I remember a time I was working at another company as an account executive (AE), when our sales development rep (SDR) transferred a call over to me out of the blue. There was no data about the prospect in in our CRM, so I didn’t know what solutions she was interested in buying, I didn’t know her pain points and I didn’t what her budget was. I did my best to ask her the “right” questions, but it turned out she had already answered those questions when talking to our prospector. She grew frustrated and, with each moment, I felt the deal slipping farther and farther away. And, not surprisingly, she ended up choosing a competitor’s solution.
In sales, there are few things worse than losing a deal that should have been easily winnable. While many companies are seeing powerful results by separating inside sales teams into distinct roles, without a clearly defined process, passing leads from SDRs and lead response reps over to your AEs can create a slew of problems. Here are just some of the hand-off risks:
- It can be jarring to prospects
- It can allow hot leads can slip away
- SDRs can fail to provide AEs with the data they need to close
- SDRs and lead qualification reps can kick unqualified leads to AEs
But with the right process, your sales team can easily make the hand-off process as efficient as possible. From working with enterprise sales teams, we’ve been able to glean 8 simple rules that your sales organization can quickly implement to effectively hand leads off to your account executives.
Rule 1: Clearly Define Sales-Qualified Leads
If you don’t do a good enough job of defining what makes a lead qualified, your SDRs and lead response reps will pass unqualified leads to your account executives. Your SDRs and lead response reps want to pass as many leads as possible to account executives because their compensation plans often depend on hitting opportunity quotas. That’s why it’s so vital to take the extra time to ensure that reps understand what factors make leads qualified. Otherwise your AEs are going to spend time talking to unqualified leads instead of closing revenue. Our latest eBook discusses some of the factors that your team can use to define leads as qualified for sales.
Rule 2: Compensate SDRs for Deals that Actually Close
In our experience, inside sales teams perform best when all reps have a stake in deals that actually close. Sure, it’s important to incentive SDRs to create the right amount of opportunities to support your account executives. But one of the best ways to ensure that the right leads get handed off is to give SDRs a stake in deals that win. If SDRs are compensated for deals that actually close they will be far more likely to hand-off deals that are winable to account executives, rather than just passing unqualified leads to hit their numbers.
Rule 3: Don’t Warm Transfer Calls to AEs Unless It’s a “Sales Emergency”
There are a lot of sales leaders that advocate warm-transferring calls to AEs the moment a lead becomes qualified. The mentality makes sense: “a lead is interested in buying now so why not have a serious sales conversation now?” To be honest, I’ve worked in B2C inside sales organizations where this was actually a really effective strategy. However, for most B2B companies, it’s better to give AEs at least a bit of prep time prior to a call. B2B deals can be complex and strategic. There can be any number of sales objections that your AEs might need to figure out how to crush. Instead of warm-transferring a call, try having reps pull up a calendar and scheduling a meeting with an AE for the near-future (ideally within 24 hours). In many industries, even giving AEs an 15 minutes to review a deal can often improve their win rates dramatically.
That being said, if a lead is extremely sales-ready and impatient (we’ve all encountered them), it can actually be a good idea to warm-transfer them to an available AE. I call these situations “sales emergencies,” and it’s important to have a process in place for when they occur.
Rule 4: Convert Leads to Opportunities with Contacts in Salesforce
After qualifying a lead as sales-ready, it’s vital to convert them to an opportunity with a contact in Salesforce. Unless your SDRs and lead qualification reps convert their leads into opportunities with contacts in Salesforce, it is impossible for managers to gauge how many opportunities are coming in each month. Without knowing how many opportunities there are for account executives to work, it can be impossible to know how many account executives you really need.
Rule 5: Create a Decision Tree for Opportunity Assignments
After qualifying a lead as sales-ready, it’s vital to convert them to an opportunity with a contact in Salesforce. Unless your SDRs and
lead qualification reps convert their leads into opportunities with contacts in Salesforce, it is impossible for managers to gauge how many opportunities are coming in each month. Without knowing how many opportunities there are for account executives to work, it can be impossible to know how many account executives you really need. This also helps ensure that AEs are accountable for particular opportunities. This prevents sales-ready leads from slipping through the cracks.
Rule 6: Input Lead Notes in Salesforce Prior to Hand-off
When your AEs get on a sales calls, it’s vital to ensure that they have all the information they need to hit the ball out of the park. A lot of necessary information about prospects can be inputted into standard and custom fields in Salesforce. In fact, our tool can automatically capture a lot of prospect data in Salesforce. However, there is bound to be some information about deals that won’t fit into your standard fields or picklists. We therefore recommend that your SDRs and lead response reps use Chatter and/or the lead notes field to ensure that AEs have all the historical data they need to win deals.
Rule 7: Log Deal Competitors Prior to Handing Off Leads to AEs
From Kobe Bryant to Mohammad Ali, some of the best athletes have been successful by shifting their game depending on who they’re going up against. This same principle can be applied to winning deals! That’s why we recommend creating a picklist of competitors so your SDRs and lead response reps can quickly keep track of who is competing for particular deals. Having quick access to this information can help AEs pivot their sales pitch to beat particular competitors.
Rule 8: Have SDRs attend Hand-off Calls
Handing off SQLs to account executives can be a precarious process. Remember that in many cases, these opportunities have already spoken with your SDR or lead response rep several times. The prospect likely has already forged an early-stage relationship with your SDR or lead response rep. With the wrong approach, being handed off to an account executive can be jarring. It’s seldom practical to keep SDRs and lead response reps on for the entire first call with an account executive. But it really makes the transition to talking to an account executive so much smoother when the initial rep is at least on the first portion of the call. You can set a hard stop for your SDR or lead response rep after 5-10 minutes (e.g. they can excuse themselves to get on another call). This can ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible for your customers.