In this post, I’m going to focus on how to do lead management that increases sales conversion.
First, the average conversion rate of marketing qualified leads to actual revenue conversion is low. You may be wondering: how low?
According to Forrester, top performers convert 1.54% of marketing qualified leads to revenue. And average performers turn less than 0.75% of leads into closed deals.
Also, marketers see generating high-quality leads as their number one business challenge according to The 2017 State of Digital Marketing Report published by DemandWave.
What’s the bottom line? Increasing lead quality or quantity won’t help unless you can manage your leads well throughout their journey.
Finally, LeanData’s 2017 study on lead routing and management found 57% of respondents questioned if their lead management workflow creates a positive customer experience. In other words, respondents weren’t sure if people were happy with how they were being treated.
Clearly, there’s room for improvement.
In this interview between Carlos Hildalgo and Carla Johnson on Finding Inspiration to Design Customer Experience Johnson states, “To create better experiences, we have to understand better the experiences we’re trying to create and then think differently about how we design them.”
Have you thought about the experience you want to create for your potential customer so as to optimize your lead management approach?
To increase lead quality and quantity to convert more customers, ultimately, you need to optimize your lead management.
Where lead management often falls short
I find the top issues B2B companies have with lead management include:
- Sending marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to salespeople without using criteria agreed upon by sales
- Sending leads to sales based on behavioral lead scoring alone and not customer profile fit
- Focusing on contact leads rather than unifying leads under correct accounts in their CRM
- Lead nurturing relies on one channel like email, using automated workflows or has not been implemented for specific personas
- Sales have not been given the ability to hand leads back to marketing to re-engage for further work or nurturing on their behalf
- Lead management hasn’t been viewed through the lens of customer experience
- Lack of sales and marketing collaboration on the approach and process
These are just some of the reasons why it’s more important than ever to make sure your team is properly managing leads, and why you need to optimize your approach.
Lead management overview
Lead management is a multi-step process that handles the conversion of sales leads to customers. It’s the process of managing and tracking customer touchpoints throughout buying journey, from the first contact to close.
The above illustration shows components of lead management. The five major stages of a lead management process include the following:
- Lead capture – Get inquiries/leads into a centralized database for scoring, qualifying and nurturing
- Lead qualification and scoring to determine readiness (Are they a fit? Are they sales-ready?)
- Lead nurturing – Progresses your early stage leads from interest toward purchase intent
- Lead routing – Handing off only “sales-ready leads” that meet the universal lead definition, a.k.a. ULD, to sales)
- Lead attribution and reporting – Closing 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.
Marketing automation doesn’t equal lead management
Before I go further, I want to clarify that you need more than technology to optimize lead management.
Many marketers hope that buying marketing automation will drive better lead management processes.
Marketing automation can’t generate collaboration between sales and marketing. And it also cannot create processes, take the place of people, nor will it generate sales-ready leads on its own.
There are fundamental aspects of lead management that often get overlooked.
Lead Management Fundamentals
Lead management includes the following pieces:
- Dedicated sales development reps- inside sales team who is connecting and qualifying leads
- People focused on getting the highest conversion rates on leads and the most efficient cost per opportunity
- Centralized lead qualification process before sending leads to the sales team
- Process to filter raw inquiries and disqualify those that don’t fit your ideal customer profile (ICP)
- Process to map contact leads below the correct accounts in CRM
- Clear and universal lead definitions created with the sales team determining what exactly is a qualified lead
- Clear service level agreements (SLAs) between sales and marketing on what sales will do once they get a sales-ready lead. Then, require a time-limit on a turnaround on leads after the hand-off, and track them throughout the process
- Provide accurate qualification information for each lead and have a clear lead routing process
- Lead nurturing content marketing to help progress early stage leads from interest toward purchase intent
- Marketing automation tools to enable lead scoring to focus the human touch not replace it
- CRM tools to manage inquiries and track sales lead interactions from the first contact to close
- Effective data management to cleanse bad data and append missing data on leads
- Clear metrics to measure the process of inquiries: MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, closed vs. won business, etc.
- Established training for sales reps on how to engage and convert qualified leads in the CRM
Five steps to optimize Lead Management
Next, I’m going to share five steps to you can use to optimize your lead management and convert more leads to revenue.
Step 1. Create a service level agreement (SLA) and universal lead definition (ULD) and then test it
Marketers typically have their own ways of determining lead quality, but it’s shocking how many don’t know the other side of the story: what do salespeople consider a qualified lead?
To create a service level agreement sales and marketing need to collaborate on the following:
- Create a universal lead definition to define when leads are sales-ready (do this before you implement lead scoring)
- Write your criteria for lead routing (territories, vertical focus, product interest, etc.)
- Define your sales time-to-follow-up expectations (2 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours?)
- Get sales management support to help keep sales team accountable
- Document and test your process on how leads go through your process from the first touch to close
As a marketer, your job isn’t simply to generate leads. You need to help identify which of those leads are the best prospects for the sales team to follow up on right away.
3 Good Questions to Align B2B Marketing, Sales, and Strategy
How to create a Universal Lead Definition
Step 2. Qualify leads based on a Universal Lead Definition (ULD)
Next, you need to filter and qualify leads based on your universal lead definition. Make sure you define your lead qualification and follow-up process. This is where having SDRs and insides sales reps handle this process to help you determine when a lead must be moved further down the funnel.
