Leads are the fuel of any business. Without a steady stream of high-quality leads entering the sales funnel, an organization can’t run.
But eventually, leads will run dry—and the company will come to a standstill.
Unfortunately, keeping a business properly fueled isn’t quite the same as filling up your car’s gas tank. You can’t just pump leads into your organization whenever you run low. Leads need to be properly found, nurtured, and qualified in order to convert into paying customers.
Lead management is a multi-step process that crosses departments and teams. Your system needs to ensure marketing and sales can work together efficiently, each doing their part to move leads through the pipeline.
Setting the right foundation for your lead management is important. To help get you started, here are a few lead management best practices to keep in mind.
1. Map out your marketing and sales process.
Your marketing and sales departments should each have a role in the lead management process. To make sure it runs as smoothly as possible, you need to get both teams on the same page.
Start by identifying the different phases a lead needs to go through to convert into a customer and which departments are responsible for each phase. Establish a clear handing-off point for when a lead qualified enough to switch from Marketing to Sales, such as when they meet a certain lead score or you’ve collected specific details about their business needs.
Outline what the hand-off process looks like and how lead data is transferred. By the time a lead makes its way to the sales department, you should already know their BANT––budget, authority, need, and timing.
The BANT sales qualification strategy can help you determine when a lead is ready to buy:
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You should also establish the success metrics you’re going to measure for each department at this stage. Lay out what’s expected of each team and what the most important KPIs are to monitor.
Pro-tip: Map out this process while following a lead throughout your pipeline stages. This will ensure you’re not missing any important steps. Create a physical outline of how your lead moves through the sales process that you can then share with team members.
2. Define your ideal lead.
Every lead is not a potential customer. Each person who comes to your website, engages with your social media, or even signs up for your newsletter is not going to convert––and that’s okay.
However, you need to be proactive about identifying those who might buy and those who won’t. This begins with creating an ideal customer persona for your perfect lead.
Your ideal customer persona sheds some light on exactly the kind of people you’re trying to attract. While you may find high-quality leads that don’t fit the characteristics of your ideal customer persona, it can still act as a guide to help Sales and Marketing know who to look out for.
This Customer Avatar Worksheet from Digital Marketer makes it easy to create an ideal customer persona:
Start by outlining some of the basic characteristics of your ideal lead, including their job title, the industry they work in, the problems they may be facing, and what their career goals are. Break this down further to include even more details, such as preferred communication methods and where they spend their time online.
Pro-tip: Your ideal customer persona should be dynamic. Make regular additions, changes, or updates to your persona based on how your audience is changing. Frequent small changes will keep your personas up-to-date.
3. Implement a lead scoring system.
It’s often a difficult balance to identify right when a lead is qualified. Act too early and you might be wasting your time. Wait too long and your lead might choose to buy from someone who connected faster. This is where lead scoring comes in.
A lead scoring process assigns different values to each lead based on the actions they’ve taken, the information they’ve submitted, or other steps they’ve taken towards becoming qualified.
Those values are then tallied and the lead is assigned an overall score that tells your marketing and sales departments where the lead is in the nurturing process.
To use a lead scoring system, you need to first create a scale showcasing which behaviors or information is most important for conversion. Bigger actions (signing up for a free trial) should receive a higher number of points while smaller behaviors (engaging on social) should receive a lower number of points.
Finally, identify a points threshold that deems a lead “qualified.” This likely will take some trial-and-error. Pay close attention to the actions converting leads are taking, how long they engage, and what content they engage with right before they purchase.
Pro-tip: Include deductions in your lead scoring system based on behaviors that might move them further away from making a purchase. This might include unsubscribing to an email list or not engaging for an extended period of time.
4. Track lead-generating efforts through analytics.
Lead management is easier when you have a pipeline of people who actually fit your target audience and ideal customer persona. While you can’t guarantee each lead you collect will be part of that group, you can increase your chances by improving your lead generation tactics.
To find more high-quality leads, you first need to know how your best customers are finding you. You also want to identify the return on investment for each of your lead generation sources so you know which are worth pursuing in the future.
Track how much you’re spending to generate leads by platform or campaign and how many of those leads are converting into paying customers. Look at metrics beyond just which platforms are getting the most signups or engagements.
A lead conversions summary lets you quickly see how many leads are moving to the next stage of the sales process.
If you find that a specific platform (like ads on a particular social network or certain in-person events) isn’t bringing in great quality leads, cut it out. On the other hand, if you find that you’re getting all your best leads through one channel, you may want to improve your spend to invest further in that area.
Pro-tip: Dig even deeper to break up those metrics based on industry, geographic location, and product. You may find that leads in different areas or different professions don’t share the same interests or preferences.
5. Use a customer relationship management tool.
Properly nurturing leads is all about giving the right communication at the right time. When you’re trying to keep communication going with dozens of leads at once, it’s easy for someone to slip by or for you to accidentally send the wrong information to the wrong person.
A CRM can act as a log to guarantee you’re keeping communication running smoothly. With a CRM, you have a central location to store all your most important information, sales notes, and details about each lead. It also keeps your entire team informed of a lead’s status.
For example, here's how you'd manage leads in Copper:
Using a CRM can also help save you time. Certain CRM tools are able to scrape the internet for you, pulling details about your leads. It can then automatically update your records so you don’t need to worry about manually entering new data.
Recognize that your CRM is a comprehensive productivity tool your entire team can use––not just a place to store notes. Keeping a clean, updated record of all your leads can make your handoff between Sales and Marketing much smoother. When the time comes to transfer, a lead’s data will automatically move along with it.
Pro-tip: Use your CRM to automate some of your lead management processes. You can save email templates, schedule meetings, and even assign tasks right within your CRM. Automating some of your processes can you stay connected throughout the nurturing process.
Managing your pipeline every step of the way will help you convert more leads.
The ultimate end goal when attracting a lead is to get them to convert, but that’s far from a one-step transaction.
Properly nurturing a lead involves time, communication, and most importantly, an organization system and plan that makes sure everything runs smoothly. Let’s recap the five best practices to follow when creating a lead management system:
- Outline your pipeline from start to finish.
- Identify who your ideal lead is.
- Create a lead-scoring system to gauge qualification.
- Use analytics to track lead-generation efforts.
- Implement a CRM to host lead information.
Don’t try to force a management system that doesn’t work for your team or your leads. Feel free to move things around, get rid of what isn’t working, and add best practices of your own to create a process that helps you close more deals.
If you want to learn more about closing, check out this post.