The 5 Biggest Alignment Challenges Facing Marketing & Sales Teams
There’s a reason marketing and sales team alignment is all the rage right now. It’s the basis of so many important and emergent marketing and sales trends such as the move from lead generation to demand generation and the shift to RevOps from separate marketing, sales, and customer service operations. Plus, this alignment can help you sell more effectively to individuals through account-based marketing (ABM) and start performing asynchronous selling.
While there are many upsides to this alignment, there are just as many obstacles facing teams as they try to get on the same page. Read on to break down the top five challenges facing marketing and sales teams as they work to align and discover practical solutions for making team alignment a reality.
1. Marketing-to-Sales Handoff
The marketing-to-sales handoff seems simple enough: when a lead becomes qualified for sales (a sales-qualified lead, or an SQL), it’s the marketing team’s job to ensure that their sales colleagues know about it.
What could go wrong?
The answer is…a lot.
There are two areas where this handoff can go awry.
The first is the qualifying criteria or the agreement around the right time to hand the lead off to sales. Think about it: what are your marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and SQL criteria? What tactics are you using to ensure these criteria are being met for handoffs day-to-day? How nuanced are the qualifications?
If your sales and marketing teams have different answers to these questions, the result can be handoff nightmares.
The second problem area involves the mechanism for your handoffs. Are your marketing leads rotated automatically once qualified, or do they already have an owner before they ever get to that stage? Do you assign your sales rep a task, push a notification, send them an email, notify them in Slack, or use some combination of these options?
Tools like Marketing Hub and Sales Hub are great at facilitating this process, but the process only works insofar as it has been defined. The marketing-to-sales handoff must be thought through and agreed upon by both teams to be successful – a task made much more difficult if your teams are not operating in the same systems.
The Solution to Difficult Marketing-to-Sales Handoffs
To address a less-than-perfect handoff from marketing to sales, start by calling a meeting between your marketing operations and sales operations teams to agree on the complete parameters of your lifecycle stages.
Ask your teams what each role’s deal stage, lead score, buying committee makeup, and ideal customer profile (ICP) tiers play in the timing and manner of the handoff.
Handoffs can change from team to team, ICP tier to ICP tier, and product to product.
Next, pull some reports to see at what lifecycle stage sales became involved in winning opportunities to objectively determine which strategies are most successful.
Finally, once everyone agrees on the terms of your lifecycle stages and when and how sales should be tapped to jump in, update your CRM, marketing automation platform, and other technology to accommodate these newly agreed-upon handoff guidelines.
2. Unifying Disparate Sales and Marketing Systems
There are literally hundreds of tools that your sales and marketing teams could use to run day-to-day activities.
What’s the result? A list of tech tools the size of a Cheesecake Factory menu for your marketing operations team to deal with.
For marketing and sales activities – especially those that require a handoff – data accuracy is everything. And the more tools you have, the lower the chances are that your data is reliable.
Too many systems can lead to:
- Too much context switching and the necessary info not being added to the correct tool
- System syncing issues and resulting data gaps
- No single source of truth for decision making about the success or failure of your efforts
- Misaligned handoff and scoring criteria
The Solution for Disparate Systems
Disparate systems can be one of the harder problems to solve because organizations may have multiple internal stakeholders and decision makers involved. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to address this issue.
One option is to move all marketing and sales operations into a single tool like HubSpot, where Marketing Hub and Sales Hub can accommodate all your company’s needs for marketing and sales alignment and provide a seamless experience for your customers.
If this tactic is not an option, consider auditing the areas where information is not being collected, synced, and updated between systems. These gaps can impact lead scoring and lifecycle stage updates, which are crucial to keeping sales and marketing aligned. Reporting can also be impacted and lead to decisions made on incomplete information.
Additionally, you will want to do a capabilities assessment of your current systems to ensure they can achieve all of your goals. Can your systems trigger actions in one another to keep sales and marketing on the same page? If not, check outside of your tools’ native functionality using platforms like Zapier or Workato.
How HubSpot Agencies Can Help You Unify Your Systems
For some businesses that use HubSpot, system disparities can happen within HubSpot itself. You might have multiple portals due to factors in place like company mergers or management of several divisions before HubSpot’s business units release. When you have to juggle more than one portal in your HubSpot workspace, you end up with inconsistent data and less efficient work processes.
