The need to improve sales lead management is ongoing in virtually every business, but especially those with a focus on inbound marketing. Since most B2B companies rank lead acquisition as their primary driver, it makes sense to develop processes that bridge the gap between marketing and sales.
That’s necessary for nurturing leads into sales.
In fact, according to CMI’s Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report for 2016, three of the top five most important goals for B2B organizations are:
- Lead generation (85%)
- Sales (84%)
- Lead Nurturing (78%)
Marketers are putting a lot more emphasis on lead generation. They’re also shoring up service-related areas of the business to improve customer retention and improve customer LTV. That boost in inbound marketing has the potential to increase lead generation beyond any other marketing channel.
But “more leads” don’t always equate to success. The way you handle pre-sales is important as well. Before we jump into lead management, here is a quick introduction to pre-sales.
Without making the effort to improve sales lead management, you’re just generating more leads that may never convert. Only about 20 to 25% of the leads you acquire are legitimate and ready to advance into the sales funnel.As many as 79% of the leads generated will never convert into sales.Click To Tweet
That’s not because they were never going to buy from your company. It’s because of a lack of lead nurturing.
If you want more leads to convert, you need to improve sales lead management in your company.
Improve Sales Lead Management By Identifying Points of Failure
Before you can improve your lead management process, you need to know how well it’s working (and where it’s not).The Mx Group
There are numerous points where you can improve sales lead management, but one of the major hurdles that should be examined is the lead nurturing process.
Any company can generate leads, but few companies have a nurturing process in place to guide that lead to a conversion point. According to MarketingSherpa, some 65% of B2B orgs never established lead nurturing.
That’s leaving millions of dollars on the table in lost customers. Especially when you consider that nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities when compared to leads that are never nurtured.
When done properly, lead nurturing can generate more leads and convert more prospects into the customers you need to grow.
Leads don’t become customers instantly. Even for an e-commerce retailer, there’s some time between discovery and when the customer finally makes a purchase decision. In that window, trust is established as the customer begins to understand the solution they need.
For B2B, the process is typically much longer. Those leads have to be warmed up, and you need to systematically build a relationship before the prospect is ready to convert.You need to systematically build a relationship before the prospect is ready to convert.Click To Tweet
If the sale were instantaneous, you wouldn’t need to improve sales lead management – there wouldn’t be a sales process at all. Recognize that a major part of any lead management process is going to be nurturing.
Follow these steps to round out and improve your sales lead management, and start seeing a massive lift in lead to close ratio.
Step 1. Research is Critical
Identifying and understanding your leads is a crucial part of improving any lead management process. Before you can take any other action you need to determine who your potential buyers are, as well as your ideal customer. This will shape your lead management strategy.
If you don’t leverage all of your teams, you’re going to short yourself. This is the point where you bring together your sales and marketing teams to collaborate and share information.
Marketing can provide a great deal of insight into buyer types and audience segments, crafting personas to paint a picture of the ideal customer. This is usually a combination of:
- Demographics: age, gender, location, career and more. This also includes their problems, needs, and wants.
- Behaviors: Data includes the type of content they digest, where they spend their time, how they shop, what kind of information they’re looking for
- Sources: Defines how your leads find you, or how you’re generating and acquiring new customers. Is it campaigns you run? Referral programs? Social activity?
Most importantly, for B2B customers, understand the mindset of your ideal customer and their role within the company. Are you dealing with the owners of companies or someone else at the executive level? Are your campaigns targeting middle-management department heads? That information will shape the lead management process, content, and sales approach used to close deals.
Step 2. Map Your Funnel and Create a Content Plan
Research gives you terrific insight into the buyer’s journey and will help you shape the sales funnel and the path you want leads to take before reaching the conversion point.
With an established funnel, you can begin mapping content to the buyer’s journey. This is the framework for your lead nurturing process, and the type of content you create will vary based on the position of the lead within the funnel.
