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When Does a Lead Go From Marketing to Sales? Optimize Your Lead Handoff Strategy

Madison Taylor Marketing

Topics: Sales and Marketing Alignment

The biggest speed bump in the process of turning a stranger into a customer historically comes from one place — the relationship between your sales and marketing teams. Here’s how it usually goes:

  • Marketing team generates leads and gives them to sales
  • The sales team decides that some of those leads aren’t qualified
  • Sales team asks for more leads
  • Marketers ask what happened to the leads they already generated

Meanwhile, no one’s changing the way that leads are collected, defined, and nurtured. The cycle just keeps going. So how do you break that cycle and make the handoff between marketing and sales as seamless as possible? With a strict lead handoff strategy.

Define the Rules

In any working agreement, you can’t just hope that everyone will always be on the same page — you have to spell out exactly what the relationship will look like. The first step is a simple one: establish what a sales-qualified lead (SQL) actually looks like. The exact definition will depend on your company and your customers, but will probably include some combination of the following factors:

  • How much contact information have they given you?
  • How many of your articles have they downloaded or read?
  • Are they subscribed to your social media or emails?
  • Do their needs fit your product?
  • Are they looking for a replacement or supplement for whatever they’re using?
  • Are you talking to a decision-maker?
  • Are they ready to make a purchase?

A service-level agreement (SLA) is a document, agreed upon by both parties, that spells out exactly what everyone’s expectations are. Marketing will agree to produce a certain number of SQLs per month or quarter, and sales will agree to pursue those leads to whatever extent is necessary.

Third-Party Oversight

Once you’ve laid out the rules, you need someone to make sure that you’re sticking to them. These adjudicators will be senior-level sales and marketing leaders, as well as the CEO, COO, or some other high-level executive that doesn’t have a specific interest in either group.

This group will be in charge of making sure that both the sales and marketing teams are meeting the requirements they agreed on. When sales rejects a lead, this committee will review the lead to see if the lead fit the agreed-upon definition. If it did, then why did sales reject it. If not, then why did marketing supply it?

If both sales and marketing teams are held accountable, they’ll be less likely to phone in their jobs. Marketing won’t forward low-quality leads just to meet a quota and sales teams won’t reject leads just because they don’t want to follow up. Remember, the oversight isn’t to assign blame. It’s designed to find flaws in the process so they can be fixed. 

Possible Logistical Problems

Reviewing every lead can be extremely time-consuming, and that’s time that your executives might not want to dedicate — especially if you’re a big organization that goes through hundreds of SQLs a month.

Instead, assign the committee to review a random selection of rejected leads once a month, looking for issues that might be an indicator of a broader problem. Lots of companies have a formal lead handoff process, but lead acceptance rates are still low. That’s wasted time and money.

If your company can implement a truly independent, supervised process — leads are consistent, that the handoff is smooth, and overseers are making sure nothing falls through the cracks — your lead conversion efficiency will go through the roof.

Next Step

Your company’s marketing should be the secret sauce, ever elusive unicorn, and magic bullet that your company has been waiting for. Bottom line, it should be bringing you that money.

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