Marketing or Sales, Who Owns Lead Generation?

4 min read
6-Aug-2019 12:46:00 PM

Oh boy, in some companies this can be a real fight to the death. Who really owns the difficult task of lead generation? In a perfect world, the right answer would be both. However, shared responsibility usually means a lot of dropped balls when both players are expecting the other person to step up. 

Another challenge is how these two departments perceive themselves. One could argue, for example, that marketing and sales are one and the same. In fact, in some companies, the sales department is called the marketing department, while in others, the marketing department handles advertising and promotions. Oh, the controversy never ends! But seriously, it can pose a problem when neither team is willing to accept their roles in lead generation. 

So, what’s a marketing or sales department to do? Work it out and get focused on lead generation. Period.  

The Sales Team Tradition

For argument's sake, let’s say that lead gen has traditionally been something the sales department worried about. The digital age has changed this. There really is no excuse for the marketing team not to step up and lend a hand using their digital marketing skills to get more prospects into the funnel. Lead generation companies can work in hand with marketing to do so. 

New: The Beginner's Guide to Generating Inbound Leads

The Challenges of Sales Traditions

If you want to say, “No, the sales team still has to do their own lead gen," not only is this unfriendly, but it also forces the sales team to depend on what one might refer to as a dying art. Today’s sales teams face unheard of hurdles, including:

  • Prospects not answering their phones thanks to call display 
  • Prospecting methods have become outdated
  • Today’s B2B customer has expectations of salespeople that revolve around technology and stronger team support 
  • Smart pre-sales teams are costly as they spend more time prospecting, which means less time selling

So, what should the modern sales cycle look like?

The Digital Life Cycle

The top of the funnel today should begin with lead generation marketing activities to capture prospects. This might include raising brand awareness or creating forms of low-level engagement like content marketing or digital ads. 

This should, in theory, generate some leads for the sales team. However, these leads really aren’t high quality yet. Therefore, the marketing team can do a little more using personalized marketing through say a drip campaign or some form of email marketing. This will help to create your MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads). 

Your MQLs can then be passed onto the sales team who will vet the leads to create their Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). This can be via phone, email, or even text. That hopefully generates sales opportunities. 

New: The Complete Guide to Sales Prospecting

So, you see, the marketing team is managing the feed at the top of the funnel so that the sales team can manage things mid to bottom. Leads are of a higher quality and have started a more meaningful relationship with your sales team and business. This increases the odds of these leads becoming customers. 


While the sales team does get all the glory at conversion time, there is no ignoring the vital role that the marketing team played in getting that lead into the funnel. As well, once the conversion is complete, both sides have to be on board to continue nurturing the customer. 

The trouble often begins mid-funnel, where one team (marketing) thinks they are done, and the other team (sales) doesn't believe it's time to step up yet. This is where a process should be put in place for a clear hand-off of responsibility.  

How to Make Nice

Okay, okay sales and marketing alignment can be a challenge. But alignment makes companies 67% better at closing deals. So, you need to suck it up and learn how to make nice with these crucial steps.

Clearly Defined Service Level Agreement (SLA)

For this to work, marketing will need to know what the sales team considers qualified leads. You should also define how many leads should be generated each month. The marketing team will have to know how long it will take for sales to act on leads and how many times they will try to contact each lead provided. 

Define Buyer Personae

Buyer personae will be different than the target personae for marketing. You will want to know where they sit in the funnel. This will include: 

  • Prospects who might visit a landing page
  • Leads who leave contact info
  • MQLs who meet a specific criterion
  • SQLs who are confirmed MQLs
  • Opportunities who have been successfully contacted
  • Conversions 

Assign Marketing and Sales Objectives

Add quotas to each persona, agreeing on how many leads must be generated by marketing and how many SQLs should be confirmed by sales. There will also still be an expectation for specific numbers when it comes to sales. There will be the usual things like a monthly revenue quota, but also numbers that consider the marketing teams contribution. This might include the percentage of revenue generated from marketing leads or percentage of sales quota from marketing-generated leads. 

When you include numbers based on marketing-generated leads, it becomes more apparent how important it is for the teams to work together.  

Large Enterprise vs. Filler Work

Large enterprise projects should be the big-ticket deals that take 9 to 18 months to close. They are the core of your business growth. Filler work is the small, short-term projects that are like the support sales to keep things operational for your business. 

The challenge is that the large enterprise projects take long to close, so salespeople aren’t paying the rent. So, it is hard to resist going for that low hanging, less intense filler work sale. They stay focused on the easy work, and enterprise projects be damned. 

How do you get more of those large enterprise projects into the funnel? Your website. By generating more filler projects from your website, your funnel stays filled, and your bills are paid. Your sales team has fewer pre-sales woes and can instead focus on their large enterprise opportunities. And let’s not forget your filler work could someday become a new enterprise project. 

So, while your website manages filler projects, your sales team can use their sales skills to bag the lion with enterprise projects. 

As you can see, the evolving digital world has changed the way prospecting works. The sales lead generating companies require marketing to get leads into the top of the funnel, while sales takes on the job of conversions. Team effort for nurturing keeps revenue growing and can sometimes use the help of a lead generation marketing company.

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