7 min read  | Buyer Persona

Account-Based Marketing: Aligning Your Marketing & Sales Teams

Our previous blog article looked at Account Based Marketing (ABM), what it is, and the potential benefits for B2B companies.

There are many upsides to ABM, but one obstacle companies often face when implementing a successful ABM strategy is getting their marketing and sales team on the same page and working efficiently. This article looks at the top challenges marketing and sales teams face as they align their efforts and how you can set your people and processes up to give ABM the best chance of success.

Marketing-to-Sales Handoff

Nothing frustrates marketers more than seeing high-quality, ready to engage leads being ignored or neglected by the sales team. It’s money being flushed down the drain. While handing leads over from marketing to sales sounds simple enough, in our experience, a lot can go wrong when proper processes are not agreed upon and monitored.

Here are some common reasons why.

No qualifying criteria

Does your business have set criteria for what and when leads should be handed over to the sales team? Do all teams agree on this? In terms of timing - if sales go in too early, they could risk seeming too aggressive while the buyer is still in the research stage. On the other hand, if they go in too late, the prospect might be already meaningfully engaging with competitors. 

In terms of quality - If marketing 'cry wolf' too much and hand over bad or non-interested leads, sales will become apathetic, making the likelihood of good leads getting missed even greater. Your marketing and sales teams should work together to map your customer journey, the lifecycle stages and their criteria, ideal customer profiles, target personas, and handover timing. Once this is agreed upon, the whole process will be much smoother.

Poor handover process

In one scenario we encountered, the marketing team had decided to set HubSpot tasks for sales, asking them to follow up with qualified leads. Unfortunately, it turned out that the sales team had disabled most of their HubSpot notifications due to the overwhelming volume, so the ABM prospects were slipping through the cracks. 

There are seemingly infinite channels your marketing and sales teams could communicate through. Therefore, a defined process for how leads will be handed over from your marketing to sales teams is essential. It's also helpful to map out sales processes and SLA timeframes, so the leads have the best possible experience and impressions of your business. 

Tools like HubSpot can help automate much of this, freeing your teams to focus on what they do best. 

Disconnected Systems 

Today, countless tools can help your marketing and sales teams save time and increase their effectiveness. However, many organisations don't have an overall vision for their IT stack due to resource restraints. As a result, multiple stakeholders can add various software solutions to solve their day-to-day inefficiencies. 

This lack of strategy creates a bit of a Frankenstein monster, with siloed data, inefficient context switching, mishandled leads, poor reporting, and misinformed decision-making. 

You may see this happening today in your organisation. For example, your sales team may prefer to keep their emails siloed in their inbox or utilise a spreadsheet to manage their leads. Your marketing team might use MailChimp for marketing email but use Salesforce for managing their database. Having this information disjointed and out of reach to other stakeholders can create inefficiencies and confusion. 

How can you overcome this?

We suggest you make a process chart showing every stage of the customer journey - from marketing activities to post-sale support. What systems are used to manage each step, what information is recorded, what functionality is required (such as quoting or email automation), and any other relevant information. This will help you understand the current state.

Then, take a 'less is more' mindset. What is your core platform/CRM, or 'source of truth'? Can one platform take on the majority of your marketing and sales requirements? What tools or steps are redundant, and can any of them be replaced by an existing product in the tech stack? 

Platforms like HubSpot help to unify your marketing, sales, service, and management teams in one system and have a vast suite of tools to reduce information silos and create efficiency through automation.

Once you've decided on your 'must-have' tools, it's time to ensure data is synchronised to your 'source of truth platform' from as many disconnected systems as possible. For example, you can utilise integrations with email clients, messaging clients like Slack, and marketing/sales tools like Hootsuite or Qwilr. If there isn't a direct integration, you can utilise automation tools such as Zapier. 

Then, create and agree on processes that ensure everyone has timely access to all relevant information and utilise automation to eliminate mundane or repetitive tasks. This can include policies for recording client communications, writing clear notes, updating customer data, and when to move prospects forward in the pipeline.

While creating unity can be difficult due to the general disorganisation of information, disconnected processes, platform loyalty, individual product limitations, and the many stakeholders involved, it's essential for providing a frictionless pipeline and informed decision-making and reporting. 

Misaligned Goals

Often, marketing teams are solely focused on generating engaged leads, and the success or failure of a campaign will be judged on this metric alone. In contrast, sales effectiveness is often measured by converting those leads to customers.

However, not all marketing leads will necessarily be interested in buying your product or service now. Some may have downloaded an eBook for professional development or subscribed to your blog and marketing emails as they enjoy reading your company's insights. 

If sales receive ten leads from marketing, but only one is ready to engage in a sales conversation, their conversion rates look poor. As a result, management may ask - "Marketing is doing a great job bringing in leads; why are sales not effective at converting them to customers?" 

If your teams focus on lead rather than revenue conversion, friction is created between the marketing and sales goals and teams, leaving you ill-prepared to run an effective ABM campaign.

The solution to misaligned goals

At the end of the day, revenue-generating customers impact the bottom line and fuel growth across the entire business. Therefore, we suggest marketing look beyond lead generation and take a more holistic approach to monitor and optimise the sales pipeline. This starts with tracking the number of leads generated (marketing qualified leads), the conversion rate to 'sales qualified leads', the conversion to 'sales opportunity', and ultimately to paying customers. Then, you can find inefficiencies and have productive conversations about where processes or definitions need to be changed.

This results in a win-win. If marketing can demonstrate a financial return on investment from their efforts, they can request more resources - further accelerating lead gen, conversion, and business growth. 

Having your marketing and sales team regularly sync with a meeting or stand-up is an effective way of aligning on goals and sharing learnings and experiences. This helps the units operate in the same world and prevents apathy and disconnection.

The agenda for these meetings could include:

  • What marketing activities are currently in progress or planned? Who are they targeting and why?
  • What response has marketing had to their activities or ABM marketing campaigns?
  • What sales activities are in progress or planned, who are they targeting, and does it align with what marketing is doing? 
  • Are sales getting replies from marketing leads? What do they hear from prospects? What content are they engaging with and enjoying? What objections are they getting? 
  • Are we handing over the right leads at the right time? Is there more nurturing that needs to take place? 
  • What content or activities have the highest ROI?
  • What sales assets could help us sell more effectively?

Learning from each other and aligning your goals and efforts is essential for any B2B business - especially when ABM campaigns are in play. 

In Summary

ABM campaigns rely on marketing and sales being laser-focused on engaging and converting target customers. Unfortunately, this can be made difficult by an ill-defined handover process for leads, disconnected systems, and misaligned goals.

By taking the following steps, you'll be setting your teams up for success and accelerating your growth:

  1. Map out your customer journey using lifecycle stages. Define each step, who is responsible, and the handover process. Prescribe what information needs to be recorded at each stage. 
  2. Define your SLAs
  3. Agree on your target customers, personas, and buying roles.
  4. Unify your data and systems as much as possible and ensure you have a single source of truth for all stakeholders.
  5. Set joint goals aligned with the overall business targets - this could be as simple as "ten engaged opportunities and five new customers by April". Try not to focus too much on higher-level metrics such as '50 new blog subscribers' with ABM. 
  6. Set up weekly meetings between your marketing and sales teams to align on objectives, activities, and feedback from the market. 

In our next article, we'll look at how to set up an effective ABM campaign in HubSpot. Stay tuned!

If you need any help putting this into action, Aamplify can help. We help B2B companies like yours define their ABM strategy, align their teams, integrate their systems, develop holistic goals, and execute quickly and effectively. Get in touch today.