6 tips to optimize lead handoff between marketing and sales

You have one hour. Yes, just one hour to follow up with leads and secure the best chance of speaking to key decision-makers and converting them into customers—at least, that’s what a study from the Harvard Business Review found.

Of course, this one-hour rule only really applies if your lead handoff process prioritizes highly-qualified leads that are, in fact, ready and able to buy. Unfortunately, at many companies, that’s not always the case. Low-quality leads make their way to sales, and some of the most qualified leads fall through the cracks.

Sound familiar? If so, this blog post will give you 6 tips to optimize your lead handoff process by getting your marketing and sales teams working together more efficiently. We’ll also share how you can use AI technology and exegraphic data to find the best-fit leads at the top of the funnel.

Let’s begin!


What is lead handoff between marketing and sales?

Lead handoff is the transfer of marketing-generated leads to sales for further follow-up and potential conversion into customers. It’s a critical step in marketing and sales alignment and must be handled carefully to ensure that no prospective customer falls through the cracks.

You see the issue? Lead handoff is a particularly challenging process for sales and marketing teams to get right. It’s time-sensitive. It needs to be highly efficient. And it requires shared definitions for terms like “marketing qualified leads” and “sales accepted leads.”


When is a lead qualified for handoff from marketing to sales?

There are several criteria that marketing teams should consider when deciding if a lead is worth passing along to sales. These include things like the contact’s engagement with marketing campaigns, their level of interest in products and services, their budget and their timeline for making a purchase decision.

It also helps if marketing and sales teams have shared definitions for the following terms:

  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL)
  • Sales accepted lead (SAL)
  • Sales qualified lead (SQL)

Marketing qualified lead

A marketing qualified lead is a contact who has engaged with marketing in meaningful ways, usually through marketing campaigns or content. The marketing team decides if the lead meets the criteria for qualification and passes them along to sales as an MQL.

For example, if someone attends a marketing webinar, they might be classified as an MQL because they have shown interest in marketing content and may be ready to learn more from sales.


Sales accepted lead

A sales accepted lead (SAL) is a marketing qualified lead that the sales team has accepted for further consideration. This means marketing has done their job, and now it’s up to the sales team to nurture the lead through the sales funnel and convert them into a customer.

To qualify a SAL, sales usually relies on information that marketing shares during the handoff process. This could include contact information, form responses or marketing content the lead has engaged with.

For example, a sales team at a marketing tech company might receive a lead from marketing that has expressed an interest in their marketing automation product. The marketing team could pass over the contact information and any engagement data showing which marketing content they engaged with and how often.

However, the sales team will still need to evaluate whether the lead has the potential to be a good fit by also considering things like whether the lead fits their ideal customer profile and whether the lead has the budget for a new marketing automation solution.


Sales qualified lead

A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a lead that sales reps have determined to possess the potential to become a customer based on how they’ve responded to sales outreach activities. 

For example, the lead may have responded positively to emails or calls from the sales team. They may also have asked several questions about the product and submitted a form for a demo request.

If your lead handoff process is properly optimized, marketing will send sales only the most qualified leads that meet the agreed-upon criteria for a SAL. This way, marketing ensures that sales isn’t wasting time on low-quality leads that won’t result in closed deals, allowing sales reps to focus on more productive tasks that can shorten the sales cycle.


6 ways to improve your lead handoff process

Every company is different. So, you’ll need to experiment to find the most efficient way for your sales and marketing teams to perfect lead handoff. Still, there are some basic principles and strategies that you can implement right away.


#1 Establish a shared definition of a SAL

The definition of a SAL in the previous section is just a starting point. Your sales and marketing teams should agree on what leads will qualify as a SAL for your company specifically. To achieve this goal, sales should provide marketing with set criteria for what makes a qualified lead, including customer pain points, unique interests and budget size.

For example, sales can tell marketing that qualified leads need to have at least $10,000 in budgeted spend for their marketing efforts, or they need to have expressed a serious interest in the product. 

Knowing these criteria upfront will help marketing focus on creating and distributing content that appeals to qualified leads instead of wasting resources trying to attract leads who aren’t likely to convert.

Once marketing has identified the qualified leads, they should provide sales with the lead’s contact information, background info, interests, and information on whatever factors could influence a purchase decision. 

