How Should Marketing Hand Leads Off to Sales

We’ve written about a general need for sales and marketing alignment in the past.

I’d like to think that in doing so, we eradicated any trace of animosity or frustration that once existed between sales and marketing professionals around the world, and that these two former adversaries now work together in a constant state of blissful harmony and uninterrupted joy.

On the off chance that there’s still a business or two somewhere that could improve marketing and sales alignment, let’s look at one area in particular where misalignment can really lead to problems: the handing off of leads.

When marketing doesn’t deliver on sales-qualified leads (SQLs), sales gets restless and marketing gets blamed. When sales doesn’t close qualified leads, marketing gets frustrated that they did all that hard work only for the ball to get dropped. 

So, where is this disconnect coming from, how should the leads be handed off and how can you ensure a seamless process?


Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. Open and regular communication between sales and marketing should be a given, and yet, all too often, businesses operate in silos. It doesn’t matter if the silos are a result of a company’s culture, systems or even geography; if these two teams aren’t regular communicating, there’s a 100% chance that leads will get lost in the shuffle.

At a minimum, sales and marketing need to be in regular touch (weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings) to discuss and revisit the following: 

  • Goals
    • What is the revenue goal?
    • What are the key metrics marketing and sales must be accountable for to deliver against the goal?
    • How many MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) and SQLs need to be generated each month to get there?
    • How are you qualifying MQLs and SQLs?
    • What percentage of leads need to convert into sales opportunities and closed deals in order to hit the revenue goal?
  • Activities
    • What are the current and planned marketing activities?
    • What are the current and planned sales activities?
    • What company/industry activities are happening that might have an effect on or be leveraged by sales and marketing?
  • Outcomes
    • What is the status of leads in the pipeline?
    • How have qualified leads engaged with the company? (i.e. pages viewed, content downloaded, emails opened etc.)
    • Which leads have closed and how much revenue was generated?
    • Which leads didn’t close, and why?


Regular communication is the baseline minimum requirement for a functional relationship between sales and marketing. If this is in place, great. Now it’s time to establish a documented hand-off process with clearly defined responsibilities and accountability. 

Both teams must be clear on which tasks they’re responsible for so that nothing is missed, no work is duplicated and no wires are crossed. (Ever get overlapping or conflicting communications from different people at a company that’s trying to sell to you? Yeah, it’s not an impression you want to make.) 

On a high level, this means:

  • Defining the jurisdictions the sales and marketing are each responsible for
  • Establishing the mechanism that triggers the hand-off
  • Documenting the actions to be taken at each stage in the lead funnel
  • Ensuring that these actions are built into each team’s task lists
  • Setting up the systems to track and analyze the funnel

Doing all of that is easier said than done, which brings me to…   


Any business serious about sales needs a CRM. Without this, you’re in the dark – and the marketing-to-sales hand-off is probably the least of your problems. 

Now, if you’re serious about adhering to a seamless process of transitioning leads between marketing and sales, we highly recommend using marketing automation. While some of the work involved in figuring out which leads belong where in the pipeline, following up and tracking results could be done manually, it’s not an efficient use of time and it’s not scalable.

With automation, you can take the guesswork out of the hand-off by using lead scoring best practices to manage and update the lead status of prospects in your pipeline in real time based on their engagement with marketing content. When a lead hits the right score, you can trigger a workflow to update their lead status and schedule a personalized message from sales. On the other side of the coin, when a rep discovers that a lead is not as ready to convert as they looked, they can quickly update their lead status to automatically move them back into marketing’s nurturing campaign. 

Beyond taking the guesswork out, this technology makes communications from your sales team timely and contextual. According to HubSpot, only 37 percent of companies respond to their leads within an hour. Meanwhile, 35% to 50% of sales go to the company who responds first.

Without lead scoring, you’re forced to go through your contact list one by one to parse the junk from the good stuff. And while you’re doing that, you’re not doing other sales activities that could be generating or closing leads.

The hand-off of leads from marketing to sales can be challenging, but it’s critical for business success. By following these steps, you can create and follow a process that’s smooth and effective. Not only will you be able to more effectively turn leads into customers, but both teams will be better prepared for successful collaboration with the rest of your organization – and that’s something both sales and marketing should feel good about.