What is lead management? An expert guide to implementing an effective process

Jo White posted in Sales October 21, 2019

Managing a sales pipeline is a tricky process. Excelling at effectively tracking sales and anticipating an opportunity’s value takes seamless collaboration between departments, smart tactics, and the ability to create meaningful connections.

A well-defined lead management process boosts marketing ROI and improves sales results in several ways. Read on to learn how to develop a more effective lead management process.

Communicate and collaborate

Sales, marketing, and customer service should agree on KPIs, quotas, and criteria for qualified leads. If the marketing team is following a wildly different set of benchmarks, or a vastly different understanding of what counts as a qualified lead, this division from the sales team can make it harder for both departments to meet their goals.

One essential area to plan in conjunction with the marketing team is your definitions for marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads, or sales-accepted leads. Generally, the distinction can break down like this:

  • Marketing-qualified lead: A lead who has responded with interest to marketing materials and engaged with your brand, but who isn’t yet actively engaged in a sales conversation.

  • Sales-accepted lead: A lead the marketing team believes is a promising potential customer, and who the sales team agrees to take on for follow-up and lead management.

  • Sales-qualified lead: A lead who is behaving in a way that indicates an active sales opportunity.

As you can see, the sales-accepted lead stage is the most important area for clear communication between departments about what makes a lead a good candidate to transfer to the sales team.

Differentiate and segment leads

Your sales team needs information to determine the best approach to cultivate each lead. If you’re not already capturing data early from your leads, setting up this system should be at the top of your to-do list.

Gather information about each lead’s industry, size, budget, scope of the project they’re considering, urgency, and any specific requirements that apply. Ideally, collect this data when you gather contact details, so you can generate a profile for the lead as early as possible. Any contact forms, online or in-person, and inbound calls are opportunities to get this information to help the sales team categorize and follow up the lead.

Set manageable limits

More isn’t always better. If you have thousands of “leads” in your funnel, this can be more of a red flag than cause to celebrate.

A bloated funnel indicates there is an issue with the initial qualification process. Don’t waste time chasing contacts that don’t fit your buyer profiles. Instead, keep a sales rep’s funnel to a few hundred more targeted leads. You’ll have an easier time measuring the results of a healthy sales pipeline and identifying the right decision makers to contact.

Use personalized messaging

You’ve gathered key data to profile and segment leads, and you’ve assigned a manageable load for each sales team member’s pipeline. The next step is to utilize personalized, targeted messaging to take advantage of what you already know about the lead.

Effective lead management works through a combination of diligent screening, and a commitment to nurturing a relationship that fosters genuine loyalty. Personalization gives qualified leads a compelling reason to choose you over another company. This can come through a mix of personalized email, tailored content recommendations, and direct contact with the sales team.

Integrate CRM technology

Managing leads manually, or through single-department systems, creates way too much work and destroys effective communication. A well-integrated CRM system lets everyone see a qualified lead’s contact information, profile details, pipeline value, and the last action taken to further the relationship.

  • Tracking history and keeping important documents in one place makes it easy to stay organized or catch a teammate up on actions to date.
  • Managing tasks helps everyone follow the department’s preferred sales process.
  • Sharing information between colleagues ensures everyone is working with the most up-to-date information.
  • Most importantly, a clear sales process and strong management leadership provides the strategy and support you need to get the most out of CRM technology.

Reward great habits

Some salespeople may like to develop their own system, hoping this and excelling as a top performer, will impress management more than falling in line on a standardized approach. But committing to using the same method gives you more power to collect valuable metrics on both the deals you close and the ones you lose.

With the right information in hand, you can improve your overall sales process over time to strengthen your quote-to-close ratios. So how do you get the sales team to comply? A mix of information sharing and incentives may be your best bet. Make benefits, both short-term and long-term, clear to your sales team. Tying lead updates into the sales goals that carry incentive rewards can also encourage better rates of adoption to your preferred system.

Every company faces its own challenges and blockers to a smooth lead management process. Implementing these techniques, and testing their efficacy with regular reviews, will help you eliminate obstacles and strengthen your system.

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