The Handoff Isn’t The Last Step To Support Sales Effectiveness

Published: January 12, 2010

In many cases this includes sitting down with your Sales team, realizing you can’t filter all the garbage leads that come in and that you don’t have an agreed upon definition of what a lead really is. Translated: You’re not doing your part to make Sales effective.

This realization can be very painful and very public, but if you make it through as a company and get beyond the finger pointing (“There’s not enough leads,” “Our leads aren’t followed up on,” etc.), you’re generally left with people and processes that are supported by demand generation technology. What I’m talking about here is and automated way to launch campaigns, capture information, distribute qualified leads to salespeople in their CRM system and nurture the rest in your marketing automation system until they are hopefully ready to talk.

This, in a nutshell, is the beginnings of a demand generation mindset and methodology. If you stop here, however, I think you’re really missing out on the potential. The handoff of a lead isn’t the end of the demand generation process.

First, let me explain why many marketers think it is the end of the process. In that initial painful set of conversations, Marketing and Sales often fix symptoms and not the basic issue. If you boil it down, it’s that Marketing is focused on the wrong goal—leads. To fix the finger pointing, goals have to be aligned. This means Sales and Marketing need to be focused on revenue. Leads are still an important metric, but not the end-all way to measure Marketing. By having the same revenue goal, you tend to focus on the same problems.

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So if Sales and Marketing agree that revenue is the most important goal, what does that mean for demand generation? Simply put, it’s about empowering salespeople to do more. If you look at your sales cycle, there are key points where people tend to stall out, exit, and graduate to being a customer. Giving salespeople the right tools at these points can change your demand generation from a hand-off-and-forget proposition to one that’s really one about forming a partnership with Sales and being on the same side.

Here’s an example of what happens when Sales and Marketing are aligned. Pay close attention to the last step. The example involves inbound marketing, lead nurturing and Sales-triggered nurturing that happens post-handoff.

•    You answer a question in a LinkedIn group
•    A member of that group you’ve engaged with downloads a white paper on your site
•    You send them a webinar invite on a related topic as a follow up
•    They sign up for your webinar
•    You send out an invite to download a post-webinar eBook
•    They fill out the eBook form and “raise their hand” to get a demo
•    You send the lead into your CRM system
•    You send an alert to the salesperson
•    They have a demo with your sales team
•    They’re not ready to talk more about your product (They don’t quite see the need yet)
•    You deliver a healthcare IT white paper to them based on their industry, role and point they’re at in the sales process, which is triggered by the salesperson in the CRM system (delivered through your demand generation system)

The last step may be new, even if you have demand generation efforts in place. Don’t get hung up on the example. The idea here is that based on any fields or combination of fields in a CRM system, salespeople can kick off appropriate nurturing that is specific to a lead’s situation. Does this require more discussion with Sales and content to support key points in the sales process? Absolutely.

As always, walk before you can run. If you’re struggling to just launch campaigns and get marketing automation in place, you need to work on that first. As an end goal, however, you want to add a level of sophistication to demand generation and nurturing that helps you address the holes in your sales process.

Making all this happen from a technology perspective is easier than you might think. Many demand generation and marketing automation vendors are integrated with CRM vendors like Some have what’s called a “bi-directional” integration that enables the updating of information between your Sales system and your Marketing demand generation system.

Some vendors also enable you kick off nurturing campaigns based on the answers in a single field or combination of fields in your CRM system. For example, if the lead is in the Healthcare vertical and they are in an IT role, and they haven’t received email from you in the past 14 days, send them more nurturing content.  You many have caught something else there, the ability to use and, or, and not logic when deciding if a leads receives nurturing content.

Remember this is post-hand off in most cases. The idea is that you empower sales personnel to make better choices when it comes to nurturing and do it in a way that is easy and automated. The potential? Judge for yourself. Take a look at your sales process. How many “qualified” leads do you currently hand off? When are they followed up with?  How do they fall out of the sales funnel? What holes are the biggest? What do these holes mean in terms of dollars? Set modest goals at first, addressing the biggest areas of loss. As you tweak and improve your Sales-triggered nurturing, you’ll find using this approach in your marketing yields significant results.


Chris Frank is the Director of Marketing for TreeHouse Interactive, a SaaS company that provides solutions for demand generation/marketing automation, channel sales force automation and partner relationship management. He has spent a decade in high tech marketing, and has helped companies that sell direct to consumers, to companies, and through partners.

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