departments have, historically, seen themselves as being in separate departments with separate goals. While in a perfect world they would work in tandem as an ROI achieving machine the reality is much more complicated, and has only gotten more so in 2017 and an already difficult proposition has become more challenging.

How have the roles of sales and marketing changed in 2017? According to sales and marketing expert Craig Rosenberg “The top third of the sales cycle has gone away. Salespeople believe that the beginning of the traditional sales process has evaporated and that buyers are self-servicing their needs instead of engaging with salespeople.” This viewpoint is backed up by the sales and marketing leaders at Marketo. According to their most recent research, marketing is now responsible for the  buyer’s journey all the way through evaluation, with sales only stepping in for the final stages of evaluation and purchasing. This essentially shifts the responsibility for educating a potential buyer to marketing, a role that traditionally had been held by sales.

Aligning sales and marketing is still important, as seen when Forbes writes “71% of C-level executives noting that sales productivity is ‘critical’ to future growth.”  The sales masterminds at SMA write “There is a whole lot of evidence that closer Sales+Marketing Collaboration lifts Sales Productivity, and I can show you that a lift of just 5% in Sales Productivity can yield a 20% increase in profit. So, Sales+Marketing Collaboration should be a BIG DEAL” (ibid). But if the situation has gotten more complicated as buyer’s preferences and behaviors shift in the digital marketplace of 2017 then the C-level also needs new tools and strategies to accomplish their goals.

That is what we offer in this post- this is an overview of how to align sales and marketing, giving the C-level reader a step-by-step guide to getting started the right way and ensuring that their sales and marketing teams stay aligned in the future.


The C-Suite Provides the Vision

According to Fergal Glynn and the American Marketing Association “In a lot of places, there’s huge tension between sales and marketing teams. In sales, they don’t appreciate all the different work that marketing can do, and marketing doesn’t understand all of the different situations that the sales team faces. The very first step is an executive agreement.”

That is why the first step begins with you, the executive. Part of providing leadership for your organization comes in the form of just getting these departments together for the conversation to begin in the first place. And, once that meeting is being held, the executive needs to be a strong, clear voice for defining the different roles of marketing and sales within the organization. Now, as for what those rules should be we recommend research into your own customers. In this case, marketing handles the buyer’s journey through evaluation with sales taking the lead through those crucial last steps of evaluation and purchase.

Define your target

The next step in aligning sales and marketing to define the target audience, with the end goal of getting sales and marketing to agree on who they are even talking to in the first place. This is a crucial step because all further actions depend on a clear understanding of the audience for your industry, then sales and marketing can finally begin to collaborate effectively.

Why do both departments need to be involved in coming up with this “ideal buyer?” According to Craig Rosenberg “Sales and marketing must agree on who the target buyer is, what they do every day, what they care about, and why they buy. This effort should not be owned by only marketing or only sales. Instead, this should be a joint activity.” This is essentially echoing what Molly Soat identified as the key to aligning sales and marketing in the first place- ideally throughout these meetings they will transition from working in a silo to working in tandem.

Invest in Sales Performance Software

The modern take on the old standard of sales performance management are software platforms with a strong focus on data analysis that put valuable information on every opportunity, lead and account within easy reach of both sales and marketing.

While there are many different sales performance software options out there (many of them start with the CRM itself) there are a couple of guidelines on what to look for when you are thinking about purchasing a platform for your organization.


  • It should be scalable.
  • Data collection and automated analysis should be key.
  • The visualization or presentation layer should be understandable and accessible.
  • There should be one for both sale and marketing.

Of all of these criteria perhaps the most important is the last. If sales and marketing are working from a single source of truth then there will be fewer miscommunications and you can foster a corporate culture where the two operate as a single unit instead of separate entities.

This step is truly important, and with good reason. According to the Savo Group, “55% of top-performing companies are investing in sales performance technology and programs to drive sales productivity.” 

Perfectly Align Your Content

If the statistics are correct and marketing really is responsible for both attracting and educating prospective buyers then there is only one way for any organization to do it effectively: content marketing. Everyone in marketing has heard the now old adage “content is king,” but the true power behind the throne happens when sales and marketing come up with a content strategy together.

So how does this happen? Simple- have sales and marketing talk about the hot-button issues in the industry and then, together, come up with blogs, videos and other content that will educate prospective buyers in the right way so that when they finally do speak to a salesperson at the very end of the funnel they are ready and willing to take that final step into purchasing.

The marketing gurus at Hubspot recommend as much when they write”Your sales reps are talking with prospects all the time and know what is getting them excited about your company.” They should then be able to share this information with your marketing team so that the message the marketers are delivering and the promises the salespeople are making at the end of the process perfectly align.

