If sales are the lifeblood on which any business runs, then lead management is the vessel that romps sales into the business, keeping it running, and replenished.
A report compiled by B2B Content Marketing showed that 78% of surveyed B2B marketers ranked lead nurturing (a specific aspect of lead) as the third most important goal in B2B content marketing, after only lead generation at 85% and sales at 84%.
At its core, lead management is tricky terrain to trample on. The economic landscape of the market is constantly changing. So, businesses and their employees must be quick on their feet to keep up with the times if they are to retain precious leads, convert them into sales and ultimately, win their long-time loyalty.
Huffing and puffing about who to make your marketing qualified lead or sales qualified lead without a clear-cut lead strategy is putting the cart before the horse. There are a series of events that must transpire before the marketing department declares a lead fit for marketing (MQL) in the initial stages.
A lead management strategy (whether “funnel” or “waterfall”) helps you ditch that throw-it-over-the-wall approach to lead acquisition that leaves you with poor quality leads. It’s a well-structured, actionable blueprint on how to successfully acquire leads, assign your leads to your sales teams, qualify them and nurture them.
If you’ve got that gut feeling that you could amp up your lead acquisition and conversion rates with just a few tweaks in your lead process, then this post should be your cup of tea!
In this article, we dig deep into what this is, and outline its modern five-step process, plus a few how-to’s that businesses can adopt for better results.
So, what is Lead Management?
Before customers end up meeting your sales team, they are likely to have already formed an opinion about whether or not your product would be a good fit for them. A good way to make sure they meet your sales team primed up for a purchase with a good impression, lead management is key.
To this end, this is the process of acquiring, scoring, and nurturing of these leads before they are passed on to your sales team to convert.
What are the five major stages of lead management?
Lead management does not only help businesses to achieve higher conversion rates, but it also furnishes them with data gleaned from multiple customer interactions, which can then be used to optimise both their product(s) and their marketing strategies.
Below, we outline the five-step process:
1. Lead Capturing
After the tedious process of lead generation via the various forms of marketing and promotional campaigns, business managers must move on to collecting and securing these leads.
It doesn’t matter whether you pulled off back-to-back marketing masterstrokes within the year. All would be for nothing if you do not have an effective lead capturing process in place to form your starting point to converting potential clients.
Ideally, with an excellent CRM tool, you can fully leverage the lead capturing process to streamline all these leads into a single pipeline, making your lead management an absolute breeze, and more efficient!
2. Lead Tracking
Of course, not all leads captured hold any promise or will translate into sales. Similarly, it’s a bummer for teams to expend energy and resources on unlikely prospects/leads.
This is where lead tracking comes in to separate the contenders from the pretenders, helping businesses to identify the most promising leads, allowing them to focus their energies efficiently.
When tracking leads, businesses hover on the activities of leads to gauge their levels of interest. Primarily, these activities include what pages they visited on your website, the links they clicked, and the levels of engagement with your marketing emails.
Lead tracking also includes exploring the information available on their social profiles to determine the likelihood that they would make a purchase. CRM software can be used to efficiently refine all these data automatically, simplifying the process.
With this information, salespeople can then customise follow up efforts to each lead, which in turn helps to increase sales conversion rates.
3. Lead qualification
No sophisticated marketing efforts are enough to get non-sales-ready leads to make purchases. Salespeople make use of qualification frameworks, which are usually a blueprint to accurately gauge the likelihood that a lead will convert.
To qualify your leads, you need to have an ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) to benchmark your leads against. Your ICP is a customer or company that benefits the most from your product or services. You want to define your ICP using personal data like demographics, firmographics, geolocation, company size, revenue, market cap, etc.
Next up is lead scoring. Start by assigning value to different actions taken by these leads and scoring them based on the action taken in the lead acquisition stage. For instance, opening a marketing mail may weigh more considerably in points scored over routine website visits. This helps your marketing team know whether the lead is qualified and when the right time for outreach.
Ranking leads based on these scores helps businesses channel their efforts towards those that are most likely to make purchases.
4. Lead distribution
Imagine putting in the work to generate leads, capture and track them up to this point, only to botch your shot at converting them because of an incompatibility between the lead and the assigned salesperson.
The lead distribution step involves assigning leads to the best hands to increase your chances of making a sale. For example, it would be ill-advised to assign a lead based in New York to a salesperson in Ohio, when you have personnel in the Big Apple (New York).
Lead distribution can be done manually, but it can be an imperfect process, as you can imagine. A solid CRM system will automatically examine all available data, putting all the round pegs in the round holes, allowing your team to focus more on actually interacting with the leads.
