Bridging the Gap: Achieving Seamless Marketing-to-Sales Handoff in B2B Organizations

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The Handoff

In B2B marketing and sales, the handoff between teams is a lot like a soccer team passing the ball down the field. It takes a lot of people working together to score. A good handoff can look effortless, but in reality, a lot has to happen to make everything work together.

The Challenge of Misaligned Goals

Misaligned goals can cause a lot of problems. Marketing cares about leads. Sales cares about deals and hitting quota. It takes dedicated effort to align these teams. Here are some ways to bring both teams closer together:

  1. Regular Meetings
    Simple, but often overlooked! Does your sales team know what the marketing team gets evaluated on? Does your marketing team know what sales' monthly numbers are? If you don't currently have both teams meet, then this is the simplest, most effective place to start. Set up a standing monthly meeting, allow both teams to communicate, and see what ideas start to bubble up.

  2. Set goals, but start from today’s numbers
    When both teams commit to closing more deals, it can be easy to start setting huge goals that sound great. But it can be challenging and demoralizing if they don't hit those numbers. Unless you're in a hypergrowth phase, that's typically not achievable.

    Instead, take an honest look at the numbers as they exist today. Here's a suggested list:
    1. How many MQLs does marketing generate?
    2. How many does Sales accept?
    3. How many does Sales qualify?
    4. How many get passed back? Do you have metrics on the disqualification reason?
    5. How many turn into deals?
    6. Take a clear-eyed look at these numbers and decide where each team can improve them.

  3. Document your processes and goals
    Write down your goals, document who needs to do what, and make sure it's shared with everyone. This establishes who is responsible and helps to prevent any finger-pointing later on.

    It's also important to document shared definitions here as well. What counts as an MQL? What factors into a lead score? What does sales look for in an SQL? The goal is to create clarity and minimize surprises. This can help to keep everyone aligned and clear on expectations.

  4. Track Relevant KPIs
    Once you've determined what your processes and goals are, make sure everyone knows exactly how these numbers will be tracked. Make sure that your CRM can create accurate reports, and that everyone can work off of the same dashboard.

Aligning systems and processes

Aligning sales and marketing also requires a careful examination of systems and processes. Ensuring that both teams can seamlessly work together is crucial for success. As mentioned in point 3, you need everyone working from the same goals and definitions. Each team is responsible for how they reach their goals, but the numbers should be objective. Here are some of the ways you can do that:

  1. Lead qualification criteria
    Define clear lead qualification criteria collaboratively. Everyone on the team should know what makes a lead qualified. If you're using a lead qualification framework like BANT or GPCT, everyone should be clear on what moves someone forward.

    Marketing may only be qualifying for need and timeline, and sales may need to further qualify for budget and authority. But everyone needs to know their part.
  2. Use Lead Scoring
    Leverage tools like HubSpot to implement lead scoring. This helps to align lead generation efforts around high-quality leads. The scoring rules can be a topic of discussion (and review!) during your regular meeting. A secret to successful lead scoring is that complexity doesn't lead to quality. You're better off with a simpler scoring system that everyone is bought in on and understands.
  3. Build feedback loops for refining criteria
    Establish feedback loops that let your teams continually refine lead quality criteria as new sales insights come up. These ensure that your process evolves to reflect changes in the market or customer base.

  4. Detailed CRM notes
    Avoid vague or detail-light notes in your CRM system. Provide marketing with powerful insights and details gathered from interactions with prospects. This information empowers marketing to refine targeting and lead-generation efforts for better results. It can also help position any ongoing customer relationship management processes like QBRs or annual reviews with your customers. Having a clear, contextual understanding of the current relationship and history of your organization and client base can help you hone in on potential friction points and allow you to address them proactively.

  5. Embrace Conversational Intelligence
    If your sales team has embraced conversational intelligence tools, you're equipping your marketing team with a superpower—the ability to gain direct insights from customers. These insights can inform marketing strategies and improve targeting.

Continuous Improvement

To foster a culture of continuous improvement in the marketing-to-sales handoff process, your teams should focus on:

  1. Refinement calls
    Schedule refinement calls before any results are achieved. This proactive approach encourages open discussion and collaboration, allowing teams to remain operational rather than on the defensive.

  2. Transparent communication
    Encourage regular communication between teams to create a clear and shared agenda. Both marketing and sales should have the opportunity to provide insights on successes and challenges faced by their respective teams. Keep the focus of these meetings on how you can provide the most valuable information to your counterparts.

  3. Cross-functional collaboration
    Promote cross-functional teamwork and collaboration. For instance, consider having marketing team members participate in sales calls, or involve sales in marketing activities like segmentation and content creation. This cross-pollination of skills and perspectives can lead to innovation.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the handoff between marketing and sales in B2B organizations can be a make-or-break moment in the customer journey. To ensure a seamless and productive transition, organizations must address the challenges that commonly arise during this process. It comes down to three fundamental principles: defining the breakdown, aligning platforms and processes, and continually seeking ways to improve the process from the outset.

Every organization is unique, but even the most distinctive companies can struggle with the basics of sales and marketing alignment. It's important not to allow a divide to form between these two teams. Instead, take proactive steps to bridge the gap and bring your marketing and sales teams back together. By doing so, you can maximize the effectiveness of both functions and drive greater success.