Bringing in new business is a lot like a relay race, with marketing and sales each responsible for perfecting their leg of the race and mastering the critical handoff of qualified leads. The handoff can be as smooth and technically precise as the 4x100 Olympic team, but many teams fumble this exchange by running, even very slightly, out of sync with one another. 

Like world-class relay teams, making a great handoff between marketing and sales involves a lot of preparation, practice and tracking of steps to ensure they’re in sync -- try these tips to help perfect your handoff:

1.     Collaborate and communicate

The best way to get sales and marketing in sync is to make sure all team members agree on some basic ground rules. Sales and marketing should be clear on the overall revenue goal the company is trying to hit and the key metrics each team needs to deliver against. Additionally, it’s critical to have agreement on target prospects, lead stage definitions and lead scoring criteria, so there’s alignment on what good leads look like and how they’ll be treated.  

It’s also important to align on the quantity of marketing-qualified leads that need to be generated each month and what percentage of those leads need to convert into sales opportunities and closed deals to track with your revenue targets. Understanding these incremental targets will give each team more clarity on how they can contribute to the overall goal. 

2.     Deliver the baton

Expecting a sales rep to take a business card with no contextual information and convert it into an opportunity is like asking relay racers to run blindfolded. Today’s marketing and sales teams can achieve greater visibility into a prospect’s digital behavior and status – where a lead is in the pipeline, what activity they’ve had with the company to date, what whitepapers they’ve downloaded and more. However, much of this crucial data often stays walled off within the marketing department.

In order to foster a truly collaborative customer acquisition process, marketers need to deliver more than a list of leads and contact info; they need to provide the full context around the lead’s behavior and background. This gives sales teams an opportunity to strategically engage each lead exactly where the marketer left off, rather than starting cold with a generic email or call.

3.     Accelerate through the handoff

The mechanics of the relay handoff are crucial: one slight movement out of sync could lead to a fumble or critical seconds lost on the clock. If the runner receiving the baton doesn’t accelerate before and after the baton is handed off, they’ll fall behind. Similarly, when making a lead handoff, seconds really do matter. It’s critical to have automation in place to ensure leads (at least your high-priority or currently active ones) are called back within seconds or minutes of receiving the inquiry. In fact, research has shown that attempting to contact a lead by phone within three minutes of a web inquiry submission increases the likelihood of conversion by 98 percent. 

4.     Play to the strengths of your team

Just like a great relay race team, a strong sales team plays to the strengths of each team member. While one runner may be best off the blocks, another may be better at the accelerating through the handoff and another at the strong finish. As sales models now shift from traditional field-based and territory-heavy models to focusing more resources on inside sales, the idea of dividing up leads, or at least the initial response and qualification, by geographic location may be outdated. Also, depending on your goals with a particular type of lead, it may be more important to find the first available rep to follow up with a new lead to optimize conversion. Some sales teams even play to the strengths of their team members by routing specific leads to reps who have performed highly with those types of leads in the past or who are performing well against another important sales metric.

For a relay team, each incremental stage and handoff is crucial to winning the race. By optimizing and mastering your marketing to sales handoff, your organization may find itself repeatedly reaching the finish line in first. 

About the Author

FNick Hedges is the president and CEO of Velocify and a 15 year veteran of the Internet and software as a service (SaaS) industry. Nick has spent the last seven years at Velocify helping organizations accelerate sales performance and is a widely-recognized thought leader with respect to technology’s transforming impact on the sales profession. For more on Nick visit the Velocify leadership page or follow him on Twitter.