When Should Marketing Handoff Leads to Sales?

As a consultant who provides marketing and sales consulting services this question often comes up. Usually the marketing department is asking this question. Indeed, there is a fine balance to strike between ensuring that the lead is sales ready, but not waiting too long and losing the sale. Modern research suggests that buyers complete a bulk of research without talking to a sales person, but when a prospect is ready to buy–they’re ready! They won’t wait for you to reach out, and often the first to strike is the company that makes the sale.
Runners baton handoffPardot, the market-leading B2B marketing automation software, takes a lot of the guess work out of the when to handoff leads to sales. Pardot includes scoring rules that gradually increase or decrease when a prospect takes certain actions on your website, or interacts with your content. For example, if someone looks at your Careers webpage Pardot can decrease the score for that prospect since they are likely more interested in a job than purchasing. Pardot operats under the assumption that a score of 100 is a sales qualified Lead, or SQL. I advise clients to keep 100 as the appropriate SQL Lead score.

We can, however, adjust how Pardot achieves the magic “100” lead score. The default scoring rules are a pretty good place to start, and we can modify them to fit our needs. For example, in the default scoring rule accessing a file or clicking a custom link/redirect adds 3 points to the prospect’s score, and completing a form/landing page adds 50 points. I advise clients to adjust the form and landing page scoring depending on what type of page it is. For example, if it is a top-of-funnel landing page that offers an education ebook I recommend ratcheting down the scoring from 50 to 25. Whereas, if the form in a direct-call-to action for sales that will automatically add 100 points to the prospect’s score. You can adjust the score via a completion action on the landing page/form in Pardot. In addition, for low-funnel direct calls to action for sales I setup notifications so that sales reps will get an email. I also have sales set up with the Salesforce Engage desktop application so that they get a desktop notification via the Engage desktop application.

From a technical perspective, in order for Pardot to sync a Lead to Salesforce it needs to be assigned to a Queue or User in Pardot. This is critical so that Salesforce knows who the owner of that record should be. You might consider having a Marketing Queue own all Prospect records in Pardot and Leads in Salesforce. Then when a Prospect takes a certain action you can assign the Lead to someone on the Sales team (via a completion action in Pardot), or assign via an existing Salesforce Lead Assignment Rule. It’s a bit confusing, but your Salesforce sales reps should actually be created in Pardot as users to enable this functionality. They will only need to login to Pardot once to link their Salesforce and Pardot accounts together.

Another option is to keep Pardot prospects unassigned in Pardot so that they do not sync over the Salesforce until the lead is truly sales ready. This is a strategy I recommend for clients with large marketing databases where it doesn’t make sense to store leads in Salesforce who will likely never become sales ready. With this strategy we leverage an automation rule in Pardot to assign the lead to a Queue/sales user. The lead is then subsequently created in Salesforce and assigned accordingly.

Finally, I recommend setting up some sort of feedback loop. This will allow marketing to see if they are truly providing sales qualified leads. Sales should disposition the lead with a lead status of SQL if they “accept ownership” of the Lead from marketing and automatically stamp the record with the date that it was accepted. I detail how to accomplish this in this article. Otherwise, sales should disposition the lead as unqualified, and it can be re-enrolled in an educational marketing track automatically. Marketing should assess what portion of Leads sales is rejecting when determining a strategy. It is critical to strike a balance between having your sales reps reach out to sales ready leads in a timely manner, while not reaching out too early in the process. This feedback loop is crucial to help you continue tweak and evolve your lead scoring rules.

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