Sales & Marketing Hand-offs are the key to create a predictable, sustainable, efficient and effective sales pipeline. The hand-off of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) between lead generation (demand creation, field marketing) and demand management (sales development or business development reps) and the hand-off of meetings between demand management and the field sales team (Qualified Sales Opportunities (QSOs)) will succeed or fail, based upon the level of integration and synchronization in the sales process.
Demand Management (the function that houses the Sales Development Reps (SDRs) or Business Development Reps (BDRs)) sits between lead generation and the field sales team and is an essential cog in the revenue chain. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked, under resourced, mismanaged or improperly fed. SDRs / BDRs perform a pivotal role in generating revenue but can only do so if the function is intelligently incorporated into the go-to-market strategy.
The terms “integrated and synchronized” are at the heart of a successful sales process and deserve to be highlighted:
- Integrated: having different parts working together as a unit
- Synchronized: to happen at the same time and speed
Companies that truly understand and embrace the concepts of integration and synchronization tend to have a revenue chain that delegates steps in the sales process to demand creation, demand management and sales to. Those that don’t tend to rely on a one or two-legged stool — and those are not as sturdy as a three legged stool.
Creating qualified leads with a high probability to close is the responsibility of the demand creation function. Demand creation is usually a corporate function focused on casting a wider net. In contrast, field marketing is a marketing or sales function focused on generating demand at a sales rep or sales region perspective. In both cases, the goals must be the same as a sales person’s goals: find targeted opportunities that fit the use case, company demographics and industry; value one’s core differentiation and identify with the value proposition from an individual, group or corporate perspective.
Sales & Marketing Hand-offs & SDRs & the Revenue Chain
Three functions – demand creation/field marketing, demand management and field sales – and two key hand-offs – marketing qualified leads and meetings – drive the revenue chain. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are what the demand creation and field marketing teams create and feed to the SDRs and BDRs (demand management). BDRs/SDRs then concentrate on converting MQLs to qualified sales opportunities (QSOs) that are then passed to Field Sales Reps (FSRs) to close.
For the first handoff – MQLs – it’s CRITICAL that the MQL definition be driven from a closed/won deal backwards-facing direction. In other words, the goal HAS to be to hand something to a sales rep that will result in a closed/won deal. This means the MQL must be vetted by the SDR / BDR, turned into a meeting and processed through the sales process. To successfully accomplish this, the sales team needs to have a major voice when it comes to setting the criteria for a MQL. However, the marketing team ALSO needs to have a say to ensure that the lens is not myopic and that the focus remains on penetrating the served market.
Meetings are the second hand-off and they occur between the SDR / BDR and the field sales rep. Note that the demand management function is most often part of the sales function but sometimes is part of the marketing team. The first step is for SDRs / BDRs to verify that the MQL passed to them meets the agreed upon MQL requirements and has not slipped through a routing or scoring anomaly. Next, the BDR typically ensures that the MQL represents the right person, in the right company. He or she then probes around the areas of budget (existing or access to), authority or influence, need or business pains and timeline (is there a project, RFP, discussions, etc.). Like an MQL, there should be a tight set of requirements around what a valid meeting is. Again, these requirements should be heavily influenced by the field sales team as they will be assigned to own these meetings and move them through the sales pipeline.
Sales & Marketing Hand-offs – Key Meeting Requirements
Here are examples of meeting requirements that SDRs should follow to provide meetings with a high propensity to advance in the sales cycle and result in closed/won deals:
- The sales automation system that passed the MQL accurately communicated the revenue, number of employees, industry or other demographic criteria that was to be met.
- The right person has been identified. This means that the person has the right title (individual contributor, manager, director, vice president or c-level) and that they are in the right function within the organization – i.e. sales, marketing development, human resources, finance, etc.
- The account and the contact have been researched through LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, Facebook and any other internal resources that may have been purchased to show specific title, potential connections through employment and education, interests, professional experience and opinion on specific topics.
- The MQL is willing to discuss their business and technology environment.
- The MQL has expressed interest in the outcomes, benefits or differentiation that one’s solution provides.
- The MQL is researching vendors, engaged in active conversations, preparing an RFP, evaluating vendors or is preparing for next year’s budget cycle.
- Full contact information for the MQL exists in the SFA system.
- Contact history for the MQL has been updated in the SFA system and includes all marketing communications, SDR call attempts and notes, and at least one digital asset has been shared.
- Potential messaging bridge has been drafted. This means identification of background, interests or insights that suggest whether to approach from a strategic, operational, IT or LOB perspective and alignment to specific benefits or differentiation.
- Relevant highlights from the last two earnings call transcripts have been added to the SFA system.
- Relevant hardware and software purchases that the company has made have been highlighted.
- Willingness to discuss business pain and to learn how technology can provide positive business outcomes.
Sales & Marketing Hand-offs & SDRs
If the above information is captured, meets the mutually agreed upon thresholds and is effectively communicated, then there is a good chance the opportunity will advance through the sales cycle to a closed/won status. Best practice is to have a field sales rep complete a survey (using a 5-point scale) to rate the quality of each meeting passed to them by an SDR / BDR. This rating will provide immediate feedback to the SDRs/BDRs and will serve as the regulating mechanism to tighten up the meeting setting process and ensure that the goal of providing the field sales rep with qualified sales opportunities is met or exceeded. It’s imperative that the BDR or SDR not become subservient to the sales person and relegated to an administrative role. SDRs need to remain an integral part of the sales process to increase the overall effectiveness of the sales rep and to increase the ROI of marketing spend. Focusing BDRs/SDRs on meetings and prioritizing the tasks they perform will force their behavior to align with high value prospecting as opposed to administrative activities.