These insights will give sales a jumpstart in engaging the leads by allowing them to tailor their conversations around topics relevant to each lead.


#2 Automate lead scoring

Automating lead scoring can help reduce the time marketing and sales teams take to evaluate lead qualification. Lead scoring is the process of assigning numerical values to leads based on their behavior, allowing marketing and sales teams to prioritize leads that are more likely to convert. 

Lead scoring typically takes into account a wide range of criteria, such as website visits, page views, email interactions, social media activity, and lead data like industry or job title. At Rev, we like to add a bit more rigor to this process by using exegraphic data. What’s that?

Exegraphic data is data on the factors that represent how a company operates and behaves. It can provide insights into a customer’s motivation, interests and other external factors influencing their buying decisions.

For example, by looking at the exegraphics of your best customers, you may find that businesses are most likely to buy from you when they’re in the process of expanding their marketing team or have recently hired a new CMO.

With that information, Rev’s Sales Development Platform automatically prioritizes the targets that best fit your ideal customer profile. That way, sales can quickly identify and contact the most promising leads.


#3 Use a CRM that streamlines lead handoff

In addition to lead scoring, you can also automate lead handoff by using a CRM (customer relationship management) system. If you’re unfamiliar, a CRM is a marketing tool that helps sales and marketing teams store, manage, monitor, analyze customer information and track marketing campaigns.

Using a CRM, marketing teams can collect and store leads’ information in one place and automatically assign those leads to sales reps based on individual lead criteria. 

For example, marketing teams can automatically assign leads based on lead scores, the marketing campaign they were generated from, or their position in the sales funnel.

Rather than manually transferring lead information from marketing to sales, a CRM system makes it easy for marketing teams to set parameters for what type of lead should be assigned to different sales reps. 

This automation helps marketing and sales teams create a seamless transition from marketing efforts to successful sales conversions.


#4 Regularly analyze lead performance

Measuring the long-term lead performance is essential to ensure your process is working and that marketing and sales teams continue improving how they guide leads through each stage of the sales funnel.

Common metrics to track and evaluate during this analysis include:

  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL) to sales qualified lead (SQL) ratio
  • Average sales cycle length
  • Sales conversion rates

If any of these metrics are lagging, it could indicate a need for better marketing and sales alignment. Similarly, understanding which marketing channels lead to the most successful conversions can help marketing teams focus their efforts and ensure that leads from certain channels get handled with the utmost care.


#5 Implement feedback loops between sales and marketing

Communication is critical when it comes to marketing and sales alignment. Sales teams should provide marketing departments with feedback on which lead sources are most successful and which marketing messages resonate best with leads.

This feedback can and should be incorporated into marketing campaigns moving forward. It can also help marketing teams target their efforts more effectively by focusing on lead sources that are proven to work.

To make this process easier for marketing and sales teams, it’s a good idea to set up automated feedback loops. This way, marketing and sales can stay in sync with each other’s efforts. 

For example, marketing can set up automatic reports to know when marketing campaigns or channels have generated a high volume of SALs. 


#6 Continue to optimize the process

There will always be room for improvement when it comes to lead handoff. To keep the process efficient, marketing teams should continually review their lead sources and campaigns to identify areas for improvement. Similarly, sales teams should review their qualifying criteria and methods to find ways to better qualify leads.

For example, at Rev, we recommend companies continue updating their ideal customer profile (ICP) as their client base grows. Why? Because your ICP is rarely static. It evolves as the market changes, your company grows in size and scale, and when you attempt to expand into new market segments.

Using Rev, you can create a dynamic model of your ICP (we call it an aiCP). This model considers changes in your customers’ exegraphics, firmographics, intent, and more to ensure you’re marketing and selling to the right customers. 

Once marketing and sales teams better understand their ICP, they can collaborate more efficiently on defining which leads marketing should prioritize most for handover to sales.


Final thoughts

Lead handoff can be challenging to get right due to the complexity of timing for follow-up and defining the criteria of a qualified lead. However, with the right strategy, marketing and sales teams can collaborate to develop an efficient system for managing leads while also increasing visibility into lead quality and conversion rates.

Want to ensure you’re targeting and passing the best leads to your sales team? Contact us, and we’ll give a free audit of your ICP and use exegraphic data to show you the leads most likely to become your next best customers!