How to Perfect the SDR to AE Handoff

sales team motivation

There’s a moment in every sales transaction, which — I promise you — nobody will ever stop talking about. If it goes well, it’ll strengthen teams like nothing else. If it goes badly… well, fingers will be pointed.

We’re talking about the phase when a prospect changes hands from the SDR to the Account Executive. And since it’s such a sensitive subject, there will always be a discussion around how we can improve it.

The ideal handoff is going to depend on what type of organization you’re part of and your company’s current qualification process.

But first…

Why is the SDR to Account Executive handoff so important?

Successful selling relies on a few factors.

  • Knowledge
  • Timing
  • Relationships

And of course…

  • Tenacity

Each of these factors is jeopardized during the handoff process. 

When a conversation starts between a prospect and an SDR, so does rapport. Too little rapport equals no further conversations. Too much rapport equals potentially lost trust when passing to an AE. Additionally, If the SDR goes too far in their conversation, the AE will unknowingly begin their conversation in a way that forces the prospect to repeat themselves, creating a poor customer experience.

You want a handoff that loses absolutely zero steam. One where information, tone, and timing all continue seamlessly between the sales professionals and everybody wins at the end of the deal.

What type of sales cycle do you have?

The perfect handoff will look different depending on what type of product you’re selling and how long your sales cycle lasts. First, let’s define a couple of key terms.

Consultative Selling. It takes time. The deals tend to be larger. There are multiple stakeholders on your end and multiple decision-makers on theirs. Deal cycles tend to be shorter.

Transactional Selling. It’s fast. There’s an immediate need. There is likely one (maybe two) decision-makers on their end. Deals tend to be smaller and cycles, shorter.

Consultative Selling: A Discovery-Heavy Handoff Process

This sales method usually applies to more expensive, enterprise products that require a lot of touchpoints and decision-makers. 

Important to note: A TON of information will be communicated during the discovery phase of the sale. The responsibility falls on the SDR to cultivate a relationship of deep understanding with the decision-makers. Pains, authorities, and key needs/impacts should be very clear.

Other key stakeholders — AEs, sales managers, and perhaps even customer onboarding — should be kept in-the-loop regarding important findings. A great way to start big deals off on the right foot is to have a deal desk process. Basically, it’s a place where SDRs, AEs, and other relevant positions can meet and discuss what needs to be done to efficiently close special deals.

In the absence of this system, SDRs and AEs should still meet to discuss the implications of what the SDR has uncovered in the discovery process, and how they can be used to help the deal forward.

This meeting isn’t a free-for-all. Key information should be compiled in a standardized and shared document. Preferably, the information is readily available in your team’s CRM or lead tracking software. This way it’s visible to anybody who will interact with the account during the sales, onboarding, and customer success phases.

Still, in-person syncs are valuable for exchanging both concrete and intangible observations. They help Account Executives continue the deal with the right tone and approach, as well as the correct information.

Transactional Selling: Essential Details and a Quick Handoff

This type of sale is fast-paced and in-the-moment. Usually, there aren’t many decision-makers that need to be looped-in, and a successful SDR-prospect interaction goes something like:

SDR: Here’s the product I’m selling.

Prospect: Holy cow, that sounds fabulous. I’d like to see a demo immediately.

SDR: Ha ha. That’s what they always say.

Or something like that… you get the idea.

Transactional and consultative selling could apply to the same product, but the stakes tend to be lower for transactional sales. Perhaps the account size is smaller, or maybe the need is more urgent.

The sensitive matter here is that the whole sales process is accelerated: This prospect may or may not speak with multiple representatives from your company, but it will all be done in a short amount of time.

The secret to getting this deal through the funnel: Don’t jump into deep discovery right away. 

Even with a smaller deal, it will be hard to not want to jump into deep discovery questions. But remember, when the deal is fast, discovery is an AE’s job. If it’s discovery time and the prospect has time to hang on the phone, Hot Handoff (transfer the call live) to an AE, ASAP. 

Obviously, in sales, you want to “strike while the iron’s hot,” but this doesn’t always mean immediately booking time on an AE’s calendar either. An excited prospect is great, but a qualified prospect is better.

For a transactional sales cycle, discovery should be 80% the AE’s responsibility, leaving the initial 20% to the SDR. We call this qualification. You don’t need to concern yourself with specifics, just make sure there isn’t a large mismatch between expectations and reality. Identify who the authority figures are at the company and if there is a potential need that your solution can help fulfill

In a transactional sale, the SDR needs to distill:

  • Purchasing timeline
  • General use case
  • Who are the key decision-makers?
  • Budget (check with your manager if you’re unsure if this is your business).

The handoff needs to be quick, but meaningful. Maintain a sense of urgency. The more your leads have to repeat themselves, the slower the deal will progress. Plus, any inefficiencies will create a negative customer experience from the very beginning of your relationship.

As such, the Account Executive will continue discovery during and after the demo. This shouldn’t take too much of their time since the prospect is in a fast-moving mindset.

Process and Communication Win Deals

The honest summary: Handoffs fail because of a lack of communication.

It can start during the discovery phase between SDR and prospect. It can continue with a misunderstanding between the SDR and Account Executive.

It can continue by not having a defined account transfer process and creating confusing customer interactions.

Prevent these errors by establishing a written process based on the type of deal you’re pursuing. The SDR needs to make sure they collect information that’ll help the AE give a great demo and get the win. Create checklists, meet in person, and stay on the same page.

Dot the I’s, cross the T’s, and win deals. Sign here, press hard, 3rd copy is yours.

The phone system for modern business