Managing the Handoff Between Marketing and Sales

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Kyle Jepson
Kyle Jepson



One of the hardest but most important parts of the inbound methodology occurs between the convert and close stages -- the handoff from marketing to sales.


How do you let the sales team know they have marketing qualified leads (MQLs) waiting for them? And how do you make sure they actually follow up?

To answer these questions, let's back up and talk about what makes a lead worthy of being passed to the sales team in the first place.

Fit and Interest

Fit is a measurement of how well you could serve a lead if they were to become a customer. For every lead you generate, you need to identify whether they are a good or bad fit for your company.

The easiest way to determine fit is to compare a lead to your buyer personas. If you don't have personas yet, you can compare your leads to your best current customers. Good-fit leads align well with your personas; bad-fit leads don't align at all (or align with a negative persona).

Interest is a measurement of how well a lead’s current needs and priorities align with your offerings. Someone might be a great fit for your organization, but if they just aren't that interested in what it is you do, they aren't likely to become a customer. Even if they have a problem you can solve, they aren't a high-interest lead unless that problem is a priority for them.

Using these two characteristics, you can divide your leads into four categories:

High interest, good fit.

This is your ideal MQL. These people match your personas and want to work with you.

You should immediately hand off these leads to your sales team, and your sales reps should follow up with them quickly and persistently.

High interest, low fit.

These are people who love what you do and want to work with you, even though you aren't well-positioned to help them. These may be people who work at companies that are too big or too small for you to service well, or who live in areas outside of your reach.

For leads in this category, it's best that you provide group offerings, such as webinars. The leads who really engage with these offerings can be handed off to the sales team to be qualified in or out.

Low interest, good fit.

These are people who you would love to work with but who aren't looking to work with you. This is prime territory for lead nurturing campaigns. You want to maintain a good relationship with these leads so that should they become interested you'll be in a good position to help them.

This is also a good place for your sales team to do some low-key prospecting. Sales reps can connect with passive buyers on social media and do some networking, but they shouldn't aggressively pursue anyone who hasn't shown some level of interest.

Low interest, bad fit.

Most contact databases have some number of these leads floating around in them. These are folks who might like your blog or some of your top-of-the-funnel content but who are unlikely to ever become a customer.

Your sales team should never interact with leads in this category. You, as a marketer, should continue to provide these leads with the content they ask for and encourage them to share it with their networks, and you might be able to tap them for referrals, but don't spend too much effort on this bucket.

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The Marketing-to-Sales Handoff

In order to perfect the handoff from marketing to sales, you and your sales team need to develop a vocabulary for discussing these four categories of leads. You also need to define jurisdictions so marketing and sales aren't tripping over each other.

Developing a vocabulary

Working with your sales team, come up with a name for each of the four categories above. The culture of your organization will definitely play a role here. For example, leads that are a good fit and highly interested might be called, "Hot! Hot! Hot!" or simply "MQL." What you actually call each category doesn't matter, as long as everyone in marketing and sales understands exactly what they mean.

Defining jurisdictions

Once you have names for each of the categories, you need to make it clear which actions marketing and sales will be taking with the leads in those categories.

The division might look something like this:


Once you have your jurisdictions defined, you'll be in an excellent position to have a smooth handoff between marketing and sales.

Making the handoff

If you and your sales team are both using HubSpot, the best way to manage the handoff is by using the Lead Status property.

Lead Status is a contact property that comes standard in both HubSpot CRM and the HubSpot marketing platform. The best part about lead status is that it can be customized to fit your needs.

For more information on using Lead Status, check out this page from our knowledge base.

If you create each of your jurisdictions as a lead status, you can use it to mediate the actions between marketing and sales. For example, if you've called your good-fit, high-interest category "Hot! Hot! Hot!" then you can have your workflows update the status of these leads to "Hot! Hot! Hot!"

On the receiving end, each sales rep should have a custom view set up in their HubSpot CRM that shows them all of the contacts in their territory with a lead status of "Hot! Hot! Hot!" and they should get in the habit of checking that view at least daily.

Lead Status can also help with passing leads in the other direction. For example, if one of your reps contacts a "Hot! Hot! Hot!" lead and learns that their priorities have shifted, the rep can change the Lead Status to "Sleeping Giant," and this would cause the lead to:

  1. Be removed from the rep's "Hot! Hot! Hot!" view
  2. Be sucked into whichever lead nurturing campaigns you have running

How do you manage the handoff between marketing and sales in your business? Let me know in the comments section below.


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