As B2B buyer preferences change, the marketing to sales handoff has become increasingly complicated -- yet more important than ever. B2B SaaS, FinTech, and IaaS startups can map their most critical marketing to sales handoff decisions into one of four scenarios, visually represented by four quadrants.

In this video, you’ll learn why the marketing-to-sales handoff has grown increasingly complex, yet even more critical than it was a decade ago, how tech startups, scaleups, and small businesses can map the four most common handoff decisions into four quadrants, and what these marketing to sales handoff scenarios look like.



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So first, your B2B marketing and sales playbooks from a few years back likely won’t cut it anymore. Why?

The latest research from Gartner found that 83% of a typical B2B purchase decision -- researching, comparing options, and evaluating pricing -- happens before a potential buyer engages with a vendor.

And McKinsey & Company has discovered that 70% to 80% of B2B decision-makers now prefer to make decisions digitally.

In its B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report, LinkedIn, in partnership with Edelman, concluded that “thought leadership remains critical to customer engagement but breaking through the noise is harder than ever.”

Most B2B SaaS, FinTech, and IaaS startups have not yet adjusted to these market realities -- even though the teams that run startups almost certainly exercise these same buyer preferences and behaviors when they’re the customers.

So let’s think through what this means.

Your company will need your marketing and sales teams to collaborate well to accelerate sales cycles, especially given how most people now research and make purchase decisions in a digitally transformed world.

Orchestrating a seamless transition across these two teams starts with the highly impactful thought leadership content the marketing team creates and promotes to attract and engage leads. The marketing team will also accelerate a portion of those leads into sales-ready or marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). 

Then most importantly, your company needs excellent clarity around how and when the marketing-to-sales handoff happens -- and under what conditions.

And the timing matters a lot!

Suppose early-stage leads are handed off too early before a lead is genuinely open to having a sales conversation. In that case, your company’s sales team can come across as overzealous and annoying -- burning the goodwill that you worked so hard to create with remarkable content, as well as the goodwill and relationship equity that your sales and customer success teams will need to be seen as subject matter experts and trusted advisors.

However, suppose leads are handed off from marketing to sales too late. Too slowly. In that case, your company may be seen as unresponsive, unreliable, and perhaps not worthy of being included in the consideration set.

For most mid-sized to large ticket-considered purchase decisions, in a B2B context, handoff usually gets defined by deciding how your company will address various degrees of fit and interest.

Again, fit and interest are the two most important factors at work.

In a perfect world, your sales team would spend 100% of their time engaging with leads that

  • Show high signs of interest or intent in purchasing your product or service shortly
  • Perfectly fit your defined ideal client profile (ICP) or work within a named, target account identified in your account-based marketing (ABM)

Think about organizing your decisions around fit and interest into four quadrants, where Interest goes on the X axis and Fit goes on the Y axis, as you can see in the slide titled “The Four Quadrants” -- how and when the marketing to sales handoff happens -- and under what conditions.

With high interest and high fit, marketing to sales handoff needs to happen immediately. And sales should reach out immediately. There are the leads your sales team should love -- should be fighting over among each other.

With high interest but low fit, generally, because the lead doesn’t perfectly match the ideal client profile as the company may be too large or too small, sales should take on the role of order taker. In other words, if the lead is ready to buy right now and you believe that this person and their company will be successful with your product or service, your salesperson takes their order. However, few follow-up efforts are made, with no pricing or terms concessions.

With low interest but a high fit, marketing should prioritize nurturing this lead until the lead shows higher signs of interest and intent to hand it off to the sales team (marketing-qualified lead/MQL).

And in the fourth and final quadrant, the lowest priority with both low interest and low fit, your marketing team can offer group resources -- such as an email newsletter, eBooks, or webinar recordings.

So to recap the Four Quadrants:

  • High Fit + High Interest: Handoff for Immediate Sales Contact
  • High Fit + Low Interest: Marketing Nurtures Until Stronger Signs of Interest
  • Low Fit + High Interest: Sales Acts in Order Taker Role
  • Low Fit + Low Interest: Provide Group Resources


How does your company manage the marketing-to-sales handoff? How do you address various degrees of fit and interest? Let me know in the comments section down below.

Do you know someone else who could also benefit from this video on Marketing to Sales Handoff and the Four Quadrants? Be sure to share it with them. 

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