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The Top 5 Challenges Faced in Sales and Marketing Alignment

Jailyn Glass, marketing manager at Perfect Afternoon
Jailyn Glass

The buzz around sales and marketing alignment isn’t just a passing trend – it’s essential for some major shifts in the marketing and sales landscape. We’re talking about the transition from lead generation to demand generation, the move from isolated operations to revenue operations, the adoption of account-based marketing for group sales, and the push toward asynchronous selling.

But here’s the deal: while alignment is all the rage, teams face several roadblocks on their path to synchrony. In this article, we’ll dissect the top five challenges that marketing and sales teams encounter when striving for alignment, along with effective solutions to bridge the gaps.

1. The Handoff from Marketing to Sales

Transitioning from marketing to sales may seem straightforward, but it’s far from smooth sailing. When a lead qualifies for a sales handoff, or what’s known as a Sales-Qualified Lead (SQL), it becomes the marketing team’s responsibility to notify their sales counterparts.

However, complications often arise in two key areas. First, determining the qualifying criteria and reaching a consensus on when it’s the right time to hand off the lead to sales can be tricky. There’s a need to define marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and SQL criteria and ensure their consistent application. If marketing and sales have differing answers to these questions, it can lead to handoff challenges.

Second, the mechanics of the handoff process come into play. Are marketing leads automatically transferred upon qualification, or do they have designated owners before reaching that stage? Is it through task assignments, notifications, emails, Slack alerts, or a combination of these methods?

While tools like Marketing Hub and Sales Hub can facilitate the process, their effectiveness hinges on well-defined procedures. Achieving this alignment becomes more challenging when teams operate within different systems.

Solution for a Smooth Marketing-to-Sales Handoff:

To address less-than-ideal handoffs from marketing to sales, have some previous conversations between your marketing operations and sales operations teams to establish comprehensive guidelines for lifecycle stages. Discuss the role of the deal stage, lead score, buying committee composition, and Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) tier in determining when and how to hand off leads.

Analyze historical data to objectively identify the lifecycle stage at which sales involvement led to successful outcomes. Once consensus is reached on the terms for lifecycle stages and when and how sales should get involved, update your CRM, marketing automation platform, and other technologies to align with the new handoff guidelines.

2. Disarray in Systems

The modern landscape offers a multitude of tools for marketing and sales teams to execute their functions. This diversity of tools can lead to a cluttered tech stack, reminiscent of an extensive menu at a restaurant.

In the context of marketing and sales activities, particularly those involving handoffs, data accuracy takes precedence. The more tools you use, the higher the likelihood of data inconsistencies and issues. Managing multiple systems can lead to:

  • Excessive context switching
  • Synchronization issues between systems, 
  • Lack of a single source of truth
  • Misaligned handoff and scoring criteria.

Solving Disparate Systems

Tackling the challenge of disparate systems can be complex, especially when multiple internal stakeholders are involved. However, there are effective strategies to address this issue.

First, consider centralizing your marketing and sales operations within a single tool like HubSpot. Marketing Hub and Sales Hub can seamlessly align your marketing and sales needs, providing an exceptional customer experience.

If consolidating systems isn’t an option, conduct an audit to identify areas where data isn’t collected, synchronized, or updated between systems. This lack of integration can affect critical aspects such as lead scoring and lifecycle stage updates, which are essential for maintaining alignment between sales and marketing. It can also lead to incomplete reporting, impacting decision-making.

Additionally, assess your current systems’ capabilities to ensure they align with your goals. Evaluate whether your systems can trigger actions in each other to keep both sales and marketing on the same page. If not, explore platforms like Zapier or Workato to enhance cross-system functionality.

3. Inconsistent Data

When different teams within an organization use various tools, or when there is no effective method for managing technology, operational management is absent, or a combination of these factors exists, the data becomes compromised. Unreliable data results in blind decision-making when it comes to customer-impacting decisions.

Low-quality data not only leads to incorrect decisions due to the inability to predict the sales team’s pipeline accurately, but it also means that campaigns cannot be customized, transitions are mismanaged, individuals are categorized into the wrong segmented groups, and potential accounts are either overreached or under-engaged.

In reality, data is the fuel that drives your revenue mechanism. Everyone involved in revenue operations, from marketing executives and implementers, sales supervisors and representatives, to customer success squads, requires data to guide decision-making on customer interaction.

Addressing Inconsistent Data

While resolving inconsistent data often hinges on solving disparate system issues, alternative solutions may be necessary.

If you find that data collection processes are hindering alignment between sales and marketing, it’s time to reassess your approach. Begin by interviewing your team to uncover obstacles preventing them from adding data effectively. Ensure that commonly used data fields are easily accessible within records, and logically organized into sections. If not, make note of this as an area for improvement.

