How to Reduce Middle of Funnel Attrition Through Aligned SDR-AE Handoff Processes

A well-oiled marketing-sales handoff process leads to a bottom-heavy, three-stage marketing funnel which ends with a closed deal – the holy grail of all marketing automation efforts.

The mid-of-the-funnel is a key indicator of customer engagement and a barometer of how well your Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) and Account Executives (AEs) are synchronizing their efforts to bring the fresh prospect through the finish line of the closed deal. 

Several factors may hamper your efforts in the mid-of-funnel stages including a rush to the finish line by a blind focus on your product. By being aware of these pitfalls and leveraging your marketing-sales data machine to overcome them, you can drastically enhance your opportunity win rates from converted leads.

We go over some of these pitfalls in this article and outline marketing-sales handoff metrics and processes you can implement – starting today. 

Gradually Enhancing Customer Engagement 

The most common approach in the middle-of-the-funnel is also the reason many prospects fall off here. While counter-intuitive, transitioning from short form marketing content such as blog articles and 60-second videos to long-form sales content such as best-in-class practice guides and case studies may do more harm than good at this stage.

You started off by engaging with your prospect around the “why” of a potential sale and by the time your converted lead enters the mid-of-funnel, they have been made aware of your offering that may potentially solve their pain point. 

By deep diving into the product layer of your content pyramid at this stage, you are assuming that the prospect is ready to engage with your product portfolio. You are also assuming that you have learned all about your prospect’s pain points that there is to learn. You may effectively be pitching a product to your prospect at this yet early stage that does not align with their pain points. You may also be coming off as untrustworthy to prospects that aren’t quite ready to trust you yet in solving their problems. 

A more subtle approach in which you continue to build a two-way bridge with your prospect by seeking to learn more about their pain points while continuing to educate them on your holistic product offerings may nudge your prospect into seeking out a product solution from your portfolio.

By trusting the short-and-sweet approach that got you here in the first place, you can continue to push informative blog posts that are highly tailored to your prospect’s pain points which you learned about in your top-of-the-funnel interactions. Instead of focusing on your products, tailor your content pyramid here to focus on their pain points throughout the pipeline.

The best way to facilitate your prospect in considering your product to solve their problem is to spell out how your product features solve their pain points without making it about your product.

A highly consultative and personalized approach is what’s needed here and your SDRs and AEa need to drive this process. In our experience, we have seen that 60-minute exploratory sessions that involve both the prospect, SDRs and AEs help establish a baseline for future interactions and to set expectations for a closed deal. 

The process should begin by deep diving into aspects of your prospect’s pain points you learned about in the qualification stages and then inquiring about potential solutions that your clients have implemented in the past.

You can implement an accounts-based marketing strategy here in which you invite prospects from a particular vertical, for example healthcare informatics into a town hall style webinar with a range of stakeholders, for example hospital administrators, clinicians, solutions providers and payer networks that enables them to exchange a broad range of potential solutions for similar pain points.

An example of a visual dashboard of an accounts-based marketing and sales optimization plan in which marketing automation campaigns are highly personalized based on account vertical, type and size

You can round off the webinar by administering a survey that seeks more in-depth information on specific dimensions of their pain points. You can produce a state-of-the-vertical report following your town hall in which you highlight specific aspects of your product portfolio which directly address your participants’ pain points. At the end of this process, you can also have your SDRs pass the baton to your AEs to directly engage with key account stakeholders and bring them to the finish line. 

Create a Finer Grained Sales Qualification Process 

The frequency and volume of closed deals is directly correlated with how well you are able to be there at the right place at the right time compared to your competitors. It’s also dependent on whether you perceive your prospect’s pain points as an evolving data set instead of thinking of it as stuck in time.

By the time your AE makes first contact with your prospect, they may have already resolved their initial pain point. Yet if you enrich your engagement data set, you may be able to uncover new opportunities as of yet unexplored. That’s why a simple sales qualification trigger such as handing off a converted lead from the SDR to AE upon downloading a case study is often insufficient to keep up with your prospect’s needs. 

