What is lead management?

In today’s buying landscape, consumers form opinions about businesses before they ever interact with a sales team—in many cases, long before. To get ahead of the curve, it’s critical that you reach them and develop a relationship before they encounter your sales team. That’s where lead management comes into play. Lead management is defined as the process by which marketing acquires, evaluates, nurtures, and hands off leads to the sales team. While this sounds simple, it’s very common for companies to have no standards in place to properly manage their leads, causing sales to spend an inordinate amount of time and money finding qualified buyers. Working off of weak leads is, unfortunately, a very common problem. In fact, according to Gleanster Research, only 25% of leads in a given sales pipeline are legitimate prospects.

By implementing a lead management system, you can attract buyers and nurture them with unique, personalized campaigns, allowing sales to step in when the timing is right. This ensures that your marketing and sales teams are operating as efficiently as possible. When a proper lead management system is put in place, companies can significantly improve their sales pipeline by developing strategies that incorporate lead nurturing, lead scoring, and marketing automation.

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Common problems that lead management can solve

Without a lead management system in place, sales can find themselves investing their time in unqualified leads and letting sales-ready leads slip through the cracks.

Problem: I’m not capturing all the leads who are searching for my company.

With the right automation tools in place, you can use simple code on your webpages to help you track both anonymous and known prospects. Once prospects complete forms on your website or landing pages, their previous web visits can be automatically attributed to the new lead. Additionally, with multiple demand generation and lead nurturing activities running concurrently, automatic de-duplication is imperative. Forms that can autocomplete if the visitor is recognized not only help your prospects save time but can also facilitate the collection of additional information for profiling and scoring.

    Problem: My leads aren’t ready to go to sales yet

    In today’s market it’s important to remember that your buyers control their own discovery process. You can help attract top-of-funnel traffic through inbound and outbound programs and convert leads with landing pages and progressive forms. Your top-of-funnel approach should be education, so when leads first enter your database, emails and offers should provide best practices, statistics, research, and so forth, to help the customer frame their research. When done correctly, this helps build a trusting relationship with prospects and creates a better understanding of their individual needs and pain points, ultimately leading to more sales.

      Problem: I don’t know how to tell if my leads are ready to go to sales yet.

      When you develop and qualify potential buyers before they’re passed to sales, you can deliver more leads that close. This way, buyers have already passed through the process of personalized nurturing campaigns and you have a log of their online activity, so you can gauge their point in the buying cycle. You can do this by using email clicks, white paper downloads, and webpage visits to update scores.

        Problem: My sales team is not happy with the quality of leads I’m sending them.

        When leads are ready for sales, context and speed matter. Prioritize best bets and focus sales conversations with quality and urgency ratings. Let sales know what marketing strategies the prospect has responded best to and indicate which products interest them the most based on prior responses and activities. When leads aren’t closed by sales as expected, recycle them back into marketing for further nurturing.

          Learn more about the power of lead management in our guide

          Return on investment (ROI) of a successful lead management program

          When you implement a lead management program, you ensure more follow-ups, responses, and sales.
          Lead management results in more follow-ups.

          Forty-six percent of marketers with well-planned lead management strategies have sales teams who follow up on more than 75% of leads (Strategic IC, 2017).

            Lead management leads to more sales at less cost.

            Businesses who nurture leads make 50% more sales at a cost 33% less than non-nurtured prospects (Strategic IC, 2017).

              Lead management helps companies reach sales quotas.

              Organizations with lead generation and management strategies have a 9.3% higher sales quota completion rate (CSO Insights).

                Components of lead management

                Managing leads is a combination of lead definition alignment, lead scoring and nurturing, and lead management software for the purpose of automation.
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                Lead definition alignment

                Sales and marketing teams often have conflicting views of what constitutes a qualified lead. For instance, a marketer might consider any contact that responds to a marketing campaign to be a lead, but a sales representative might only care about leads that are ready to buy. Sales and marketing must work together to clearly define what they think a lead is. Consider the following criteria when evaluating your leads for sales-readiness:

                • Demographics: Geographic location, company size, and so on
                • Lead source: Pay-per-click (PPC) search ads, social media, and the offer they responded to
                • Behavioral information: Webpage visits, content downloads, event attendance, and so forth

                Lead scoring and nurturing.

                Lead nurturing is the process of delivering targeted, personalized resources and offers to your entire lead funnel to move prospects through the buying process. We have found that companies with excellent lead nurturing programs generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. Lead scoring is the methodology by which sales and marketing determine how likely a prospect is to be ready to buy. Using the data compiled from lead nurturing programs, your marketing and sales teams will be able to organize leads based on who is ready for sales and who needs further nurturing.

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                  Lead management software.

                  According to an Aberdeen study, 71% of surveyed best-in-class companies said they utilized lead management technology. Automated lead management tools help companies monitor prospect behavior and engage in timely, individualized interactions more likely to generate revenue. Automation also enhances the quality of customer data by removing duplicates or merging customer data from disparate sources. This important functionality provides sales with a clean, up-to-date list to work with in order to help you win more business, faster.

                    Planning, implementing, and optimizing your lead management program

                    Implementing a lead management system can seem like a large project, but once you get marketing and sales on the same page, you can start logging behavior data and automating your processes to set yourself up for success.

                    Step 1: Work with sales to determine when a lead is sales-ready

                    In order to properly create a solid lead scoring framework, work with your sales team to build criteria that determine the steps prospects should take before they are ready for a sales call. These criteria must be agreed upon by both sales and marketing in order to be effective.

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                    Step 2: Score leads using behavioral data.

                    Since your prospect controls their own buying process, you need to make sure you are monitoring their online activities to know when they are ready to move to the next stage. Lead scoring determines where your buyer is in the sales funnel and should consider the prospect’s interest level defined by their actions.

                    Step 3: Track anonymous visitors and tie their data to new leads.

                    Simple code on your webpage can help tell you who is interested in your products. As anonymous prospects complete forms on your website or landing pages, any previous website visits can be automatically attributed to the new lead. This helps determine the sales-readiness of new leads, since you know the entire history of the relationship with the prospect, including which campaign helped them find you in the first place.

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                    Step 4: Progressively understand your prospect’s needs.

                    As you build a relationship with your prospects, you should be learning more about their needs. Remember, every campaign that a prospect responds to tells you about their interests. Every link they click, and every piece of information they fill out on a form tells you more about them. To really build out your profiles, don’t ask your prospects to enter information you already know. Use progressive profiling to find out something new to create deeply personalized campaigns. You can also use this information to target what sort of content may appeal to them in an email or lead nurturing campaign.

                    Step 5: Measure, optimize, and recycle your leads.

                    Any effective lead scoring model should take into account all the available data, including demographics and behaviors. Use this data to define lead scoring thresholds that indicate whether a prospect is qualified, but still nurturing, or a true sales-ready lead. Use lead scoring software to automatically assess opportunities and pass prospects on to sales the instant they are deemed sales-ready. In instances where sales has concluded that certain leads are not quite ready to engage, or sales has not followed up, implement lead recycling practices to make sure they aren’t lost in the shuffle.

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