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Top 5 Challenges to Aligning Marketing and Sales Teams

April 19, 2024 Top 5 Challenges to Aligning Marketing and Sales Teams

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The alignment between marketing and sales teams is not just beneficial; it's imperative for success. Integrating these two functions is critical because it directly influences a company's ability to efficiently convert leads into customers, optimize the customer journey, and maximize revenue growth. This alignment ensures that both departments work towards a unified goal, leveraging their unique insights and strategies cohesively to drive business outcomes.

Effective alignment enhances everything from lead handling and conversion to the strategic execution of account-based marketing (ABM) and demand generation. However, as organizations strive to integrate these functions, they often encounter roadblocks that can derail their collaborative efforts. These challenges range from procedural misalignments, such as the handoff of leads, to technological disparities and conflicting goals, all of which can create friction and inefficiency.

This blog article delves into common obstacles to marketing and sales alignment, exploring proven solutions we've implemented to help companies successfully navigate and overcome these challenges.

Challenge 1: Marketing-to-Sales Handoff

The marketing-to-sales handoff is a critical junction in the customer acquisition process, where the responsibility for a lead transitions from marketing to sales. This handoff seems straightforward—marketing qualifies a lead and passes it to sales for follow-up. However, this process is fraught with potential pitfalls that can undermine its effectiveness and efficiency.

Common Issues:

  • Mismatched Qualifying Criteria: One of the primary issues in the handoff process is the lack of consensus on what qualifies a lead for transition from marketing to sales. Marketing teams might focus on generating a high volume of leads through various campaigns, using broad criteria to define a marketing-qualified lead (MQL). Sales teams, on the other hand, require a more refined set of criteria that indicate a higher probability of conversion, defining these as sales-qualified leads (SQLs). This discrepancy can lead to sales teams receiving leads they don't deem ready, resulting in frustration and wasted effort.
  • Ineffective Handoff Mechanisms: Even when there is agreement on qualifying criteria, the actual handoff mechanism can be flawed. Poor communication channels, lack of timely notifications, or complicated procedures can delay or complicate the process of passing leads from marketing to sales. This can result in leads being ignored, forgotten, or not pursued with the required urgency, decreasing the likelihood of conversion.


  • Establishing Clear, Agreed-Upon Handoff Protocols: To mitigate these challenges, organizations must develop clear and mutually agreed-upon protocols for the handoff process. This includes defining and standardizing what constitutes an MQL and an SQL, ensuring that both marketing and sales are aligned in their expectations. Regular meetings to review and refine these definitions based on actual sales data and feedback can help maintain alignment over time.
  • Using Technology to Streamline the Process: Leveraging technology solutions like HubSpot Marketing Hub and Sales Hub can significantly enhance the handoff process. These platforms can automate the transfer of leads at the appropriate stage in the life cycle, ensure that all relevant information is passed along seamlessly, and notify sales teams immediately when a qualified lead is ready for follow-up. Integrating these tools can provide a consistent and efficient workflow, reduce manual errors, and ensure no lead is left behind.

Challenge 2: Disparate Systems

In many organizations, marketing and sales teams use various technological tools to manage their operations. While these tools offer specialized functionalities, using multiple, uncoordinated systems can create significant challenges that hinder effective collaboration and data management.

Problems Caused by Using Multiple, Uncoordinated Tech Tools:

  • Data Inaccuracy and Syncing Issues: When teams utilize separate systems, the risk of data discrepancies increases dramatically. For example, marketing might track lead engagement in one system while sales manage follow-up activities in another. This can lead to inconsistencies in data entry, updates, and retrieval, making it difficult for both teams to have a current, accurate view of lead status and interactions. Furthermore, without seamless integration, data syncing issues can arise, where changes made in one system are not reflected in another, leading to decisions made on outdated information.
  • Lack of a Unified Source of Truth for Decision-Making: The absence of a central system where all data is collected and analyzed can severely impact strategic decision-making. When data is fragmented across multiple platforms, obtaining a holistic view of the customer journey and marketing and sales performance becomes challenging. This fragmentation can prevent teams from effectively measuring the impact of their efforts and adjusting strategies in response to real-time feedback and results.


