Do you need to tighten up your hand-off?

I ran the 4 x 400m on my track team in high school, and I was reminded today of how critical the hand-off is. The valuable seconds that can be gained or lost in the passing of the baton can be the difference between winning by a few strides and losing... by any distance. 

This seemingly simple concept is something that carries with it implications from business management to sales and marketing. As you continue reading, I challenge you to think through areas where you could save valuable time and money by tightening up your hand-off.

In my line of work, the most critical hand-off happens between sales and operations. It doesn't matter how hard sales representatives work to bring in new business; if the hand-off to operations isn't seamless for the client, you risk losing potential business. So here's some quick things to consider:

  1. When does it make sense to pass the baton? If after a contract gets signed, the client is immediately shunted over to an account executive or program manager, make sure that you're providing a smooth transition for the client. If I throw the baton to the next runner in the race, and he drops it, we're disqualified. Make sure operations is ready for new business to come on, and if they're not, make sure you're setting proper expectations with your clients regarding the timeline of next steps.
  2. How does the hand-off take place? Is it a face-to-face introduction with the next guy in line? Oftentimes, the clarity around such a hand-off can be lacking. Clients go back to the sales rep to ask certain questions or make requests that should likely be handled by their operational contact. Keep your sales reps focused on selling by developing a strong internal protocol surrounding the hand-off, and train your sales reps on how to delegate back to their ops counterparts so they can stay focused on new business.
  3. Does the baton ever move backwards? In certain industries, it makes sense to bring the sales rep back into the conversation. For example, I was recently tapped to help talk through setting up a new program for an existing client. Since I have the expertise of negotiating contracts and onboarding new programs, I was happy to support. Make sure that everyone is on the same page throughout this entire process in order to ensure an excellent customer experience for your client.

Another implication of this metaphor is executive leadership handing off responsibilities to their employees. Have you been intentional about surrounding yourself with people who can carry various batons of your business for the next leg of the race? And have you communicated clearly enough this hand-off process and expectations moving forward? 

What about outsourcing? Have you considered passing certain batons to a competent partner? I was always the third leg of the race. I knew exactly where I needed to be in line at the point of exchange in order to set up the anchor for a win. That was my job. That was my expertise. The first leg needed to get us into the lead. The second leg needed to hold the lead and gain a few precious strides. There are others who do certain aspects of your business as their core business. Passing these batons effectively could significantly decrease internal cost and drive new revenue, improving your bottom line.

Where else have you seen folks nail the hand-off?