Passing The Baton - How Efficient Are Your Process Handovers From MQL-SQL
Forrest Marketing Group Blog blog

Passing The Baton – How Efficient Are Your Process Handovers From MQL>SQL?

When it comes to your lead handover process, do you have the right culture within your marketing, sales and business development teams? If you’re not seeing the results you’d expect, it won’t be a surprise if you find out leads aren’t being passed over promptly or are left to languish on someone’s Activities list. Timing and consistency are essential for converting leads; without them, valuable sales will fall through the net.

It starts with clear definitions and clear communication:

Clear definitions of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) are essential to long-term sales success. Are you confident your people know when a lead is an MQL, and when it becomes an SQL?

Make sure your lead scoring criteria are accurate and up-to-date so you’re only passing on prospects who’ll be worth contacting. Your teams must have a clear understanding of what’s required to validate a lead, ‘what good looks like’ and whether or not a lead is ready for handover. This may include speaking with other stakeholders in the business, even legal teams; these crucial steps can fall by the wayside in a high-pressure target-driven environment. As a business, are you giving these conversations enough time and attention?

Why is the MQL>SQL handover such a critical part of your sales process?

The MQL>SQL handover is a critical part of your sales process but it can also prove the biggest barrier to success:

Getting the strategy right:

It’s essential to scrutinise whether the leads generated by inbound and targeted marketing activity are the right prospects for your sales team. If your marketing and sales strategies aren’t aligned, you could be wasting effort generating leads that do not represent your ideal customers. And the more time and resources spent qualifying out the wrong prospects rather than nurturing the right ones through to a sale will impact your sales revenue down the line. Open lines of communication between marketing and sales teams and a mutual understanding of these personas informed by market research and insights from salespeople will significantly boost conversions.

Refining your lead handover process:

All teams should understand what’s expected during this handover process and what a qualified lead should “look” like – an essential for building trust between marketing and sales teams. Suppose a lead isn’t properly scored or qualified when passed to a salesperson with limited time to follow-up campaign leads. In that case, sales might deprioritise leads from marketing’s campaign activity, perceiving them as having an inherently lower value. Similarly, when marketing design and schedule large seasonal campaigns but fail to properly engage with sales to ascertain their availability and confirm realistic follow-up timescales, sales teams can quickly become overwhelmed with the volume of leads on their desk. And instead of following up leads within an hour or two, they struggle to follow-up within three days, five days, or even two weeks or more.

Formally documenting sales processes helps ensure everyone’s on the same page; you should also integrate your processes into sales training and general inductions and campaign kick-offs. Expect to review resources and sales bandwidth regularly. If you’re experiencing high volume, low-quality leads or your salespeople are struggling to dedicate the time to close them; it’s time to revisit your personas, lead scoring criteria and focus on better lead qualification so that your marketing team are handing over fewer, higher quality leads.

Are leads being assigned to the right salespeople?

This will vary dependent on the structure of your sales team, but if your processes misalign with sales team roles, you could find inside sales reps dealing with leads that field sales would better follow-up and vice versa. Working out whether you should distribute leads based on availability, geography, industry, or specialism, will save time and keep people focused and engaged.

Is your MQL criteria too broad?

MQL criteria will be different for every business and every sales model. In a complex sales cycle with many touch-points, a prospect is unlikely to buy after downloading one or two pieces of content from your website, so handing them over to sales too early can be counterintuitive. Instead, add them to a lead nurture stream to warm up the relationship and monitor engagement. Marketing and sales need to agree on the appropriate level of interest required before a lead is handed over to sales.

What other pitfalls are there?

If you have a sales rep dealing with an opportunity with complexities and requirements outside of your typical processes, bring in a more senior member of your team to navigate those conversations, act as a conduit and offer an enhanced level of account management. It’s wise to have a set criteria that’s discussed and understood within the business, but individual salespeople must also feel empowered to use their discretion.

When deciding if and when to bring in a more senior team member, it’s tempting to think the size of customer or seniority of the prospect decision should govern the decision, but perhaps it’s something else, such as projected contract value.

Accurate data and systems are also vital to success:

Ensure that your database and CRM systems are up-to-date, so there’s no discrepancy in the details you’re passing on. If necessary, take the time to validate your database and make sure that the information contained there is accurate. If that means investing in a well performing CRM system, it’s a worthy investment that will quickly deliver improvements.

What are some ways to improve the handover from MQL>SQL?

Create a clear plan with guidance for each stage, explain how you expect lead handovers to happen, and share it across the teams involved in the process: There’s less room for error if everyone knows what they need to do to transition leads successfully from one department or team to the next. Driving a culture around data visibility and ownership can also have a profound effect on engagement and accuracy. Your CRM system should give you an accurate, real-time view, but that’s dependent on the data you input, so it’s essential to make sure your people are trained and empowered by your tech stack. Interventions such as on-the-job learning and peer mentoring can help foster better attitudes to the importance of data accuracy and the process to keep it up to date.

Encourage your leadership team to play their part by giving feedback and setting goals for your teams to work towards: Give managers and sales reps feedback on their performance against lead productivity metrics regularly. Don’t assume that it’ll happen without you telling them! If they’re not receptive, consider giving anonymous feedback with an online form. Resources, team changes and fluctuating workloads can affect sales availability, it’s also important that people feel empowered to speak out if the timescale for follow-up has become unrealistic.

Ensure your teams have all of the information they need during a transition or change-of-ownership situation: For example, setting up an alert or a flagging system within your CRM for incomplete information is effective at triggering an action. Alternatively, a central mailbox for change alerts will do the job. This is good practice if someone leaves the business or management decides to divide accounts based on different criteria.

How can you incentivise your team to be more efficient in their handovers from MQL>SQL?

One way to incentivise your team is by creating a system that rewards them for meeting goals. For example, if you develop milestones and metrics around your MQL>SQL process, you can give bonuses to those who meet their targets; or perks and rewards. Healthy competition can help drive behavioural change and encourage people to incorporate positive practices into their workflow, so data accuracy and adherence to sales processes become the norm.

The cost of data inaccuracy and poor follow-up and handovers:

If you encounter errors during the transfer of data from marketing to sales, you might need to step back and reassess how information flows between teams or departments. You may also want to re-evaluate how transparent your processes are; will another department understand them? If you uncover a serious error, notify everyone involved immediately, clearly highlight the problem, and then meet to determine the best course of action. If that means clearing up a misunderstanding, it’s not about apportioning blame; it’s about taking responsibility for any inconvenience caused and mitigating reputational damage. The lessons learnt will help you inform new processes that work better for everyone, including your customers.

It’s never too late to get it right:

An optimised lead handover process has enormous benefits; it can help you boost your conversion, close more business and better meet the needs of your existing customers. The bottom line is, get your processes right and you’ll see far greater sales revenue. As experts in outsourced sales and lead generation, we’re great believers in robust processes that deliver ROI. If you need support to optimise these processes, get in touch today by calling 1300 396 888 or sending us an email to: enquiries@fmgroup.com.au

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