Hot Handoffs, the process of passing a warm lead from an SDR to an AE on the phone, is one of the most talked about but underutilized part of the sales process.

The benefits can be huge — One of our customers Square realized 25% faster deal cycles just by adopting this one practice, and it makes sense why:

  • Appointment held rates are 100% by default
  • If the buyer has urgency, they will often choose speed over fit when narrowing the list of options to evaluate (“we can always come back to your product if the others don’t work out”)

)Hot handoffs allow you to capitalize on that rare moment where the stars align and the teams that learn how to pick this low hanging fruit can thrive.

So why don’t more Sales Development teams do hot handoffs?

The challenge is that hot handoffs are really hard to orchestrate. Some of the challenges we hear often are:

  • SDR favoritism: SDRs don’t fairly distribute handoffs, favoring AEs they like or that they feel will maximize their personal outcome. This erodes sales culture and can lead to attrition even in the best organizations.
  • Time to Connect: SDRs don’t have a convenient way of figuring out which AE to hand off to and spend minutes chasing down different people.
  • Technical Challenges: most sales calling products (aka dialers) have rigid hot handoff flows where unless everything goes exactly right, the rep has to disconnect and ask the prospect to have someone else call them back, making for a poor seller and customer experience.

The workarounds for this are often hard to believe: SDRs picking up their laptop/cell, running across the sales floor and physically handing their phone to another person and taking a 30 min break while the AE does the meeting.

Not great… but the good news is you can fix it with the right methodology and tools to achieve great results. Here are the steps that category defining sales team we work with use to master the art of hot handoffs.


1. Choose a Handoff strategy:

Just like all other types of lead routing, you need to define a ‘fairness policy’ and stick to it.

  • Even distribution: have the system try to give all AEs the same number of handoffs in a given time. The challenge with this is that the less handoffs an AE accepts, the higher their priority in the handoff process, so if you have someone who just never picks up the phone, they slow down your handoffs and give the customer a bad experience.
  • Straight round robin: have the system go down the list of reps in order. Those who make themselves available to take hot handoffs will get more appointments. The challenge here is that reps who are scheduled with lots of demo through outbound sourcing are effectively penalized for their success.

Neither system is perfect but over multiple cycles (weeks, months, quarters) things tend to even out one way or another.


2. Set the Handoff Script

We want to make sure that while the handoff is happening, the customer doesn’t drop off. As much as the handoff is in the best interest of the client, we still need to sell them on it.

“This sounds like a perfect use case for us and where I see our clients having the most success. Would you be okay if I invited an expert on the product we’re talking about to join us now (might be quicker than coordinating another meeting). It’ll just take me 1–2 minutes.”


3. Start the Handoff With One Click

To enforce your handoff strategy, it’s critical that you remove all decision making from the SDR. This is where having a phone system with an Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) capability is useful.

An ACD handles call routing across a pool of users, taking into account whether they’re available (do not disturb settings, scheduled availability, if they’re on another call) and your call distribution logic to find the right person to take a call at the right time.

Sometimes, even the ACD gets it wrong (the system sees the person as available but they’re at lunch), and the SDR may need to move onto the next person.


4. Introduce > Brief > Handoff

Some reps waste valuable time briefing the AE regarding an opportunity… that’s precious minutes of keeping the customer on the line, and you’ll need to restate the customer problem for all to hear again anyway, so it’s best to pull the AE directly into the call.

Introduce the AE to the customer.

“Hey Mr. prospect, I have our product expert Julie on the line here. I briefed her briefly on your use case, and the problems you’ve been having”

Summarize the previous conversation so everyone’s on the same page and confirm with the prospect the assumptions/summary is correct

“Julie, Mr. Prospect and I just discussed why he called in and apparently he’s been having issues with his Point of Sale software lately… specifically it keeps jamming and he’s spending hours on the phone with tech support and getting nowhere. His friends said great things about us so I shared a little bit around how we differentiate ourselves in both our pricing and our software. Mr. Prospect, is that right?


5. Continue to Listen

Some phone software won’t let you stay on the call after conferencing an AE in. Some won’t let you easily rejoin if you get disconnected. All of these are important to avoid, as there’s always vital qualifying information that the SDR has which can ensure that the conversation doesn’t start drifting in the wrong direction. For example:

“Hey Julie, sorry to interrupt, I just want to make sure you’re aware that Mr. Prospect is on version 2.0 of his POS, so that doesn’t apply here”


6. Measure

Just like everything else , what gets measured gets managed. You need to make sure handoffs are logged correctly in salesforce, that they contribute to call and talk time tracking and that they can easily be isolated from ordinary dials and demos.

You also need to get reporting into the ACD to know if calls are connecting to the right reps as efficiently as possible. A good system will tell you how reps are behaving (are they picking up the phone when a handoff comes in? How long does it take them to pick up? How long do they keep the customer on the phone post handoff? Etc etc.)


7. Train to Win

Hot handoffs are intense. The adrenaline shot you feel as a rep when you get a hot lead can cause a lot of confusion and lead them to circumvent the process (including picking up their laptop and running across the sales floor :) Hot handoffs need to be something both AEs and SDRs are trained on to ensure it’s choreographed and executed the right way.

In addition to using Call Monitoring to listen in on each others’ conversations, this is often also a great way to drive SDR/AE alignment and collaboration.

Want to get your Hot Handoff strategy moving? Speak to one of our product consultants and learn why category defining sales teams like Square, Zocdoc, Podium and Flexport work with Truly to execute phone-driven workflows.