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Handing Off Leads: How to Get Sales & Marketing Working in Harmony

Posted 26 March 2020 | BY Sansan

It’s no secret that marketing and sales teams within organizations don’t always see eye to eye. Beneath this is the reality that both teams are also involved in their organization’s lead generation process.

Given this situation, the process of lead handoff – passing on a lead from marketing to sales or vice versa – suffers.

Here, we take a look at why this is the case and how sales and marketing teams can work together to exchange leads more effectively.

But first, a little background...

The Traditional Buying Process

By the book, a buyer’s interaction with a product or service goes from awareness to interest to desire before they finally take an action (purchase).

Marketing creates initial awareness through means such as online and offline content creation, and ad campaigns. Prospects who show interest in your product and fulfill a set of criteria assigned by the marketing team become a marketing qualified lead (MQL). These MQLs are then passed on to the sales team, where they go through a vetting process to ensure they’re ready for the next stage, the sales pitch.

A lead that is ready for this is called a sales qualified lead (SQL). A successful sales pitch results in a purchase and the buyer’s journey is complete.

It seems simple, but those in the trenches know that’s not often the case.

The New Buyer’s Journey

Cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) options and social media sites have empowered customers and they no longer display the traditional buying behavior. Customers now get information from multiple new and emerging touchpoints, including online review sites and social media channels. They can quickly and conveniently get information about not just your products, but also your competitors’.

This competition for a potentially limited number of customers really should prompt sales teams to join their marketing colleagues in the lead gathering process. In well-functioning relationships, that’s what happens.

According to one sales manager, events and seminars are great ways to gather leads. Sales teams can gauge a prospect’s level of interest in the product and determine whether or not they are a hot lead worth contacting afterwards.

In the pursuit of these hot leads, sales teams often ignore the cold ones (those who show no interest in the product). As one sales manager put it, they are considered “tough to nurture... Most of the cold leads are cold forever.”

Nurturing Cold Leads

Nurturing cold leads

Instead of simply dumping cold leads, sales can pass them back to marketing for nurturing, as this can result in 20% more sales opportunities.

Cold leads gathered by the sales team at events are likely to be aware of your product, but just aren’t ready to engage yet. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Email is usually the best option to reach out to such leads, as it’s a relatively unintrusive method of communication.

Spacing out the timing of your emails is also crucial. Stay on top of the lead’s mind without being pushy. Pardot advises marketers to space out emails between 6 and 45 days. It can take up to 10 marketing-driven touches for a cold lead to convert into a paying customer.

The tools sales and marketing need to achieve this

A good customer relationship management (CRM) system can help sales and marketing tackle this challenge.

Bulk emailing multiple contacts at the same time with a little personalization is one way to leverage a CRM. The CRM, when properly integrated, can use data from accurately digitized business cards to ensure that each contact’s personal data (name, address, email) is spelled 100% correctly.

Sansan, for example, is such a solution and is also equipped with the ability to take note of any changes in the position of the email recipient within an organization. Having such a smart system not only demonstrates a sense of professionalism in the emails, but also builds rapport as recipients feel more valued when they receive personalized treatment.

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This bulk email function can be combined with the tagging feature available in Sansan, where individual names on the system can be tagged for internal reference. For example, the sales team can tag those they have identified as cold leads, so marketing can then nurture them by sending out EDMs on a biweekly or monthly basis. Personalization can be pretty impactful, increasing the likelihood of converting cold leads into warm ones.

Improving the Sales and Marketing Workflow

Besides tracking leads, sales and marketing teams need to be well coordinated and streamline their workflow so they remain aligned in their goals.

Andy Ang, a Singapore-based marketing professional, keeps track of his workflow through a document he shares with his colleagues in a chatroom. However, although the document is accessible and available to the sales team, they don’t always keep it updated. This poses a challenge as the marketing team then doesn’t have “clean data to make marketing decisions,” Ang says.

From the sales team’s perspective, this is considered an added administrative chore that takes away from their core duties. Typically, workflow sheets tend to be in Excel or similar formats which make updating a tedious, manual task. Cloud-based sharing lets sales and marketing easily collaborate in real time.

The tools sales and marketing need to achieve this

A cloud-based CRM can solve this problem. Sansan is a contact management solution (CMS)/CRM hybrid that provides anytime, anywhere access to your company’s contact database through its Mobile App. Sales and marketing can easily key in and update information on their customer meetings. These reports are then shared with team members and authorized users in the company.

Apart from storing notes on contacts, users can also categorize them using tags, and add detailed reports on every customer interaction. This is particularly handy for sales, as they can easily pickup on and run with an existing conversation.

Limiting Lead Drop-offs

Having accurate and updated data is important, but the way you connect with leads once they show interest in your product is just as crucial. A senior marketing manager shared that most drop-offs happen at the MQL-to-SQL stage. This is evident from the fact that 79% marketing leads never get converted into sales and only 5% of salespeople say they get high-quality leads from their marketing teams.

This usually occurs because of differences in sales and marketing departments’ understanding of acceptable leads. Marketing typically has a lead-scoring process to rank prospects based on their engagement to predict the likelihood of them becoming customers.

If sales and marketing don’t agree on the scoring method, it can be problematic, because as one sales manager said, “once the leads reach a certain score, [they] are ready [to be contacted by the sales team].” However, if the sales team then finds that the scoring is flawed and doesn’t meet their expectation of a sales accepted lead (SAL), all the effort is wasted. In this scenario, sales would either reject the lead or, if they accept and act on it, they run the risk of annoying a potential client which could cost your company a paying customer.

Having a healthy channel of communication for better coordination and consequently for lower lead drop-offs is therefore necessary.

What sales and marketing need to do

1. Set up meetings on a regular basis (weekly, even daily, regroups): These meetings can help with the lead handover process as both sales and marketing can agree on a definition of a single SAL.

Such meetings also allow both teams to keep each other updated and better prepared to find and convert leads. For example, they can share information on competitors’ activities or any major upcoming events.

2. Be clear about the workflow and steps taken by each team member: An RACI chart ensures transparency and lowers the risk of miscommunication. An acronym for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed, a RACI is a workflow matrix that keeps track of all activities taking place and the people responsible for it.

With the right tools and processes in place, there’s no reason why your sales and marketing teams can’t work together effectively to acquire and nurture leads, and convert them into sales.

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