Generating leads and converting them to sales often feels like an uphill battle. The key is to break it down into steps. Then, define, measure and optimize each step. It’s called lead management — putting a structure in place that enables you to generate and convert leads as efficiently as possible. If you are building a lead management strategy from scratch, we’re here to help with this beginner’s guide.
1. Outline the Steps
Defining the steps you will take to acquire leads, educate them, and build interest is the starting point for lead management.
2. Set Up Lead Scoring and Grading Criteria
You have limited time and resources, so you need to prioritize the leads on which to focus your marketing and sales efforts. With lead scoring and grading, you assign value to your leads based on various attributes, allowing you to rank your leads. It sounds simple, but you need to think carefully about your evaluation criteria.
Start by creating customer profiles that describe your ideal buyers including their titles and firmographics, such as company size and industry. You can assign grades to each of these criteria. Also, evaluate how people engage with your content and offers. Interactions including opening emails, click-throughs, content downloads, blog and web page views, demos, trials and free consultations help leads rack up points. Naturally, not all actions are created equal. You’ll have to determine how many points to assign to each one. A demo, for example, is likely worth more than a glance at one of your blog posts.
3. Define a Marketing Qualified Lead
There are two different types of qualified leads: marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads. When you establish the criteria for a marketing qualified lead, determine the requirements for the investment of time and energy from marketing. Describe the demographic and firmographic criteria that are a necessary foundation for leads that you may one day be able to pass onto your sales team. You may need to nurture marketing qualified leads until they are sales-ready. Or your inside sales team may need to make phone calls to ask some questions to determine if they are sales qualified.
4. Define a Sales Qualified Lead
Perhaps your salespeople complain that marketing leads are not qualified and fail to follow up on them. If the leads you pass to sales are not sales qualified, two problems result. First, salespeople squander valuable time trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. Second, and perhaps more likely, sales representatives won’t trust your leads, so they will throw out qualified leads with the unqualified ones. Fixing this disconnect in lead definitions can translate into a substantial increase in lead conversion rates. So, sit down with your sales team and come up with a shared definition of a qualified lead. It may include whether a lead has the budget and authority to buy, a need for your product or solution, and the urgency to make buying a decision soon. Also, you will want to assign a minimum lead score before passing it on to sales.
5. Align the Sales and Buying Cycles
The sales and buying cycles are not the same things, but they should be aligned. Here’s one way to align them:
|Buying Cycle||Sales Cycle|
|The buyer decides to investigate a problem or improve something and conducts online research.||Your content is available on the web to help them out.|
|The buyer becomes aware of your company and solution and downloads some premium content, such as a white paper.||Leads enter your sales funnel.|
|The buyer starts to consider various options.||You provide useful content via email, nurturing the lead.|
|The buyer shows readiness to buy.||You provide a demo or proposal.|
|The buyer evaluates whether your product is right for them.||Salespeople follow up to address questions and concerns.|
|The buyer allocates the funding.||You negotiate.|
|The buyer makes a purchase.||You close the sale!|
Planning the content and conversations that you need to have to move a buyer through the buying cycle ensures that leads will not leak out of your pipeline.
6. Determine Data to Include with Qualified Leads
What information do your salespeople need to work a lead successfully? You likely want to include contact information, such as title, company name, industry, phone numbers, and links to social profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter. Other useful information includes the prospect’s budget, authority to make a purchasing decision, other individuals who might influence the decision, how your solution fits the company’s needs, and when they plan to make a decision. Including this information will save the salespeople time and enable them to convert more sales.
7. Outline the Lead Nurturing Process
If your company is like most, approximately half of your leads will not be ready to buy when you first receive them. They will, however, buy someday from you or your competition. To heighten the chances that you convert these leads, you need to have a defined process for nurturing them, such as drip email campaigns. So, you need to develop multiple email series that are triggered based on an individual’s actions. This way, you ensure you send relevant content. During the series of communications, you can gradually address common questions, overcome objections and include additional offers that move the prospect through the buying cycle more rapidly.
8. Measure, Report and Optimize
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring. Decide what metrics you need to evaluate your success in managing leads and ensure that you are tracking them within your marketing automation system. These measurements will give you a quick snapshot of what’s working and what’s not, so you can change your process as necessary to increase success.
Take these steps to manage your leads and you’ll likely increase your lead to sales conversion rates.