According to 2020 data from inbound marketing service IMPACT, in 2020, more than 60 percent of marketers identify their main challenge as lead generation. Perhaps your company is in much the same boat, especially when it comes to sales lead management.
Sure, your sales team can drum up some leads, as can your marketers, but how qualified are these leads? If you only have leads who enter your sales funnel with just a passing interest in your company and its products and services, there’s no guarantee those leads will become customers.
In today’s post, you’ll learn about the importance of a lead management system, including definitions of sales leads themselves as well as the stages of sales lead management. If you struggle to generate leads, we’ll tell you how to do that as well.
What Is Sales Lead Management
Working with unqualified leads can sometimes pan out, but that may be just luck or timing more so than anything else. Your company, like any other, would much rather have qualified sales leads than unqualified ones.
We’ll talk more about sales leads in the next section, but they generally have much more interest in your company and what it sells than the average unqualified lead. This in turn increases their buying likelihood.
Another reason you need a lead management process is to create consistency in lead conversion. If one sales team rep courts leads their way and a second sales team rep does things another way, you can end up with two totally different results and not necessarily any sales or conversions.
Also, without a proper management system in place, leads will inevitably end up slipping through the cracks. Yes, that can sometimes even include qualified leads.
If you’re interested in proceeding with a sales lead management system, we’ll discuss shortly the stages of such a system.
What Are Sales Leads?
Before we get into that though, let’s take some time to define sales leads in great depth.
You already have leads, or unqualified prospects who may become customers. These leads may find you through social media, your website, blog content, advertising, and sometimes just by stumbling upon your company.
As unqualified leads, they don’t know anything about your company, nor your products or services. Similarly, you don’t know much of anything about the lead.
They may have a need for what your company sells, but they just as easily may not. If they don’t, then your sales team reps will try courting the lead. This may work to a point, then things could taper off.
Either the lead will realize they can’t afford your products and services or that they don’t want them, so the lead exits the sales funnel. This results in not only a lack of sales for your company, but a tremendous waste of the sale team rep’s time and energy.
Imagine how many leads they could have pursued that may have been interested. It sounds like your sales team wants sales leads.
A sales lead is a qualified lead. This means that they don’t enter your sales funnel without at least some prior knowledge of your company and its products and services.
Since they’re aware of what your company sells, they have an interest in your products and services. More importantly, they have a need for these products and services as well.
Your qualified sales lead will be familiar with the pricing of your products and services, and they may even be willing to buy. It’s just a matter of when, not if.
Although sales leads are more qualified than your standard leads, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always going to convert 100 percent of the time. Things happen and the sales lead may drop off the sales funnel for reasons unknown to your sales reps.
That said, in some instances, by warming up the sales lead, it’s possible to address their reservations and convince them to buy.
This doesn’t always happen immediately. It can sometimes take years for this kind of conversion to occur, but all that matters in the end is that it does occur.
In the meantime, your company should have an influx of leads, especially those that are qualified, that they can identify, score, and nurture in hopes of achieving conversion.
The Stages of a Sales Lead Management System
We talked in an earlier section about why sales lead management as part of a system is so crucial for your business. Remember, without a solid management plan in place, leads can slip through the cracks, be approached in differing ways, and scored non-uniformly.
How exactly do you create a sales lead management system? It all begins with the various stages of such a system.
If you successfully follow these stages to completion when working with qualified sales leads, you may see both your sales and conversions go up.
Let’s more closely examine the five stages of lead management now.
Lead capture is just another way of referring to lead generation.
We’ll talk in the next section about how to generate sales leads. For now, know that the process entails finding ways to gather the contact information of a lead.
Often, in exchange for this contact info, the lead receives something in return. This is typically a freebie, such as chapters from an eBook, a handy checklist, a guide, or webinar transcripts. Such an incentive is known as a lead magnet.
During the lead capture stage, you don’t necessarily know if your leads are qualified or not. Regardless, you want to generate a healthy and consistent number of leads for your company over time.
The reason for this is that not every lead will convert. Crazy Egg, a website optimizer, notes that 5 percent of leads who start as website visitors will become marketing-qualified leads.