  • Consolidation of Tools into Unified Platforms: One effective way to address the issues caused by disparate systems is to consolidate data and processes into a unified platform such as HubSpot. By using a single platform that integrates marketing and sales functionalities, teams can ensure they work from the same data set. This integration facilitates better communication, more accurate reporting, and more effective management of the entire customer lifecycle—from lead acquisition to closing sales.
  • System Audits and Capability Assessments to Improve Data Integration: Conducting regular system audits and capability assessments can help organizations identify gaps in their current tech stack that might be causing data issues or process inefficiencies. These assessments should review how well different systems integrate with each other, the quality of data each system produces, and how easily information can be accessed and shared across teams. Based on these insights, companies can decide which systems to keep, which to replace, and how to better align their technology with their operational needs.

Challenge 3: Inconsistent Data

Navigating the landscape of digital tools often results in marketing and sales teams grappling with inconsistent data—a challenge that can significantly disrupt operational efficiency and the accuracy of insights derived from data.

Impact of Using Numerous Tools and Weak Data Processes:

Inconsistent data can severely impact the effectiveness of personalized marketing campaigns and efficient lead management. When data is not uniform or accurate, marketing teams may struggle to segment audiences effectively, deliver targeted messages, or score leads appropriately.

This not only affects the quality of leads passed to sales but also diminishes the customer experience, as potential buyers may receive irrelevant content or offers that do not align with their interests or behaviors.

  • Impediments to Accurate Reporting and Decision-Making: Without consistent and reliable data, both marketing and sales teams face significant barriers in generating accurate reports and making informed decisions. This inconsistency can lead to misguided strategies that fail to address the real needs and behaviors of target markets, ultimately affecting the bottom line and reducing the overall ROI of marketing and sales efforts.


  • Enhancing Data Collection and Process Automation: To combat the issues stemming from inconsistent data, organizations can focus on improving their data collection methods and increasing the use of process automation. By automating data entry and management processes, companies can reduce human error, ensure that data is updated in real time, and maintain consistency across all platforms. Automation tools can also help in segmenting data, scoring leads, and triggering personalized marketing actions based on specific criteria, ensuring that all interactions are based on the latest and most accurate information.
  • Regular Data Sharing and System Integration to Maintain Data Integrity: Regularly scheduled data sharing and integration between marketing and sales platforms ensure that all stakeholders have access to the same data at the same time. This can be achieved through the integration of CRM systems, marketing automation platforms, and other tools used by both teams. Such integrations facilitate a seamless flow of information, allowing for a unified view of customer interactions and behaviors across all touchpoints. Regular audits and updates to these integrations are crucial to adapt to new business needs and technological advancements, thereby preserving data integrity and relevancy.

Challenge 4: Misaligned Goals & the Battle Over MQLs

The alignment of goals between marketing and sales teams is crucial yet often elusive. Differing objectives can create significant friction that impedes both teams' ability to effectively work together and achieve overarching business objectives.

How Differing Team Goals Can Create Friction:

Marketing teams are typically measured by the volume of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) they generate, pushing them to focus on quantity. This often leads to a proliferation of leads that may not meet the stringent quality criteria sales need to effectively close deals. Sales teams, on the other hand, prioritize the quality of leads, as their primary goal is to convert leads into actual sales. This fundamental difference in goals can lead to marketing delivering many leads that sales do not consider actionable or likely to convert, resulting in wasted efforts and potential conflict between the teams.

