Aligning marketing and sales teams is all the rage right now, and for good reason. It is the foundation of many major trends in sales and marketing – including moving from lead generation to demand generation, moving from isolated operations to a RevOps approach, selling to a committee rather than an individual using account-based marketing (ABM), and moving to asynchronous sales.

Although there are many advantages to such coordination, it also presents some obstacles for teams. Below, you’ll learn all about the top five challenges marketing and sales teams face when it comes to alignment, as well as some solutions for successfully aligning the two departments.

Handover from marketing to sales

The handoff between marketing and sales seems simple: once a lead is qualified for sales (a so-called sales-qualified lead or SQL), the marketing team must inform their sales colleagues.

What could possibly go wrong?

The answer: a lot.

In general, there are two problem areas where the handover can fail.

The first is the qualification criteria or agreement on when the lead is to be turned over to sales. Think about what your criteria are for marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and SQLs. How do you ensure that these criteria are met during daily handoffs? How differentiated are the qualifications?

If your sales and marketing teams answer this question differently, handoffs can go awry.

The second area of concern is the mechanism of your handoffs. Are your marketing leads automatically passed on after qualification or is there already an owner before this stage has been reached? Do you assign your sales reps a task, send them a notification, send them an email, notify them via Slack, or combine these options?

Tools such as Marketing Hub and Sales Hub facilitate this process, which, however, only works if it has been precisely defined beforehand. The handoff between marketing and sales needs to be thought through and agreed upon by both teams in order to be successful – that’s much harder if your teams aren’t working with the same systems.

The solution for difficult handovers between marketing and sales

To avoid a suboptimal handoff between marketing and sales, hold a meeting with your marketing and sales teams to agree on all the parameters of the lifecycle phases.

Ask your teams what role deal stage, lead status, buyer committee composition, and ideal customer profile level play in the timing and nature of the handoff.

Handoffs may vary by team, ideal customer profile level, and product.

Next, analyze some reports to determine in which lifecycle phase Sales has been involved in generating opportunities to objectively determine which approach has been most successful to date.

Once everyone has agreed on the terms of your lifecycle phases and knows when and how to turn on sales, update your CRM, marketing automation platform, and other technologies against the new handoff guidelines.

Different systems

Your sales and marketing teams have hundreds of tools at their disposal.

As a result, the list of software and tools your marketing team needs to work with is more extensive than any menu.

Data accuracy is critical for marketing and sales activities – especially when handover is required. The more tools you have, the less likely you are to be able to rely on your data.

Too many systems can have the following consequences, among others:

  • Switching between contexts too frequently, resulting in the required data not ending up in the right tool
  • Problems with system synchronization and resulting data gaps
  • No central database to decide whether activities were successful or not
  • Different handover and scoring criteria

The solution for non-uniform systems

Non-uniform systems are among the more difficult problems to solve because organizations usually involve multiple internal stakeholders or decision-makers. Nevertheless, there are some ways to solve this problem.

First, you can move all your marketing and sales activities into a single tool like HubSpot: here, Marketing Hub and Sales Hub allow you to harmonize marketing and sales and deliver a seamless experience to your clientele.

If merging systems is not an option, review where data is not being captured, synchronized, and updated between systems. Among other things, this affects lead scoring and the updating of lifecycle phases, which are crucial for aligning sales and marketing. Reporting can also be affected, resulting in decisions being made based on incomplete information.

In addition, you should assess the functionality of your current systems to ensure that they will allow you to achieve all of your goals. Can your systems trigger actions on each other to ensure that sales and marketing are accessing the same information? If this is not the case, you should use platforms such as Zapier or Workato to check the native functionality of your tools.

Inconsistent data

If you’re struggling with too many tools, inefficient processes for using technology, or a lack of operational leadership (or a combination of these factors), your data suffers. If you can’t trust your data, you’ll make important decisions that impact your clientele without an informed foundation.

Poor data doesn’t just lead to problems with calls because you can’t properly assess your sales team’s pipeline.

Bad data also means that campaigns are not personalized, handoffs are done incorrectly, people are placed in the wrong groups, and interested parties are approached too often or too infrequently.

Your revenue engine is driven by data. Everyone in your organization (marketing and sales executives and customer success teams) needs data to make decisions about interactions with customers.

The solution for inconsistent data

By eliminating the problem of disparate systems, you often solve your data problems as well. However, if this is not the case, other solutions are required.

If you’re not getting the data you need to align sales and marketing and make good, informed decisions, your data collection processes could be the problem.

