Aligning marketing and sales teams is a hot topic because it underpins many crucial and emerging trends in the field, such as transitioning from lead generation to demand generation, integrating revenue operations instead of siloed operations, using account-based marketing for selling to a group rather than an individual, and implementing asynchronous selling.
However, achieving alignment also poses numerous challenges for teams. In this article, we will discuss the top five obstacles teams face in aligning marketing and sales efforts and provide strategies for overcoming them.
1. Marketing-to-Sales Handoff
The concept of transferring leads from the marketing team to the sales team seems straightforward. Once a lead is deemed qualified for sales (referred to as a sales-qualified lead or SQL), it is the responsibility of the marketing team to inform the sales team. However, in reality, there are numerous issues that can arise during this process.
- The first area of concern is the criteria used to qualify leads and the timing of the handoff. For example, consider the following questions:
What are the parameters for a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and SQL?
- How are these criteria being implemented on a day-to-day basis?
- And how specific are these qualifications?
If the sales and marketing teams have different interpretations of these criteria, it can lead to confusion and problems during the handoff.
The second problem area is the method used for handoffs. Are leads automatically transferred once they are qualified, or do they have an assigned owner before that stage? How are sales reps informed of new leads? Is it through an email, notification, task, or a combination of these options?
Tools like HubSpot’s Marketing Hub and Sales Hub can assist in this process, but it is important for both teams to have a clear understanding of the handoff process and to be using the same systems.
The Solution to Difficult Marketing to Sales Handoffs
So you’ve had a less-than-stellar handoff from your marketing team to your sales team. What happens next?
First, have a meeting between your marketing operations and sales operations teams and discuss the complete parameters of your lifecycle stages. Make sure they are in agreement.
Ask your teams the following question: what role do deal stage, lead score, buying committee makeup, and ICP tier play in the timing and manner of the handoff?
Remember that handoffs can vary depending on team, ICP tier, and product.
Next, objectively determine the most successful lifecycle stage to involve sales. The way to do this is simple. Pull some reports and identify winning opportunities. Then, pinpoint the lifecycle stage at which sales became involved in these successful instances.
Finally, once agreeable terms have been reached for your lifecycle stages and the timing for sales involvement – make sure to update your CRM, marketing automation platform, and other technology you might be using to include these new guidelines.
2. Disparate Systems
Having a plethora of tools for your sales and marketing teams can seem like a good idea, but it can actually lead to a number of problems. The sheer number of options can make it difficult for your marketing operations team to keep track of everything.
When it comes to activities that require a handoff, such as marketing and sales, data accuracy is crucial. However, the more tools you have, the less likely it is that your data will be reliable.
Too many systems can result in:
- Difficulty in keeping track of where information should be entered
- Problems with syncing data across different tools
- No central source for decision making about the success or failure of your efforts
- Misaligned handoff and scoring criteria
The Solution for Disparate Systems
Addressing the issue of multiple systems for sales and marketing can be challenging due to the involvement of various internal stakeholders. However, there are ways to tackle this problem.
One solution is to consolidate all of your marketing and sales operations into a single tool like HubSpot, which offers both Marketing Hub and Sales Hub for seamless alignment and customer experience.
If merging systems is not feasible, conduct an audit to identify where data is not being collected, synced, or updated between systems. This can affect important aspects such as lead scoring and lifecycle stage updates, which are vital for keeping sales and marketing aligned. This can also impact reporting and lead to decisions made with incomplete information.
Additionally, evaluate the capabilities of your current systems to ensure they can meet all your goals. Can your systems trigger actions in each other to ensure both teams stay on the same page? If not, consider using platforms like Zapier or Make to bridge the gap.
3. Inconsistent Data
When you’ve got a bunch of tools, weak processes for using them, and a lack of operational leadership, your data takes a hit. And when your data is unreliable, you’re basically flying blind when it comes to making decisions that affect your customers.
Bad data doesn’t just lead to bad calls or inaccurate sales forecasts. It also means that we’re not personalizing campaigns, getting handoffs wrong, putting people into the wrong groups, and over or under-touching our accounts.
