Sales and marketing alignment. It’s one of those catch phrases, a buzzword you hear thrown about liberally in sales organizations.
“We must improve our sales and marketing alignment,” CEOs tell their VPs of Sales and Marketing. “What can we do to ensure that you guys work well together and get along?”
When you really boil it down, sales and marketing alignment is all about making sure each side is doing their job - something their counterparts depend on. Marketing is expected to generate high-quality leads, which sales is then expected to work on and close. Yet, many organizations still struggle with this alignment, and one aspect in particular: The process of handing marketing leads off to sales.
What’s the problem?
The problem is two-fold:
Valuable leads are falling through the cracks at some point in the process of handing off these leads. Marketing will then accuse sales of wasting valuable, hard-earned leads, while sales might accuse marketing of not being explicit or direct enough in the process.
Sales isn’t responding to leads quickly enough. Prompt follow-up is critical - research has shown that reaching out to leads immediately or within a small window of time can produce much greater results.
It’s all about oversight and accountability. As part of your service-level agreement, sales expects a steady stream of leads, with a certain standard of quality. Meanwhile, marketing expects the leads to be transitioned smoothly to sales, and then for them to be worked on promptly and regularly. If there are cracks in the process for handing off leads, it can reasonably be attributed to marketing and the organization method of Salesforce.com data entry.
What to do in Salesforce.com?
How do reps know when a lead is ready to transition from marketing to sales? For most companies, it is usually when a lead has been identified as a Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL). The definition of an MQL is at the discretion of your organization and its lead-scoring program, but whatever it is, that definition should be crystal clear to all parties involved.
This takes us to your Salesforce.com set-up. Make sure that “MQL” is a selectable lead status in Salesforce. Having a customized picklist of various lead statuses is great for letting reps know when leads are ready (as deemed by marketing), while helping them stay organized with respect to the buckets of leads they should be working on.
If there is a disciplined culture of data entry - all leads have been marked with the appropriate lead status - this should go a long way toward fixing this process. Reps can simply log into Salesforce and pull up all leads that have been marked as MQLs. This makes it clear which leads they should be working on.
Where’s the accountability?
But how do you know that sales has received these leads and are actually working on them? As we mentioned above, wasting leads by letting them slip through the cracks - due to miscommunication or just a poorly organized process - is a cardinal sin.
We recommend using the Lead Aging report from InsightSquared. This marketing metric provides visibility into when the last sales activity - a call, an email, a lead nurturing campaign - was performed on each lead.
If some leads haven’t seen any activity at all, you can point them out to your reps and have them focus on those leads as an immediate priority. Some other leads might not have received the appropriate follow-up in more than a month, or longer. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately - with the lead aging report, you actually can! You no longer have to dig around your Salesforce records and pull up individual leads, and then looking back in time to see what kind of activity they’ve received (or not received). This report will give you that 360-degree visibility.
The process of handing off high-quality MQLs from marketing to sales is a critical one to get right. Identify the problem, tighten up your service-level agreement, coach your reps on how to properly enter the right data in Salesforce.com and lean on the Lead Aging report. Your process for handing off leads should be fixed in no time.
About the Author: Gareth Goh is a Content Marketing Manager at InsightSquared. He enjoys breaking down complicated concepts into digestible and readable content, especially on sales analytics and sales management topics. Gareth has an undergraduate degree in journalism and a Master’s degree in International Marketing, both from Boston University. Feel free to connect with Gareth on LinkedIn.