Also, marketing automation platforms and lead scoring help a lot. But there is only so much that automated systems can accomplish without a human touch. That’s why you need people like sales development reps (SDRs) or inside sales in place to identify qualified leads for sales readiness.
More lead qualification resources:
Lead Qualification: Stop generating leads and start generating revenue
The Biggest Contributor to B2B Revenue
Lead Qualification That Converts Leads into Sales Opportunities
Step 3. Nurture your early stage leads until they are “sales-ready”
Lead nurturing is the process of having a relevant, consistent dialog with viable potential customers, regardless of their timing to buy.” With lead nurturing, you are strengthening the relationship you have with potential customers, by adding value, even if they never buy from you.
Many people think lead is nurturing as just an email workflow in their marketing automation. Instead, you need to think about it in much broader terms by reaching people in whatever channels they want to be contacted with information that is valuable, relevant and helpful to them.
When you nurture leads, it is important to offer content which is relative to their needs at any given time. Remember to nurture accounts, not just people. By providing an individual with meaningful information, you are helping that person have meaningful dialogue with others in that organization.
You need to think about what’s useful to your potential customers. That’s why relevant content is essential, and you can’t get stuck in a “set it and forget it” campaign mentality.
For more on lead nurturing read:
Lead Nurturing: 5 Useful Tactics to Get More Opportunities
Lead Nurturing: 4 Steps to walking the buying path with your customers
7 Tips to Boost Lead Nurturing Email Results Immediately
Step 4. Optimize your lead routing process from Marketing to Sales
The handoff between marketing and sales is crucial and yet remains a common misstep in the course of moving leads through the funnel. To make the routing as smooth as possible, you need to have a documented process agreed upon by both sales and marketing.
The following process should be clearly defined and followed to ensure lead routing is on target:
1. Be sure the qualified leads are sales-ready before you route them to sales
- Leads must precisely fit the ULD
- People must express a desire to speak with a sales rep before routing them on
- Leads must be qualified, with supporting information provided in CRM
2. Make sure you have a clear and defined lead routing process
- Ensure that lead ownership is clear and agreed upon at each step i.e. “Don’t drop the “
3. Monitor lead follow-up by sales and turnaround based on your service level agreement time table
- Measure sales pursuit on leads (if not followed up will leads get pulled or reassigned?)
- Sales management must also audit and track rep follow-up
Check out How to Improve Lead Routing to Skyrocket Sales Results
Ultimately, a clear lead routing process not only increases efficiency but also shows if your leads are helping your sales team convert, as well as measures the contribution you make to the pipeline.
Step 5. Close the loop to track and refine your approach
Effective sales and marketing organizations are ones that communicate well. Regular meetings should be held to gauge progress and success. In these “huddles,” both teams can collaborate to review results, fix procedural errors and refine priorities moving forward.
These meetings will provide your team with honest, actionable feedback from sales, helping you determine:
- If lead information is accurate and helpful
- How well leads fit your ideal customer profile
- If your leads are sales-ready (i.e., ready for sales rep involvement)
In addition, you will also track metrics like:
- Leads at each portion of the sales pipeline
- Salesperson responsiveness (time-to-open/edit and initial follow-up)
- Territory performance (benchmark and compare performance)
- Forecasted revenue and time-to-close
- Lead to opportunity ratio (number of qualified leads converting to opportunities)
- Lead to revenue ratio (won deals/cost-per-closed sale)
You want to answer two questions: Are your qualified leads helping your sales team sell more? And, how can you increase the probability that your qualified leads will become customers?
The 7 Principles of Lead Management
- Get Permission. People don’t like being interrupted in their daily lives. Don’t spam users just to generate leads. Ensure that you establish permission to send those emails and messages.
- Use a Multi-Channel Approach. Combine both inbound and outbound tactics to engage with your audience. Send them an email, direct mail, or even an SMS. Use social media platforms to your advantage by regularly posting valuable content. Mix it up by contacting them by phone or by setting up a face-to-face meeting.
- Optimize your landing page. When interacting with your prospects, lead them to a targeted landing page instead of your homepage. Eliminate fluff and distractions on your landing pages so your prospects can immediately see the value in what you’re offering.
- Provide value. Provide material that educates, inspires, or entertains at every touchpoint to keep engagement levels up and stay top-of-mind. This also helps you build trust and position your brand as an authoritative industry source.
- Follow up immediately. Users are less patient nowadays, and they seek immediate responses to their inquiries. Prospects who don’t get a swift response will often simply move on to another vendor. InsideSales reports that 50% of buyers go with the vendor that responds first so make sure that vendor is you.
- Regularly check their engagement. With data-driven marketing and lead management tactics, you can regularly check your prospect’s activities on your website. Analyze their buyer intent and determine whether they are ready to buy. This will help you channel your efforts to prospects who are ready to buy. Convert them immediately with an irresistible pitch.
- Give them a way out. You don’t want to keep sending messages to someone who doesn’t want them. Include an opt-out or unsubscribe button in your emails, so you can determine which prospects are interested in a purchase and which ones have gone another route. However, it’s important to let them know that you will be there should they decide to change their minds.
In sum, when you optimize your lead management processes, you will generate more revenue from your lead generation investment, and you’ll get a better win rate on marketing-generated leads. And you now know five areas you can focus on to optimize and improve your lead management to increase conversion.
It’s your turn. What is working for you to optimize your lead management approach?
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