When it comes to growing a business, few things are as important as a well-defined lead management process. Think of it as your roadmap. Without it, you may still get to your destination, but not before wasting countless hours on detours, roadblocks, and setbacks. Your lead management process will be the guide that you refer back to when you’re lost, providing clear direction and a focus on your destination.
If you want to increase your revenue, decrease your cost of sales, and retain more customers, you won’t get very far without a lead management process in place. We’ll walk you through how to set up your lead management process in order to align your sales and marketing teams and get full awareness and control over your marketing pipeline.
By the end of this process, you’ll have a complete understanding of what’s in your pipeline at any given time, what the highest priorities are, what the estimated revenue is, and how to reach your most valuable prospects. This insight is not only important for improving your sales pipeline, but all the related marketing efforts as well.
What Is a Lead Management Process?
You might have heard of lead management processes referred to as “customer acquisition management” or “contact management.” Broadly speaking, your lead management process is a list of clearly defined procedures for generating high-value leads and prospects who will be most beneficial to your business.
From the first touch to the last, it’s the method of handling and monitoring customer experiences. It is a system that discovers potential customers (leads), educates them, engages them, and passes them from marketing to sales once they are eligible.
Your lead management process will generally consist of the following phases:
Lead generation: Create consumer interest and inquiry into products or services through a range of marketing tactics. These include things like blog posts, advertisements, white papers, social media, events, and PR campaigns.
Customer inquiry and capture: If your audience responds to your marketing tactics, they will respond positively and allow an opportunity for their information to be recorded, such as a lead form or a contact. This creates a sales prospect.
Filtering, grading, distribution, and contact: Leads are sorted by the validity of the request, prioritized based on likelihood of becoming a customer, and then dispersed to sales reps to be contacted. Depending on the size of your marketing program, a lot of work can go into defining how to accurately categorize and sort individual leads.
Lead nurturing: Leads are sorted by “contacted” or “uncontacted” and scheduled for follow-up processes. They may be put into drip-marketing campaigns or followed-up with on the phone by a company representative.
Why Is Your Lead Management Process So Important?
Working without a lead management process in place can be done, but it’s horribly inefficient and disorganized. We’ve all seen it before. Disjointed collaboration between sales and marketing departments, lost leads, and wasted time and effort on prospects that either go nowhere or provide too little value to the business.
You may have heard the phrase “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” Well, putting in the effort to create an efficient lead management process will ensure that each lead will not only provide greater value to the organization, but also allow you to close more deals with less work. In other words, the juice will always be worth the squeeze, and you won’t have to squeeze as hard to get more of it.
Effectively managing leads allows businesses to understand which marketing, sales, and communication tactics are delivering the most results and the best leads. This insight allows you to analyze what’s working, what needs improvement, and where your efforts will have the greatest impact.
In addition to marketing benefits, a lead generation process can have a major impact on the bottom line of the business. Marketing and sales teams will be more productive, leading to more qualified leads and a lower cost per acquisition, and company leadership will have better insight into the revenue being generated — even forecast revenue with greater accuracy.
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of a lead management process, let’s go through how to create one that will take your business to the next level.
7 Key Stages in the Lead Management Process
Before you begin, it’s important to understand that every step in the lead management process builds on the one before it, so make sure you do them in order and don’t skip any. The success of your process depends on it.
Stage 1: Define and Identify Qualified Leads
Before you can develop a system for reaching new prospects, you must first determine who they are. Marketing and sales must agree on what constitutes a sales-qualified lead (SQL). With these definitions in place, only high-quality leads are forwarded to sales.
Marketing often uses one definition while sales uses a completely different one. It’s important for both parties to agree on what constitutes a sales-ready lead so that marketing can send only useful leads to sales, which saves time for sales because they don’t have to sift through the chaff to find which leads they should be acting on.
Stage 2: Understand Your Leads
To begin, your marketing team should determine the different types of buyers and their personas. This will assist you in identifying the ideal customer for your product or service and creating the right messaging and communication process to reach them effectively.
Consider key factors such as:
Demographics: Look for things like job title, company size, and location.
Interests and Behavior: Where do they source their information? What are their browsing habits?
Channels: Are they reading blogs, or downloading ebooks and case studies? What channels are they on? What will be the most effective way to reach them and establish communication?
Stage 3: Collect Information About Your Leads
Once you’ve identified your targets, now it’s time to reach them. Creating and tracking content is the key to generating leads and determining how you acquired them. This can involve things like placing your premium content behind lead capture forms, utilizing UTM tracking codes for your social media and email marketing, and using marketing analytics to analyze how users are coming to your site and how they are interacting on your pages.
Stage 4: Scoring Your Leads
In order to assess the lead’s future interest in your product or service, lead scoring is an essential part of the lead management process. For each action a lead takes in the sales funnel, they earn points. Each action has a specific score associated with it, such as one point for reading a blog, but 20 points for submitting a form. Once a lead reaches a certain score threshold, they are considered a hot prospect.
