4 effective practices for passing leads to sales

You may know the frustration of handing over leads only for sales to ignore them. Here, Kavita Singh shares four tips for cultivating a seamless lead generation process.

Define the difference between MQLs and SQLs

Each company will define MQLs and SQLs differently depending on its model and customer lifecycle, however, a service level agreement (or SLA) is a great place to start. This document outlines how each party will serve and support the other, providing a general understanding of the rules of play. 

At technology investment banking company, Silver Peak, various SLAs are used to outline its process. According to EMEA field and channel marketing director James Houselander, leads must be touched within 48 hours and then again within 30 days. After 60 to 90 days, marketing determines whether a lead is going to convert into a meeting. 

During this process, an inside sales business development representative (BDR) manages inbound leads, which are then qualified through marketing. This sales role usually uses a cold email or cold call to approach qualified prospects. The objective is to set an appointment with a sales representative. However, they use different SLAs depending on where the lead came from. For example, they also use events to qualify leads, which will then go straight to sales, meaning they skip to sales much quicker.

Both definitions of an MQL and SQL should be outlined, along with these sorts of timeframes, including the exact point at which to pass an MQL or SQL over to sales. By doing this, you’re setting the foundation for your handover process.

Stop fixating on your targets

Once you’ve defined your MQLs, do not make exceptions to your SLA just to meet a target. While your marketing team might be encouraged to chase new leads and turn them into MQLs as soon as possible, this can mean funnels filled with useless leads. 

Matt Antos-Lewis, marketing director for Conversica, says: “When marketing and sales operate in silos, they’re not thinking of the bigger picture, they’re thinking of numbers. If you’re a marketer and you need to get 50 MQLs per month, you’re doing everything you can to get that, and it becomes a constant play for quantity over quality. I think that’s the most common source of misalignment, marketing rushing to hit this MQL target without considering the quality.”

He steers away from setting targets for the sake of ‘self preservation’, and from operating in silos – sales will only push back saying those MQL’s are not ready. At Conversica, marketing and sales have weekly catch ups where they have more holistic conversations about MQLs, SQLs and how to turn them into opportunities. 

Matt says: “I can’t from the top of my head remember how many MQLs I've reached. It’s just not a figure we discuss. We have two or three weekly sales and marketing calls and include anyone who is involved in them. We talk about sales qualified opportunites (SQOs). If there’s something that we’re missing in our SQOs, we’ll go back into our MQLs and SQLs. That really helps with focusing on the quality.”

Take a look at your lead scoring process

Conversica has also been fine-tunning its lead scoring during the past year. Lead scoring can be used to determine the strong prospects from the weak, which is great because passing over a colder lead can be frustrating for sales. This also ensures marketing and sales focus on the appropriate accounts. 

He says: “It’s an ongoing process. We’re constantly looking at the leads that come through and where they’re getting stuck in the funnel, but we tend not to have any untouched leads because we use intelligent virtual assistants. So we’re constantly reviewing where leads might get stuck and adjusting our lead scoring.”

However, before your company gives lead scoring a go, consider whether there’s sufficient data for creating lead scoring values so that you can determine the right weights and measures. Also, note whether your representatives are overwhelmed with leads. If both of these are factors, then lead scoring might be the key for effectively passing over MQLs.  

Enable your sales team to be conversation ready

James from Silver Peak says: “Sales will have a preconceived expectation of the types of leads they want. However, marketing is becoming more revenue driven. It’s not just about getting leads; it’s about what turns into revenue and pipeline. Sales will generally have a good feeling that an MQL can be converted into an SQL, provided it’s done right.”

Besides harnessing a good relationship with sales, you need to support them in being ready to have an insightful and helpful conversation with the customer attached to the MQL. 

Managing Director EMEA at Highspot, Richard Langham has seen its marketing team shift gears from demand creation to supporting the sales process by using sales enablement tools. This has been the key to aligning their sales and marketing teams. His marketing teams can now provide sellers with content based on buyer engagement patterns, supporting sales in engaging buyers in a conversation.

Richard advises allowing sales to do the selling and prepare them with as much content and knowledge as possible to ensure a smooth transition for your MQL to an SQL or SQO. There’s always the danger of passing over an MQL too early, and this can be frustrating for sales when it’s simply not conversation ready. 

“Companies need to keep investing and optimising their lead generation process if they want to have healthy sales operations. Sales enablement is a key driver for this – it reduces the ad-hoc processes and gives representatives the content, guidance, training and tools they need to focus on buyers’ needs. People-centricity is key. If you nurture these relationships with the right content and tools, you'll have meaningful customer conversations that win deals,” He explains.

This approach will be key to optimising your lead generation process. By leaving the marketing team to focus on the customer journey, this supports sales in focusing on the selling, increasing both conversion and business ROI.

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