Fortunately, HubSpot agencies can help you merge multiple portals.
Bayard Bradford offers a self-service HubSpot to HubSpot migrator that moves data from one portal to another. Simply repeat the process if you need to merge more than one portal.
If you have more intensive needs involving the movement of marketing assets, you can also request a managed migration or reimplementation from an agency. During a managed migration, your agency will move your data and marketing assets for you while performing quality control and quality assurance checks. The reimplementation process involves merging two or more teams using HubSpot and training them on new KPIs, data structure, and onboarding for future users.
3. Inconsistent CRM Data
When you have too many tools, weak processes for using your tech, a lack of operational leadership, or any combination of these things, your data suffers. When you can’t trust your data, you are flying blind when making decisions that impact your customers.
Bad data doesn’t just lead to bad calls because you can’t properly forecast your sales team’s pipeline.
It means you don’t personalize campaigns, you get the handoff wrong, you put people into the wrong segmented cohorts, and you over or under-touch your prospect accounts.
The truth is, data drives your revenue engine. Everyone in your revenue operations – marketing leaders and implementers, sales managers and reps, and customer success teams – needs data to drive customer interaction.
The Solution to Inconsistent Data
Often, solving the issue of disparate systems will also solve your data problems. But in instances where that’s not the case, other solutions are in order.
If you are not getting the data you need for sales and marketing to align and make insightful, helpful decisions, your data collection processes might be in the way.
The first thing you will want to do when you’re thinking about your process is to interview your team to see what obstacles are preventing them from adding data. Do you have the most commonly populated properties in the left-side views of the correct records, broken down into sections? If not, note this setup as something you can improve.
Next, take a look at how you can use automation to tighten up your processes and keep your data clean. For example, can you use automation to create records or move them from stage to stage of a pipeline to ensure data surrounding those activities stays accurate? Can you duplicate or update properties using workflows to reduce manual entry?
Finally, make sure all of your systems are sharing data regularly and automatically. This tactic will ensure everyone and every automation has the right data at the right time. And of course, condensing your tech stack will help maintain data consistency.
How HubSpot Agencies Can Enhance Data Consistency
When you have hundreds to thousands of records, it can be a monumental task to tackle duplicates, dirty data, and missing data without the right tools. A HubSpot agency can show you the software designed to improve your data quality and maintain it.
Your agency can teach you how to use HubSpot data hygiene tools. It will work with you to create a process for cleaning data in HubSpot using features like the duplicate management tool.
Another tactic agencies use for helping businesses manage their data is the installation of third-party tools. At Bayard Bradford, we often recommend Insycle, an automatic data management HubSpot integration. Your agency might also suggest data enrichment tools like ZoomInfo or Clearbit that automatically populate information from other databases.
4. Misaligned Goals & the Battle Over MQLs
All marketers are familiar with this play: create gated content to capture an MQL to then send to a sales/business development rep (SDR or BDR, respectively). That SDR/BDR then prospects in concert with marketing to move this person into the coveted SQL lifecycle stage.
Once the lead becomes an SQL, the account executive takes over and closes the deal, won or lost.
This play seems fair enough on its face. It has been used thousands of times by thousands of marketers. But if we’re talking about alignment, this play relies on a process laden with potential land mines.
Think about it: if the marketing team has a goal to drive MQLs and they are assessed based on their ability to meet that goal, their sole focus will be on how to get as many gated content downloads as possible.
What’s the issue with that? Well, it turns out that the audience most likely to read your content is not necessarily the audience that wants to buy your product now. Most gated content is meant for audience members at the beginning of the customer journey when they might not even know about your product yet.
If sales is judged by the number of MQLs they convert to opportunities, company friction is baked into the system: the marketing team meeting their goals is out of alignment with sales reaching their goals.
Teams focusing on generating MQLs rather than revenue and demand will continue to struggle with alignment and will leave themselves ill-prepared to run ABM campaigns or to provide a seamless experience for their customers.
The Solution to the MQL Battle
Reach out to your sales counterparts and have a conversation about how you can connect your marketing and sales processes. Start running regular stand-up meetings along with other means of listening to and learning from each other.
