One of marketing’s biggest mandates is to generate sales leads, and often a large percentage of the marketing budget is allocated to this task. But no matter how good a job marketing does on the lead generation side, and no matter how qualified the leads are, the ultimate value of sales leads is determined by your company’s ability to manage them through the marketing and sales process—and convert them into satisfied customers.

Follow these five tips to increase the number of leads you turn into sales and the number of qualified leads you generate.

1. Assign responsibility for lead management

Few things are as disheartening as lost sales and wasted resources due to lack of lead management accountability. Assigning a person or team of people the responsibility for lead management is the best way avoid having leads “fall through the cracks” and not being properly followed up on or tracked. This responsibility can reside within marketing, sales, or an integrated sales and marketing position.

Areas of responsibility might include timely and appropriate lead response, lead segmentation and qualification, lead distribution, follow-up marketing to leads, and lead tracking and final disposition. It’s a lot to be accountable for, but it’s an essential function.

2. Access, evaluate and respond to leads

Check new leads on a daily basis. Many leads today are generated online and available to you in real-time, so you have to be prepared. You don’t want to miss out on the hot lead that is ready to buy and will go elsewhere if you don’t respond quickly. Also, you need to be able to recognize the hot lead versus the long-term prospect versus the garbage. Every company gets all three, and you should have processes in place to deal with each kind of lead.

Many of your prospects are accustomed to Internet time and expect an immediate response. But you should also take care to craft an appropriate response. For example, a request for an RFP should receive a proposal, while someone who inquires about whether you carry a certain type of product might find links to specific product pages or your online catalog useful. For non-specific inquiries, e-mail is often an appropriate response method.

3. Distribute leads

Focus on making a smooth transition when handing off leads to salespeople, resellers or distributors. Provide as much information as you can about the lead: name, company, date of contact, source of lead, area of interest, buying timeframe, budget and anything else you have captured from the prospect. It doesn’t matter what type of system you use to distribute leads—a network contact management system, an e-mailed spreadsheet, even a printout—as long as everyone involved uses the same process, knows who is handling the lead, and has access to lead information at any time.

4. Track leads through the sales cycle

This is where a central contact management system or spreadsheet becomes a valuable tool: you can distribute leads and still maintain the control needed to track the status of them through the sales cycle. Lead tracking helps you understand how you’ve interacted with leads, allows you to catch leads that might fall through the cracks, and lets you calculate ROI on marketing programs. Without lead tracking, you won’t know which marketing programs work the best; you could end up sticking with a program that underperforms or mistakenly abandoning your best marketing programs.

5. Keep up-to-date on your marketing options

Seek marketing programs that not only reach your target audience, but are able to generate and deliver leads with the important information you need for proper lead management: type of lead, contact information, area of interest, and more. Anonymous clicks to your Web site are not leads; neither are landing page forms filled with gibberish. Instead, work with media partners who can deliver the leads, and the information, you need to succeed.

For more in-depth discussion of how to succeed at lead management, along with strategies for specifically dealing with Internet leads and a list of best practices for lead response, download GlobalSpec’s white paper, “Sales Lead Management: Proven Strategies for Engineering, Technical and Industrial Marketers.

2 comments

  1. Outsourcing lead generation is another option. Sometimes sales departments are too small to go chasing after leads from trade shows or what comes in on the web. Hiring a b2b appointment setting company – can make the calls on your behalf, set the appointment with decision makers and give sales people the opportunity to do what they do best – selling. They can also do follow-up to mailers or cold call on your company’s behalf. This helps with accountability. Often leads are generated – marketing assigns leads to sales – and then there isn’t any follow-up. Having appointments made on sales behalf will place accountability into sales hands.

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  2. You cannot underestimate the value of ‘lead scoring’. The last thing a sales person wants is a poorly qualified lead that is not really a strong prospect. This should be a wake-up call to the marketing guys. A highly-qualified lead = a sales opportunity. Sales people don’t want leads – they want opportunites!

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