These differing goals often lead to:

  • Inefficiencies in Lead Conversion: The mismatch in lead qualification criteria can lead to inefficiencies in the conversion process, with sales teams spending valuable time sifting through inadequate leads.
  • Resource Misallocation: Marketing resources might generate a high volume of leads that do not convert, while sales resources are wasted on low-probability prospects.
  • Frustration and Blame: A continual cycle of blame can develop if sales feel they are not receiving the high-quality leads needed to meet their quotas, while marketing may feel underappreciated for their efforts in lead generation.


  • Regular Inter-Team Communication and Goal Alignment: Regular meetings and open lines of communication between marketing and sales are essential to align goals and develop a mutual understanding of what defines lead quality. These discussions should include feedback from sales on lead quality and conversion rates, as well as insights from marketing on lead generation challenges and opportunities.
  • Revising MQL Definitions: Both teams should collaborate to redefine what qualifies as an MQL, ensuring that these criteria align more closely with what sales need to convert leads successfully. This might involve tighter demographic, geographic, or behavioral indicators that correlate more directly with purchase intent.
  • Exploring New Strategies Like Ungating Content to Drive Demand: To shift the focus from quantity to quality of leads, marketing might consider strategies such as ungating content to attract and engage a broader yet more interested audience. This approach can help generate higher-quality leads as prospects are more educated about your businesses offerings and more likely to closer to a buying decision when they engage sales.

Challenge 5: Running Successful ABM Plays

AccountBased Marketing (ABM) strategies demand close coordination between marketing and sales teams, focusing on specific high-value accounts with personalized campaigns. Misalignment between these teams can severely impede the effectiveness of ABM strategies.

How Misalignment Hinders Effective ABM Strategies:

Misalignment in ABM can manifest as conflicting goals, differing understandings of target accounts, or inconsistent communications strategies, all of which can dilute the impact of ABM initiatives. Without a unified approach, marketing might target one set of criteria while sales focus on another, leading to disjointed efforts and less likely to resonate with key decision-makers within target accounts.

Necessary Elements for ABM:

  • Coordinated Definitions of MQLs and SQLs: Success in ABM requires that both teams agree on what constitutes a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) within the context of targeted accounts. These definitions need to be more specific than general marketing and sales efforts, focusing on the unique aspects of the target accounts.
  • Integration of Buying Committees into the Sales Process: ABM is not about reaching an individual decision-maker but engaging the entire buying committee of a target account. This requires marketing and sales to have a unified understanding of the account's decision-making process, including who the committee members are, their roles, and their influence in it.


  • Utilization of Specific ABM Tools and Workflows: Implementing specialized ABM tools like those offered by HubSpot can greatly enhance the ability to execute ABM strategies effectively. These tools facilitate better targeting, tracking, and engagement with key accounts. Workflow automations can ensure that marketing and sales efforts are synchronized and that communications are tailored and timely.
  • Regular Reviews and Updates on Target Accounts and Buying Roles: Ongoing reviews of account information and buying committee dynamics are essential. Regular updates ensure both marketing and sales have the latest information, which is crucial for maintaining relevant and engaging interactions with target accounts.


Addressing the five major challenges of marketing and sales alignment can lead to significantly improved performance and a smoother operational interface between the two teams. By establishing clear communication, unified goals, and integrated systems, organizations can enhance their strategic initiatives, whether it’s through streamlined lead handoffs, unified data systems, aligned goal-setting, effective ABM practices, or other collaborative efforts.

Continuous learning and adaptation are crucial. Encouraging ongoing dialogue, learning from past interactions, and remaining flexible to adjustments in strategy or approach can help marketing and sales teams align and evolve together. This unity improves internal efficiencies and boosts overall business outcomes, driving both teams towards shared success in a dynamic market landscape.


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Desireé Solís

Skilled content marketing expert with four years of experience, specializing in impactful, innovative strategies that boost brand visibility and engagement. Her expertise spans content creation, brand strategy, storytelling, and social media marketing. Renowned for her versatility, Desireé adeptly tailors her approach to meet various brand challenges and goals, showcasing an exceptional ability to adapt and excel across different marketing landscapes.