The key to great customer service is...? As counterintuitive as it seems, communication between these two teams can actually make or break the customer experience, particularly during the buying process.

Many companies try to downplay the sales and marketing relationship, but having common goals and processes between these two teams can do wonders to improve the quality of the buyer’s journey. Think about it: if marketing and sales are both working from the same database of leads — but neither team knows which to prioritize or follow up with — how optimized can your lead flow process really be?

Fortunately, putting a simple lead process in place can improve tensions between your two teams and align them behind shared objectives and goals. But what does this process actually look like? Pardot is hosting a webinar on March 26 at 2pm to dive into this question with Sr. Sales Manager, Ali Gooch, and Marketing Operations Specialist, Isaac Payne. Listen in on their marketing-sales banter — or, if you’re strapped for time, check out their recommended lead flow plan below.

Step One: Create a unified process for lead identification

The most important thing you can do when setting up your lead lead process is to get your sales team involved—right from the start. After all, your sales reps deal with your prospects on a daily basis; they’re the experts on recognizing when a prospect is ready to buy, and likely have a wealth of knowledge on how to recognize leads that should be prioritized. Start by asking them the following questions:

  1. What constitutes a qualified lead?

  2. What types of activities typically indicate that a lead is ready to talk to sales? What activities indicate that a lead should be nurtured further by marketing?

  3. How often would sales reps like to get alerts of prospect activity? What would be their preferred method of delivery?

  4. Deep dive into the current sales cycle and what it takes to close a deal. Who are the different stakeholders you are selling to, and what obstacles do you encounter at each stage of the sales process?

  5. Which content and lead generation campaigns are producing the most qualified leads today? Which aren’t working?

Once each team has an understanding of the questions above, it’s time to put a lead scoring and grading system in place to help identify and prioritize the leads that sales should be following up with. Using a marketing automation tool, you can set up lead scoring to identify the leads with the highest activity levels (who are therefore the most interested in your product) and lead grading to pinpoint the leads that best fit your ideal prospect profile. A combination of these two criteria can help qualify the right leads for your sales team.

Step Two: Develop a lead distribution and follow-up strategy

Once your leads have been qualified, how do they get routed to the appropriate sales rep for a prompt follow up? According to a study by Harvard Business Review, companies that followed up with leads within a few hours were 60x more likely to win the business than those who followed up later — demonstrating the importance of a prompt follow-up strategy.

Marketing automation can facilitate this by allowing marketers to set threshold scores and grades that will automatically route leads to sales reps once those thresholds are surpassed. Work with your sales team to establish the activities and grades that indicate a lead is sales-ready to make sure they’re passed over to reps at the right time (hint: you should have covered this in the round of questions during step one).   

Step Three: Communicate what’s working and what’s not

The simple truth of the matter is that you probably won’t build a perfect lead process the first time around. To get the most out of automatic lead scoring and grading, the best thing you can do is communicate with your sales team to periodically reevaluate and adjust your approach. Pick a time to revisit your lead process (it could be three weeks or three months, depending on how confident you are about what you’ve built) and ask your sales reps about the quality of leads they’ve received in that time period. Use the data you’ve collected to look for patterns and key indicators you might have missed — then give it another shot.