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How to Get Sales Pumped About Marketing Leads

How to Get Sales Pumped About Marketing Leads

min. reading

Contrary to the opinion of just about everybody in marketing, all your marketing leads are not “Hot” and the sales team is not lazy. The issue is that sales wants marketing to send them the right leads with the right expectations. In this post, we’ll address ways to improve the marketing lead handoff process using Salesforce and Account Engagement (Pardot) so sales and marketing can live in harmony.

The Problems with Marketing Leads

Before we can address the issues that sales teams have with marketing leads, we must first identify them. Below are the most common issues that I’ve encountered as a marketer (20+ years) and as a consultant. While all these issues might not apply to you, I bet more than a few will.

Top Sales Issues with Marketing Leads 

If you have issues that are not included in this list, please share them by dropping a note in the comments!  

Poor Quality/Bad Data

Let’s start with data quality. Marketers have the ability to control what prospects sync from Account Engagement to Salesforce. Most often, this is based on a prospect achieving an agreed upon score & grade threshold. A rule could look something like this.

This rule assigns prospects to the Hot Leads queue when they achieve a score of 100 and a grade of B- or higher. Seems pretty solid?

This is a good start, but not perfect. Let’s say that a demo form on your website adds 50 points (in addition to the 50 that included in the default scoring model for a form fill). Let’s also assume that your grading model adds a full letter grade for prospects in the United States and another full letter grade is added based on job titles that include CEO.

If your form was completed with the data below, guess who would be assigned to the Hot Lead queue, synced to Salesforce, and assigned to a member of your sales team? Sending over leads like this is the fastest way to sour your sales team on marketing leads.

Keeping Bad Data Out of Salesforce

The example above is not uncommon and is a step up over blindly assigning all prospects from Account Engagement to a queue, but we can do better.

At Sercante, we use a tool named Prospect Updater for Pardot that was created by our labs team. This tool can be used to fix, enhance, and enrich prospect data before it enters Salesforce. Here’s how we leverage Prospect Updater in our organization.

  1. Visitor fills out a form and a new prospect is created in Pardot.
  2. Prospect updater runs and marks a custom field as “Suspected Spam” or “Not Spam” based on criteria that we defined.
  3. Assignment automation rules run (in Account Engagement) and only match prospects with a value of “Not Spam” – ensuring that “Suspected Spam” records do not enter Salesforce.

This example just scrapes the surface of what Prospect Updated can do.  See more Prospect Updater examples and use cases.

Want to know more about how Prospect Updater keeps spam out of our org? Check out this post.

Unrealistic SLAs/Expectations

I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of having some unrealistic expectations in the past. Does this sound familiar? You just got back from a week at that huge trade show in Las Vegas with several thousand leads that are gold and need to be called immediately.

The truth is that there is some gold in your pile of leads, but they are not all worthy of sales follow up. So what should you do?

Managing SLAs & Expectations

  1. Agree to what constitutes a Hot Lead first.
  2. Collaborate with sales leadership to agree to follow-up SLAs (Service Level Agreements).
    • Hot Leads – 24 Hours
    • Warm Lead – 3-Days
  3. Understand the volume of lead that the sales team can follow-up on.
    • If thousands of leads meet your Hot Leads criteria and sales can only follow-up on hundreds, your definition needs to be refined or you need more sales people.
  4. Ensure leads are tagged with a priority rating so the proper SLA can be applied.
    • At events, this could be adding a note when you have conversations with prospects.
    • For prospects entering Account Engagement, this could be based on scores, lead sources, or specific form/form handler submissions.

Marketing Leads Are Too Cold/Don’t Know Who We Are

Let’s go back to the trade show example. Your marketing team has done an awesome job of identifying the “must have” swag item and everybody is flocking to your booth to get one. The team is frantically scanning badges and moving to the next eager person in line. Are these leads that should be sent to sales?

Here’s another one. Your marketing team is generating hundreds of leads per week by syndicating content on a third party site. People are gobbling up your content, sales is going to love these leads!

In both scenarios, these leads should not meet your Hot Lead definition (based on these activities alone) and should not be sent to sales for follow up. It’s highly likely that these people don’t even know what your company does. They came by your booth because of the great swag or downloaded a piece of content related to a specific interest. These are prime leads for a nurturing program.

Warming/Education Nurture

Before sending those leads to sales, warm and educate them with Engagement Studio. This is an area where Account Engagement excels — use it! 

When creating your nurture program, keep the following in mind.

  • Prospects showing buying signals should be sent to sales as quickly as possible
  • Prospects don’t need to complete all steps before being sent to sales
  • Not all prospects are ever going to be sent to sales (and that’s OK)
  • Don’t add scores at random just to make prospects “score up” to your hot lead criteria

I like the 3-2-1 Campaign recommended by Salesforce. It basically inverts the traditional logic by focusing on hard hitting CTAs first in an effort to identify those with immediate interest and fast tracking the handoff to sales. As an example, your first CTA might be to schedule a demo vs. reading your latest white paper.

Learn more about the 3-2-1 Campaign in the Engagement Studio Best Practices module in Trailhead.

Whether you find the traditional or 3-2-1 Campaign works best for your organization, the point remains that leads need to be warmed before sending your sales teams. Sending cold leads over to sales is a surefire way to create a jaded team. 

No Background Information

This lead is supposed to be hot and I’m supposed to follow-up within 24 hours, but I have no idea why or what they are interested in. Could you imagine following-up with a lead in this situation? How about hundreds of them? That’s how sales feels if you don’t enable them with information. Fortunately, Salesforce and Account Engagement have us covered here too.

Arm Sales with Data

Here’s a list of ways we can provide data to our friends in sales.

