Settling the Lead Scoring Conflict Between Sales and Marketing 

A woman and a man shaking hands in an office

Remember how we used to pick teams as kids? We’d choose two captains, and they’d both handpick teammates one by one based on athletic ability. With each round pick, the pool of talent would dwindle, leaving the less able-bodied bunch for the final taking. Well, that’s kind of like how B2B lead scoring is, just with way lesser stakes.

B2B lead scoring allows sales and marketing teams to segment and prioritize incoming leads based on their purchase intent. Without this strategic system in place, B2B marketing teams have no way to tell which of those leads have genuine interest in becoming a customer, so they’re left to pursue them randomly, creating inefficiencies and wasting valuable resources in the process. It’s like being picked team captain on your first day at a new school: you don’t have any recon on potential teammates, so you go with your gut and hope for the best. Spoiler alert: it won’t be for the best. Here’s why:

An effective lead scoring model helps bridge the figurative gap between B2B marketing efforts and sales results. And traditionally, it starts with marketing. Marketing teams work to generate leads from a massive pool of prospects, which then fill the pipelines of fellow sales reps on staff. The more leads that marketing delivers to sales, the more opportunities sales has to drive conversion. It makes sense in theory. In reality, that’s rarely the case. It doesn’t matter how many leads marketing delivers; if they don’t meet the qualified standards of your sales team, you can kiss those leads goodbye. 

That’s why it’s so crucial for sales and marketing teams to create a shared system of lead scoring. This collaborative model not only enhances interdepartmental alignment; it also provides a strategic, more efficient framework for identifying purchase-intent, sales-qualified leads, which naturally increases opportunities for conversion. A win-win!

But here’s the thing: according to our benchmark report, “Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing,” only 36% of today’s B2B organizations say their sales and marketing teams agree on lead scoring rules. That leaves 64% without a shared system in place, which certainly doesn’t bode well for lead gen efforts.

lead scoring for sales and marketing
Only 36% of B2B sales and marketing teams can agree on lead scoring rules.

So, what’s the deal? Why is it so hard for B2B teams to agree on a collaborative lead scoring model?

Here are three essential factors, plus some tips to help mitigate problematic misalignment.

Sales v. Marketing Lead Scoring Pitfalls

1. Clashing Perspectives on Lead Generation

In a perfect B2B world, the lead generation process would look like this:

lead scoring for b2b

It looks like the ideal system, but keep in mind, this is the best-case scenario. Most of the time, it doesn’t quite pan out that way. That’s because both marketing and sales teams often find themselves at an impasse when it comes to lead scoring best practices.

These days, as B2B buyers prefer self-navigating the customer journey using digital channels to inform their purchase decisions, the path resembles less like a linear road and more like a spider web that branches out into all directions. So, given the multitude of devices, digital channels, and educational resources prospects use to find their way through the sales funnel, they ultimately end up creating countless, non-linear pathways toward conversion. That said, B2B marketers take on the huge responsibility of pinpointing quality leads from all these various points along the way. Because of these conditions, marketing teams often send large volumes of leads over to sales reps to initiate engagement. And here’s where things go sideways.

More often than not, sales reps argue that leads tend to be far from actionable, and they don’t want to waste time focusing on questionable prospects when higher-priority opportunities already exist in the pipeline. They’d rather follow up with a smaller volume of purchase-intent leads than a bigger volume of lukewarm buyers. Hence, it’s clear both sales and marketing teams have very different perspectives when it comes to lead gen and lead scoring.

One helpful tactic to ease this tension is to create shared incentives for both sales and marketing teams. To do that, start by aligning the business goals and performance metrics of each team. That way, both groups can understand exactly what the other needs. For example, since sales teams often believe leads received from marketing are unqualified and unfit for further engagement, sales reps should then clearly state what characteristics make up a qualified candidate and establish a shared system of measurement so sales and marketing teams can both gauge purchase intent equally across the board. Similarly, marketing should inform sales of their particular processes so the two can establish a results-driven strategy that works to meet both groups’ business goals. By aligning incentives alongside these shared goals, sales and marketing teams experience less friction and increased motivation to work together in harmony. In fact, B2B teams that establish shared goals tend to increase revenue by at least 54%.

What is Lead Scoring
B2B teams that establish shared goals increase revenue by at least 54%.

2. Lack of Process

B2B marketing processes are a lot like Russian nesting dolls. Open one up, and you’ll find several other smaller processes that work together to complete the initial task at hand. In the case of lead generation, marketers follow a series of processes in order to drive the best quality candidates further down the sales funnel. And since marketers have endless opportunities to engage leads throughout the customer journey, they need to create a formalized process to organize the chaos.

For instance, there are a handful of things marketers can do to whittle down their massive list of potential buyers to a more manageable list of purchase-intent leads. By leveraging intent data signals across brand-owned digital ecosystems and other third-party platforms, B2B marketers can create a more strategic approach to lead generation and drive more high-quality leads for sales. That includes executing several smaller processes to get an accurate determination of lead quality. Here’s what that might look like:

Strategic Lead Generation Process for B2B Marketing

  1. Identify target list of prospects from your CRM and customer database.
  2. Implement marketing automation to segment prospects and create customized messaging.
  3. Leverage social media platforms and digital conversations to pinpoint intent prospects.
  4. Use second-party intent data (a.k.a. downstream data) to spot purchase-ready leads further along in the sales journey.

Of course, these are just a few examples of the many processes marketers can leverage under the larger umbrella of B2B lead generation. But without any kind of formalized framework in place, marketers don’t have the ability to decipher the more opportune leads from the less desirable ones.

3. Ineffective Communication Between B2B Teams

Effective lead scoring relies on B2B sales and marketing team alignment, and that starts with good old-fashioned communication.

At the end of the day, sales reps are the ones engaging more closely with leads, and therefore, it makes sense they’d have a lot more insight into the trends, pain points, challenges, and business objectives of these potential buyers. Considering this, it’s a good idea to have sales provide marketing teams with an overview of these customer concerns. That way, marketers can use these customer insights to develop more relevant messaging for future lead gen campaigns. Likewise, marketing teams can give sales an overview of current programs and past campaigns to determine whether strategies are in need of improvement. Through this type of collaboration, sales and marketing teams can consistently improve upon lead generation efforts and lead quality.

Reaching Solid Ground

Whether it’s automated or done by hand, lead generation and lead scoring are critical to the B2B sales process, which is why sales and marketing teams need to really buckle down and focus on strengthening alignment. When both groups can collectively agree to a shared strategy and process, overall lead quality and lead gen performance equally improve. However, alignment can only be so effective without the consistent communication and collaboration that’s required of both teams. That said, sales and marketing leaders really need to stay focused on maintaining team bonds or else they fall victim to the silo treatment.


Discover more ways to successfully align your B2B teams with our benchmark report, “Bridging the Gap Between Sales & Marketing.”