Your lead management process is an essential part of your marketing strategy. Think about it: Marketing generates qualified leads, passes them seamlessly and efficiently to sales, and sales/marketing processes them through to close. Your process is a combination of people, process, and technology: a shared capability for marketing and sales.
As a part of this process, you should know at any given moment what’s in your marketing pipeline, what will convert to sales, and the estimated resulting revenue. You should also know exactly which lead sources provide the most valuable leads (the ones with the highest value and probability to close).
How can you do this? A strong lead management process.
Having a good lead management process allows you to:
- Increase revenue
- Decrease cost of sales; close/win more opportunities
- Retain more customers
- Invest ONLY in activities that generate real value for the business
- Have COMPLETE alignment between sales and marketing
- Know lead conversion metrics by level from end to end
- Follow up with an interested prospect quickly
- Enhance the customers’ experience when they are engaging with your organization
There are seven key stages in the lead management process. Each stage builds upon the other, so if one stage is poorly managed, the other stages will suffer.
We’ll break down each stage for you here so you can understand the big picture of the lead management process. Then, in the following blog posts in this series, we’ll dive deeper into each stage to understand the details.
Stage 1: Reach agreement on the definition of a qualified lead or sales-ready lead
At the very beginning, marketing and sales must come to an agreement on what makes a sales-qualified lead (SQL). Having these definitions ensures that only high quality leads are passed on to sales.
A SQL is someone who demonstrates a pre-determined “fit” and buying readiness based on measurable demographic and behavioral attributes that sales and marketing agree on.
- Demographic attributes include things like contact name, phone number, and email address.
- Behavioral attributes include a demonstrated interest or need, web page visits, high value form fills, inbound engagement, and so on.
Stage 2: Seek agreement on labels and definitions of customer acquisition/retention statuses
In your CRM, you’ll rely on statuses to determine success. Having an agreed-upon set of defitinitions enables seamless lead funnel management, captures lead lifecycle in a common language that everyone understands, and allows you to be predictive about revenue based on pipeline.
Stage 3: Optimize prospect process flow using automation
Using automation to optimize your prospect process creates a defined flow for what happens to a lead upon acquisition. This ensures that no lead is left behind and the prospect/customer has a positive experience.
Marketing automation helps you acquire inbound leads via top-of-the-funnel marketing such as website personalization, SEO, landing pages and forms. It then helps you engage your customers:
- New, hot leads are presented with relevant cross channel content via email, mobile, web, and social channels
- Warm leads are encouraged to re-engage with your company and ideally turn into a hot lead
- Cold or Unengaged leads can be sent content they may find interesting, which could bring them towards the warm stage
At this point, you’re ready to sell!
Leads are scored and dynamically passed to sales. Reps are now empowered with synced data, dashboards, and activity. This entire process is optimized because marketing identifies campaigns with positive return and becomes known as an effective cost center because it’s properly using available analytics.
Stage 4: Confirm/document lead routing
Confirming and documenting lead routing ensures that leads are auto-magically sent to the appropriate person when a lead meets qualification criteria.
Lead processing begins with the source of the lead. When considering lead processing, you must consider what your best lead sources are. Lead sources include social (for example, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook), webcasts, tradeshows, sales sourced, and so on.
Lead processing is the flow by which a lead enters your system and becomes known to your marketing automation process, following through MAP and CRM until it is closed/won. This process needs to be documented, and it should include all the technology systems that contribute data to the contact/account. Ideally, all of these technologies are integrated so that the processing happens faster.
Lead processing matters because it clearly defines what will happen when a qualified lead arrives in your MAP. It helps marketing understand which lead sources are better than others in terms of sourcing leads. It also ensures a fluid process when leads are passed over to sales and back to marketing.
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Stage 5: Optimize prospect/customer scoring for automation
Lead scoring, while often the focus of everyone interested in lead management, is only part of the process. It can also auto-qualify leads based on a combination of digital behavior and demographic information.
So, what is lead scoring? It’s a methodology used to rank prospects against a scale that represents the perceived value each lead represents to the organization. The resulting score is used to determine which leads a sales or inside sales associate will engage, in order of priority. You determine what counts – for instance, downloading a whitepaper or watching a certain webinar would increase a person’s lead score.
This focuses sales attention on leads the organization deems most valuable, ensuring that unqualified leads or leads with low value are not sent to sales … which means they’ll know any lead you send them is worth their time!
Stage 6: Establish and document a comprehensive Service-Level Agreement
A Service-Level Agreement (SLA) is a document which captures the roles and responsibilities of sales and marketing throughout the lead management process. It’s put into place to achieve better understanding and alignment between the teams.
Both sales and marketing must commit to follow the SLA in order to make the lead management process work. The SLA will need to be put into place, monitored, and revised based on results.
Ultimately, the SLA is intended to assign joint accountability to sales and marketing for leads generated and to prevent lead funnel decay.
Stage 7: Establish the Foundation for Customer Management Analytics – from Acquisition to Advocacy
If we broaden the definition of lead management to define a Customer Journey Map process (for example, TPG ONE), then lead management becomes defined as a process methodology whereby a company attracts, acquires, and nurtures prospects until qualified to be passed to sales, and where sales is held accountable for processing those prospects through to close.
Marketing then interacts with customers during their many stages of product adoption and value recognition, encourages their loyalty and advocacy, and ultimately nurtures them back into a new buying cycle and re-qualifies them for sales engagement. The components of the process remain the same, but additional stages beyond the first deal close are included.
In short, we make a shift to viewing the funnel from the buyer’s perspective with a few key considerations.
- The TPG ONE – Customer Journey Map is a more accurate reflection of the entire product/service related engagement between a customer or prospect and their vendor/supplier/provider.
- The model aligns all functions of the organization around optimizing the customer experience.
- This model more closely aligns marketing with sales and support and their relationships with customers.
- The model also incorporates customer status fields to reflect when a prospect has become a customer. This puts more structure around program planning and campaign planning for specific solutions and cross-sell/upsell opportunities.
Knowing your lead management maturity level can give you the knowledge you need to improve and adjust your market strategy.