The SDR to AE handoff is one of the most critical parts of a sales cycle. Most B2B or B2G sales teams have two functions in their initial sales process. There is the Sales Development Rep (SDR) that is responsible for getting meetings with prospects through inbound and/or outbound prospecting methods. The Account Executive (AE) is responsible for taking qualified leads and guiding that lead to a buying decision. There are other types of sales handoffs like from an AE to a Customer Success team. This type of a sales handoff is a critical part of the customer lifecycle however for the purposes of this blog, we are keeping the focus on how to execute a seamless handoff between SDRs and AEs.
We will cover the following areas in this blog:
The whole point of the SDR function is to ensure that AEs are interacting with sales-qualified leads. For a more detailed discussion on what is a qualified lead, be sure to check out the linked blog. In summary, however, a sales-qualified lead is anyone that is in an active buying cycle or is frustrated enough with the status quo that they are willing to consider a change in their status quo.
Far too often, companies only focus on the first part of that definition. They task SDRs to look for leads that are in an active buying cycle. Only 3% of a given B2B market is in an active buying cycle for the solutions your company offers. Limiting the definition of a qualified lead to only those in an active buying cycle is like searching for a needle in a haystack. If an SDR finds a prospect that is frustrated with the status quo and considering change, those leads should also be passed along to the AE. This is about 40.5% of a B2B market at any given time. This increases our pool of prospects from 3% to 43.5% of the market.
The prospects that SDRs should definitely avoid passing to the AE are people that are totally satisfied with the status quo at their company. This is about 56.5% of the market. This segment of the market could still have people that are interested in talking with an AE but have no desire or interest in actually making changes within their organization. An SDR needs to be skilled at recognizing the difference between people that are interested vs those that have genuine frustration or a desire to change their status quo. For more details on how SDRs can acquire the skills needed to gauge customer expectations, check out our Qualify for Quality course.
One of the biggest frustrations that prospects report during the sales cycle is that they feel like they are not being listened to. Often, a prospect will share info with the SDR and then will have to repeat themselves all over again when the AE gets involved. It’s already a nuisance for many customers that they have to switch their main point of contact during a sales cycle. If this SDR to AE handoff does not occur smoothly, then the prospect is more likely to be frustrated with the company and have a negative view of the solution.
The SDR AE handoff is a normal part of the buying cycle and prospects will still be fine with it. However, the handoff has to be transparent and comprehensive in order to ensure a smooth and personalized customer experience.
For a successful sales handoff, there has to be transparency and a comprehensive transfer of information about the prospect. Prospects are used to AEs coming into the sales process so it’s perfectly ok for an SDR to mention that an AE will be joining the next call. However, having an AE attend the call with no warning to the prospect will create some distrust and confusion for the prospect.
On top of the transparency about the handoff, the SDR needs to make sure the AE has all of the information that has been gathered about the prospect. The prospect should not have to repeat the information they have already shared with the SDR just because an AE is now involved in the sales cycle. It is the SDR and AE's job to figure that out before the handoff happens.
Here are the three mediums in which the SDR and the AE can ensure a smooth handoff:
1. Handoff Email
As soon as an SDR knows that the lead is ready for an AE, they should send a handoff email. The email should include the notes the SDR has so far but in a condensed and readable format. These notes should highlight the prospect’s role in the company, the pain point or frustration that got the prospect interested in the meeting, and the goals that the prospect has in the business area that the solution is impacting.
If the meeting was scheduled over email, then it is important to also email the prospect and let them know that the AE will be joining the next sales call. If the meeting is scheduled over the phone, SDRs need to be transparent about the handoff at the end of the call.
2. Calendar Invite
Don’t wait to send out the calendar invite. Prospect’s calendars can fill up so if you have confirmation for a meeting, be sure the send out the invite as soon as you can. In the invite, make sure the instructions for joining the meeting are clear. You have to ensure the time zones are accurate and that all the details needed for the meeting are included.