What’s needed here is for your SDRs and AEs to coordinate on developing a highly personalized set of sales qualification triggers based on purchase history. An accounts-based process which defines behavioral triggers based on web navigation behaviors across multiple stakeholders, competitor engagement as well as engagement with your content pyramid may all be baked into your marketing-sales handoff process.

For example, you can determine a sales qualification baseline by considering 3 repeat visits on your product overview page, SEMrush statistics from competitor web pages, and a downloaded case study as a sales qualification trigger. 

A finer-grained sales qualification process should also have a rollback mechanism through which AEs can pinpoint the sales readiness of a prospect and revert them back to marketing based on its consultation with the prospect. A high degree of alignment and continuity across marketing and sales outreach and sales buy-in into marketing collateral is also critical to ensure the success of this process. 

For example, SDRs and AEs can gauge through a prospect’s interest in a particular EHR platform and competitor page visits that while the prospect is interested in a particular class of solutions, its primary concern is the strength of the product’s cybersecurity and privacy. Instead of pitching the EHR platform as a class of solutions, SDRs and AEs can coordinate to implement a webinar that directly focuses on privacy concerns and invites other healthcare informatics stakeholders to discuss potential solutions. At the end of this process, you can have your SDRs pass the baton to your AEs to directly engage with key account stakeholders and bring them to the finish line. – An example of a visual dashboard of a marketing automation campaign demonstrating highly successful engagement and behavioral metrics due to a fine grained sales qualification plan supported by a timely check-in email sequence

Track the Evolution of Your Middle-of-Funnel Prospects and Time Your Engagement

Taking a more nuanced view of your mid-of-funnel in which sales readiness varies across prospects, tracking your prospects’ evolution across the funnel then individualizing outreach across sales and marketing is also highly critical for deal close rate. Prospects that just entered the funnel do not have the same level of sales readiness as prospects who have attended a webinar and completed a survey. 

What’s needed here is for SDRs and AEs to continually engage to track the health of the funnel and to share data on prospects’ purchase intent and context. For example, a small rural hospital with much smaller patient and clinician groups implementing an EHR solution does not have the same level of implementation complexity as a large regional hospital.

SDRs can anticipate a longer incubation period for the smaller hospital who may be more focused on cost effectiveness and deliver more educational content that focus on how a potential solution can resolve pain points they have identified. SDRs can engage in joint outreach efforts with AEs for the large regional hospital that focus on specific complexities such as decentralized design, cybersecurity risks and data integrity while focusing on maximizing cost and operational efficiency for the smaller hospital. 

Critical to this effort is for your SDRs to gather progressively more granular data on the prospects’ purchase intent and context through your marketing automation tools, processes and triggers. This will enable your SDRs to time the sales handoff based on more precise engagement thresholds.

For example, for the larger hospital group, SDRs can implement an accounts-based mid-of-funnel process in which they tailor informative outcomes-focused blog articles for clinicians and more technical solution briefs for the CIO and executive stakeholders. SDRs can then consider engagement from both clinicians and executive stakeholders as a sales qualification criteria. 

Simultaneously, AEs that buy in to marketing collateral can enhance the deal close rate by stepping in to the process earlier and setting expectations for a future implementation. For example, by collaborating with SDRs earlier on in the process, AEs can establish baseline criteria for implementation success for an EHR solution by sharing case studies of past

successful implementations. Such a collaborative approach has the potential to both build trust in your solution as well as speed up deal close time. 

In conclusion, a seamless and dynamic handoff between your SDRs and AEs is critical to reducing your mid-of-funnel attrition and enhancing your deal close rate. We covered three important strategies to facilitate you in this endeavor. By embedding these strategies within your marketing automation process along with clearly delineated expectations across sales and marketing and KPIs that track the health of your funnel, you will be well on your way to establishing trust with your prospects and becoming their trusted advisor which ultimately determines your deal close rate. 

Source: An example of a visual funnel of a marketing automation campaign demonstrating highly efficient MQL to SQL cycle time and low mid-of-funnel attrition rate as a result of employing the strategies discussed in this review article

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