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When Should You Hand Off Leads to Sales?

By Jackie Van MeterJan 9, 2017

hand-off-leads-to-sales.jpgMarketing and sales departments can sometimes be at odds with each other, and ineffective lead hand-off is a major contributing factor.

The marketing team wants to maximize reach and evangelize the company’s brand. They’re looking for ROI with their lead generation efforts. Meanwhile, the sale team wants to close deals and spend their time talking to qualified leads—not just anyone.

When marketing doesn’t deliver a sales-ready lead, salespeople push back. When salespeople can’t close, marketers push back. This creates more animosity between the two departments.

So, what is the proper procedure to hand off leads? How can marketing and sales work together to achieve more synergy?

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

More than anything else, sales and marketing need to agree on when leads should be handed off. This helps marketing gain a better understanding of what sales is looking for, and it helps sales make more effective use of their time.

The exact moment of lead handoff will depend on your organization and the criteria you use to score your leads. Sales and marketing need to communicate and agree on a strategy, and the simpler it is, the better. You also can go back in and tweak the process later, but starting with a complicated setup is a good way to set yourself up for failure.

To make this process as efficient as possible, setting up your CRM correctly is essential.

When Leads Should Be Handed Off

You need to be on the lookout for two signals. Leads should be handed off when:

  1. They are warm. They’ve recently taken an action—or several actions—that indicate interest in your business and products. For instance, they may have visited multiple pages on your website, submitted a webform, have been actively engaged with your emails or a combination of all of these. New leads won’t be “warm” forever, but they shouldn’t be handed off to sales unless they meet certain criteria—more on that later.
  2. They are qualified. They fit the description of your target audience. By matching up their data with your buyer personas, you can determine whether they are your ideal customer. You can look at criteria like job title, location, company size and other factors to establish their qualifications, which should be determined ahead of time.

Unfortunately, tracking all your leads can be a challenge unless you’ve automated the process with CRM software. This is also where lead scoring comes in.

Implementing a Lead Scoring Strategy

The sales-readiness of a lead is a moving target. It can change based on their behavior, as well as when you last reached out to them. If their role changes within a company, or if they move to another company, that’s another factor that may affect their overall score.

A lead scoring system allows you to rank all of your prospects on a 0 to 100 scale, for example, which can inform you when a lead is ready for handoff.

If you know who your ideal customers are, you can begin developing your lead scoring strategy by determining point values for each of the factors, such as what industry they’re in, their company’s annual revenue, number of pages they’ve viewed on your website, and so on. We’d suggest sticking to the 100-point scale mentioned earlier.

Then you can score each of your leads and assign positive and negative attributes to them.

Finally, you need to create a score threshold for when a lead is ready to be handed off to sales. For example, you could set the threshold to 70 or 80 points. This is something marketing and sales should agree on.

Note: It’s unlikely that your strategy will be perfect upon implementation. It will require some tweaking, and the ongoing collaboration between sales and marketing will facilitate the necessary changes. This process may require patience, but will lead to better results.

Nurturing & Managing Your Leads

Per HubSpot, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at 33 percent lower cost.

Lead nurturing is the process of delivering personalized, relevant, contextual content to your prospects to better prepare them for sales. You can generate as many leads as you like, but some won’t be ready to talk to sales no matter how qualified they are, and others will never buy from you.

It’s important to nurture leads on your prospect list, but who aren’t ready to buy. Proper lead management can help marketing identify which campaigns attracted the highest quality of leads. It can also help sales save time from talking to leads who aren’t ready to purchase, and can generate more information to personalize the selling experience.

Lead management is a combination of prospect tracking (which allows you to see who visited your website and what pages they viewed), lead intelligence collection (everything you find out about your leads through form submissions, email marketing, social media, and so on), lead scoring, CRM and ongoing lead nurturing.

In addition to lead scoring, lead management will help you determine when to hand off your prospects to sales.

Maximize Your Results With Effective Lead HandOff

Both marketing and sales want to make effective use of their time. Both want to contribute to the bottom line of the company and meet important business objectives. Their roles may be different, but their purpose is essentially the same.

If your lead handoff happens at the right time, everyone involved will be able to focus on their role, and therefore be more effective. Establishing proper communication between sales and marketing is crucial to your success.Sales Enablement and CRM guide

Additional Topics: Inbound Sales
The Author

Jackie Van Meter

Jackie is a seasoned media executive with 17 years of advertising sales, online media and event marketing experience. Jackie has helped to launch four magazines and their corresponding websites and apps, ranging from technical trade titles to local glossy tabloids. Working with national and local brands, Jackie has a proven track record of offering her clients earned, owned and paid media to grow their bottom line.
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