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Revenue Operations
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Why (and How) to Investigate the Marketing-to-Sales Handoff

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Whenever I started a new job at an organization, my first areas of focus were cross-department handoffs. In my experience, these transfers produce a cringe-worthy amount of waste if not orchestrated and monitored properly. Plus, it’s a great way to learn how your GTM tech stack journey is performing.

The goal of the marketing-to-sales handoff review is to determine whether there’s a problem(s), determine what the problem(s) is costing the company, and create a bullet-proof argument for allocating resources to correcting the problem(s).

Why take the time to do a process review, especially if no one is complaining? 

It’s a great way to learn the company’s systems, network with key people in the departments you’ll be working with, and thrill managers and end-users with improvements that make a real difference in how well they can do their jobs.

These investigations may take some time, but they are always worth the effort.

Investigation Framework

When I first started digging into department handoffs, I reviewed the system architecture first. Sometimes this paid off, but I no longer start with systems. My preferred process is:

1. Interview managers

2. Anonymously interview end-users

3. Time users using the system

4. Data review

5. System design review

6. Cost Analysis

7. Meetings to review findings & recommendations

I switched my priorities after two end-to-end reviews. After running through anonymous interviews with end-users, I realized perception could have a bigger impact on efficiency than actual system operation. 

Interview Managers

No one likes going through a lot of effort only to learn that no one is willing to use your findings to make improvements. Interviewing management will help you understand whether they think there’s a problem, whether they care if there’s a problem, and whether they support you spending time with their busy employees.

Have them volunteer people and ask for a couple of people who are diligent about using the systems, a few people who are middle-of-the-road, and at least a couple who are notoriously bad with technology.

If you’re new to an organization, interviewing managers and asking for their input is a great way to develop allies and convince people your primary interest is helping make life easier (and more profitable) for everyone involved.

Anonymously Interview End-Users

Demand generation is a touchy topic with marketers and salespeople. Their livelihood depends on the quality of their output, and an investigation can uncover unflattering information.

When you interview end-users, make it extremely clear that their feedback is anonymous. If you want to keep their trust (which will come in handy during future projects!), you must stick to your promise. I’ve gained allies for life by stubbornly refusing to reveal which salesperson admitted to cutting corners. This person was a high performer who had the respect of the rest of the sales organization. Once I had his trust, I had an ally who would promote system updates and help train users who didn’t like talking to corporate (admittedly, the company culture was a little weird).

Other tips that will help you make headway with end-users include making it clear that you’re not emotionally invested in the technology and asking open ended questions. 

Some people are afraid of criticizing systems because they’re worried they’ll hurt your feelings. 

When asking questions, it’s easy to influence someone’s answer if you reveal your own opinion. Don’t bait people into answering how you want them to. Once they trust you, it isn’t difficult to uncover underlying issues. 

Example questions include:

  • How do you feel about the lead process?
  • How do you receive leads?
  • How do you prosecute them?
  • Do you have any other opinions you’d like to share?

Feel free to dig in and ask follow up questions, but try not to let your opinion peek through. It’s normal to form some hypotheses after a few meetings, but leading with your opinion can distract people from revealing something new and useful.

Time Users Using the System

This is going to sound a bit obsessive, but if you only take away one thing from this article, take this advice.

Sit with multiple people prosecuting leads and use the stopwatch function on your phone to run through the process. Run through the same processes with multiple people and average the amount of time it takes to perform any given task (logging phone calls, emails, meeting set, and opportunity creation).

If your system has been overengineered, the time adds up fast. If an opportunity takes ten minutes to create, and a sales rep creates ten a day, that’s 50 minutes every day that could be used to prosecute more leads. You can then calculate how much time they waste per month, quarter, year, etc., and then multiply that by the average hourly rate. Calculating time wasted is a more indisputable metric than how much revenue could be generated if they got that time back (but it’s worth doing both).

The same process can be used with marketers. How long does it take them to curate a list for a campaign? How long does it take them to segment their database for an email blast? These exercises are tedious time-sucks if systems aren’t set up properly.

Data Review

Provided your company has set you up with proper benchmarks and campaign taxonomy, calculating conversion rates can be extremely useful. Layer in campaign channel and individual sales person to determine whether there are particular channels that convert poorly or inside sales representatives that could benefit from some coaching.

Leveraging your RevOps network to determine conversion rate averages will help you understand whether what you’re seeing is average or problematic. 

For example, a form fill in a B2B organization should convert somewhere in the ballpark of 25% from lead to opportunity. If you’re well under the rate, you may be looking at a company without a web form process or a content strategy that isn’t drawing in your primary ideal customer profile.

System Architecture Review

Once your interviews and data reviews are complete, you’ll have a much better idea of where to start digging into your systems. If your overall conversion rate from lead to meeting or lead to opportunity is low, investigate how obvious warm leads are to the sales team. If specific campaign channels perform lower than others, determine whether it’s a quality or configuration issue.

I worked for a company with a strange “Marketing Ops” lead channel category that made up nearly two-thirds of their lead volume. The conversion rate was less than 1.5%. I talked to the system architect to review how the system was intended to function, then discovered their lead management system had been configured (accidentally) to qualify leads that were passively enriched by their third-party data source.

The rest of their system was near ideal, but the mistake had caused a lot of suspicion on the sales team without the marketing systems team ever knowing.

Cost Analysis

The fastest way to get executives invested in your projects is to determine the cost of not doing the project. 

  • Add up time wasted on inefficient processes and calculate how much time could be spent doing something more beneficial to the company. 
  • Calculate the dollars associated with wasted time.
  • Figure out how many opportunities could be uncovered if wasted time is repurposed.

During one review, I wanted to crawl under my desk and hide when I learned one B2B organization with an average new acquisition booking of $125,000 didn’t have a defined process for responding to “contact us” forms.

As the old saying goes, “time kills all deals.” For every person persistent enough to follow up on their submitted form, ten people went with a vendor who actually called them back. They were throwing away millions of dollars, and the fix was simple!

Meeting to Review Findings & Recommendations

Once you summarize your findings, determine the scope of the issue. If people would benefit from better goal alignment, you’ll need revenue operations, sales, and marketing management to sign off on KPI changes. 

If the tech stack is a mess, you’ll need to approach things a little more cautiously. 

I preferred going straight to the team responsible for the systems and talking them through my findings without their manager in the room. If they took my findings and fixed the issue, life was good. If they didn’t know how to fix them, I offered to help build a case for their manager to bring in consulting services to correct the issue. They could take credit for the work (I didn’t care as long as it got done). If they got defensive and nothing was fixed, I went up the management chain after talking to my own manager.

Once you meet with the individual teams, you and your manager will need to determine whether the scope of work needed to correct uncovered issues requires a major initiative. If so, your cost analysis and thorough research will have uncovered data you need to convince the executive team the project is worth doing.

Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know if you’d like to contribute your own tactics to help expand on the topic.

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