Why Salespeople Ignore Marketing Leads

The reasons salespeople don’t follow up on leads that marketing gives them has long been the bane of existence for marketers and salespeople alike. Getting sales and marketing to agree on what a good lead looks like can be challenging at best—and painful at worst. This is especially the case in B2B organizations where there’s a long sales cycle or solutions-based products. Also, having a smooth lead hand-off from marketing to sales can be tough to achieve consistently. If you’re struggling in these areas, here are two important questions to ask yourself:

Question 1: Have marketing and sales defined what a qualified lead is TOGETHER?

Take a moment to consider this scenario:

Marketing might define a “qualified lead” using a variation of BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) for new prospects.

On the other hand, sales’ qualified lead criteria for a new prospect might be less stringent, where connecting with the right individual (Authority) might be ideal to begin to establish a relationship well in advance of a need to purchase a solution.

And nowhere shall the two meet…

Breaking down silos between sales and marketing is critical for reaching common ground on what a good lead is. As the scenario illustrates, if marketing disqualifies leads because BANT criteria weren’t fully met but sales wants to connect with the right person, even if there is no current need, there’s a gap!

Common agreement by sales and marketing on what’s valued and what will produce the best possible results for the company will help close this gap.

Here are a few steps you can take to begin creating a qualified lead definition aligned with marketing and sales:

  • Develop a cross-functional team made up of marketing and sales (both doers and leaders).
  • Assess your past lead history: Of the leads generated by marketing, which leads were pursued by sales and why? Of those leads that were pursued by sales, which ones were won and why?
  • Compare the questions sales asks to qualify a lead with those that marketing asks before delivering a lead to sales. Are there criteria that marketing could/should be exploring on sales’ behalf?

Once you’ve got a good, qualified lead definition in place, be sure to revisit it and adjust it periodically. For example, analyze won and lost deals to see if your criteria are truly translating into more wins—and then readjust the definition according to what you find.

Question 2: Have you developed a clear, efficient lead-to-sales hand-off process? 

It seems like a no-brainer that sales will follow up on a lead that she/he receives, but there are many reasons why this doesn’t happen. Amazingly, sometimes sales doesn’t get the message that there is a lead for them in the first place! An efficient lead-to-sales hand-off is as much about process and role expectations as it is about a CRM system to facilitate it.

Consider these four components to a successful lead-to-sales hand-off process:

  • Qualification/documentation – Has marketing fully documented why the lead is qualified and buy-ready, prior to assigning it to sales?
  • Notification – Has the salesperson been alerted that they have a new lead? In this area, we’ve found that redundancy is a good thing; in addition to assigning the lead to a salesperson in your CRM, also email or telephone the salesperson to let them know.
  • Acceptance – Does sales have a formal mechanism to “accept,” and likewise “reject,” a lead? Accepting the lead could be as simple as converting it into a sales pipeline opportunity. In the event of a rejection, you’ll want to capture the reason for the rejection so you can better qualify next time.
  • Recycling – Is marketing following up or nurturing leads that were unread or unaccepted by sales? Many CRMs and marketing automation systems have automation rules and workflows that can help streamline this further.

So there you have the foundation for marketing ROI. Make sure there is an agreed-upon definition of qualified lead, and develop a clear, efficient lead-to-sales hand-off process.

This is the first blog post in a series that explores this topic. We’ll explore other questions you should be asking yourself in several future posts, including:

  • Have my CSO and CMO agreed on common goals for their respective organizations?
  • Does the sales organization understand marketing’s targeted segments, the campaigns that marketing is running, and the anticipated results of these campaigns?
  • Do your scoring/grading rules apply to both sales-generated and marketing-generated leads?
  • Do your salespeople have regular interactions with lead generation/telemarketing reps?
  • Does sales leadership track and manage metrics associated with lead acceptance/conversions?



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