For example; content at the top of your funnel is designed for lead acquisition and will be lighter on conversion focus. Instead, this content is designed to be very high value, and answer questions to build your authority with the lead. It brings them into the funnel. Typically, this is some kind of blog post, podcast or even a video.
Later in the funnel, when a lead is more tuned into your solution, the type of content shifts to something like case studies and research/white papers to support your solution.
Your sales team needs this content to help support their lead nurturing, so task marketing with working parallel to sales to generate the right kind of content.
I wrote a great piece on this for Kissmetrics detailing how Sales can leverage content marketing to close more sales.
Step 3. Create a Lead Nurture Strategy
I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. Every business should have a lead nurture strategy. There’s no single recipe for success, and how you nurture leads will vary based on a number of factors, but here are some tips for creating a solid lead nurturing campaign that will improve sales lead management and your ROI.
- Define your audience segments and their needs – know what matters to them
- Set up KPIs; what the goal or sticking point for that audience segment. Know what success looks like so you know how to drive them toward that point
- Establish a timeline for conversion
- Produce content specific to the segments
- Create email campaigns by audience segment
- Focus on offering value over everything else. Don’t push the sale
- If using direct nurturing and relationship building through social, define what that looks like; the channels, who does it, how often, etc.
Most importantly, constantly evaluate the success of your lead nurture strategy. Most of it will take place via email, so it’s easy to monitor open and click-through rates. When monitoring, be sure to pay close attention to conversions and use attribution modeling so you know which campaigns and lead nurture elements contributed to the conversion. Leverage what works, drop what’s creating friction or not contributing.
Step 4. Improve Sales Lead Management with Lead Scoring
It’s not uncommon for marketers to shuffle leads along to the sales team as they come in. Some 60% of marketers simply send everything over to the sales team, when in reality only about 27% of initial leads are qualified.60% of marketers send all leads to sales but only 27% of leads are qualified.Click To Tweet
That can put a tremendous strain on the sales team, and it’s why lead scoring is an essential part of improving sales lead management.
Potential factors for determining the lead’s score can include everything from demographics to behavior, and a good scoring system can improve the quality of the leads your sales team gets. Reduce the number of poor quality leads, and the sales team can spend more time working with those most likely to convert.
The criteria used to score a lead, both positive and negative, will vary greatly from one business to another. You’ll need to establish that criteria based on your business model and what an ideal customer looks like.
- Identify the qualification criteria you’ll use to score your lead
- Determine point values, including those criteria that remove points
- Establish what makes a sales-ready lead
As you integrate this lead scoring, make sure to continue working closely with sales and marketing. You aren’t likely to nail the perfect scoring system initially. Analyze the results and don’t be afraid to modify score criteria as you test. It’s not a one and done activity.
There are platforms you can use when you improve your sales lead management process, like HubSpot, Infusionsoft, and countless others. You can also manually score your leads if you have the time and resources to do so.
Step 5. Passing on the Leads
This is a step where it’s easy to lose a lot of potential sales. Even with a CRM in place, it’s possible for leads to get lost in the shuffle, or passed prematurely. Having automated or approval processes in place can ensure that no leads are missed, and they only move on when specific criteria are met.
When leads are passed on to sales, make it a strategic process.
- Ensure scores are accurate, and the lead doesn’t need further nurturing.
- Lead data should be up to date and accurately tracked, listing all activity and the background data gathered during the nurturing process to help sales close the deal
- Sales should have a strategy for fact-checking and reviewing intelligent information before making contact. This includes: business structure, current products/services, decision makers, audience segment information and other intel that can help with developing the personal relationship
- Create guidelines for follow-up to stay on the lead’s radar throughout the nurturing, sales and conversion process
Above all else, remember that the conversion point is not a point where you stop engaging with your customers. After the sale, that individual is still a lead with a potential for additional conversions. They’re also a potential source of new lead referrals.
Continue the engagement, and create a strategy for nurturing and relationship building beyond then final sale.
What kind of approach do you take to lead management in your company? Share your tactics with me in the comments below!