A Proven Approach for Handing Off SDR Qualified Leads to Sales
Sales development reps (SDRs) are responsible for creating qualified meetings for sales reps. While this seems like a straightforward process, TOPO has identified a breaking point.
Many sales organizations fail to address what happens before and after SDRs set up those meetings. This oversight creates confusion.
SDRs pass leads before they are fully qualified, sales ignores qualified leads, or sales fails to document what happened in the meeting and next steps. More often than not, issues like these lead to a lack of alignment and the SDR program suffers.
Dissecting the Handoff Failure
In nearly all instances of tension between sales development and sales, the underlying issue is failure to define and/or enforce an SDR-QL definition, along with a standardized process. Without this definition, organizations run into many avoidable problems. Lacking agreed-upon steps associated with the qualification and handoff process, organizations find themselves dealing with an inaccurate view of marketing leads and SDR-QL quality and conversion rates.
In environments lacking clear definitions and process steps, two extremes often co-exist as SDRs create seemingly qualified meetings: the meetings are rejected by sales or SDRs get credit for under-qualified meetings.
In fact, lack of defined, acceptable outcomes frequently prevents sales from accepting SDR-QLs—even if they meet the qualification criteria. For example, if sales reps must create a forecastable opportunity from every SDR-QL, they may be reticent to accept legitimate SDR-QLs in an effort to shield themselves from additional pipeline scrutiny.
Embrace Proven Best Practices
To enable a consistent, standardized approach to handing off SDR-QLs to sales, consider these best practices:
- Define SLAs to specify expectations for an SDR-QL that moves from SDRs to sales. Clearly define the next steps and their timing to hold SDRs and sales reps accountable for consistently following the process. Define an SLA associated with each potential outcome to ensure accountability. For instance, mandate that sales must update the CRM system with dispositional feedback within 24 hours of a qualified meeting.
- Be realistic when defining outcomes. Design the process around realistic outcomes in line with the organization’s sales qualification (i.e., BANT vs. non-BANT) including “Unqualified” and “Re-engage.” While outcomes such as Sales Accepted Opportunity, Re-engage, and Unqualified apply to most organizations, Sales Engaged is only relevant in non-BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, Timeline) frameworks.
- Force adherence to the process via automation. Indicate within the process when and where SDRs and sales reps should enter information into the CRM system. Take advantage of CRM features like screen pops and lead status to trigger actions required to move an SDR-QL forward and save the record in the CRM system. This helps confirm that SDRs and sales are taking required actions.
- Train SDRs and sales reps on the process. Make the process part of onboarding so everyone in sales understands the process. It’s just as important to train sales reps as to train SDRs because sales reps need to understand expectations once they receive an SDR-QL.
- Train marketing on the closed loop process and design marketing’s next steps for certain outcomes. Marketing needs to be informed on how leads will be processed. More importantly, they need to set up workflows for the Re-engage and Unqualified outcomes that send leads back to marketing.
- SDRs should manage their AEs in the early stages of the process. To ensure no SDR-QLs get overlooked, the SDR should follow up to confirm the AE has honored the 24-hour SLA for follow-up after a meeting is scheduled. SDRs should drive this since they care most about the timeliness of follow-up since it impacts whether or not they are credited with SDR-QLs that month.
- Review the process report. Meet weekly one-on-one with SDRs and bi-weekly with the sales management team to review any scenarios violating the agreed-upon SLA. Use these audit meetings as an escalation process to ensure no promising leads or opportunities are lost, and to reinforce expected sales rep behavior and system updates.
- Optimize the program based on feedback. Sales development and sales should regroup every quarter to review all challenges and opportunities for improvement around the process. Adjust the process as necessary to ensure a consistent approach to handing off SDR-QLs and creating opportunities.
Deploy a Standardized, Scalable Process
Consistently and smoothly handing leads from sales development to sales is arguably one of the most essential steps in the sales process. Unfortunately, too many organizations fail to clearly define discrete actions, expectations, and accountability for all the steps involved.
By following TOPO’s recommendations to design a detailed process around objective outcomes, sales organizations can enforce desired behavior among sales reps and gradually drive better sales results.