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. It’s especially the case in B2B organizations where there’s a long sales cycle or solutions-based products. 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 essential questions to ask:

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

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.
  • Sales might define a qualified lead as connecting with the right individual (Authority) 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 essential for reaching common ground on what a qualified 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!

Collective 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 did sales pursue, and why? Of those leads that were pursued by sales, which ones were won, and why?
  • Compare the questions sales ask 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 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 indeed 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 don’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, before assigning it to sales?
  • Notification – Has the salesperson been alerted that they have a new lead? 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 B2B marketing ROI. Make sure there is an agreed-upon definition of a qualified lead, and develop a clear, efficient lead-to-sales hand-off process. Salespeople will follow-up on leads quicker and that will translate into more revenue.

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