Author: collin stewart
In outbound sales development, the sales development representative (SDR) to account executive (AE) handoff is a crucial stage in the customer journey. If the handoff goes well, your business will gain a new client–but if it goes poorly, the handoff stage has the potential to be a major roadblock to closing the deal.
A poor SDR to AE handoff means losing all the momentum that was built before the exchange. Having a system that’s understood by everyone on the outbound sales team will ensure a seamless transition in your sales development process.
Better handoffs begin with SDR training
Since SDRs will be the first point of contact for all prospects, let’s begin with their role in the handoff.
First, SDRs must ensure they are properly qualifying all leads they send to their AE. SDR training should include detailed information on what questions to ask prospects, when and how to ask them, and a clear checklist for sales development reps to follow. This will ensure that AEs are receiving only the most qualified leads.
When it comes to the handoff stage, timing is crucial. If a lead transitions from SDR to AE too soon, then the AE may end up spending valuable time on activities that the SDR should have completed, instead of advancing the prospect to the next level. All members of the outbound sales team should have a clear understanding of where their responsibilities end and when the next member of the team takes over the process.
Communication during the SDR to AE handoff
No prospect wants to feel like they’re being shuffled off to a different sales rep. Think about when your cable or phone provider transfers you to yet another department, only for you to be asked the same questions over again. This is the type of frustration you want to avoid during the SDR to AE handoff.
The best way to maintain trust with the prospect is to simply be transparent. There’s no reason to be covert about a future handoff to an account executive. In fact, most prospects will appreciate this kind of open communication throughout the sales process.
A simple statement like this can help frame the future handoff:
“As I learn more about what you do, at some point I’ll be bringing in an expert who will be able to better address your situation and the ways we might work together.”
Abruptly bringing someone new into the conversation—when the prospect has already built up a rapport with their sales development rep—can be unnecessarily disruptive.
But if the SDR frames the handoff as an opportunity to bring in the ideal person, someone with the right background or expertise for that prospect’s situation, then the AE is better positioned to take over.
The SDR’s role during handoff
In the outbound sales process, sales development reps are responsible for scheduling meetings between prospects and their AE. On the surface, this seems relatively straightforward–the SDR sends the AE a calendar invite and moves on to the next lead. But a little extra time and attention during this step can go a long way.
If the SDR is meeting with a prospect, and they agree to a meeting with an AE, the best way to ensure that they get the calendar invite is to send it right there and then while they’re still on the call. That way the SDR can receive confirmation right away, and ensure the invitation isn’t lost in a spam or junk folder.
Alternatively, if the handoff occurs over email, they can copy the AE in and introduce them to the prospect that way. The SDR should thank the prospect for their time, ask them to review a summary of their discussion(s), and then introduce the AE as the person who will be taking over for the next steps. A calendar invite can also be sent directly in this email.
Preparing for the handoff
Ideally, the outbound sales team will be using a customer relationship management (CRM) software where the AE can see a history of contacts, detailed notes, and possibly recorded calls with the prospect. All the relevant information should be available so the AE can adequately prepare before their first meeting.
Usually, a significant amount of time has been invested in finding the right outbound prospects for your business. Gartner suggests that it takes an average of 18 calls to connect with a potential customer. After a meeting has been set the SDR and AE should also connect (ideally in person or virtually) to discuss the prospect and their situation before the handoff occurs.
To take this one step further, both the SDR and AE should attend a meeting handoff with the prospect, with the SDR acting as a facilitator between the two. The SDR can make introductions, review the prospect’s pain points to date, share the highlights of prior discussions, and set an agenda for the meeting. This ensures the prospect is comfortable with the transition before the AE takes over.
Above all, the AE should be as prepared as possible so they can further determine qualification and avoid asking repeat questions.
Handoffs are a vital part of the Outbound Sales process
Achieving smooth SDR to AE handoffs requires cooperation and open communication within your outbound sales team. Ongoing SDR training and mentoring on the nuances of outbound sales development can go a long way to creating a better customer experience for your clients.
You can also learn how Zuus has optimized what the process looks like after the SDR/AE handoff.
Need help improving your outbound sales development process? Our coaching and consulting services can help your team master the SDR to AE handoff and ensure a smooth transition that closes more deals.
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