The higher the score, the more likely the lead will convert. Although lead scoring is a popular focus for anyone involved in lead management, it is just one aspect of the process. Demographic data and behavioral activity are two potential variables for assessing a lead’s ranking. This part of your lead management process focuses sales efforts on the most important leads for the company, ensuring that unqualified or low-value leads are not sent to sales.
It’s also critical to use a single lead-scoring model in the business. You can adjust the model if required, but there should only be one lead-scoring model in use at any given time. Keep it simple at first. As you begin passing leads to sales, gather feedback on the consistency of the leads from sales. If too many unqualified leads are coming through, adjust your lead scoring to be more strict. If not enough leads are being passed, consider loosening some of the criteria.
Stage 5: Nurture Your Leads
Identify various segments of leads based on their preferences and potential location in the sales cycle using the details you collected in the previous measures. Most of your early leads will be early in their consideration process. Enter any leads that aren’t quite ready for sales into a lead nurturing campaign.
Identify where in the funnel they engaged, and what stage of the sales cycle they are in. This is why it is crucial to have clear lines of communication between marketing and sales teams so leads are given the right messaging for their particular stage.
One of the most important aspects of this stage is building personal relationships with your leads. Keep your communication personal and relevant to their needs and avoid generic, canned responses. From the initial contact until the lead is ready to be passed on to sales, keep the relationship going by providing targeted content to help them progress down the funnel.
Stage 6: Pass Leads to Sales
Stop. Take a pause.
Before passing anything to the sales team, make sure that the leads are actually ready. Few things will derail the entire process more than passing premature leads to your sales teams, and you can bet they won’t be happy about it if you do. Sales teams are naturally hungry for new leads, but passing unqualified leads before they are ready can become a roadblock for progress and may alienate sales team members from the process. If your lead-scoring process is tuned, then by this point your leads should be qualified enough to enter the sales funnel.
When passing leads to sales, make sure that any information gathered by the marketing team during the early stages is included. The sales team will also need to conduct its own research on the leads to be fully informed of important factors like the business structure and the key decision-makers in the organization.
Stage 7: Tracking and Analysis
This is the most important step when it comes to improving and refining the lead management process. Without detailed insights to performance, attribution, and tracking, it will be difficult to identify what is working best and what needs improvement.
Keep close tabs on all prospects in every stage of the sales cycle. Don’t put in all that effort only to lose valuable leads halfway through. If needed, leads can be put back into the marketing cycle for more nurturing.
Consider the return on investment of your marketing and sales efforts, particularly as you begin to close sales. Not only will this show you where improvements can be made, but you’ll also be able to refine your criteria for identifying new opportunities based on what leads added the most value.
Remember that the lead management process is not a set-and-forget method of generating leads. It requires constant monitoring and iteration to refine it, but the results will speak for themselves.
What You Need To Get Started: How To Implement These Stages To Re-Engage and Grow the Pipeline
It is critical that the leadership in your company is fully behind the lead management process before you begin. Throughout each step, you need true top-down accountability and investment — particularly as your organization evolves and transforms. If executive leadership isn’t pushing required improvement, showing the requisite patience, and keeping all teams accountable throughout, then the organization as a whole suffers and the process is certain to fall flat.
Just as crucial is the buy-in of your sales and marketing teams. Existing processes can be deeply ingrained in company culture, and many may be used to doing things as they’ve always been done. However, just as leadership needs to be the driving force behind any major changes, you will need to ensure that the people implementing the new lead management process are on board and understand the value in making any changes.
While your sales and marketing teams are the most important tools in your arsenal, proper lead management processes require the use of customer relationship management (CRM) software. As a Hubspot partner, we highly recommend using Hubspot’s CRM software. Hubspot is an all-in-one platform that provides valuable tools like marketing automation software, email marketing, social media management, and customer service tools. However, there are several other worthy options on the market, and we’ll provide the pros and cons for each.
- Pros: Extensive array of products and services; highly customizable
- Cons: Expensive; difficult for new users
- Pros: Highly customizable; robust integrations
- Cons: Limited customer support; difficult to use
Nimble – Best for customer prospecting
- Pros: Clean user interface; Microsoft/Google integrations
- Cons: Limited customization options; can be too basic for larger companies
Nutshell – Best for managing sales teams
- Pros: Cross-device functionality; user-friendly
- Cons: Limited integrations; mobile app needs improvement
Close – Best for inside sales teams
- Pros: Inexpensive; simple and easy to use
- Cons: Lacking some features; limited search capabilities
Get Started on Improving Your Lead Management Process
Having a lead management process is one of the best ways to increase leads, generate revenue, and refine your marketing and sales strategies. Not least of all, you will create better cohesion between your marketing and sales teams, which many companies sorely need. Together with leadership, you can begin identifying highly qualified leads and moving them through your sales cycle more efficiently and effectively.
Implementing and refining the process can take a lot of time and effort, but we are here to help. Reach out to our team to learn more about how you can set up your own lead management process. If you’d like to learn more about lead generation, we’ve also put together a detailed guide on identifying qualified leads to help you get started. If you need help developing your lead management process, reach out to our team of experts to schedule a free consultation and get personalized advice.