Once you get to that point, marketing-qualified leads will become sales leads at a rate of 60 percent. Then, 50 percent of those people will become a qualified sales lead.
Your conversion rate also varies by industry. A 2019 CM Commerce report breaks down conversions by these fields:
- Sports and recreation – 2.51 percent
- Pet care – 1.61 percent
- Home appliances and kitchen – 1.46 percent
- Giftware and home accessories – 1.46 percent
- Health and wellbeing – 2.02 percent
- Food and beverage – 0.90 percent
- Fashion – 1.41 percent
- Commercial and electrical equipment – 2.70 percent
- Motorcycles and cars – 1.36 percent
- Baby and child – 0.71 percent
- Arts and crafts – 4.01 percent
- Agricultural supplies – 1.41 percent
To combat your sometimes-low conversion rates, having many leads as part of your lead gen process is crucial. There will always be someone else to plug up the gap if your sales team fails to convert.
Once you’re done gathering the contact information for your first group of leads, they move onto the second phase of the management system, and that’s lead tracking. Through lead gen, you were able to gather cursory information on the lead, such as their first and last name, their phone number, email address, home address, and even perhaps their occupation.
Having this information is handy, but it’s not all that you need. You also want to gather behavioral data on your leads.
This is where lead tracking comes in. Through tracking your leads, your sales and marketing teams can begin planning their approach.
So how do you track a lead? You use analytics and software to review what the lead does and how.
For instance, how did the lead get to your website? Was it an ad they saw on social media or another website?
How long was the lead on your site? What did they interact with (click) while they were there?
Having this information can clue you in on what the lead’s needs may be, or at least what they’re interested in. At this point, you still haven’t made direct contact with the lead, but you’re beginning kind of a cursory getting-to-know-you process.
What happens from here, including the sales pitch, outreach, and messaging will all keep in mind the information determined during the lead tracking phase. Of course, as your sales team gathers more information about the lead through directly communicating with them, their information will appropriately evolve.
By the way, sometimes the sales lead management process isn’t quite as linear as this, at least during the first few stages. What we mean by that is you may be reviewing the online behavior of a lead before you ever get such pertinent details as their name, phone number, and email address.
Whether you do lead gen first or lead tracking, either way, you’re now at the third phase of the sales lead management process: lead scoring.
This pertains to what we discussed in the last section when we defined sales lead. Your company wants to work primarily with qualified leads, as these are the ones most likely to buy and become customers.
If you’re wondering how you determine which leads are qualified and which aren’t, the answer lies in lead scoring.
When you score a lead, you’re assigning them a value that determines how likely they are convert. Having one lead scoring system your whole sales team uses is of the utmost importance to ensure all leads are scored on the same criteria.
You can create your own lead scoring system in several ways.
Some companies might opt to look at the contact information of the lead and use that as the backbone for scoring the leads. For instance, if you know a lead is in a lower income bracket but all your products and services are quite expensive, then you might disqualify that lead immediately.
You can also look at such factors as opportunity size and company size to gauge how likely a lead is to buy. Their site visitor behavior may also paint the picture.
Another way you can score leads is to review a lead’s behavior over time and then give them a score, positive or negative.
How most companies do this is as follows: each behavior a lead can do has a value. The more important the behavior, the higher the value. This applies to bad behavior as well.
So let’s say your lead signed up to your newsletter, giving you their contact information. They may earn themselves one point.
Next, the lead receives an email from you and takes the time to respond. This may net the lead two points.
If the lead went out of their way to speak with you on the phone for 20 minutes, you might give them something like five points.
Like we said, it goes both ways. If a lead unsubscribes to your newsletter, you might subtract three points.
If they schedule a meeting with you and then don’t show up, you could deduct 10 points.
You then tally up all the lead scores and see which leads have the highest scores. This is the group you want to target first.
With your leads scored, you now move onto the fourth phase, which is lead distribution.
Depending on how long the above processes have taken, your lead may have made some progress on the sales funnel. If they did, then you may be able to pass the contact information of your qualified leads straight to your sales team.
