Marketing and sales professionals need to be aligned in your organization. By setting rules for lead handoffs you create a smooth transition and a greater chance of a purchase.
- Once you've defined the stages in your sales funnel, the next step is to create lead handoff rules. So basically this is who communicates to a lead when, and what are the rules around when you hand it off to the next group? In order for marketing and lead generation to be effective, marketing and sales must be incredibly aligned, think very best buddies. Once a marketing lead hits a particular stage in the funnel, it needs to be handed off to sales for follow up.
And that means your lead handoff from sales to marketing must be incredibly seamless. You don't want the lead to know anything about a handoff process, so the communication needs to be incredibly aligned, and both sales and marketing need to have a very good understanding of what the process is. Lead handoff typically happens between two stages in your funnel. A marketing qualified lead, or an MQL, or a sales qualified lead, an SQL. The handoff will happen between those two stages.
So let me define what each of those stages are in more detail, and then we'll talk about what that handoff looks like. An MQL is considered a good lead by marketing. This person has generally hit a certain lead score threshold, if you are using lead scoring in your marketing automation it could be determined a good fit with good engagement, so this person is demographically qualified and this person has good engagement with your company. And many times this person will also be BANT qualified, so has the budget, authority, need, and time in order to make a decision.
This is what defines a Marketing Qualified Lead. Once a lead hits MQL status, the next step is for them to communicate directly with your sales team. So that is step number two, Sales Qualified Lead, or an SQL. So once a lead has hit the SQL stage, this person has had direct contact with sales. And sales has determined that this is a good lead and is then ready to create an opportunity. So you can see very clearly between these two stages that there is a handoff process.
So let's talk about this concept of an MQL threshold. Ideally, a lead is passed to sales and that person should have a combination of a fit and behavior called a lead score. Your MQL threshold is what will define when that actual handoff will take place. That lead score will often take place within your marketing automation platform, and can be comprised of demographic attributes, engagement, or predictive indicators, if you have a predictive marketing platform.
That lead score is generally a numerical score from one to 100, and your threshold is set somewhere in between there. So once that threshold is hit, a scored lead is then considered a warm lead and gets sent directly to your inside sales team. So what does a sample lead handoff look like? What is this exact process? So your MQL score threshold is hit, and then an alert goes to your inside sales team.
This often happens within a CRM tool, like Salesforce.com or something else. So once that alert gets sent to your inside sales team, then your inside sales team will call or email this lead to make contact. If that sales rep is able to actually make contact, then that sales rep will either qualify the lead, turn it into that SQL, or recycle that lead. So recycling as in sending it back to marketing for more nurturing. Once an inside sales rep has qualified that lead and created an SQL, that lead then gets passed to an account executive.
So an account executive is generally that closer role, while the inside sales person is the qualifier. So once the account executive receives the lead, the account executive will create an opportunity at that point, so either this person is ready to be within a sales cycle with us, or the account executive can also recycle that lead back to marketing. So then once an account executive has spoken to that lead numerous times, then a customer can be created and a deal can be closed.
So what is a sales notification? A sales notification needs to happen in order for the sales rep to understand that the lead is ready to be contacted. This is often an inside sales rep being notified once a lead hits the MQL threshold. This notification can happen within a CRM or through email. The idea here is just to make sure that the sales reps understand that notification and that you can make sure that they pay attention to that notification. Many marketing automation tools will sync with your CRM and have easy notifications so that your sales reps understand exactly what actions the lead took in order to hit that score threshold.
And then you can make sure that the notification that you send is very clear for the sales rep to follow up. Consider an act now notification when a lead fills out a contact us or a demo form. So in order for your sales notifications to be effective, it is best practice to have what we call a service-level agreement, or an SLA, between sales and marketing. Basically this is an agreement in place between your sales and marketing teams that defines the specific time frames in which a sales rep must follow up with an MQL.
So note that you're spending all this time and money on the marketing side in your lead generation programs, to create the MQL. If you don't have a service level agreement, you might risk your MQL being followed up with in a very long amount of time, or not being followed up with at all. Which means money down the drain for your organization and for your lead generation process. So, implementing an SLA ensures smooth handoff and follow up. Basically just an agreement saying that a sales rep will follow up with an MQL after alert, in a certain time frame.
SLAs must be championed by a sales leader. So it's not enough for marketing just to say, hey sales, you need to follow up with these MQLs in the time that we dictate, your SLAs need to be backed up by somebody in a leadership position in sales, so that that sales leader is telling their reps that they have to follow up with MQLs in the time allotted. Notifications should be sent via email to the sales rep then his boss, then the VP, and so on, until the lead is followed up with.
The reason for this escalating set of emails is so that the sales reps take this seriously and so that they know if they don't follow up with an MQL within the Service Level Agreement time frame, then his boss will know, his boss's boss, and then eventually the CEO. So this puts a little bit of effort behind what you're trying to do, so that the sales rep will effectively continue to follow up in the time allotted. If you don't have a strong sales and marketing handoff, the money and time that you spend generating leads will be wasted, and you will have a very leaky funnel.
So there's no point in going through to do tons and tons of different marketing programs, if people are just coming in to your funnel, and then just staying there, and that your sales reps aren't properly following up. So that's the reason to have a very well defined process throughout each stage of the sales funnel so that everyone knows what's going on, and that your leads have a very seamless experience from marketing to sales.
- Identifying funnel stages
- Defining key goals and metrics
- Deciding on an approach
- Building a lead generation plan and a team
- Aligning with stakeholders
- Choosing a lead generation technology
- Building attractive content
- Generating leads with blogs and social media
- Creating an SEO strategy
- Tracking ad performance
- Increasing visibility through events
- Using paid ads and direct mail
- Qualifying leads
- Measuring campaign effectiveness