  • Engagement History Related list
  • Engagement History Dashboards
  • Scoring Categories Related list
  • Custom fields

Let’s look at all of these in a bit more detail.

Engagement History Related Lists 

This displays a feed of a recent engagement from Account Engagement in Salesforce. This list can be added to account, contact, lead, and person account page layouts to provide engagement information for sales and all other users in Salesforce.

Engagement History Dashboards 

These dashboards are powered by CRM Analytics and provide a way for users to see and interact with data on accounts, contacts, leads, and person accounts. These dashboards do require permissions to be granted to users in Salesforce and the number of licenses are limited by your edition.

Scoring Categories Related List 

Most organizations add Account Engagement score and grade fields to their page layouts. This is a great way to show sales the total score that leads and contacts have accumulated, but it does not provide any insight into interests. That’s where scoring categories come in.

Scoring categories allow you to break down the total score in Account Engagement by categories that you define (up to 50). This allows you to see what that prospect is interested in. Note that scoring categories are only included in Plus, Advanced, and Premium editions of Account Engagement.

Account Engagement Grade and Score (in Salesforce)

Account Engagement Scoring Categories (in Salesforce)

The total score of 1,440 does not help the sales team at all. However, the scoring category provides information on topics of interest (Beets) and topics of little interest (Cats).

Custom Fields 

Custom fields are another great way to share information with your sales team. Fields can be created in Account Engagement and synced to the corresponding fields on contact and lead records. Custom fields can vary from organization-to-organization, but here are a couple that I find useful.

  • Asset/Event Name – Capture the name of the last asset that a prospect downloaded or the name of the most recent event that they registered for/attended.
  • Last Form Completed – Let sales know the name of the last form that a prospect completed. This can be used to customize tasks created in Salesforce too!

Incorrect Lead Assignment

Assignment is always a bit of a sticky one. You can do assignments from Account Engagement, but it’s not something that I would recommend.  Engagement Studio can be used for simple assignments, like assigning leads to a queue, but it’s not intended to do direct assignment to specific sales people based on specific territories. It’s best to leave individual assignments to a tool that’s designed for that purpose.

Popular Lead Routing Tools

When looking at lead routing tools, consider the needs of your organization. Assignment rules in Salesforce are great, but only one assignment rule can be active on the lead object. This can become an issue if you have more complex rule logic. You can reassign leads using lead assignment rules, but it requires flows and invocable actions.

Assignment rules have some limitations, but you also have plenty of options if they can’t support your needs. There are tools that allow you to build easy routing flows using tools that feel a lot like engagement studio and others that allow you to do geographic assignment using maps. Selecting the right tool for your organization is a critical decision. The best leads are not going to generate any revenue if they are sitting in a queue somewhere or have not been assigned at all.

Inability to Provide Feedback

Feedback from sales is an incredibly valuable tool. It helps keep sales happy by letting marketing know what leads they like and what leads they don’t. It also helps marketing know where to spend their budget to maximize their impact.

Remember those content syndication leads that we spoke about earlier? Maybe marketing generated a large number of leads at a low cost per lead, but sales found a large number had bad phone numbers or simply did not meet your ideal customer profile. How impactful could knowing this be to marketing? I bet they would change the spend allocation of their budget in a hurry with this data. The great thing is that this level of reporting is possible with disposition codes.

Lead Status and Disposition Codes

Lead status is used in Salesforce to represent the current status of a lead. Common values include: Open – Not Contacted, Working – Contacted, Closed – Not Converted, and Converted. These let you know the status a lead is in, but not the reason why.

This is a great start, but we want more. This is where adding a disposition code can help. Disposition codes are commonly used in call centers to classify the results of calls. This same logic can be applied to support the lead stage changes and provide additional insight to marketing and the organization as whole.

Once set up, disposition codes are required when moving a lead from one stage to the next. Field dependencies provide a list of relevant disposition codes for each status. In the example below, the user is required to tell you “why” the lead needs to be nurtured when updating the status to Open – Nurture.

Disposition Code Uses

  • Timely indicator of lead quality
  • Tailoring of follow up communications/nurtures
  • Identifying records to suppress from marketing communications
  • Determining records to delete from Account Engagement

The disposition code field can be used to create reports in Salesforce for increased visibility. These can be a huge asset for marketing when planning how to allocate future budgets. I find reporting on disposition codes at the campaign level to be the most impactful. To do this, formula fields are used on the campaign member object to enable reporting on your custom fields. Check out Jenna Molby’s blog “How to Add Custom Fields to Campaign Members in Salesforce” to learn more. A record-triggered flow is also needed to update the contact status and disposition codes on the contact object then a lead is converted (but that’s a post for another day).

The end result is a really cool report that shows what happened to all the leads that were included in a campaign. Keep in mind that if a person is included in multiple campaigns, the same status and disposition code will display for both.

Here, I can quickly see that 22% of the leads from my 2023-06 TSW Connections campaign were converted to contacts (and why).  I can also see that 56% of the leads need further nurturing (and how they should be nurtured). By syncing the disposition code field to Account Engagement, the values can be used to enter prospects into targeted nurture campaigns based on their needs vs. a generic nurture program. Pretty cool!

Collaboration and Communication are Key

Sales and marketing are really on the same team. Both want to drive sales and both want to be able to show the impact of their efforts. By working together and addressing the issues discussed, you can create an environment where your sales and marketing teams are united and work together towards a set of common goals.

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  • Mike Morris is a 9x Salesforce-certified consultant who joined Sercante in 2019. He has over 20 years marketing experience from previous roles leading internal marketing departments and collaborating with large sales organizations. His strong interest in marketing operations and technology led him to the Salesforce platform and to his current role at Sercante. When not working, he enjoys staying active by running, biking, and getting outside as much as possible.

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