5. Lead nurturing
At varying points in the lead management process, several leads will turn out to be non-sales-ready. That is to say, for some reason, they are just not in the best position to purchase your product or service.
The next line of action is not to discard those leads but to nudge them to the lead nurturing stage. Here, you can set up so-called nurture campaigns to understand your targets’ reasons for not being sales-ready, using that insight to create campaigns that explain how your product or service can help them solve their problems.
If you’re looking to build more long-term business relationships that can be converted into revenue streams further down the line, then you shouldn’t sidestep this crucial part.
Best practices for better lead management
Lead management has been around for nearly as long as marketing and sales itself, and by now, it’s standard business practice. Still, it’s not uncommon to find many businesses that just can’t seem to find their marketing mojo due to a poor lead system.
In this section, we outline few tips that you can apply to make the best of your lead acquisition:
More often than not, when a business reports difficulty in cracking success in lead management, it’s usually down to a bit of laziness in certain aspects tearing at the seams of team efforts, or a company-wide unwillingness to go the extra mile.
In the fierce competition for sales, this is your not-so-secret weapon. You must be actively involved in the process, starting with tracking everything and anything that can be tracked. From customer activity reports to email metrics, lead source, and even the position of leads in the sales pipeline.
To illustrate, with data, you can identify which leads are sales-ready and which ones are not, allowing you to channel your energies and resources to the more profitable leads. Gathering this data will put you in a position to respond to each lead more accurately and fine-tune your strategy when managing future leads.
- Streamline your processes
Sometimes, failure in lead management might not even be down to laziness. It may well be that they just haven’t been able to develop a winning strategy. We’ve seen too many businesses flail about trying to make sense of their larger-than-life lead processes.
Aligning all the steps into one single pipeline is a no-brainer. With CRM software, you can align these steps, automate everything from lead collection to lead distribution, and streamline communication between all team members. It’s faster and is more effective to define a process that’s devoid of chaos.
You also want to have all your ducks in a row, and by this, we mean all teams involved, beyond your marketing & sales teams. Again, CRM tools (side-eyeing Efficy) to the rescue!
Lead management is not an all-marketing affair. Secure the buy-in of your entire demand-generation chain, so everyone is on the same page with you. That’ll help boost your chances of success.
- Go multichannel
Customers today move fluidly across physical and online channels. Flocking from websites, to social media, to email, mostly using multiple gadgets. It thus follows that a digitally-empowered lead who lurks online while also interacting with brands offline needs a lead nurturing strategy that captures the best of both worlds.
However, way too many businesses get stuck up on the same old methods. Sadly, old keys won’t open new locks. Instead of occasionally warm calling leads for lead nurturing, why don’t you explore a diverse mix of multiple channels to take advantage of your buyer’s curiosity?
It could be through social media, it could also be in-person (social mixers, corporate events, and in your physical stores), it could also be on your website, or by e-mail marketing. Exploring a wide range of channels definitely simplifies the sales process for you, widens your reach, and in turn, increases your sales conversion rates.
- Define and measure KPIs
You can have the fanciest data collection and lead nurturing systems, but it can only take you so far if you don’t define targets or KPIs for your salespeople.
So, define your KPIs – usually, sales qualified lead conversion rates, sales conversion rates or the length of the sales cycles. However, it is not set in stone. You can create whatever KPIs that you think are the most relevant to your business. So long as the goal stays the same—to give your salespeople an endpoint in sight.
Over to you! Your sales team’s ability to take the leads and run with it all the way to the finish line of conversion all rests on how effective your qualification is.
A well-defined lead management system ensures that all leads flowing from marketing efforts are captured into the system and guided through to the point where they become loyal, happy customers.
And you very well know, the good thing about happy customers is—they’re not just customers. They’re brand ambassadors that are a constant source of revenue, referrals, word-of-mouth evangelism, and you’re also able to upsell or cross-sell them.
But to unlock access to all of these perks, deploying some of the finest CRM solutions will prove to be your best bet. Efficy’s CRM tool gives you the full option with a 360° customer view that ensures that all relevant personnel in your firm have all the necessary information about clients, at all times.
To avoid losing track, we also built an opportunity tracking tool that automatically keeps track of all vital client activity, among many other features. It is a no-brainer for teams looking to give their lead management strategy the best fighting chance in a fiercely contested, lead-hungry digital space.
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Before you go:
Learn more about:
The 3 best customer loyalty strategies
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Set your sales goals using 4 steps to help your SME grow quickly
5 examples of sales emails to generate interesting leads
9 simple and effective strategies to sell more