Next, explore automation to streamline processes and maintain data accuracy. For instance, you can use automation to create records, move them through pipeline stages, and ensure data accuracy throughout. Consider implementing workflows to duplicate or update properties, reducing manual data entry.

Finally, establish mechanisms for regular and automatic data sharing between all your systems. This ensures that every team and automation has access to the right data at the right time. Streamlining your tech stack can further enhance data consistency.

4. Navigating Misaligned Goals and the MQL Challenge

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Every seasoned marketer knows the drill: you use gated content to capture Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). These MQLs are then passed along to your trusty sales or business development reps (SDRs/BDRs), who collaborate with the marketing team to navigate the journey toward that sought-after Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) status.

Once your lead secures an SQL stage, the account executive jumps in, embarking on the mission to seal the deal, whether it ends in a triumphant victory or a missed opportunity.

This strategy, tried and tested by a multitude of marketers, may seem like a fair game. It has been employed extensively, and its familiarity echoes across the industry. Yet, when we delve into the realm of alignment, we uncover potential hiccups in this well-worn path.

Consider this: when the marketing team is tasked with the goal of amassing MQLs and their performance is gauged solely on this metric, their primary focus naturally gravitates towards maximizing the downloads of gated content.

So, what’s the issue here, you might wonder? Well, it turns out that the audience most inclined to devour your content might not be the same audience ready to make an immediate purchase.

The plot thickens when sales’ success hinges on the number of MQLs converted into opportunities. This misalignment introduces friction into the system, where the marketing team’s pursuit of their goals clashes with sales objectives.

For teams fixated on generating MQLs rather than fueling revenue and demand, the struggle with alignment persists. This tunnel vision leaves them ill-prepared to tackle the realm of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) or offer a seamless, top-tier experience to their cherished customers.

Solving the MQL Challenge

To overcome the MQL challenge, initiate a dialogue with your sales counterparts. Set up processes, regular meetings, and knowledge-sharing initiatives.

Sales can offer valuable insights into the calls they have with MQLs, common objections, and which content assets are frequently discussed. On the other hand, sales can benefit from marketing’s perspective on content strategies, targeting adjustments, and the impact of content in sales calls. Understanding each other better enables both teams to make informed choices.

These informed choices can drive discussions about key aspects that significantly impact your pipeline:

  • Should you shift focus from capturing MQLs to creating ungated content to drive demand?
  • Is there a need to redefine MQL criteria?
  • How can you move prospects to SQL or sales-qualified opportunity (SQO) status asynchronously before involving sales?

This approach is far more productive than assigning blame with questions like “Why did you send me so many junk leads this month?”

5. Running Effective ABM Campaigns

The ultimate challenge lies in running successful ABM campaigns with misaligned teams. ABM success requires not only alignment on MQL or SQL definitions but also defining an entire buying committee, introducing further complexities in handoffs, systems, data, and goal alignment.

Achieving ABM Alignment

If you are a HubSpot user, you likely know that you have a plethora of HubSpot tools to use for your ABM plays: 

  • The Target Account and ICP Tier Property
  • Automated lead rotation
  • Ads conversion events
  • The Prospects tool, which allows you to see the accounts that have visited your website
  • ABM and Target Account dashboards
  • Account Overview
  • The Suggested Target Account AI tool
  • Company scoring
  • Buying role properties
  • Automated Workflows
  • Chatbot and live chat

To align your team for successful ABM:

  • Verify you’re collecting job titles and buying roles, and manually enter or update this information if necessary.
  • Create a dashboard to understand the buying roles involved in recent deals and their typical engagement in the buying process.
  • Convene a meeting between sales and marketing to define the buying committee and establish priorities.
  • Follow the solutions outlined earlier to ensure goal alignment, lifecycle stage definitions, handoff protocols, data cleanliness, and system integration.
  • Leverage your Target Account and ABM tools to align sales and marketing campaigns.

Achieving alignment between sales and marketing is not only possible but also essential for success. It requires a combination of learning, listening, and consistent action. By addressing these challenges and implementing the recommended solutions, your teams can enhance collaboration and provide a seamless customer experience.

Unlock Success with Perfect Afternoon Digital Marketing and HubSpot Services

Achieving marketing and sales alignment is pivotal for your business’s success. At Perfect Afternoon, we specialize in guiding businesses like yours towards seamless alignment, driving growth and customer satisfaction. Our team can help you optimize your processes and implement HubSpot Services to streamline your operations. Contact us today to embark on the path to success.

Photo Credits: 

Featured Image: Envato Elements

Illustration Customer Data: Envato Elements

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