What is a lead hand-off process?
When a lead or prospect moves forward in the sales funnel, the Sales Development Rep (SDR), who prospected, hands them over to the Account Executive (AE), who will then manage their account. But in most cases, the handoff from SDR to an AE is a complicated process as it could make or break the relationship with the prospect.
So what are the main issues that creep up during handoff? Let’s take a look.
Problems in SDR-AE Handoff
- Missed sales opportunities – Often, when a sale does not go through, the SDR complains that the AE hadn’t handled the demo well, and the AE retorts the SDR sent them unqualified demo due to which they weren’t able to close deals. It will only result in a slower sales cycle.
- Lack of in-depth information – During the handoff of a prospect, an SDR merely sends a calendar invite for the demo and directs them to an AE, assuming their role is fulfilled and moves on. However, the AE is left clueless about the prospect due to lack of in-depth information as the SDR provides primary data such as the prospect’s interests in the product/service or the current process they follow; this isn’t enough to set the AE up for a win, thus leading to missed opportunities or creating a poor customer experience.
- AE acts as the decision-maker – IIn many businesses, it is up to the AE to decide if a prospect is a ‘sales qualified lead’. Even after all the hard work, the SDR puts into getting a lead; the decision to take it forward lies with the AE. A lack of lead qualification criteria creates unwanted issues and wasted time for both the SDR and AE. For the AE, two things are a priority: conversion percentage and quota attainment, based on which they might prioritize their meetings, instead of attending to every lead in the pipeline. They may become picky when it comes to the prospects they want to connect with, thus leaving the SDR’s target quota to suffer.
- Unfair demo distribution – When a lead comes through, and the SDR has to forward it to the AE for a demo, they transfer to those AE’s who have the best close-win records to secure their quota attainment. It will create an unfair distribution within the pipeline.
Best practices for a smooth SDR to AE Handoff
To eliminate roadblocks in the SDR-AE handoff, here are seven pointers you must follow:
Lead qualification criteria
The SDR and AE managers must clearly define the responsibilities of their teams. They should have specific ‘lead qualification’ criteria, including the exact information required for the lead to be considered as ‘qualified’. This way, they are accountable to each other.
E.g., Which type of industry is your prospect in? What’s the company size? Is your product/service a priority for them? Will the purchase come within their budget? Does the prospect have a business pain point to be solved? The results they want to achieve? What motivated them to search for a solution now?
SDRs send calendar invite
As soon as you get a go-ahead from the lead for a demo, immediately send them a calendar invite and also cross-check with them whether they’ve received it – this will help you stay top-of-mind with them. Additionally, the SDR should send an email introducing the AE who will be working with the lead moving forward; this will give a clear picture of the hand-off process. Also, don’t forget to copy the AE in the email.
Reference hand-off email template:
Hi [Prospects Name],
Firstly, thank you for the valuable time you’ve given [your company name]. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. I just set up an appointment for you with [AE’s name] and she’ll guide us through [product name] demo.
Here is the link that will take you to my notes from our call [include link to the notes containing relevant pain points and the agenda for the upcoming meeting]. Feel free to notify me about the amendments; if any.
I’m looking forward to our time on [date_time]. Let me know if I can be of any help in the meantime.
SDRs provides details to the AE
Ensure that the AE has full knowledge about the prospect, before jumping into the demo, thus leaving no room for confusion or missed opportunities. Here are few pointers the SDR could make notes on:
- The prospect’s first contact with the SDR (Cold calling, ebook download, demo request, webinar, etc.)
- Their pain point and what sparked their interest in the product\service
- Structure of their company\team
- The current system they are using
- Who is their decision-maker(s)
- In what stage are they in – in terms of their intent to purchase the product.
Also, the SDRs should note down all the questions the prospect had asked them and those they’re likely to have about the product/service so that the AE will not be blind-sided and can do their research much before the demo.
AE closes the loop
Once the SDR sends the meeting invite and the introduction email, the AE should take the time to close the loop via an email to the prospect. It could be a simple email such as this:
[Hi prospects name], My name is [name], and I’m going to be your AE.
I look forward to learning more about [company name] on our call on [date_time]. In the meantime, if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.
Videos can re-inforce hand-off
Some prospects might get confused or lose interest when transferred to someone new in the pipeline. You can solve this by using videos as a way to have a warm introduction by shooting a joint video with the SDR and AE sitting side by side, explaining about the hand-off.
Videos help an SDR while setting an agenda for the meeting with the lead, as they are more likely to retain the information shared on the schedule with a video.
AE and SDR attend the demo call
While it’s not necessary, it is beneficial when an SDR starts the demo call since the prospect has already formed an early-stage relationship with them, and this will help establish continuity. The SDR can begin the call by introducing the prospect and the AE. Here’s a sample phone call introduction:
“Hi, [Prospects name]. This is [SDR’s name] and we spoke on [date/day]. I wanted to introduce you to AE [name]. She is an expert in [product/service]. I onboarded [AE’s name] to help speed up on everything we talked about, and now I’m transferring the call to her.
But does this mean the SDR should attend every call with the AE? Not really.
There are two types of calls: (i) High-level calls and (ii) Typical calls
(i)High-level calls are those with decision makers like CEO, Executives, etc. SDR’s need to sit for such calls as AE’s will need the support to close the deal better.
(ii)Typical calls are your everyday calls, and the AE’s can manage these calls on their own.
Management must monitor
The sales enablement manager must define the handoff process and enforce it within their teams. They should continuously review the conversations between the AE’s and SDR’s; this way, the managers can determine the way the information is shared and if anything needs to be changed. They need to observe and be aware of what is happening on the sales floor. Another important factor is consistent practice – run through new scenarios with the SDR’s and AE’s to determine the likely questions the prospects will ask and the best methods for smooth handoffs, etc.
The success of a smooth SDR to AE hand-off ultimately depends on excellent communication between the teams. The key is to understand the prospects and what they want on the demo so that the SDRs can best-fit the right questions for the AE’s to ensure a proper hand-off. While prospecting, the SDR’s must always ensure they’re giving the most value for the AE’s time as they’re handling many opportunities, just like the SDR’s.