Conflicts between sales and marketing can become so severe that neither department is able to function optimally.  The source of this conflict usually stems from the fact that sales and marketing fail to agree on a clear definition of an inquiry versus a lead, which too often leads to poor sales.

Inquiry Defined

Inquiries are responses to your marketing efforts from an individual or organization that may have interest in creating a relationship with your company.  I say “may”, as the conversion rate from inquiries to transactions is traditionally low.

However, research shows that anywhere from 45-63% of all inquiries eventually purchase products or services identical to that which they inquired about.  Unfortunately, this process takes anywhere from six to eighteen months, and the typical salesperson is neither able nor willing to nurture a relationship for that long.

To rectify this situation, I suggest keeping all inquiries within the marketing department, until the inquiry has been completely profiled and the decision-maker has agreed to an appointment.  By my definition, an inquiry does not become a lead until the customer has committed to a calendared appointment.

Again, the typical salesperson cannot stay in touch with a growing list of inquiries to ensure they are positioned with the prospect when the prospect is ready to buy.  This can easily be remedied by creating a nurture-marketing capability that uses regular emails, postcards or any number of marketing strategies to maintain top-of-mind awareness with all inquiries until they commit to meeting with a sales rep.

Lead Defined

As mentioned above, a lead is an inquiry that has committed to a meeting with a member of your sales team.  Once leads are distributed, the sales reps must be held accountable for managing those leads.  Some studies show it costs as much as $200 (and, in some cases, even more) to get one qualified lead into the hands of a salesperson.

Research done by the Dartnell Institute indicates that fully 90% of all salespeople abandon leads after their fourth attempt to advance them through the sales cycle and that the vast majority of customers will not be ready to buy until they have been contacted anywhere from eight to twelve times.

Therefore, although the marketing department may have given the salesperson a very good lead, the salesperson is not trained or managed to ensure that all leads are pursued until they either buy or signal an absolute decision to turn down your organization’s offer.


You can eliminate conflicts between sales and marketing by holding salespeople accountable for every lead assigned to them.  If you use a CRM system, all your salespeople should track and report on all leads weekly.  You would never allow haphazard management of any other $200 asset and, when you consider the lifetime value of new clients, poorly managing a lead that could potentially become a client would be financially catastrophic!

Your sales and marketing teams must have a clear understanding of the definitions of inquiries versus leads and should ensure the sales team understands whether they are receiving inquiries or leads from your marketing efforts.  Once definitions have been agreed upon, communicate to all members of the sales and marketing teams how they will operate.

Establish some sort of a nurturing capability within your organization so that no “raw” inquiries are ever distributed to your sales force.  This may minimize the volume of leads going to the field, but the quality of leads will improve dramatically and that, in turn, will improve morale and eliminate conflicts between sales and marketing.

Lastly, hold your entire sales team (whether direct or indirect) accountable for proper management and reporting of all leads.  All salespeople should indicate any progress, or lack thereof, on all leads on a weekly basis and should provide management with a regular win/loss/postpone report on each lead.

If your organization generates leads for independent channels, establish rules clearly stating that any dealers, VARs or agents who do not provide updated reports will no longer receive leads from your organization.  That may sound harsh, but leads are too valuable to not be pursued diligently and consistently.


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