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”.