Decide on Lead Generation Metrics Together

Now that you know who you are talking to, what content they are interested in and have a sales performance platform gathering the data on how everything is performing you can really put that data to good use; lead generation metrics. Traditionally this is where sales and marketing have tended to butt heads most frequently. Marketing works hard for every lead that they get and when they pass them on to sales they are proud and happy about them. When it turns out that sales doesn’t think the leads are as great or they are not what they are looking for then miscommunication and inefficient operations are a result. The minds at Marketo define this quite well when they write  “The problem is that, traditionally, Marketing defined the qualities of an MQL [Marketing Qualified Lead], and Sales decided what made someone an SAL [Sales Accepted Lead] or SQL [Sales Qualified Lead]. This partially explains why Sales sometimes feels that Marketing hands off unqualified leads – Marketing doesn’t always know what Sales is looking for!”

So how do you fix the problem? Easy- consult the data in your sales performance platform or CRM to discover which leads the marketing department generated went all the way down the pipeline faster and led to more revenue than any other lead. This way you can not only direct marketing to the most fruitful best practices but sales can know that every lead coming down the pipeline is qualified according to what works best for your particular organization. Essentially it is using the data your company is already producing in a new and more efficient way.

Aligning sales and marketing has always been a challenge to the CEO or COO because these different areas of the business have been seen as fundamentally different. As a result they have traditionally worked in silos, missing out on communication and often working against each other rather than as a cohesive whole. However, if you follow these steps you can start seeing the amazing results that happen when the two work in tandem.

If you would like to learn more about aligning your Sales and Marketing teams, download our free E-book “The War is Over: The ultimate guide to aligning sales and marketing”.


How to Choose the Right KPIs for your Sales Organization

Meet Veronica she’s got it all figured out.

The Problem: how to choose KPIs that will have the most immediate, direct effect on revenue.

To answer this problem let’s meet Veronica. She is one of those people that you always seem to hear about- rarely stressed, her managers and teams are consistently meeting or exceeding their sales quotas, the CEO and COO are kept in the loop and couldn’t be more impressed. She attracts top talent that always performs above expectations.

No, she isn’t made up. People like Veronica do exist. But if you could have seen her six months ago you wouldn’t have recognized her or her sales teams. When Veronica joined the company she was hired with the very specific goal of implementing best practices for her industry, ensuring that sales quotas were met- something they hadn’t done in a long while.

Analyze current top performers to discover the KPIs that are right for your business.

When Veronica first started things were a little bumpy, put simply she didn’t know where she should look to find the right best practices to implement. She knew of over a dozen places where she could get a list of KPIs that she should be tracking, but wasn’t sure if these were the exact KPIs that she should be focusing on for her industry. She needed individualized guidance and was coming up short.

So she did what many would do- she started analyzing the sales reports that her company was already generating. The company was still selling, and so she figured, wisely, that if she could identify who the top performing salespeople are then she could use that data to generate a list of best practices that were tried-and-true for her specific company. According to Bob Apollo “A minority of the sales organization – rarely more than 20% – are habitual over-performers. A larger number – often 30% or more – are habitual under-performers… the majority of sales people sit somewhere in the middle: there is some indication that they have the potential to do better, but they have so far failed to consistently and reliably over-perform against their targets.”

So Veronica needed to identify the 20% of her sales organization were her habitual overperformers and establish best practices based on what they were doing, thereby turning that middle ground into a high productivity zone. According to Apollo this is a smart approach, as “The middle ground represents a huge opportunity for performance improvement.”

But herein lies another, more meaningful problem-she needed to find the top 20% but didn’t understand the reports she was getting- they weren’t giving her a clear picture of the overall performance of each sales team. This made it difficult for her to identify who her top performers were and why. Without this information she couldn’t identify what the organization’s best practices were so that she could implement them throughout her sales organization. She was stumbling around in the dark and was under tremendous pressure to perform at a high level and deliver the results she was hired to bring.

Data visualization makes who the top performers are and why easy to see

Veronica discovered that the company was already gathering all of the data she need to improve, she just had no way to see exactly which metrics the top performers were excelling at in order to put them on top. That’s exactly where data visualization enters the picture- with the right way to look at the data the company was already gathering Veronica could identify the top 20%’s best practices and implement them company-wide, and she could do it without wasting a lot of time looking over endless reports, afraid she would miss a crucial KPI.

According to Brian Gentile “Data visualization’s greatest strength comes, arguably, from the way it can bring actionable insights to the surface. Unlike with charts and tables, visualization tools allow the user to interact with and directly manipulate the data sets. This level of interaction allows executives to ask further questions about the data, not just the what, but also the why, how, and where.” And that is precisely what Veronica needed- most CRM data analysis tools, rudimentary though they are, still give the user who the top performers are. They are even gathering data about the KPIs and metrics that the 20% are hitting, they just don’t visualize that information in a way that makes the intelligence actionable.

