Creating Lead Hand-Off Plans for Better Marketing and Sales Alignment

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Creating Lead Hand-Off Plans for Better Marketing and Sales Alignment


lead hand off planWhen marketing and sales aren't working together, it shows. Beyond that palpable tension in the office when a marketing team member walks past a salesperson's desk, misalignment has serious bottom-line consequences. According to Aberdeen Group, companies with poor marketing and sales alignment saw a 7 percent decrease in annual revenue. But companies with good alignment saw a 20 percent increase.

The primary problem isn't just that sales and marketing don't communicate. As this Forbes article points out, marketers and salespeople often don't want to communicate. Sales is a money-in team; marketing is a money-out team. Because sales doesn't see actual results from marketing, sales doesn't give marketing the recognition it deserves as part of the sales process. And who gets the pat on the back from the CEO? Sales, of course.

How do we fix it?

  • For Marketers: Think a little more like a salesperson and a little less like a character on Mad Men. The new reality of marketing online means you will help set up systems that automatically do a lot of the selling. With Internet research, it's not uncommon for a customer to know just as much about your product and competing products (and sometimes more) than the salesperson. You need to make sure that customer is getting the right information while they are researching.
  • For Salespeople: The only way you're ever going to get results from marketing is to work intimately with marketing. Make the team part of the process from the start, not just the team you go to when you need a brochure. And always ask, "How can marketing make my job easier by delivering our messages?"

When marketing and sales people accept each other's roles, it's easier to jointly create a plan for managing leads. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Clarify Goals

Before you move into processes, everyone needs to understand each others' goals. Whether it's landing one big fish or scooping up as many guppies as possible, sales needs to clearly state what they're fishing for. Once marketing knows exactly what sales is going after, they can focus their efforts on achieving that now-mutual goal.

Step 2: Define Lead Stages Together

The two stages in the funnel that marketing and sales need to agree on completely are "Marketing Qualified Leads" and "Sales Qualified Leads."

For MQLs, specific buyer traits should be agreed upon by both teams. This is different from company to company, but can include qualifiers such as a specific industry, title or company size. Combine that with specific actions, like a demo or consultation request. This can help you determine scoring criteria in Step 3.

For SQLs, sales needs to communicate which leads are qualified and sales-ready. Without this feedback, marketing cannot improve its efforts to provide sales with even better leads.

Step 3: Create Lead Scoring Criteria

When implementing lead scoring, whether it is simple or complex, both sales and marketing should be aware of the actions that increase the lead score. What pages do web leads visit before they were closed by sales? How many forms did a lead fill out and what forms? And, of course, what actions or traits disqualify a web lead? Depending on the value of each action or trait, you can determine which leads get immediate attention and which leads are still evaluating.

The key here is to close the loop. Your marketing automation system needs to be able to recognize when a lead becomes a customer. Whether this is CRM software integration or a manual import of new customers on a regular basis, it's impossible to properly develop lead score without seeing the customer's journey.

Step 4: Develop Notification Processes

Lead scoring is essential to the notification process. If your company uses a CRM software, leads can automatically be delivered to the CRM when they reach the appropriate score. Your CRM software can then put the lead in the appropriate salesperson's queue.

In addition, you can notify sales when an MQL or SQL reaches a specific score or fills out a specific form from your marketing automation software. This again can help sales determine which leads need contacted right away or followed-up with because of a new action on their part.

Either way, both teams need to agree on when sales receives a notification and/or when a lead is sent over to CRM software (or manually exported and sent to sales).

Step 5: Prepare Processes for Returning Leads to Marketing

The final step is developing a process for those leads who aren't quite sales-ready. After the first sales team contact, they may discover the person isn't buying anything for six months or even a year. Sales shouldn't let this lead sit. Instead, marketing should receive this lead and continue the lead nurturing process.

Have you created a lead management plan? Tell us how you improved the process in the comments section below. 

photo credit: Dr. Mark Kubert

dan stasiewski blog photoDan Stasiewski is an Enterprise Data Consultant at Kuno. When he's not talking about marketing data and trends, he's probably in a movie theater... or randomly breaking into song. You can connect with Dan via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.


Good points but you misses (or glossed over) an important one. 
Establish clear sales team SLAs (service level agreements) for lead pursuit. 
Sales must to commit to a specific lead pursuit process including: total number of attempts, medium (phone,email,both), sequencing (call, VM, email, follow up call, etc), and finally: the timing for this (within 3 days of hand off, etc.) 
I have seen far too many great leads go down the drain because a sales rep left one (crappy) VM and then walked away. 
Great article... Keep em coming.
Posted @ Thursday, January 24, 2013 9:31 AM by Townsend
Thanks, Townsend.  
A very important point, indeed. Somewhere between Step 4 and Step 5 there's a whole process on the sales side for lead pursuit. (Something marketing should be aware of, too.)  
Sounds like a great topic for another post!
Posted @ Thursday, January 24, 2013 9:58 AM by Dan Stasiewski
Here is step 4.5
Posted @ Monday, January 28, 2013 11:57 AM by Townsend
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