The sales team will begin contacting the lead through phone or email. More on this very shortly.
If you’re not quite ready for the lead to go to your sales team, that’s okay too. What other companies do in such a situation is create a drip campaign.
Most qualified leads, especially sales-qualified and marketing-qualified leads (SQLs and MQLs respectively) should react positively to a well-executed drip campaign. The information and education the lead will receive via this campaign can push them in the direction of either buying from your company or ending the customer journey early.
Whether you did a drip campaign for your qualified leads or you skipped that part, the process of managing your leads always ends with lead nurturing. This is the time when the sales team (and likely your company’s marketing team as well) will begin communicating directly with the qualified lead.
At first, it’s all about discussing the lead’s pain points, not pushing a product or service. Once the sales team rep gets to know what it is that makes the lead tick, then they can present a solution (through your products and services) that seems tailored to the lead.
Nurturing and engaging with leads does not only have to be done on the phone. In-person meetings are one such way to push the professional relationship along, as is email.
With some leads, your sales team may only have to interact with them a couple of times before the lead becomes convinced they’re ready to buy. Other leads will need more time and perhaps more information before they make their decision.
How to Generate Sales Leads
Now that you have a better understanding of the sales lead management process, let’s rewind it all the way back to the beginning of it.
You need sales leads to begin lead gen. How do you even find these leads?
You can rely on plenty of methods, so let’s discuss these now.
You don’t only have to pull in leads from the Internet. Sometimes, your next great customer is standing right in front of you at that expo or convention.
Don’t just attend any and every event in your neck of the woods and assume you’ll meet the right kind of leads. Sure, you’ll get leads, but not qualified ones, which would make this form of lead gen rather pointless.
If you can, try to target events that are related to your industry or niche. The people who attend these events do so because they have an interest in your field.
The attendees will be better-educated on what it is you do. All you have to do is start up a discussion and you may be able to incentivize them to buy your products and services.
If you’re attending a networking event as a guest, then make sure you print out lots of business cards to pass around. Also, leave the sales tactics at homes. You’ll have time to sell to this person later, but for now, it’s all about striking up a conversation and finding common interests.
It’s even better if you can get a booth or table at the event. You’ll attract more attention and have a whole list of potential leads by the time the event wraps up.
Podcasts and Webinars
Another option you have to attract leads is to host a podcast or webinar. Podcasts are recurring audio series whereas a webinar is a one-time educational video/audio experience.
By targeting the related industries or interests of your leads, you can gain their attention. The lead, who will want to check out your webinar, will have to sign up to do so, giving you their contact information.
You can send a lot of emails pertaining to the webinar that can also act as lead nurturing. Outside of the reminders that the webinar is coming up in X days, you might email your attendees and ask what they’d like to hear about in the webinar. You can also send feedback requests post-webinar.
Webinars and podcasts can both continue attracting leads even after they’re over. You might archive the webinar or podcast on your website but require that those who want to view/listen to register first.
If your company’s website isn’t already at the top of the heap when a user searches for certain keywords, then that’s something you’re going to want to strive to change immediately.
Search engine optimization or SEO determines which websites get to the top, which matters a lot for lead gen.
After all, if a lead is searching for a topic but has no loyalty to any company that shows up in the results, whose site do you think they’ll click first? That’s right, the top result.
The best practices surrounding SEO continue to change as Google algorithms update. If you can learn about which factors most determine your rank as a company, that’s best, as you can make the necessary changes to give your site a boost.
The following SEO tactics are also always a good idea to institute if you’re not already doing so:
- Have an active social media presence, posting valuable content regularly
- Prioritize the load speed of your website
- Optimize your site, but don’t forget that the user experience matters too
- Write educational yet entertaining blog content and post it regularly
- Make sure your site is mobile-optimized
Another way to connect with leads who can become potential customers is to use online advertising. Pay-per-click campaigns through Google AdWords is an especially recommended avenue to consider.
You design your ad and determine where it goes. Then, through PPC, you can track clicks.
Online advertising doesn’t just work completely on its own. You’re redirecting customers to your website, so your site has to be ready to capture the information of these leads so you can move onto the second phase of the sales lead management process.
