The qualified lead hand-off process is a simple yet critical step in the outbound lead generation process. It is where the ownership and accountability of developing the relationship with leads into viable sales opportunities is transferred from the outbound lead generation rep to the sales rep. Is your team doing it right?

lead hand-off processRelaying leads from marketing to sales might seem like a fairly simple action, and it might not appear to be a subject worthy of its own blog post. Yet, that is the same reason it so frequently overlooked when companies are trying to implement an outbound lead generation team for the first time. While it seems simple and obvious, that lead hand-off consistently comes up as critical point of failure at companies that do not have the hand-off process properly implemented in their sales and marketing teams.

For those who may not be familiar, I will be a bit more specific on what I am referring to with the “hand-off process.” It occurs when an outbound lead generation rep (who is cold calling and e-mailing prospects) qualifies a prospect to the point at which it has met the agreed upon criteria for passing the lead to a sales rep to move the deal along further through the sales cycle.

For the lead generation hand-off process to be effective, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Create a formal email introduction between the lead and the sales rep, by the lead generation rep.
  2. Encourage engagement by the sales rep with the prospect via response to introduction email
  3. Generate an accepted calendar invite for a call/meeting between the lead and the sales rep
  4. Update lead status in CRM is to “suspect”

Once the call meeting takes place, two things should happen:

1. If the lead has been verified by sales as meeting the agreed upon definition of a sales qualified lead

  • The lead status should be changed to “Sales Qualified”
  • The ownership of the lead should be officially transferred over to the sales rep

2. If the lead does not meet the agreed upon definition of a sales qualified lead:

  • The sales rep should provide feedback to the lead generation rep as to why it does not meet the criteria
  • The ownership should remain with the lead generation rep to continue nurturing the relationship

All of these steps seem so obvious that they shouldn’t need to be explicitly defined and documented included in new hire training. But from our experience in establishing and working with these teams it is shocking how often these steps are not followed beyond a verbal communication of these obvious steps.

This recommended process tends to happen naturally when there is a high degree of collaboration and cooperation between the sales rep and the lead generation rep, and when management drives usage of the CRM system.

However, when lead generation reps and sales reps are not collocated (which is often the case) and management does not drive behavior and reporting through the CRM system, this process almost never happens unless it is explicitly laid out as in the above example. The steps laid out above will help drive the accountability and ownership that is required for success.

Some less effective versions of the handoff process that I’ve seen in the past look more like this:

  1. Lead generation rep confirms a time for the meeting on the phone with the prospect
  2. Lead generation rep sends out a calendar invite to the lead and to the sales rep, but no formal introduction is made.

OR

  1. Lead generation rep updates the status of the record in the CRM system, but there is no meeting invite or formal introduction is sent.
  2. The sales rep is expected to follow up on the records in the CRM system that have been reassigned to that status.

In both of these other versions of the hand-off process, potential Sales Qualified Leads have a much higher tendency of slipping through the cracks. Sales reps can easily miss meetings that were scheduled for them, and they can easily forget to follow-up on leads in the system assigned to the designated status.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the result of having a poorly executed hand-off process is that much of the outbound lead generation team’s work is done in vain, and eventually the whole company can lose confidence in the team and the process.

On the other hand, when the hand-off process is executed well, it ensures that no leads fall through the cracks, that everything can be easily tracked, and, perhaps most importantly, that the prospects have an excellent and seamless experience at this early and critical stage in their buying cycle.

photo by: tableatny

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