October 25th, 2016

Handing off marketing leads to the sales department

overhead view of co-workers sitting around desk with computers exchanging notes

You have leads. What should you do with them?

One of the classic stumbling blocks in many marketing campaigns comes when the marketing department hands off their marketing leads to the sales department. It’s easy for the marketing team to present their triumphant report about how many leads they generated, and then walk away without properly transferring key information. That information could include:

  • What stage the lead has reached in the sales pipeline
  • What level of awareness the lead has of the company or product
  • How marketing acquired the lead in the first place

When the sales department doesn’t have this info, they risk approaching the lead in the wrong manner. Then, if they lose that lead and fail to close a sale, both departments begin playing the blame game. How can you hand off marketing leads to the sales department smoothly and with minimal loss of critical information?

Agree on marketing and sales objectives.

First and foremost, Marketing and Sales should get together to understand what objectives they want to achieve, and how they plan to accomplish them. Marketing could come up with an excellent plan for nurturing leads via an email newsletter. But if that newsletter has no way of converting leads to sales prospects, it won’t do Sales any good. Similarly, Sales might find they’re struggling to close a particular type of client—they’d like to stop targeting that persona, and try a different one. Marketing needs to know that information in order to adjust their strategy effectively.

In short, this is about communication. In order for both teams to do their jobs effectively, they need to talk to each other about their needs. This will help them function more efficiently, and also build respect between departments.

Keep roles and responsibilities clear.

Depending on the size of your company, you may not need a strict delineation. If you’re very small, you may even have some team members who work on both teams. Or you may have large enough teams in both Marketing and Sales that you assign some members to be the official liaisons. But either way, some territory clearly belongs to one group rather than another.

Sales isn’t trying to attract new leads, they’re trying to close the ones Marketing brings in. Similarly, Marketing isn’t trying to close sales so much as measure how interested a lead might be in your company’s products or services. Why is this distinction important?

Because the sales department focuses on closing, they tend to be more direct. They want to be able to address pain points, speak to the prospect’s needs, and get a yes or no answer as to whether or not that prospect is going to buy. This mission-oriented attitude fits in the world of sales. But it can feel aggressive to early-stage leads who are still browsing their options.

On the other hand, if marketers over-focus on attracting, then they can fall into the trap of always nurturing and never closing. If Sales needs to step back from a lead until Marketing gives the go-ahead, then Marketing also has to know how to identify when a lead is ready to transfer to Sales. This is where your handoff process comes into play.

Create a handoff process

Once your marketing and sales departments have built an understanding of overall strategy, they should both agree on what information needs to be passed on and at what point in order to have success with a new lead. Sales needs context in order to create an engaging connection with a prospect. So any handoff should include enough key information to orient the sales contact before they approach the lead.

Your process for transferring this information doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as much as a quick memo or form that some key points. And if your sales and marketing teams have been working closely together, Sales will know about the different marketing initiatives and will know the basic information included in each. But since you don’t want to make any missteps based on false assumptions, it helps to create a checklist to be sure everyone’s on the same page. Try the following:

Key information when handing off marketing leads to the sales department

  • The lead’s persona. Are they the president of the company? The CFO? The head of HR? Or are they the assistant to one of these people? From experience working with these personas, your sales reps will know what information is most likely to help land a sale.
  • Lead source. Did this lead come through an email drip campaign? A landing page with a contact form? A direct placement ad? Marketing should have tracked this source, and they should pass that information on to Sales.
  • Product or service of interest. Many times, a sales rep can infer what a lead might be interested in based on the first two points. Or it may be that the lead doesn’t know what they want and needs the sales rep to guide them. But if the lead has submitted this information, Marketing needs to be sure they pass it forward.
  • Awareness level. Unless Sales has initiated contact with a lead through a cold call, that lead will have come to them with a certain level of awareness about your company, products, and services. Whenever Marketing is responsible for sending leads to Sales, they will have some of this information and should pass it on.

Automate your marketing to sales handoff process

After all the talk above, does this seem counterintuitive? We hope not. While an automated handoff might seem impersonal, it is not meant to replace any of the inter-departmental team-building and communication from above.

Marketing and Sales still need to work together to understand objectives. They still need to communicate roles and responsibilities so as not to step on each other’s toes. And they absolutely need to agree on which information is critical for Sales to close, and where in the lead nurturing process Marketing should make the handoff. But once your teams work out the strategy, there’s no reason you can’t implement it via your CRM.

For instance, at Build/Create we use SharpSpring to automate certain stages of our sales process. We set up our workflows to send certain leads to different team members based on how they found us and what form they filled out to land in our sales funnel. But that’s a process we only came through by building a strong marketing-sales alliance.

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