When Should Marketing Hand Leads To Sales?

Written by Fes Askari

Jan 30 2017

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Six considerations for improving marketing/ sales alignment, and enhancing your lead handover process.

When Should You Hand Leads To Sales?

Does your sales department feel that the leads marketing hands them are great quality? Equally, does your marketing department feel that sales are effective at following up and closing the leads they send?


If the answer is ‘no’ on either or both counts, you may need to review your lead qualification, management and handover processes.  


Having a marketing/sales disconnect (and as a result, prioritising poor quality leads) is a common concern for many organisations. As we’ve seen from the latest HubSpot State of Inbound report:


  • 70% of sales teams would give marketing-generated leads a “3” out of 5 stars” rating or less regarding quality
  • 25% of sales teams say leads are ‘not at all knowledgeable’ about their company before they make first contact
  • 59% of organisations using inbound marketing believe it produces the highest quality leads for the sales team, vs. just 17% holding faith in outbound practices
  • Interestingly, 84% of organisations using inbound - who also have an SLA in place between sales and marketing - would characterise their marketing strategy as effective.

While it’s true that inbound marketing works to generate as high quality, relevant leads for the business as possible, it’s still important that marketing knows when to hand leads to sales - and knows which leads should be prioritised - to avoid wasted time and resource.

59% of organisations using inbound marketing believe it produces the highest quality leads for the sales team, vs. just 17% holding faith in outbound practices

As marketing and sales processes evolve, instead of marketing handing all leads straight to sales and walking away, marketing teams must now ensure that they only hand quality, qualified leads to sales.


The leads sales reps receive should be at least marketing qualified (MQLs) - meaning they fit the persona profile of who you want to target, and are likely to close - making them worth pursuing. Helping to reduce the length of the sales cycle, minimise wasted resources, enhance sales conversations and improve sales and marketing’s opinions of each other, an aligned process is beneficial to the whole business. Below are six considerations for improving marketing/sales alignment, and that lead handover process.

6 Considerations To Ensure Marketing Hands Quality Leads To Sales

1. Define your buyer persona profiles

Persona mapping is the starting point for all good inbound activity, as without a clear idea of your organisation’s ideal target persona (and you may have more than one), activity will be poorly targeted, wasting time and resources. Typically, your persona profile will include information on the ideal job title, industry, budget, company size and perhaps the geographical location of the leads you’re looking to secure more of.

How does this improve the lead handoff between marketing and sales?

Everyone involved in your marketing and sales operations should clearly understand who your buyer persona(s) are in order to correctly qualify the leads you generate. Without this clarity, you may find you’re prioritising and nurturing poor-fit leads who are either unlikely to close, or who would be a poor fit for your solution, making them likely to churn.

2. Define What Constitutes an MQL/SQL For Your Organisation

Of course persona profiling is only the first step. Your leads all sit at different stages in the buying cycle; some will be ready to speak to sales immediately, while others will require more nurture from marketing first.


For marketing and sales to be aligned on which lead is ready for what action, it’s important to define what constitutes an MQL (marketing qualified lead) and SQL (sales qualified lead) for your organisation. Typically:


  • An MQL is a lead who has been established as a good fit for your product/service (your ideal persona)
  • An SQL (sales qualified lead) is a Marketing Qualified Lead who has been nurtured through the sales funnel to the decision stage - they are deemed to be ready to start purchase conversations with sales.

How does this improve the lead handoff between marketing and sales?

If leads are deemed to be qualified, or if they are active buyers (i.e they’re looking at your content and your site or starting to engage), it’s generally a good time to hand them over.


MQL & SQL parameters should be included in your SLA; this helps each department agree on exactly when leads should be handed over, what actions should be taken, and gives marketing a clear idea of precisely what sales needs.

3. Set Up An SLA Between Marketing & Sales

As we’ve mentioned above, 84% of organisations who have an SLA in place between marketing and sales, believe their marketing to be effective.

How does this improve the lead handoff between marketing and sales?

With an SLA (Service Level Agreement) in place between marketing and sales, both departments can gain clarity on your organisation’s exact definition of a qualified lead, so can work together towards a clear goal. An SLA also enables both departments to define exactly which lead responsibilities lie with who - meaning both sides are aware of who is responsible for what action, with what leads, throughout the sales cycle. This not only helps to avoid duplication of effort, but it ensures that qualified leads are handed over at exactly the right time. Remember to continually review your SLA and tweak if necessary.

4. Implement a lead scoring system

Lead scoring is one of the most useful processes at your disposal, as it allows everyone involved to determine the value of a lead (and therefore how to prioritise them) with a clear point-based score. Typically this is out of 100, with points assigned based on certain actions the lead may have taken, and certain attributes they make have (such as company size).

How does this improve the lead handoff between marketing and sales?

With lead scoring in place (and clearly enabled by an aligned marketing automation and CRM platform such as HubSpot), sales and marketing can agree on a points threshold that each lead should have before being deemed ready to hand over.

5. Communicate!

The success of an aligned sales & marketing team relies on regular communication and close collaboration.

How does this improve the lead handoff between marketing and sales?

Ensure that all parties have access to the same data (marketing data and your CRM), monitor with regular meetings, and determine clear, agreed hand over points between departments - always being prepared to tweak and assess dependent on different buyer signals as you progress.

Knowing When To Hand Over

Knowing when to hand leads to sales is not an exact science, but implementing an Inbound process which includes the alignment of sales and marketing, setting common goals and maintaining regular communication will ensure that qualified, ready prospects can passed  appropriately to your inbound sales team.

B2B Marketing Zone