What Is Lead Handoff?

Lead handoff is the process of handing over leads generated by marketing to sales so that the sales team can nurture, qualify and convert them into paying customers.  

💡Understanding Lead Handoff

The term “lead handoff” usually refers to the process of transferring inbound leads from marketing to sales so that the leads can be qualified, nurtured, and ultimately converted into new customers. 

The transfer between marketing and sales is time-sensitive. Put simply; time kills deals. If you transfer leads too early, your sales team will waste time with low-quality leads and prospects who aren’t ready to buy and don’t meet your set criteria. If you wait too much, your lead may opt for another solution.

This is why it’s crucial for all the revenue-generating teams to align on how and when to hand off leads. This includes clarifying terms and definitions in the sales and marketing funnels & understanding how leads enter the funnel in the first place, defining the requirements for lead handoff, and continuing to optimize handoff criteria over time. 

The risk of overlooking lead handoff? A misaligned process will, more often than not, result in missed sales opportunities. 

🖋 Takeaway

There’s no doubt that handing off leads at the right time (and in the right way) to your sales team is a crucial step in optimizing your business growth and can ultimately unlock revenue acceleration. 

The key to building a successful lead handoff is to make sure you have alignment between marketing and sales. This can be done by getting the buy-in from all revenue-generating teams on how leads will be scored, including the details and procedures on the handoff, follow-up, and how these qualified leads are later tracked.

A valid lead handoff procedure between your sales and marketing teams will allow you to scale and increase your sales pipeline (and marketing funnel) effectiveness. 

It’s not a one-and-done, though. Each step of the sales (and marketing) funnel process requirements, as well as the criteria your teams identify when creating the lead handoff process, need regular monitoring and continuous improvement. 

How Do You Hand Off Leads?

It’s crucial that sales, marketing, and customer support are fully aligned in the lead handoff process; any disconnect between targeting, marketing, and sales qualification, will compromise the entire value chain.

In order to optimize the marketing to sales handoff and ultimately increase conversions, you need to:

Get Clear On Sales And Marketing Funnel Terms

As there will be internal definitions for sales and marketing funnel stages and lead handoff, everyone on your team needs to be on the same page about the terms and definitions used throughout revenue-generating functions and processes.

Take the word “lead.” Sales and marketing definitions for it vary greatly. This is why there are more precise terms used by customer-facing teams to define different nuances. 

Define Handoff Requirements

Sales and marketing teams must identify the criteria that indicate readiness for the sales process and know when and how to hand off leads. Your specific business will have unique criteria to address. However, we have seen that many of the same criteria apply to all businesses.

  1. Job Titles. Identify people with decision-making power when it comes to purchasing. It doesn’t need to be a C-level, though. Depending on your product and target personas, a junior staffer might be precisely the person you want.
  2. Vertical Markets. Although there can be exceptions, it’s generally better to transfer leads to sales if the prospective company operates in one of the verticals your product serves best.
  3. Geographies. For various reasons, some locations might not make sense to do business. If you’re offering a physical product, this can be even more important. 
  4. Existing tech stack. If you’re selling software, integrations or dependencies can be significant sales-readiness factors. Make sure you support the integrations the prospect requires. 
  5. Company revenue or employee count. Even if an MQL seems to meet all the other criteria, an inability to pay is a hard disqualifier. 
  6. Level of engagement. This is a big one. A lead is “ready” for handoff when their interactions with your website, emails, content, (and so on) are happening frequently and recently. There is a ton of nuance here, including whether the interactions are with “high intent” content or not, what constitutes engagement, and reasonable recency and frequency thresholds. 

Analyze, Refine, Repeat

The characteristics of the most valuable customers will undoubtedly change over time. Once your revenue-generating teams are aligned and working to refine the criteria together on a recurring basis, the results will be favorable.

What Is A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)?

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are usually leads that are ready to enter the sales process officially. The sales team has qualified them either by phone or email and determined they are a good fit and likely to buy.

However, there are some other stages the lead may go through before becoming a SQL. Here’s a list of the most common ones.

Marketing leads (MLs) are leads that “raised hands” by interacting with your content and providing an email address or phone number.

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are leads that indicate they’re interested in your product, i.e. by filling out a contact form or making a demo request. These leads are considered “ready” for sales since they have shown a strong intent to purchase.

Product-qualified leads (PQLs) are leads who have experienced the value of the product either through a free trial or freemium account. 

Sales accepted leads (SALs) are the MQLs that the sales team has vetted and deemed ready for further sales attention. The criteria for this decision should be developed between Sales and Marketing.

What Qualifies A Lead?

As we have seen, each company has a specific set of criteria to identify their most interesting leads and the ones that are ready to take the next step and become customers.

As a general rule, to understand what should move qualified leads from one stage to the next, you need to understand which customers add the most value (=revenue) to your business over the long term. However, making sense of the data coming from different parts of your organization that often don’t communicate with each other (hello, silos!) is impossible to do at scale.

A tool like Breadcrumbs was created to connect the data dots between marketing, sales, and product data sources, helping GTM teams fully understand their best leads, build dynamic scoring models around these insights, and then leverage fit and intent signals to engage with leads that are most likely to convert when they are most likely to convert.