As a marketer, you invest valuable time, money, and resources to generate leads for your company. The last thing you want is for those leads to go to waste. Yet it can happen, because there are many cracks that leads can fall through if you don’t manage them properly.
Some companies put technology to work on the lead management challenge, investing in sales force, marketing automation, or customer relationship management software. And they still might fumble leads. Other companies, usually smaller ones, might use something as simple as a spreadsheet to manage leads. And they might have high success rates in converting leads to customers.
So what’s the secret? It’s not technology—it’s your lead handling process. Success in lead management depends on defining and following a disciplined process. These nine tips will help you.
1. Create a cross-functional team
Whether your sales and marketing teams are integrated or independent, they must be on the same page for lead management. Leads are a shared responsibility between sales and marketing, and it takes executive sponsorship and team players to properly manage the flow of leads. Your team could be one person from sales and one from marketing, or it could be a roundtable of participants. The important thing to remember is that you all have the same goal: efficiently converting leads into profitable customers. Make team decisions about how leads are handled and assign responsibility: who gets what leads, who follows-up with leads, and who measures outcomes.
2. Define what a lead is—and isn’t
You probably need three definitions: a sales-ready lead, a marketing lead, and an unqualified lead. Get these definitions right so you know what type of leads are coming in the door and what to do with them. Each type of lead is pretty obvious. The sales-ready lead goes directly to sales; the marketing lead stays with the marketing team until it is sales ready. Unqualified leads are not really leads because they won’t become customers for a number of reasons and there is no value to pursuing the lead further. Perhaps the lead is seeking a different product or solution to the ones you offer or has no budget to allocate to your offering.
3. Funnel leads as they come in the door
You likely won’t have enough information to create a full profile of your prospect when the lead is first generated. For example, for a lead that downloads a white paper or connects with you at an online event, you may not know much more than their contact information and interest area. This is likely a marketing lead. But as you continue to interact with the lead, you will find out more information, which will help you make a better decision on what to do with them. Hopefully, your leads will meet more of the criteria for a sales-ready lead. If not, the lead may be classified as “unqualified” or remain a marketing lead for further development.
4. Set up processes to pass hot leads to sales
This situation may have happened to you at some point. A potential customer may not meet all the checkbox criteria of a sales-ready lead, yet expresses an urgent need and is ready to make a decision. However tempting it is to pass the lead to sales right away, this shouldn’t happen outside of your established processes for lead-handling. If set up correctly, your system should be able to address this situation and pass the lead to sales in an appropriate and timely manner.
5. Nurture leads with content
Any lead that isn’t ready for your sales team should stay with the marketing team. Lead nurturing is a popular term in B2B marketing. It refers to all the ways you keep leads interested and your company top-of-mind while prospects continue through their buying process.
The key to good lead nurturing is providing relevant content to your prospects, and then tracking what they pay attention to. E-mail is a great way to nurture leads. You can send articles, links to blog posts, invitations to Webinars or online events, application notes, and other content. The advantage of e-mail is that you can track what prospects click on and you can send them to landing pages where you capture more information about them. Also, you can nurture leads by making phone calls to ask if your prospects have any questions—a low pressure, non-selling tactic that can make prospects feel you are paying attention to them.
6. Personalize when possible
When sending content during lead nurturing campaigns, it’s best to personalize your communications. This is part of being relevant to your prospects. A generic e-newsletter that gets sent to everyone in your database isn’t very exciting to new leads. On the other hand, a personalized e-mail that specifically addresses their area of interest will help make a positive impression. Your leads are people, not just names and contact information. They want to feel wanted. They want to feel you understand their needs.
7. Re-check status of leads
As you interact with leads over time, you will gain more information about them. Their actions will demonstrate their specific interest area, and you may learn more about their needs and decision-making process. You’ll want to continually check whether a lead is sales ready, either by an automated or manual process. When you pass a lead to sales, make sure they have all the information available on a prospect so they are up-to-speed from the start.
8. Have a shared view of leads with the sales team
Both marketing and sales should have access to the same information about leads, and both teams should be able to update the records. Information should be transparent and shared. Each team knows what the other team is doing and can check the status of a lead at any time. Again, this is the case whether you are using sophisticated software or e-mailing a spreadsheet back and forth among team members.
9. Measure results
What percentage of marketing leads became sales-ready leads? How many sales-ready leads became customers? What lead sources performed the best? Did any leads fall through the cracks, and if so, why? What lead-nurturing content was most popular? Measure the performance of your lead management process and you will know where to make changes to improve the process. You may find that your lead definitions need tweaking, or the criteria needs to change, or you need more or more specific content. Continually refining and improving the way you handle leads will result in more of those leads converting into customers—that was your original, shared goal.
What have you found to be successful in managing your leads? What is your biggest challenge in lead management? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.