First, survey your team to find out what’s preventing them from adding data. Do you see the most frequently entered properties on the left side of the correct records and are they divided into sections? If not, note this as an area to improve.

Then think about how you can optimize your processes using automation and thereby guarantee cleansed data in the long term. For example, can you automatically create records or move them from one stage of a pipeline to the next to ensure that the data associated with those activities remains accurate? Can you duplicate or update properties using workflows to reduce the need to enter them manually?

Finally, you should ensure that all your systems exchange data regularly and automatically. This way, each automation gets the right data at the right time. Streamlining your technical infrastructure will also help you keep data consistent.

Different goals and the struggle for MQLs

All marketers are probably familiar with it: You create content to win an MQL and then hand it off to the sales or business development team. These departments then work with the marketing team to convert the person to an SQL.

Once the lead becomes an SQL, an Account Executive takes the helm and closes the deal – regardless of whether the deal was successful or not.

This procedure seems fair at first glance. It has been applied thousands of times by countless marketers. As far as reconciliation is concerned, however, this approach entails numerous risks.

When the marketing team makes it their goal to find MQLs, they focus only on generating as many downloads of protected content as possible.

Why is this a problem? The target audience that enjoys reading your content is not necessarily the one that wants to buy your product right away.

If the sales team is measured by the number of MQLs it can convert into opportunities, problems are inevitable: The interests of the marketing department conflict with the interests of the sales department.

Teams that focus on MQLs rather than revenue and demand will continue to struggle to align their efforts. Good ABM campaigns and a seamless customer experience thus become a distant memory.

The solution for MQL problems

Get in touch with your sales colleagues to discuss how you can best work together and learn from each other: Good starting points include working out joint processes or holding regular meetings.

The marketing team can learn a lot from sales. For example, what happens during phone calls with MQLs? What objections does the sales team hear again and again? What content is mentioned in conversations?

But sales can also learn from their marketing colleagues. What content supports marketing efforts and why? How was targeting adjusted and how does this change make itself felt in sales conversations? Which content plays the biggest role in successfully closed deals?

When sales and marketing know each other better, they can make more informed decisions that help both teams succeed. Based on a mutual understanding, teams can have conversations about key decisions that can have a significant impact on the pipeline:

  • Should we focus on capturing MQLs or should we share content to drive demand?
  • Should we redefine the term MQL?
  • How can we encourage asynchronous buying processes and turn prospects into SQLs or SQOs (sales-qualified opportunities) before we engage sales?

This is a far more productive line of questioning than “Why did you send me so many bad leads this month?”

Implement successful ABM strategies

The final point we discuss here is the challenge of implementing successful ABM strategies with poorly aligned teams. This is simply not possible!

All of the above problems – poor handoffs, inconsistent systems, inconsistent data, and struggles over MQLs – prevent an organization from implementing successful ABM strategies, especially at scale.

Why is it so hard to achieve your ABM goals when sales and marketing aren’t talking to each other? ABM requires you to be focused on more than one MQL or SQL definition – you need to define an entire buyer committee. That means even more handoffs and better alignment of systems, data and goals.

The solution for ABM coordination problems

If you already use HubSpot, you probably know that you can use many HubSpot tools for your ABM strategies:

  • Target account property
  • Ideal Customer Profile Level Property
  • Account overview
  • AI tool for target account recommendations
  • Interested parties tool to view accounts that have visited your website
  • Dashboards for ABM and target accounts
  • Company Scoring
  • Features of the role in the purchase process
  • Workflow automation
  • Chatbot or live chat
  • Automatic assignment of leads
  • Ad conversion events

Here are some steps you can take to best prepare your team for ABM:

  • Verify that you have always captured job titles and roles in the buying process of your prospects. If not, go through the last quarter’s closed deals and enter that information manually or update it using workflows. For example, you can ensure that a particular job title is always the decision maker.
  • Create a dashboard to identify which roles in the buying process were involved in your most recent deals and who typically decided to buy first.
  • Organize a meeting between sales and marketing to review this information, agree on a buyer committee, and set priorities.
  • Implement the solutions described above to align your teams’ goals, lifecycle phase definitions, and handoff protocols to ensure your data is cleansed and all systems communicate with each other.
  • Finally, use your target account and ABM tools to set up a campaign that helps align sales and marketing.

Who says sales and marketing can’t work well together? In most cases, good tuning is quickly achieved. Listening to each other and then acting consistently is enough in most cases.

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