At What Point Does Sales Own Lead Generation?

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Who should be in charge of generating B2B leads: sales, marketing, or both?

“Isn't the answer obvious?” you might wonder.

It's not the case. Allow me to explain.

Over and over, I hear the same issue. Marketing is handling all aspects of lead creation and distributing the leads to sales.

Is lead generation primarily for sales or marketing?

If the firm does not have a definition of what makes up a qualified lead, it may be impossible to determine whether lead generation is sales or marketing. Therefore...

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is a combination of sales and marketing in which your business identifies and contacts qualified sales leads, or potential buyers for your products and services. Consider an inverted funnel with the wide end at the top as an example.

What are the roles of sales and marketing and generating leads?

Let's break down the essential steps involved in determining who should do what:

Marketing creates and distributes content, which generates inbound leads that are then converted into sales.


However, not all the leads generated are sales ready. According to statistics, between 45% and 75% of leads aren't sales ready.

Who is in charge of these? Lead nurturing?

It's a lead, so marketing doesn't want to. Sales don't want to do it because they have sales-ready opportunities and targets to meet. Leads that aren't ready to be dropped are a nuisance. These possibilities will inevitably fall between the gaps.

What it should be

‘‘Marketing has typically been the one who is in charge of finding leads and then handing them to sales. This is a flawed process, because all it does is fuel the fire in the war between sales and marketing. Sales must be the one who owns the prospecting process because they're the ones responsible for turning leads into customers.’’ Mark Hunter,The Sales Hunter” 

Let me say right now: the Sales Department needs to own the lead generation process, in keeping with my propensity of upsetting the status quo. We can't put marketing in charge of this.

Allow me to clarify before you go off on me.

The importance of marketing has never been greater. The more information and messages clog the marketplace, the more important it is for marketing to deliver relevant information.

In order for marketing to break through the noise, they must be entirely focused on messaging and not distracted by lead creation. While having lunch with a Sales former colleague recently, the topic of producing leads came up without my prodding.

Because of the complex business she works in, she believed there was little chance marketing would ever be successful in generating leads. Her Marketing counterpart performs an excellent job writing copy, positioning the brand correctly, and doing all we would expect a marketing team to do. However, with producing leads, the best marketing has ever done is collect names and emails from those who have requested an e-book or visited a trade show booth.

The problem is that these kinds of leads go nowhere, since the people who react aren't decision-makers. The Sales VP was pleading with me to help her persuade her bosses to stop having marketing chase prospects.

The idea of Sales owning the lead generating process isn't meant to diminish the importance of marketing. It's just a matter of getting everyone to work along better. We need to put an end to the never-ending debate between Sales and marketing about lead quality.

You've heard the argument: Sales argues Marketing provided them bad leads, which is why they didn't make the quarterly target. Marketing blames sales for not doing more with the leads that Marketing gave.

What we have here is a convenient justification for blaming someone else for your own problems.

It's time we handed over the lead generation process to Sales and held them accountable to eliminate the blame game and enhance accountability. When Sales is held accountable, it's remarkable how quickly salespeople realize they need to prospect instead of waiting for marketing. When Sales is in charge of leads, they are more effective at owning the lead qualification process and efficiently following up on all leads, not just a few.

The fact that lead generation is now handled by Sales rather than marketing is no reason for the two departments not to collaborate. Contrary to popular belief, I believe the contrary is true.

“How does Sales know who to target and who the decision maker is?” 

You might wonder. Not to mention the quantity of information available through social media and other online sources and technologies.

A salesperson's capacity to build a one-to-one relationship has never been better. It all comes down to this: Marketing creates mass communications, whereas Sales creates one-on-one conversations that lead to one-on-one partnerships.

We must expect that the noise in the marketplace will only get louder with each passing year, which means we must ensure that marketing is completely focused on what they do best.


Allow Marketing to focus on raising brand recognition, positioning the brand, and informing the market. Those three duties are enormous in and of themselves. Allow Sales to take ownership of the lead development process, as Sales will ultimately be held responsible for hitting or missing quarterly targets.