June 9, 2021

What is the Marketing-to-Sales Handoff?

Marketers generate awareness and convert leads. Sales nurtures qualified leads into customers. Together, both teams work to generate revenue for your company. 

For your company to succeed, marketing and sales can’t operate in silos. The efforts of both teams complement each other, and one of the most vital collaboration points between the two teams is the marketing-to-sales handoff.

What is the Marketing-to-Sales Handoff?

The marketing-to-sales handoff is the process of marketing passing a qualified contact to sales along with the relevant information sales needs to continue nurturing that contact through the buyer’s journey. 

Fundamentally, two things are important for the marketing-to-sales handoff to be successful:

  1. Contacts need to be placed in the hands of sales at the right time.
  2. Sales needs to understand why they’re receiving the contact at this time.

The handoff process starts when a trigger is met, such as a contact submitting a certain form or interacting with a chatbot. When that happens, different contact properties will be updated in your CRM, such as sales status changing to “marketing qualified.” The property updates will trigger automation, leading to the contact getting routed to a sales rep. 

Depending on how advanced your routing system is, you might select which sales rep a contact goes to based on factors like industry, company size and territory, or you might just evenly distribute leads across your sales team.

The contact details that should be passed on to sales will vary depending on the specifics of your sales process and product. However, this context should generally include information like the contact’s name, email address, role, lead score (if you have one) and a link to their full contact record.

You should also provide details about key touchpoints that indicate why the lead is being sent along now, maybe their last conversion point, the last five pieces of content they viewed, the form they just submitted and similar data that justifies their status as a marketing qualified lead (MQL).

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Components of the MQL-to-Sales Handoff

  • Trigger point: To ensure leads are entering the sales pipeline at the right time, you need to have a trigger point that indicates their sales-readiness. This could be a lead score that encompasses their fit and interest, a BoFu submission or the procurement of a required piece of information for segmentation, like territory or company size.
  • Lead routing system: While the specifications of this will vary based on your company size, you need some way for leads to change ownership from the marketing team to an individual sales rep. If you only have a single-person sales team, you might not need a formal distribution system to route your leads, but likely could still benefit from an automated workflow.
  • Notification system: When a lead is routed to a sales rep, that rep needs to be informed and provided with information about the lead. This notification system could be through email, a messaging platform or in-app notifications in your CRM or sales enablement software.

Common Issues in the Marketing-to-Sales Handoff

Because the marketing-to-sales handoff is a cross-functional operational effort, it isn’t always set up perfectly at every company. Here are some common issues that lead to a suboptimal handoff process:

Lack of alignment between marketing and sales

Marketing and sales leaders need to consistently communicate about what the criteria should be for the handoff triggers and what the definition of a “qualified lead” is. A lack of shared understanding of those concepts can lead to the teams working at odds with each other and failing to generate revenue.

If marketing and sales have different ideas for where in the buyer’s journey leads should be when they’re handed off, sales may struggle to approach buyers with appropriate follow-up communications. 

Lack of context on why a contact is being handed off

While the inclusion of details around why a lead is being passed to sales is a core component of our definition of the marketing-to-sales handoff, it’s one of the most common issues we see with ineffective handoffs. Too often marketers will just send a contact to sales with no explanation of why. 

Information about a contact’s digital body language and interests is essential for sales’ ability to prioritize leads and compose tailored outreach. If they just receive a contact record during the handoff, it makes it more difficult for them to do their job.

Fortunately, marketing has all the context sales needs to get started nurturing the prospect — marketing used that context to determine that the lead was qualified to be handed off to begin with. So, they need to find a way to easily equip sales with that information as well.

Undefined lead routing logic

The level of lead routing required for a smooth handoff will depend on a company’s size. For bigger companies, a lack of lead routing logic can cause leads to not receive the attention they need when they’re passed on to sales.

You want to ensure that the sales rep who receives a lead is capable of working them, in terms of both expertise and capacity. So, you could create a lead routing system where sales reps work only a segment of your overall contact base determined by ICP, buyer persona or geography. You could also cap how many leads sales reps are allowed to own at a given time — this way, a rep won’t be assigned any new leads if they’re over capacity.

The Takeaway

The main goal of marketing and sales is to generate revenue for their company. If marketers aren’t equipping sales with the leads and information they need to close deals, they’re not doing their job properly as a marketer. If sales isn’t responding to the leads they’re receiving in a timely, contextual manner, they’re failing to fulfill their responsibilities as sales reps.

An effective marketing-to-sales handoff helps both teams fulfill the obligations of their roles.

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Avery Hanscel

Avery is a Business Operations Specialist at New Breed. He supports with New Breed's day-to-day operations ranging from IT requests to internal revenue operations. He's also an avid Arsenal fan.


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