With the right data visualization Veronica could not only see who her top performers are but, as Gentile points out, was able to see “the why, how, and where.” These deeper questions are the intelligence she needed to identify why her top performers were the best, how they got there and where the rest of her sales organization should be focusing in order to see the biggest gains in performance improvement, fast.

Veronica’s success happened because she was able to use data effectively, seeing how performance metrics impacted revenue and using that information to establish a set of key performance indicators which became the best practices for her sales organization. The process was fast, effective, and enjoyable because she worked smarter. And it started with finding the right tool for the job.

Scalable Growth Through Sales Operations

img0Trends in modern sales techniques and best practices have never moved faster. The advent of digital technologies in the online marketplace demands that today’s top business leaders move even faster to keep up.

As digital, connected technologies continue to change the way the world does business many leaders are looking for a way to efficiently handle their sales operations, and it makes perfect sense when one considers the myriad ways in which digital technologies have changed the traditional world of sales. For example, research shows that more and more B2B buyers are seeking the same sort of convenience and immediacy that they experience in their B2C experiences. Online markets encourage competition not only in price but in customer experience: if a consumer does not appreciate the way a certain organization conducts their affairs then they can easily, with a few clicks, find one who will for a negligible increase in cost. In this new climate a traditional sales and support model has become increasingly unsustainable. The online marketplace has forever changed the way the world does business and, even though this has been in place for well over a decade, business leaders are still struggling to keep up with the fast pace of the modern sales world.

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Driving Data

As summer winds along we here at the VisualCue offices are reminded of summer road trips with our parents. Seemingly endless stretches of desert, plains and rolling hills as the entire clan packed up to go and visit relatives.

While some might moan and groan about the tradition of the family road trip everyone here isn’t too proud to admit that we secretly loved them.

It got us thinking, as most things do, about the future. For example, will there ever come a day when the family road trip, while still taking place on the road, will not have that painful stop by the gas station, or even having Mom or Dad drive at all.

That’s right road trippers, today we are looking at data surrounding electric and self-driving cars!

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Memorable Data Visualizations

Memorable Data Visualizations

There is something about the science of data visualization that absolutely captures our imagination. In fact, we used the science of sight and the power of human pattern recognition to create VisualCue in the first place. We saw that there was  problem with spreadsheets and the standard graphs and charts that were used to visualize them- they weren’t very memorable or easy to understand.

So we used icons and colors to present that same information in a different way. After the very first VisualCue experiments in 2007 we discovered a very interesting side effect of our presentation layer: people remembered the data more easily after having seen it in VisualCue.

This week we stumbled across a research paper written last year that finally sheds some light on why.

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Summer Sun

As we look outside of the windows right now in our Orlando offices the weather is sunny and clear.

But remember folks- this is Florida. That nice weather outside could turn into a massive downpour in a matter of minutes.

With weather changes that fast we (of course, seeing as it’s us) figured out that the only thing that could really help us understand the weather was a real-time data visualization.

Luckily the Internet is just teeming with them! We’ve scoured the web and found some absolutely amazing real-time weather visualizations so you can make the most out of our your summer weekend!

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Augmented Data Visualization

Last Friday we wrote about augmented reality for pretty obvious reasons: seems everyone out there is playing Pokemon Go and thus are thinking about different ways that technology can interact with the world around us.

True to VisualCue form we did a little digging after we wrote about it on Friday and are happy to present the results of a weekend of research and reading into exactly how the worlds of augmented reality and data visualization are linked.

We’ll go into greater detail below but just for now let’s put the main point first: the successful blending of augmented reality and data visualization is going to depend on mitigating both visual and information overload.

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It's All Around You

Guess it started when, earlier this week here in the VisualCue offices, one of our data analysts was walking down the hall, phone in front of her face, completely absorbed in what she was doing. While we initially thought that perhaps she was just taking a video of our offices (they are amazing) we were all pretty amazed when she just walked right out the door.

Turns out she was just doing what over 65 million people have been doing lately- playing the latest augmented reality craze Pokemon Go.

Pretty soon the entire office had joined in and we were swapping stories about hunting down elusive Pokemon all around our Orlando offices and homes.

But it got us thinking about augmented reality- it’s a technology that VisualCue has used and continues to develop because we’re convinced that it will be an even more integral part of data visualization in the future.

So we asked around the office for everyone’s favorite augmented reality apps and games and got a list of amazing interactive experiences to share!

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The Do's and Don'ts of Dashboards

In the April 2016 issue of Computers in Libraries author Susan Gardner Archambault brings up a number of interesting points about the use of data visualization in one of mankind’s most storied and worthwhile inventions: the library.

When most of think about libraries we tend to think of shelves of books and people telling us to be quiet no matter how silent we were being.

This article, however, not only sheds light on the modern library but contains useful information for anyone, even those not currently contemplating starting or improving their own library, with some of the major do’s and don’ts of what goes into a good dashboard. And who better to educate us than those who work in the library?

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