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How to Overcome the Biggest Marketing and Sales Alignment Challenges  

Sales and marketing want to work together. They know it’s essential for demand generation, revenue, personalized content, and defining and targeting better-qualified leads. 

However, the struggle to reach that alignment is real—from using different platforms to track leads to figuring out the best processes for open communication between teams. Ultimately, creating a workflow that sets both groups up for success is ideal. 

Here are the top challenges that hinder alignment between sales and marketing and how to overcome them.

Defining Proper Criteria for Leads

One common challenge is a lack of communication. For example, your marketing department may define a qualified lead differently from the sales team, leading to missed opportunities and friction. 

Identify and create criteria for marketing- and sales-qualified leads, and discuss the nuances that can be confusing or vague. Both teams need to agree on this so the handoff is seamless. (More on this handoff below.)

Establishing this criterion will also make lead scoring more accurate and well-defined, saving time and resources in dealing with unqualified leads. It may prevent delays in lead follow-ups and improvements in the sales pipeline.

Another essential factor to consider is the mechanism or tools for transitioning leads. In thinking this through, you may consider the following:

  • Upon qualification, do marketing leads require automation (e.g., shuffled into an email drip or assigned to a specific salesperson)?
  • Or are they already assigned to an owner before reaching this stage? 
  • How you delegate tasks to your sales team—is it through notifications in your existing platform (such as HubSpot or Salesforce), emails, Slack messages, or a combination of these methods? 

HubSpot and Salesforce can undoubtedly streamline the lead transition process, but the effectiveness relies heavily on well-defined processes. 

The MQL & SQL Dilemma

Marketers often gate content to capture leads, which are sent to sales reps. These reps then work with marketing to nurture leads and move them into the sales pipeline. Once a lead becomes qualified, an account executive closes the deal.

On the surface, this process seems simple enough. But this process is fraught with potential problems if we’re talking about alignment.

For example, if marketing is assessed based on the number of leads generated, it will focus on getting as many people as possible to download gated content. But the people most likely to download your content are not necessarily the people who are ready to buy your product now.

If sales are judged by the number of leads they convert into opportunities, this creates friction between the two teams: the marketing team is meeting their goals, but the sales team is not. 

Teams that focus on generating leads rather than revenue and demand will continue to struggle with alignment and won’t be prepared to run account-based marketing campaigns or provide a seamless customer experience.

How to Deal with MQL & SQL Misalignment

Collaborate with sales to establish processes, regular meetings, and other communication channels that foster mutual understanding. Sales can inform marketing about interactions with MQLs, express common objections, and what content prospects want to see when they talk to them.

Marketing can teach sales about their content strategy, targeting changes, and the content that most correlates with closed-won deals.

Once sales and marketing better understand each other, they can make informed decisions that benefit both teams. For example, maybe the focus is on capturing MQLs by ungating content to drive demand or how to support asynchronous buying better to move prospects to SQL (sales qualified lead) or SQO (sales qualified opportunity) status before involving sales.

A Smooth Marketing-to-Sales Handoff

Define your lifecycle stages. Here are examples of what to go over during this meeting:

  • What are the stages of opportunities?
  • What is the ideal customer profile?
  • Which platforms and tools are currently used for both teams?

Analyze reports to examine the lifecycle stage and past deals won to determine best practices. 

When both teams agree on the lifecycle stages and handoff process, update your CRM, marketing automation platform, and other technology to reflect the new guidelines.

Disparate Systems & Inconsistent Data

Tools, tools, and more tools. How do you know which does what and for what task? 

Too many systems can lead to:

  • Poorly designed personalized campaigns (e.g., incorrect segmentation)
  • Misaligned handoff and scoring criteria
  • Over- or under-nurturing prospects

A combination of too many tools and weak tech processes can result in inaccurate and inconsistent data. When you can’t trust your data, you’re flying blind when making customer-facing decisions and forecasting. 

How to Deal With Disparate Systems 

One way to address too many tools and systems is to consolidate your systems into a single platform, such as HubSpot

However, you can still improve alignment if this isn’t an option. Identify where data is not being collected, synced, and updated. Start with lead scoring, lifecycle stage updates, and reporting. When you audit your current tools, you can also assess their capabilities and, later, figure out if it makes sense to consolidate them into a single source of truth for your data, such as HubSpot or Salesforce. 

If your systems can’t integrate or trigger actions to “talk” to one another, you can use a third-party platform like Zapier or Workato to automate tasks and ensure that both sales and marketing teams stay aligned.

How to Deal with Inconsistent Data 

Even after resolving disparate systems, you may still run into data problems. If you’re not getting the data you need for sales and marketing alignment, your data collection processes may be at fault.

To start, interview your team to identify how data is entered into the system. 

  • Is this a manual process, or is it automated? 
  • Are the most commonly populated properties easy to find and organized into sections? If not, make this a priority.

Next, explore automation to streamline processes and keep data clean. For example, can you automate record creation, pipeline movement, or data duplication/updates to reduce manual entry?

Finally, ensure regular and automatic data sharing between all systems. This will give everyone and every automation the correct data at the right time. 

A Successful ABM Plan

Aligning teams is essential for running successful account-based marketing (ABM) plays. Poor handoffs, disparate systems, inconsistent data, and conflict over MQLs prevent organizations from running effective ABM campaigns, especially at scale.

ABM requires defining an entire buying committee, not just a single MQL or SQL. This means even more handoffs, systems, data, and goal alignment are needed.

How to Deal With ABM Alignment Issues

HubSpot users have several tools at their disposal for ABM plays, including: 

  • Target account property
  • ICP tier property
  • Account overview
  • Suggested target account AI tool
  • Prospects tool
  • ABM target account dashboards
  • Company scoring
  • Buying role properties
  • Workflow automation
  • Chat bot or live chat 
  • Automated lead rotation
  • Ads conversion events

To align your team for ABM, verify that you’re collecting job titles and buying roles. This is your opportunity to indicate that a specific job title is always a decision-maker. 

Enter this information or update it via workflows. Create a dashboard to understand the buying roles in your recent deals and who usually shows up at the buying table first.

Then, meet with sales to review this information and agree on the buying committee and who to prioritize. Use your target account and ABM tools to set up a campaign that supports your alignment.

Final Thoughts

Sales and marketing share a goal of working together to generate demand, increase revenue, create personalized content, and define and target better-qualified leads. 

However, disparate platforms and a lack of clear communication processes make alignment challenging. True alignment is possible through open communication, defined processes, and definitions of qualified leads and handoffs, plus consistent action.  

Do you have questions about breaking down silos between your sales and marketing teams? Our team can help with strategy, processes, and platforms. (We’re HubSpot certified!) Reach out to us today. 

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