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Lead Management Far From An Easy Task

By Brian Carroll

Companies that adopt effective lead management processes generate more revenue from their lead generation investment and have overall higher close rates on marketing generated leads than those that do not.

But I've encountered very few companies that really do lead management.

What is lead management? Lead management is a multistage process that manages the conversion of sales leads to customers. Some people say it's the process of going from "first contact to close."

In Christopher Hosford's BtoB Magazine article, he highlights some of the reasons why "Lead management far from easy task."

The article mainly highlight's "lead scoring and automation," but that's only part of the solution. Lead scoring and automation support a process of lead qualification, but I would argue that there are more fundamental aspects of lead management that often get overlooked.

Take a moment and think about your lead management efforts... do you see it as process?

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Imagine that your lead management process is a manufacturing operation and your leads are your product. Now image that 80% of your product coming off the manufacturing line were defective. In the manufacturing world, where concepts like six sigma are accepted, that kind of defect rate would a blinding sign of a problem (or multiple ones) in the process. Yet, for some reason, in sales and marketing that kind of defect rate is often accepted as normal or acceptable.

There are numerous business process improvement methodologies that have seeped into companies large and small, but for some reason they are not yet as prevalent in the field of sales and marketing.

This may be because much of selling and buying occurs outside a controlled environment making tracking difficult, however a process can be implemented to track milestones and touch points. Lead management provides a framework for controlling and driving that process.

Here are the 6 major stages of an effective lead management:

1. Lead Generation (generating inquiries)

2. Lead Qualification (are they a fit? Are they sales ready?)

3. Lead Nurturing (cultivating early stage leads)

4. Lead Distribution (hand off from marketing to sales)

5. Lead Pursuit (sales process and pipeline)

6. Lead Tracking and reporting (closed the loop between sales and marketing)

Do you have your process for each of these steps documented and understood by key stakeholders? If not, start now. You won't regret it.

To give you a hand, I've updated a figure from Lead Generation for the Complex Sale on lead management. (Click above Image to enlarge or Download PDF)

I believe there are two funnels - a marketing funnel and a sales funnel. The marketing pipeline is managing the customer interactions from first contact through to a viable sales opportunity (aka sales ready lead). The success of your marketing funnel directly impacts that of the sales funnel. The bigger and better your marketing funnel, the bigger and better your sales funnel.

Within the marketing funnel, I find that most marketers need to put more attention on the processes of lead qualification and nurturing.

Here are the top three issues:

1. Inquiries are improperly handed off to sales without being qualified.

2. A lead nurturing program has not been implemented.

3. Sales has not been given the means to hand unsuccessful leads back to marketing for further work or nurturing on their behalf.

Like other business process improvement initiatives, lead management must start with the proper mindset. Lead management is a process that can be documented, measured and refined.

It's certainly is not easy, so start with the mindset that lead management is a process and make that process as simple a possible. Don't forget that software does NOT create collaboration. Make sure everyone on in the process has "bought in" and understands their role. Only then will you have the foundation that will support a more complex lead management practices.

Related information:

Here's an in-depth article on lead qualification I wrote for Target Marketing: What's a Lead?

My recent webinar on multi-touch lead nurturing


About the Author:
Brian Carroll is the CEO of InTouch Inc. InTouch is a 50-person company focused on delivering effective lead generation solutions for "the complex sale." Brian authors the very interesting B2B Lead Generation Blog which focuses on B2B lead generation, sales leads, and marketing for the complex sale.

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