April 24, 2023

The Handshake - Fixing the Marketing-to-Sales lead handoff

The moment marketing hands a lead over to a sales team is the ultimate test of collaboration between these two historically warring tribes. When things go wrong, millions of dollars of sales pipelines fail to materialize. Getting it right is holy grail of sales and marketing team collaboration, but it requires facing difficult truths and re-inventing sales and marketing roles.

Consider this statistic:

On average, only around 27% of B2B leads are actually qualified, according to a recent report by MarketingSherpa.

I don't care how many lead scoring systems are being used, it's difficult to know if a lead is qualified or not until someone reaches out to each prospect. This is where the problems start.

A VP of Sales & Marketing discovers another meeting on his calendar to discuss lead definitions.

To reiterate, nearly 75% of leads aren't qualified. Sales teams are justified in thinking "marketing isn't sending me qualified leads." So, what does sales do? They don't properly follow up on future leads. Marketing teams are justified in thinking, "sales isn't following up on our leads." Everyone is right, but no one is achieving their sales targets.

The reality is that most B2B leads are long term. They may not be qualified right away but if nurtured correctly, they can turn into new clients down the road. This is especially true when selling larger enterprise deals as well as service deals.

The ongoing "#asaservice " trend often has long sales cycles and a need to focus on educating prospects and establishing long term relationships throughout the buyer's journey.

You may have a lead handover gap if any of the following happen in your company:

  • Teams refer to this moment as when marketing "throws leads over the fence" to sales.
  • Sales assumes marketing leads are "bad" (the real descriptor here has been censored:)
  • Marketing assumes sales does not follow up "properly" with their leads (also censored:)

The underlying problem of the handover process is broken. Fix the handover and then the issues both within marketing and sales can be better addressed. There is a systematic way of repairing this, but let's start with the basics.

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When sales and marketing teams meet up both armed to the teeth.

First off, let's stop "throwing things over the fence" and instead call this the "Handshake" moment. (The idea of a handshake has been around for thousands of years, originally as a way to prove neither party was holding weapons. For many disgruntled sales and marketing teams, this may still be the case.)

There are a number of ways to create a stronger handshake between marketing and sales, but the best place to get started is to have everyone agree that around 75% of leads are not as qualified as everyone would like them to be!

Few on either team will like this truth, but it is necessary to redesign the lead process. Sending leads back into a nurture system should be ok, so long as:

  • There are clearly defined qualification gaps identified and articulated.
  • The nurture system actually works.

Each of these bullet points needs a separate discussion on the best ways to get this done and I'll cover them in future posts.

I'll wrap up with one final thought: The topic of nurturing is especially important as mentioned above, and one trend worth considering is that salespeople are becoming more involved in what has traditionally been thought of as "marketing's job" when it comes to lead nurturing. The roles of sales and marketing are in fact continuing to blur and both teams need to come together to figure this out.

It starts with a handshake.

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