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12 Tips for Acing the Marketing to Sales Handoff

If a lead isn't properly handed off to sales, is it really a sales qualified lead? (My vote is no!) So, what's the best way to do it? We asked a panel of 12 experts what they recommend in order to ace the marketing to sales handoff.

Our respondent panel includes both agencies and in-house executives, with a range of go to market titles such as founder, directors of demand generation, and chief revenue officer. 

Respondents are helping grow brands you might have heard of like PartnerStack, a leading partner management software, and Arrows, a customer onboarding app for HubSpot.

Some of these recommendations are complex and involve a CRM. Others are deceptively simple. Regardless of where you are in refining your marketing to sales handoff, there's something in here that every B2B marketer can learn from.

Here's an overview in no particular order. Click the link to jump to their section.

Have Agreement on Lead Characteristics

"First and foremost, the sales team and the marketing team should come to an agreement in terms of what characteristics should make up a qualified lead. This initial agreement will prevent any confusion or disagreements from happening down the road when the marketing team hands off a lead to the sales team."

- Nick Shackelford, Structured Agency

Think in Terms of Levels

"Level of fit - Based on what we know about their profile and job to be done, can we help them.

Level of intent - Have they looked at pricing, downloaded getting started guides, knowledge base posts.

Level of affinity - How long and how deeply have they engaged with the brand."

- Stuart Balcombe, Arrows

Calculate an ICP Match Score

"Provide an ICP-match score so the BDR/AE can understand how to prioritize the lead vs existing pipeline.

Naturally, this requires having a well-defined ICP, designing a scoring system, and making it part of the handover SOP to create and communicate the score."

- Evan Knight, RightMetric

Understand What Sales Want in a Lead and Work Backward

"In B2B organizations, Marketers serve Sales teams. The leads that Marketing hands off to Sales only have value if enough of them convert to revenue. Therefore, you must pass the right leads from the right accounts to your Sales team at the right time.

From there, you can start to set up processes that leverage the technology you have to automate the handoff, report on the conversion rates, and decrease the time to respond."

- Joe Kevens, B2B SaaS Reviews & PartnerStack

Ask Sales Qualification Questions and Lead Score

"There are two things to consider when handing a lead from marketing to sales. As a marketer, you need to determine if a lead is qualified based on the questions you ask during the marketing process.
This could include timeframe to purchase, industry, number of employees, and much more. You need to align with your sales team to get a clear understanding of what they determine to be a qualified lead. If your marketing process does not leverage many forms for lead generation, you can also lead scoring based on the engagement of the prospect.

For example, if a prospect views your pricing page, or clicks on a certain number of emails, you can consider them "digitally engaged" enough to pass to sales. Make sure you align with sales and have regular meetings so you are in agreement about what makes a sales qualified lead."

- Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

Close the Gap and Keep Nurturing

"Once you know for certain which team will receive qualified leads, create a process to quickly close that gap in contact. You can make it happen when you have a sound marketing automation CRM platform and pass the leads to the sales reps. Since time is of the essence, this process has to be as seamless as possible.

Also, don't forget to create another process to recycle those qualified unengaged leads back to marketing, so your team can nurture them until they are ready to engage again."

- Brenton Thomas, Twibi Digital Marketing Agency

Avoid Significant Delays and Provide Some Context

"Timing is the critical element here. If there is a significant delay in the lead being passed to the sales team, then the likelihood of the customer placing the order or buying declines.

There also needs to be some context provided about the lead passed to the sales team. For example, in what circumstances did the prospective customer give their information? Why are they looking in the market specifically at this time? All this can be used for leverage by the sales team.

It is normally good business practice for a firm to have a customer relationship management system in place for this process, to ensure that the appropriate follow-ups are put into place. One of the main reasons potential customers don’t convert into placing an order is that the reason for the contact is missing and this lack of context often annoys customers."

- Marco Genaro Palma, PRLab

Include a Brief Bio of the Lead

I recommend including a brief bio of the lead, along with any relevant information about their company and the business relationship. When we hand off a lead to sales, we always include a brief bio of the lead. This helps sales understand who they're talking to, and it helps them connect with them on a personal level.

Also, if there's any relevant information about their company or the business relationship that you know from your own research or from talking to the lead, that's great to include as well—it's helpful for sales to have an understanding of where this person or company fits in with others at their stage in life or development.

- Ishu Singh, Starting to know

Make Sure the Leads Are Viable

Before a lead is handed off to sales, make sure enough information is captured on the marketing end to create a prospective client profile.

This should include details that go beyond the basics of a name, location and contact information. The more information the sales team has on a prospective lead, they'll know immediately whether it's viable or not. This will save them time, resources and attempts to contact a lead if it poses a high risk of delivering a flat ROI.

It helps to know where did the lead come from, how did they find your brand, have they possibly transacted with similar services before, what is the reason for their initial contact, any demographics tied to their budget helps, headcount attached to the lead, etc.

More information from performance metrics to client preferences will allow the sales team to frame their pitch that resonates with the lead to actually explore a conversation to learn more about the products & services sold.

- Sasha Laghonh, Sasha Talks

Provide Data to Show Why the Lead is Worth Sales' Time

"For a seller, time is their most important resource, so when passing a lead to sales, it's so important to share context for why that lead is worth their time.

For example, you might share data that marketing-qualified leads are more likely to result in a closed-won opportunity. If that data isn't available (perhaps because this is a new campaign), be sure to explain why this lead has demonstrated purchase intent. Maybe the content they downloaded is closely related to a pain point your product solves.

In either case, it's important to remember not to expect sales to blindly chase any lead they receive. Instead, provide visibility into why that lead is ultimately worth their time and attention."

- Peter Zawistowicz, Pace

Include a C-Level Third-Party

"Along with establishing some lead criteria and a service level agreement (SLA), be sure to have a faction of senior- and executive-level leaders from both the marketing and sales teams.

These leaders act as objective third-party, responsible for maintaining departmental accountability and ensuring that the lead criteria and SLA are adhered to for a successful hand-off.

With this, having a C-level review board allows key problems to be recognized and appropriately resolved in a timely manner."

- Jason McNary, Brandon Blackwood

Handover the Unique Story of the Client

"Qualified and nurtured leads can become dead if not handled with care. The sales team is more focused on dealing with warm leads that will convert quickly and are not equipped to nurture and precipitate early-stage leads that require time. It is important to update the sales team on the unique story that every potential client has.

The deal can only be cracked if the team handling the next stage knows how ready the lead is to convert, what their reservations are, what the specific pain points were that led them to this product or service and what it would take to either convert them at the stage or keep them in the loop for the future.

So just as the marketing team hands over a lead to the sales team, they need to hand over the unique story of that lead."

- Rishabh Bhandari, Content Beta