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How to Manage Leads Intelligently

Finding someone interested in your product/service is difficult. Imagine a world where every person you talked to was an ideal candidate for your product or service. Wouldn’t it be nice if interested consumers came to you — and to win them over all you had to do was be the first person to provide the answers they needed.

While that sort of sales fantasy island may always remain a dream, the truth is that your organization is expending significant energy, time, and money to generate the leads that are the life blood of your organization. Maybe you’re Using Content for Lead Generation or Driving Profitable Leads Through Paid Search to drive demand. Ultimately, how you manage leads can be the difference between success and failure.

The process

For simplicity, let’s focus on the post prospecting part of the sales funnel. Lead / demand generation has done its work. You’ve created interest and stimulated an inquiry into your products or services through the application of upper-funnel marketing tactics (landing pages supported by paid search, content marketing efforts like blogs and white papers, social media, webinars, or events).

  • Lead management is the overall process of tracking and managing an organization’s engagement with prospective customers.
  • Customer inquiry and data capture is the first step to becoming a lead. People who receive your marketing messages engage with interest and their data is recorded. This creates a sales lead.
  • Lead distribution is the phase to filter, grade, distribute, and the first contact. The maturity of the sales enablement functions within your organization and the amount of quality information about the lead determine the complexity of the rules applied to leads. I’ll cover this in more detail below.
  • Lead nurturing is the engagement phase after first contact but before a lead becomes a customer. Again, based on the maturity of the sales enablement functions, leads are prioritized based on their engagement and scheduled for follow-up processes that could range from the sales rep planning a follow up call, to inclusion in automated drip-marketing campaigns.

Maturity of Lead Management

The phases of evolution in lead management

Like most processes, the complexity is in the details. To determine what type of lead routing solution is the best fit for your organization, you’ll need to do some organizational soul-searching. What is your organization’s go-to-market strategy? If you differentiate yourself by offering a highly personalized service that emphasizes person-to-person contact and relatively low lead volume per sales person, then a very simple lead routing process may meet your needs. However, if your organization has a high-volume lead generation operation, and each lead is of relatively low value, then a more complex automated lead routing and orchestration solution may be required.

1. Stage 1 & 2: Limited Lead Management

All leads are delivered to sales reps for follow up. The sales team is expected to lead all prospect communication and support qualifying, evaluation, and purchasing phases of the buying cycle. A CRM could be in place to track ongoing lead and customer engagements but is not required.

2. Stage 3: Integrated Leads Management

Lead routing is a semi-autonomous process that has the ability to pull in data about the lead and score  its readiness for contact by a sales rep. The concept of a Marketing Ready Lead is useful to define a lead that has shown a minimal level of interest but not engaged is marketing content enough to justify the expense of a sales rep’s engagement. There’s an idealized sales process that calculates a lead’s score based upon accumulating points against a preset scale.

3. Stage 4 & 5: Intelligent Leads Management

Lead orchestration is lead management in real time. Instead of organizations prescribing an idealized series of communications, systems are in place to monitor and react in real-time to a prospects behavior. Routing a lead to a sales rep, is one option among many as an organization attempts to respond with the Next Best Action for a lead. The solution will enable a marketer to personalize and orchestrate people-based audiences across media and channels and facilitates the identification of the best technology and media platforms to deliver the message.

One of the risks of a maturity model is the underlying risk that the “most mature” model is always the best option. In reality, the best option is the solution that best fits your organization’s needs. Before changing lead management processes, assess your go-to-market strategies and tactics and determine the level of complexity your organization can successfully support. Finally, lead management is the juncture between marketing and sales functions. That means you’ll need to over communicate the benefits of improving the lead management function so that the hand-off is effective.

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