Mastering the Handoff: 4 Lead Follow-Up Best Practices for B2B Software Companies

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This weekend the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers will play in Super Bowl 50, after weeks of exciting, nail-biting playoff games full of missed field goals and Hail Mary passes. My Philadelphia Eagles may not have made it…again…but that hasn’t stopped me from watching the thrilling win-or-go-home games, and I can’t wait for the big one on Sunday (even if it’s mostly for the commercials).

And of course, I can always bring it back to B2B software marketing.

handing off leads

If a software company was a football team, the quarterback would be Marketing, the running backs and wide receivers would be Sales, and a closed sale would be a touchdown. Most plays involving the quarterback and running back start with a handoff– a crucial practice that, if fumbled, ruins the rest of the play and even the game. If Marketing and Sales have an unsuccessful handoff with a new lead, the possibility of a closed sale from that lead decreases significantly.

So how can your Sales and Marketing teams avoid those discouraging fumbles and score a sale? Check out my touchdown-worthy lead follow-up tips for mastering the handoff between Marketing and Sales.

Avoid Fumbling Leads During the Initial Handoff

In football, there’s nothing worse than a fumble. Sometimes it happens when the running back is tackled hard, or when the receiver is reaching out for those extra yards. But sometimes it occurs right at the start of the play, when the quarterback fumbles the handoff to the running back.  

The same painful agony of a fumble is just as prominent in B2B marketing. Let’s say you just qualified the perfect lead for your sales team. How do you hand it off in way that not only sets up your sales team for success, but gives the potential customer what they expect from that interaction?  

Fumbles are more likely to occur when your sales team doesn’t know how to best follow-up with the lead. They may try to call them once or twice, but if no connection is made, the lead could end up falling out of the funnel and into oblivion. But they may not have known that the best way to get in contact with this lead is by email, or that they’re in a different time zone, for example. Marketing needs to set Sales up for success and provide all of the necessary information so they know how and when to follow-up with a potential new customer. If both parties see and know what to do next with the lead, the handoff will go perfectly and they’ll avoid the fumble.

Embrace the Technology Around You

The NFL has been using Microsoft Surface tablets for a couple of years, so instead of coaches scribbling plays on whiteboards, they’re showing their players those same plays on interactive screens and watching previous plays to learn from their mistakes. Apart from the tech hiccups every now and then, the ability for a quarterback to instantly watch his last play and take note of what his next plays should be truly shows where sports technology is heading.

I bet you have a customer relationship management system and maybe even email marketing or marketing automation solutions, so use them together to their full advantage. There are endless benefits to effectively using and integrating sales and marketing software products, but here are just a few ways to use software to make sure the lead handoff and follow-up goes smoothly:

Lead scoring and grading – With just a quick glance, a lead’s grade and score can tell you if a lead is hot or cold. Their grade can be any letter, just like back in school, and is determined by factors and characteristics that impact the quality of the lead, such as number of users, budget, or industry. You can set these up yourself so that the grading scale is customized based on your company’s goals. Scoring is based on the lead’s activity and engagement with your sales process, like email opens, form submissions, and website visits. So a lead with a high grade and a high score is a hot lead that’s ready or close to being a sale.

Work with your sales team to set these criteria so you both can quickly tell where a marketing qualified lead is in the sales cycle and if they’re ready for the handoff. Then, keep these scores and grades in mind when determining if a lead is actually sales-ready, or if it needs a little more time in the funnel.  

Email nurturing – Sometimes a lead isn’t ready to be passed along to the sales team, but that doesn’t mean it never will be. With marketing automation, you can set up various email nurture tracks to, of course, nurture cold leads into sales-ready potential customers that your sales team will love!

It’s pretty straightforward to create and start a new nurture track, but make sure you have enough emails and content to effectively turn an iffy lead into an incredible sales opportunity.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

There’s a reason most teams huddle up before running a play: to let everyone know what the quarterback’s going to do! He can’t be expected to run the coach’s play without first telling his teammates what that play is and if there are any changes to make. Even in the trendy no-huddle offense, coaches are signaling from the sideline to their players to make sure everyone’s on the same page and will run the same play.

Communication between teams is vital, no matter what team, company, or industry you may be a part of. For Sales and Marketing teams, communication is the bridge that links the two together and determines the success of their efforts. Don’t just send leads over to Sales and forget about them; keep in touch along the way to make sure 1) the lead is ready for Sales and 2) if it’s not ready, how Marketing can help get it there.

It’s up to you to determine how best to facilitate this communication. Consider having quarterly or monthly meetings between the two teams to share ideas and progress; share a dynamic report that allows Sales to keep Marketing up to date with how their leads are progressing; you could even have the two teams sitting right next to each other in the office, so instant feedback can be provided when a new lead comes along.    

And this moves us right along to…

Collect Feedback Constantly and Play to Your Strengths

Each football team has their own unique playbook. Based on the opponent or the game situation, the coaches will choose which plays to run. More than likely, if a play is really working for them, they’ll keep running it throughout the game. And even if it’s the middle of a game, when something goes wrong, coaches and players will make adjustments right on the field based on what’s going on around them and how the players feel on the field. If they can adjust quickly and efficiently, so can you!

Does one channel generate higher quality leads than the others? Are you spending way too much money on one tactic that isn’t yielding ideal results? Tracking and analyzing results is a major part of any marketer’s day, but it doesn’t stop with quantitative analysis. Set some time aside to talk through the leads that were sent to Sales from Marketing, discuss whether or not those leads actually contributed to the goals of the both teams, and close the loop for your entire marketing to sales process.

Finally, don’t feel pressured to use every marketing channel or tactic in existance; play to the strengths of both teams. If your sales team is unstoppable when talking to prospects on the phone, do everything you can to make sure that’s what they’re doing the majority of the day. Use automated and activity-triggered emails to get the conversation started on the marketing side, but then let the salespeople take over when the prospect is ready to get on the phone.

Wide receivers aren’t the ones throwing the ball; let the quarterbacks do their job to set up the receivers for a highlight-worthy catch.  

More?

The sports cliche says “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’,” and even in the business world it rings true! If Sales and Marketing don’t work together to move leads down the field towards a sale, no one will score a touchdown and the company won’t win the game. Use these tips to enhance your current strategy and keep developing it to ensure your lead handoff and follow-up process is a winning strategy.  

What other best practices do you have for mastering the handoff between Sales and Marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.   

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Caroline Malamut

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Caroline is the Vendor Marketing Manager at Capterra. Her love of marketing began while growing up in Philadelphia and has only grown since attending the University of Pittsburgh. In her free time she enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, and cheering on her Philly and Pitt sports teams.

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