“You have control,” “I have control,” “You have control,”: Sales and Marketing Handoffs

Published on
August 2, 2017

by: Karthik Sundaram

“You have control,” “I have control,” “You have control,”: Sales and Marketing Handoffs

Yep, another flying term, another lesson, and another story. When a Pilot-in-Command and a Co-Pilot are flying, numerous situational events crop up, where one pilot has to hand over controls to the co-pilot. The typical process is for the pilot to say, “You have controls.” The co-pilot affirms, “I have controls.” And the pilot re-affirms, “You have controls,” clearly ensuring that there is no mis-communication between both of them. If we look at marketing and sales as two pilots who are taking the mothership into new territories, it is easy to draw this comparison. Yet, both units of the company typically fly in isolation and the hand-offs are never easy or smooth. Today, especially in the B2B space, Marketing is clearly on the line for creating valuable demand that will convert into opportunity through nurturing. This could be thought of as flight planning and in-flight navigation: plan the route (campaign), assess the weather (market), constantly evaluate go/no-go instances (nurturing), and instruments re-affirmation (metrics). Sales, on the other hand, is squarely responsible for pre-flight (accounts identification), radio communications (targets and goals), take-off (opportunity), cruise (account expansion), and landing (meeting all revenue targets). Both pilots have equal responsibility in the safety of the flight (company). If they don’t practice the three-way hand-off, no amount of meetings and agendas will resolve the friction. In a recent client we won in the industrial IoT space, it was clear that the marketing head was aligned to the sales head’s approach to leads, targets, and opportunities. Here is how they did it:

  • Identify named accounts, and the diverse business units within each account
  • Agree on the product / service offering that is best fit for each sub-account, and the target personas who would be influencers, buyers, and decision-makers
  • Both agree at what point marketing would hand over an opportunity to sales, and how sales will either hand it back or take it into a revenue opportunity, allowing marketing to further delve into the account
  • Agree on when to disband an account or put it back on the top of the funnel
Not surprisingly, the CMO and CSO treat each other with mutual respect, and constantly practice the three-way hand-off approach. In fact, in numerous cases, the sales head does not drive an opportunity directly, but allows marketing to nurture the lead to a stage of conversion that highly revenue-positive for the company. How do your Sales and Marketing business units practice the three-way hand-off approach to demand and lead opportunities? I’d be delighted to showcase your responses here.

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