These seem like minor and obvious details but these are exactly the sort of things that can create friction during the handoff. If the prospect has even a slight bit of confusion about how to join the meeting or who is attending, it can discourage them from joining the call. At the very least, it can create dissatisfaction or a small level of frustration with the company. Therefore, it is very important to be timely with the calendar invite and also ensure that all the details for joining the meeting are clear.
The email to the AE after securing a meeting with a qualified sales lead will have summarized notes. The CRM however is where an SDR can input all the details they know about the prospect. This can be the personalized research they did on the prospect before reaching out to them. The CRM should also log details about the conversations the SDR had with the prospects.
It’s essential to also keep accurate track of the prospect’s phone number and email address in the CRM. Basically, the CRM profile for the prospect should be detailed enough that even if the SDR does not get to talk directly with the AE about the prospect, the AE should be able to look at the CRM and know everything about the prospect and the SDR’s interactions with them to date.
Maintaining detailed CRM records and having a habit of reviewing these before the AE meets with the prospect is a best practice. It will ensure the AE is fully knowledgeable about the prospect and reduce friction during the handoff.
This may not be realistic for many companies but ideally, the SDR will actually join the first call the prospect has with the AE. This will make the prospect feel like they are not just being dumped to the next seller. Having the SDR the prospects have been interacting with on the call provides a sense of continuity.
To take it a step further, either the AE or the SDR should summarize their understanding of the prospect’s situation at the beginning of the call. Then the prospect should have a chance to change details about the summary or add a bit more to it. Having this sort of a cadence shows the prospect directly that the person taking over for the SDR knows their circumstances and has taken the time to look over their account.
Many SDRs tend to discredit themselves when making a handoff. They will say something like, “I’m just an SDR so I want to bring in an AE to the next call.” This reduces the prospect’s confidence in the SDR and the company. Instead, the SDR should say something like, “Now that I know a bit more about your goals, I would like to bring in an expert that will be able to provide the most value for your time during the next call.”
The latter approach lets the prospect know that the other person will add value without taking away credibility from the SDR.
Buying decisions in a B2B sales cycle are rarely made by just one person. There are usually multiple people involved in a decision. The person the SDR is talking with might be the ultimate decision maker but even they want other people to be involved in the decision. Therefore, before sending out the invite, ask if other people should also be joining the call.
Make sure to put a premise on the question. Just simply asking if other people should join might not go over so well with some prospects. But with a premise, that question is a lot more palatable. For example, SDRs can say something like, “I know that these types of decisions usually involve multiple people, is there anyone else from your company that you would like to invite to our meeting?”
Having more people involved in a meeting ensures the likelihood that it will stick on the calendar.
Once an SDR has gotten a meeting with the prospect, they are often eager to get off the phone. However, a best practice is to stay on the call and ask additional questions. One of the most important things to ask is if the prospect wants more details on something specific. What do they want to learn more about?
Answers to this question can help the AE plan for the call. It will also make for better use of the prospect’s time since the AE will be able to speak to the topic that the prospect is specifically interested in.
A seamless sales handoff benefits the SDR, the AE, and the customer. It is all about being transparent with the prospect and making sure the AE has all the information they need to plan and execute a successful sales call. This function is so important that it should be a critical part of any onboarding process for new hires. To learn more about how SDRs can increase opportunities in the pipeline, take a look at our Fearless Prospecting course. For additional details on how AEs can sell in a consultative manner, you can read the info on our Quota Crushing Sales page.
Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation call with us today!
Abin Dahal is a practitioner dedicated to elevating his craft as well as helping others refine their skills. His impressive track record includes making hundreds of cold calls per week and scheduling over 500 meetings with VP and C-level prospects. He is a prospector, nurturer, and Inside Salesperson who brings integrity and spirit to our profession. At Funnel Clarity, he’s in the unique position of using and demonstrating the methodology in his sales efforts, leading his prospects and clients to say “I want my team to sell like that!”