Bottom line: data is the lifeblood of your revenue engine. Everyone in your revenue operations – marketing leaders, sales managers, and customer success teams — needs good data to make smart decisions about how they interact with customers.
The Solution to Inconsistent Data
When it comes to solving the problem of multiple systems causing data issues, one solution may not fit all. But fear not, there are other ways to tackle this challenge.
Start by identifying what’s causing the roadblocks in your data collection process. Ask your team what’s preventing them from adding data and take note of their answers. Are the most commonly used properties easily accessible and in the correct sections of records? If not, make note of it and work on improving it.
Next, utilize automation to streamline your processes and keep your data clean. Can you automate certain actions such as creating records or moving them through pipeline stages to ensure accuracy? Can you duplicate or update properties using workflows to reduce manual entry?
Lastly, ensure all systems are sharing data regularly and automatically. This will ensure everyone and every automation has the right data at the right time. And don’t forget, consolidating your tech stack will also help keep data consistent.
4. Misaligned Goals & the Battle Over MQLs
The traditional method of using gated content to capture leads and then passing them on to a sales or business development team is a common practice among marketers. However, it can lead to potential issues when it comes to alignment between the marketing and sales teams.
Marketing teams may have a goal to generate a high number of marketing qualified leads, but this may not necessarily align with the goals of the sales team, who is judged on their ability to convert those leads into actual opportunities. This can create friction within the company, as the marketing team’s focus on MQLs may not align with the sales team’s focus on revenue and demand.
Additionally, this approach may not be well-suited for running account-based marketing campaigns or providing a seamless customer experience. In order to achieve true alignment, teams should focus on generating revenue and demand, rather than just MQLs.
The Solution to the MQL Battle
To improve alignment between sales and marketing, it’s important to establish regular communication and collaboration.
Reach out to your sales counterparts and have a conversation about how you can set up processes, regular stand-ups, and other means of listening to and learning from each other. Both teams can benefit from understanding each other’s perspectives and insights.
For example, sales can teach marketing about common objections they encounter and which content assets are mentioned on calls, while marketing can share information about which content is being served and its impact on targeting.
By having mutual understanding, teams can make informed choices that help both teams win, such as reevaluating MQL definitions or focusing on capturing MQLs or driving demand. This approach is more productive than blaming each other for misaligned goals.
5. Running Successful ABM Plays
When teams are misaligned, it becomes extremely difficult to execute successful ABM campaigns. The issues of poor handoffs, disparate systems, inconsistent data, and conflicting MQL definitions all hinder an organisation’s ability to implement effective ABM strategies, especially at a large scale.
The complexity of ABM, which involves identifying and targeting an entire buying committee, further exacerbates the need for alignment between sales and marketing teams. Without proper alignment, achieving ABM goals becomes a monumental challenge.
The Solution to ABM Alignment Issues
If you are a user of HubSpot, you are aware of the many tools available to you for your account-based marketing (ABM) efforts. These tools include: the Target Account property, ICP Tier property, Account Overview, Suggested Target Account AI tool, Prospects tool, ABM and Target Account dashboards, Company scoring, Buying role properties, Workflow automations, Chatbot or live chat, Automated lead rotation, and Ads conversion events.
To align your team for ABM, consider the following steps:
- Verify that you have been collecting job titles and buying roles for your deals, and update them if necessary.
- Create a dashboard to understand the buying roles that have been involved in your recent deals and who usually shows up to the buying table first.
- Have a meeting between sales and marketing to review this information and agree upon the buying committee and who to prioritize.
- Follow the solutions outlined earlier to ensure that your teams are aligned on goals, lifecycle stage definitions, handoff protocol, and that your data is clean and your systems are communicating.
- Finally, use your Target Account and ABM tools to set up a campaign to support the alignment built between sales and marketing.
It is possible for sales and marketing teams to work together effectively with proper alignment and communication. By following these steps, you can achieve a more streamlined and successful ABM strategy.