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7 Deadly Sins of the B2B Marketing-to-Sales Lead Handoff
By Jeff Kostermans, CEO, LeadGenesys

It's truly amazing how many marketers are still trying to optimize the B2B lead handoff within the confines of traditional CRM applications

If you're a B2B marketer responsible for delivering leads to the sales team, you know how important sales' impression of lead quality is. It can literally make or break your reputation and certainly your requests for more budget. With careers on the line in this age of marketing accountability, it's truly amazing how many marketers are still trying to optimize the B2B lead handoff within the confines of traditional CRM applications.

Each time we interview a new client, we see up to seven common mistakes around the lead handoff.  Most of the time, marketing is already aware of a couple of these issues, but since customizing the CRM is not a viable option, the shortcomings are typically viewed as "something we just have to live with."  This career limiting structure is one of the main reasons why an automated lead nurturing and delivery engine needs to complement the CRM. Without one, odds are high that revenue is being compromised by a poor marketing-to-sales lead handoff. If any of the following issues describe your lead hand-off process, don't be surprised when the CFO turns down your request for more marketing budget.
1. The lead is passed to sales too early

This only has to happen a few times before sales begins to deeply discount marketing-sourced leads. Ask any sales person with a sales cycle longer than 60 days, and the most common complaint regarding marketing-sourced leads is often, "The prospect is nowhere close to making a purchase." Yes, having a salesperson spend time trying to engage with a prospect is expensive. But so is paying for leads that don't get properly cultivated. Before determining the point at which a lead should be delivered, have a clear understanding (and a documented process) of what role each department plays in nurturing a lead to an opportunity.

2. The lead doesn't meet sales' criteria

Aside from 'timeframe to purchase,' sales most likely has other criteria for leads worthy of their attention. Typical additional criteria include company size and answers to questions that determine the level of need. Each item should contribute to a flexible lead grading schema. Activities should also determine whether a sales notification should be triggered - but should not impact the profile grade (see the LeadGenesys whitepaper on Best Practices for Lead Grading).  Tightening the criteria can be an initial shock to sales so provide some estimated lead counts to sales management before applying the criteria. Once you have buy-in from sales management, resist any initial requests to loosen the standards. Delivering more lower quality leads to sales is just self defeating - and wastes precious selling time. Be sure to have sales drive the grading schema and revisit it with them on a quarterly basis.

3. The lead doesn't indicate prospect history / interests

Providing sales with the prospect's profile information from the web form is the bare minimum. Even if the lead is precision graded based on sales criteria, the delivered lead is much more valuable when the sales person knows the level of interest and what the prospect is more likely to respond positively to.  Help sales facilitate more intuitive initial conversations with the prospect by sharing which website pages were recently visited. Indicate which specific PDF's, and product or solution pages were viewed before the web form submission.

4. Assuming the lead is accepted

Most B2B marketers rarely assume that once a lead is delivered to sales, it gets diligently processed and cultivated. But that tends to change as soon as sales is determining when leads meet their criteria for a hand-off with a grading schema. Don't let that happen. A methodology needs to be in place that will report back to marketing on whether or not a lead has been accepted. This process should be systematic and very easy for sales to do. An incentive should be ingrained into the acceptance of the lead, such as instant synching of the lead with the CRM, and/or ability to receive triggered notifications of future activity such as visits to the website. Enabling sales to control the flow of notifications enables them to be more proactive with elusive prospects and more focused on the better prospects. With accepted lead metrics on A and B quality leads, marketing can now further quantify the contribution to the sales funnel. Metrics on the ratio of accepted leads to opportunities can be very revealing to both marketing and sales management.

5. Not soliciting a reject reason

Sales should also be able to reject a lead, and provide a reason for the rejection. Marketing can leverage this data to better align itself with the sales team. If for instance more than 10 percent of 'A' quality or 25 percent of 'B' quality leads are getting rejected, it's most likely time to revisit the grading schema. Similarly, if trends emerge for reject reasons, marketing can use that information to further refine targeting. Since not all leads delivered to sales become opportunities, sales needs the ability to pass an "accepted" lead back to marketing for more long term cultivation. With an accept/reject methodology in place, you can apply better lead handling rules and trigger notifications based on a leads that appear to be ignored.

6. Not triggering ongoing notifications of hand raising activities

Marketing is all too often measured primarily on the number of new profile captures delivered to sales rather than on how it is helping accelerate sales cycles. The number of times a prospect fills out a web form in the typical B2B sales cycle is very low compared to other hand raising activities like website visits, email opens and click-throughs. To help sales get more out of the sales funnel, marketing should be triggering notifications on hand raising activity of prospects that are worthy of sales' attention. Each activity should contribute to a unified contact history profile against which automated lead nurturing rules can be applied.
7. Not following the lead through the sales cycle

This is one of the most common mistakes we see. CRM applications are great for contact management and forecasting, but fall short on giving the marketer the metrics needed to ROI justify ongoing budget. To help marketing prove it's contribution to a B2B sales effort, metrics are needed that indicate how well marketing is helping shorten sales cycles. Consider applying automated nurturing rules to leads that make it to a certain point in the sales cycle and then go cold.  The bottom line is if you are not building custom-graded, actionable and unified contact history profiles as the lead moves down the sales funnel, you can't measure or improve the timeframe of the lead-to-opportunity.
A recent study by the Industrial Performance Group indicated sales on average spends only 38 percent of their time selling. Spending too much time sifting though low quality leads is a recipe for disaster and quickly leads to finger pointing between marketing and sales. B2B Marketers are much more successful when they focus on automated lead nurturing and optimizing the lead hand-off rather than investing in putting more leads into the top of the funnel at a lower cost per lead.  Imagine the revenue potential of a modest 5 to 15 percent lift in opportunities. Now imagine the lift in revenue if the close ratio also increased 20% as a result of sales being much more focused on better opportunities.

Jeff Kostermans is CEO of LeadGenesys ( ) a B2B direct marketing and lead generation firm, he can be reached directly at He is a direct marketing veteran with over 12 years of experience managing lead generation and relationship marketing programs for companies ranging from technology and service start-ups to Fortune 100 firms. He is author of the Email Marketing Imperatives and has written numerous other best practices papers. A UC Berkeley graduate, Mr. Kostermans also serves as an Army Reserve Psychological Operations Major, consulting allied governments and militaries in target audience analysis and influence methods.

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