Every lead your company gets represents an investment. Whether it’s through a paid ad campaign, a content post, or a purchased call list — each lead costs time and money. Getting the most ROI for that investment begins with great lead management.
What is lead management?
Lead management is the process of capturing, enriching, qualifying, distributing, and nurturing leads. It is generally a function of the sales team, but in some companies, marketing can play a role as well.
Why is lead management important?
There are few areas of your business that are more impactful to your bottom line than lead management. A good lead management process can help you:
- Improve conversion rates
- Reduce cycle time
- Decrease cost/lead
- Create better brand experiences
- Grow revenue
How do you know if you should evaluate your lead management process?
Every company that sells a product or service has a lead management process (whether they know it or not). Signs you may need to evaluate your lead management process could be:
- Trouble with lead capture: The leads you are getting are difficult to follow up with or you think you are missing potential leads.
- Low intent leads: Your sales team is spending the bulk of their time talking to people with low buyer intent.
- Low opportunity conversion rates: The leads you are generating are not converting to opportunities at a satisfactory rate.
The key stages of an effective lead management process
The key stages of a robust lead management process are:
Lead capture and enrichment
How you capture and enrich your leads goes a long way to determining the effectiveness of your lead management process.
Much of your strategy in this stage will be determined by how you source your leads. Leads can come from several sources and they are not all equal. Common lead sources include:
- Attending an event or hosting a seminar: Networking opportunities are a great way to build brand recognition and acquire leads. While the information you obtain about these leads is generally limited (contact name, company name), the leads are often high intent.
- Paid leads: Paid leads come from a third-party source that screens and evaluates leads based on parameters you set ahead of time. These leads are often high intent and come fully enriched, but once you stop paying for them, your pipeline dries up.
- Referrals: Referrals are still the top converting lead source available. They are often high intent and come with a lot of information but they depend heavily on your existing customer base.
- Web forms: These could be prompted when making a purchase on your website, booking a demo, or accessing a gated asset. Web forms allow you more control over the information you collect, making them a great lead source.
- Website visits: While anyone visiting your website could be a potential lead, in reality, these leads tend to be light on information and low on intent. However, you get an opportunity to educate them through content until they’re ready to buy.
Whatever the source, the more you know about a potential customer, the easier it is to sell to them.
Your lead qualification and distribution strategies are determined by the information you gather during the capture and enrichment stage.
While your lead sources will dictate the amount and quality of the information you gather, the tools you use to capture and access that data will determine how effectively it can be used.
It is possible to manage your leads from a spreadsheet. Alternatively, you could invest in lead management software or customer relationship management software (CRM).
While spreadsheets are inexpensive and generally well adopted, they are extremely limited in the amount of information they can track without a serious time investment from your team.
On the other hand, software tools are more costly up-front and require training to implement. That said, the capabilities they unlock quickly result in returns that make up for the initial cost (training hours included).
While all leads are valuable, some are more valuable than others. A lead’s value can be determined by a number of factors, such as:
- Lead source
- Company information: size, industry, location
- Contact information: role, title, previous/existing relationship
- Buying intent
When determining a lead’s value, you can make the assessment as simple or as detailed as you like.
For example, you could break your leads down by intent, labeling those who want to buy right away as SQLs (sales qualified leads) and those who are looking to make a purchase later as MQLs (marketing qualified leads).
Or, you could create a lead scoring system, allocating points based on specific criteria. In this case, leads are evaluated based on ICP fit, lead source, and buying intent — and assigned a corresponding score. For tips on how (and why) to create a lead scoring system, check out our article How To Implement Lead Scoring as a Part of Your Sales Strategy.
Your lead qualification will determine the efficiency of your lead follow-up process and inform your lead distribution. This makes it fertile ground for refinement as you continue to re-evaluate and improve your lead management process.
After capturing and qualifying a lead, you need to assign it to a member of your team. This could be as simple as creating a rotation schedule and assigning leads accordingly, but we recommend a more deliberate approach.
Potential deal size is a common metric used to distribute leads internally. In this system, larger deals are assigned to more experienced sales team members while smaller deals are reserved for newer team members.
Region is another common distribution parameter as it helps overcome language barriers, timezone discrepancies, and cultural differences.
You could also distribute leads based on individual team members’ specialties. For example, if you have a team member who used to work in a specific industry, they might be assigned all leads corresponding to that industry.
The best approach is a combination of factors that take into account the strengths of individuals and your team as a whole. As with every stage in your lead management process, revisit your lead distribution strategy often to achieve the best results.
The exact nature of your lead follow-up will be determined by your company, sales strategy, and lead distribution approach.
For leads that have low buyer intent, your follow-up could be an email cadence that highlights some of your most popular features or top-selling products. For hot leads that are ready to buy now, you might schedule a call or a demo.
Whatever the case, tracking the results of your lead follow-up can provide valuable insights to improve all the other stages of your lead management process.
Lead maintenance is an oft-overlooked stage in your lead management process, albeit an important one. Regular lead maintenance helps you identify missed opportunities and ensures your team is not hindered by inaccurate or unnecessary information.
Lead maintenance involves going through your leads list and ensuring all required fields are filled, lead statuses are updated and assigned, and any duplicate leads are consolidated or removed.
Your lead maintenance plan will be determined by the tools you use to manage your leads. If you are using spreadsheets, for example, this will be a lengthy and arduous process. If you are using lead management software or a CRM, this could be as simple as applying a few filters and hitting ‘Delete.’
A CRM can help you improve your lead management process
As we mentioned earlier, the tools you use to manage your leads will have a big impact on your lead management process. While low-cost/no-cost tools like spreadsheets can get the job done, they will cost you time and opportunities.
Lead management software is a good option (as the name implies). It provides tools that aid in capturing, qualifying, distributing, following up, and maintaining leads. These tools eliminate much of the administrative burden of your lead management process.
The main drawback to lead management software is that the support it provides ends at the sale. The rest of the customer journey, including fulfillment, project management, upsell and expand stages — all of it falls outside the capabilities of the software.
CRM provides all the benefits of lead management software but expands upon it at virtually every step.
Lead capture is improved through integrations that connect to third-party lead generation tools. This reduces errors and eliminates redundant data entry.
Automation technology aids in the qualification and distribution of leads while reducing follow-up times significantly.
Email templates help align messaging and save time.
Task alerts and reminders improve collaboration and codify processes.
What’s more, a CRM can connect your sales team to marketing, support, product, and every other team you have, enabling an all-hands approach to sales and customer satisfaction.
On top of that, nothing matches a CRM when it comes to reporting and tracking. The insights a CRM provides can help you refine, streamline, and improve your lead management process.
FreeAgent can help you improve your lead management process
FreeAgent is the top user-rated CRM + work management platform on the market. Every day we help teams take their sales processes to the next level through the use of modern, intuitive, and powerful tools.
We can help you make the most of every opportunity while improving the workday for your entire team. To see first-hand how we can help streamline your lead management processes, book a demo with one of our amazing product experts today.