Does the following scenario sound familiar?
As a marketer, you create an effective demand generation campaign that piques the interest of your prospects and entices them to respond. Those responses are sent directly to your trained telequalification team members, who determine which companies have a real need to purchase your solution.
Then, those qualified "sales-ready" leads are delivered to Sales, each one containing details of the company's pending evaluation and purchase plans with important information to assist with sales follow-up.
You've done your job. Now, it's time to watch the magic happen. Sales will convert your highly qualified leads into opportunities and, eventually, new business. Your marketing return on investment (ROI) will be outstanding.
But, that doesn't happen. Instead, the pipeline barely increases. Why?
You investigate and find that a significant portion of your leads are now dead. You approach Sales to ask for feedback, and here's what you hear: "The leads look great, but we can't get them on the phone. We left a couple messages, but they didn't call back. They must not really be interested. The leads are dead."
If that situation sounds familiar, you're not alone. One of the primary challenges in ensuring that a high percentage of qualified leads enter your pipeline is the sales organization's ability to establish contact.
Four Handoff Techniques
The good news is that Marketing—more specifically, the telequalification teams—can use various techniques to improve the lead-to-sales handoff, including the following four techniques.
1. Secure a phone appointment
Instead of leaving it up to the sales account executive (AE) to re-establish contact with the lead, the telequalification team should schedule phone appointments. That tactic requires some logistical planning, such as gaining access to the AEs' calendars and determining an acceptable time for appointments to be scheduled. The telequalification agent can book appointments immediately, providing both the AE and the lead a Microsoft Outlook (or other) meeting notice for their calendars.
2. Warm-transfer "hot" leads
Depending on the structure of your sales team, you may be able to set up a warm-transfer process, in which the telequalification agent immediately transfers qualified "sales-ready" leads directly to Sales, facilitating immediate sales engagement.
3. Determine best time to follow-up
For some large organizations, setting up phone appointments just doesn't work logistically. As an alternative, the telequalification agent should ask each lead when she will be ready to speak with a sales representative (based on her evaluation timetable).
Also, the agent can find out which day and time are best to reach each lead. For example, the agent could note that "Friday morning is the best day of the week to reach Mr. Jones." She can even determine whether phone or email is the better method for initial communication. All of that information can greatly help the sales organization establish contact.
4. Provide a soft introduction via email
After finishing a phone call, the telequalification agent can send an email to the lead to recap their conversation. By copying the appropriate AE, the agent can use that email as a soft introduction for the lead and the AE. That process will help the AE establish contact more easily, and it is an alternative to scheduling appointments or warm-transferring leads.
When determining which techniques will work best for your organization, don't forget to also consider the prospect's experience. For instance, if you cannot ensure that a sales representative will be available to receive a warm transfer, that could result in a negative experience for your prospect (for example, keeping her on hold for a long time on the phone). In that case, warm-transferring would not be an ideal option for your organization.
Establish Sales Follow-Up Guidelines
The best lead-to-sales processes are established jointly between Marketing and Sales.
In addition to the techniques recommended, be sure to establish Sales follow-up guidelines. In my experience managing a sales organization and also working with our clients' sales teams, I've found that account executives can approach their leads very differently from each other. Some will call leads relentlessly to establish contact, and others may make only one or two attempts before assuming the lead is dead. Therefore, Sales management should establish specific lead follow-up protocols for the sales organization, including the following:
- Minimum number of contact attempts for each lead
- Expected timeframe for follow-up
- Appropriate steps in the follow-up process
- Customer relationship management (CRM) documentation requirements
As those guidelines are established, make sure to communicate the sales processes to the marketing and telequalification teams, so that those departments can always set clear next steps with each lead. That type of communication is yet another way to improve the lead handoff.
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Improving the lead-to-sales handoff and setting specific lead follow-up guidelines benefits everyone. The marketing and telequalification teams will generate a higher ROI because of their efforts. The sales organization will close more business.
Most important, prospects will have a positive experience working with your organization, and that positive experience will help to establish them as long-term customers.