Sales can teach marketing a lot. For instance, what happens on calls with MQLs? What objections does the sales team run into over and over? Which content assets do people make mention of in calls?
On the other hand, sales can learn from their colleagues on the marketing side of the house. What content is marketing serving and why? How have they altered the targeting, and how is sales seeing it play out in sales calls? What content is consumed most in deals that result in “closed-won” outcomes?
Once sales and marketing have more understanding of one another, they can make informed choices that help both teams win. Once there is mutual understanding, the teams can begin to have conversations about important choices that can greatly impact the pipeline:
- Should you focus on capturing MQLs or should you ungate content to drive demand?
- Should you define an MQL differently than you currently do?
- How can you support asynchronous buying and get prospects to SQL or sales-qualified opportunity (SQO) status before getting sales involved?
This is a much more productive line of questioning than “Why did you send me so many junk leads this month?”
How HubSpot Agencies Can Become Mediators in the MQL Showdown
Tons of HubSpot agencies don’t just handle HubSpot management — they also provide marketing and sales consultations. When your marketing and sales teams can’t figure out an MQL that drives them both forward, a HubSpot agency can offer an outside opinion on the matter.
HubSpot agencies that specialize in marketing and sales consultations understand how to work from a RevOps standpoint. They know how to coordinate marketing and sales to keep every part of the customer pipeline working in harmony.
As your agency works with you, it can also teach your teams how to coordinate MQL definitions in HubSpot. You can learn what fields to prioritize when qualifying leads and how to make notes that keep marketing and sales team members on the same page.
5. Running Successful ABM Plays
The final alignment challenge in this series is the challenge of running successful ABM plays with misaligned teams. At the end of the day, you just can’t do it!
All of the problem areas outlined above – poor handoffs, disparate systems, inconsistent data, and arm wrestling over MQLs – prevent an organization from running successful ABM plays, especially at scale.
Why is it so hard to knock your ABM goals out of the park when sales and marketing aren’t talking? It’s because ABM requires that you’re not only aligned on one single MQL or SQL definition – you have to define an entire buying committee. This means even more handoff, system, data, and goal alignment.
The Solution to ABM Alignment Issues
If you are a HubSpot user, you likely know that you have a plethora of HubSpot tools to use for your ABM plays:
- Target Account property
- ICP Tier property
- Account Overview
- Suggested Target Account AI tool
- Prospects tool to see accounts who have visited your website
- ABM and Target Account dashboards
- Company scoring
- Buying role properties
- Workflow automations
- Chatbot or live chat
- Automated lead rotation
- Ads conversion events
Here are some steps you can take to align your team for ABM:
- Verify that you have been collecting job titles and buying roles. If you have not, go back through your last quarter of closed deals and manually enter this information or update via workflows. For example, you can make sure to indicate that a certain job title is always a decision maker.
- Create a dashboard to understand the buying roles that have been involved in your recent deals and who usually shows up at 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 other solutions outlined above to ensure your teams are aligned on goals, lifecycle stage criteria, and handoff protocol. These strategies will also let you know if your data is clean and your systems are talking.
- Finally, use your Target Account and ABM tools to set up a campaign to support the alignment built between sales and marketing.
How HubSpot Agencies Can Supercharge Your ABM Campaigns
As you’ve just learned, HubSpot’s Target Account and ABM tools go a long way in setting your sales and marketing teams up for ABM success. But, if you don’t have those tools set up or organized, you may need some help to get going.
Enter: your HubSpot agency. A HubSpot agency can set up your ABM properties and train you on how to use them. After that, it can set up workflows that automate some of the process to keep your ABM records in shape.
Once your agency establishes your ABM properties, it can also train you how to analyze the rest of your HubSpot data for more ABM opportunities. Factors like companies, lead status, and past behaviors all contribute to a record’s potential for ABM.
Let Bayard Bradford Align Your Marketing and Sales in HubSpot
Who says that sales and marketing can’t play well together? More often than not, alignment is within reach and just takes a little bit of learning and listening, followed by consistent action, to achieve.
And in cases where you need outside help, Bayard Bradford will offer the HubSpot consulting you need. Our services include HubSpot setup, optimization, and management all designed to help you coordinate your marketing and sales data. We can also train your staff on using HubSpot and help you align your HubSpot processes between sales and marketing.