Don’t forget that outside of website advertising, such social media platforms as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all have their own paid advertising programs. Through a combination of social media ads and PPC, you could see a greater influx of leads.
Does your website have a live chatbot? If not, then you might want to add one via a chatbot builder sooner rather than later.
This chat widget will greet your leads as soon as they arrive to your website. If the lead has a question about your company, what you do, and what you sell, they can ask the chatbot and get an informative answer.
Besides just answering questions, the chatbot could serve as a means of communication, sharing relevant phone numbers and even scheduling meetings.
By keeping a log of all the chat records the chatbot has on the daily, you can see which topics and pain points your leads query about the most. Use this information as the basis of your sales and marketing campaigns.
Website Meeting Scheduler
Not everyone is going to want to use your chatbot, and that’s okay. If a lead still wished to schedule a meeting with a member of your sales team, you want to make it easy for them.
An embedded meeting scheduler right on your website is one such way to do that. The lead inputs their information and chooses an open meeting slot that the sales rep has available.
Just like that, the meeting is scheduled. There’s no need to play phone tag or go back and forth emailing a dozen times when it can all be done quickly and efficiently.
Another lead gen option your company certainly wants to use is email marketing, with email sequences especially coming in handy at this early phase of the lead management system.
First, you want to send an email that shows your company connects on the lead’s pain points. Next, you slowly introduce the value of your products and services but without being pushy or salesy.
Maybe four or five emails in, you finally recommend some products and services that can help the lead overcome their pain point so their life is better, happier, or less complicated. You’d follow up if necessary and the sequence would end.
By this point, the lead will have hopefully bought your product or service. If so, then you can start a whole new email sequence now that they’re a verified customer.
A referral program is our last suggestion for generating leads. This process doesn’t involve the leads directly at all though, but rather, your customers.
Reach out to some of your most long-term, loyal customers and request that they turn to their social circle and suggest prospective customers to you. In return for their help, you’d offer the customer something, such as an exclusive discount code or even a freebie.
If your sales reps have the time, phone conversations are better than sending referral emails because the phone call comes across as less impersonal. Plus, your customer might feel more comfortable giving you the contact information of their friend/coworker/family member–your lead–on the phone than they would in an email.
How Lead Management in CRM Helps Increase Sales
It’s become clear to your company that you must have a lead system in place. The good news is that lead management in CRM can greatly help increase your sales.
How? In plenty of ways!
Through CRM, you can create individualized profiles for all your contacts, feeding the information you have into the system. If you get more info on a lead later, you can always update the profiles at any time.
Each lead profile goes into a list that you can filter how you prefer. For instance, maybe you categorize your list of leads by qualified versus unqualified prospects or SQLS and MQLs.
You can even use CRM to score your leads. Since you’re trying to create a consistent lead scoring system as part of your sales lead management system, using CRM for this purpose is a no-brainer.
You can also rely on CRM to automate the tasks that can suck up a lot of your sales reps’ time. With only 24 hours in a day and not every hour to be devoted to work, you want to ensure your reps are maximizing the value of each hour they’re on the job.
Your sales CRM will allow your sales reps to automate email follow-ups, social media scheduling, blog posting, meeting scheduling, and so much more. Now your sales reps will have more time to nurture leads and boost sales for your company.
As the sales rep begins building that professional bond with the lead, all records of communication get logged and transcribed by your CRM. From phone call records to emails and notes taken on the lead, it’s all in one convenient place, the lead’s profile.
If during the lead distribution stage you’re ready to pass along the lead info to the sales team, they’ll have everything they need to begin tailoring their sales approach thanks to this communications log.
EngageBay’s CRM is a great choice if your company has yet to settle on a CRM software. You get such features as:
- Call integrations
- Lead scoring
- Email syncing
- Sales team leaderboards
- Sales reporting and analytics
- Customer interaction records
- Automated data entry logging, follow-ups, meeting scheduling, and more
- Advanced view of the deal pipeline
- Contact management
What’s even better is that EngageBay’s CRM is always free!
Sales lead management entails a five-step process: capturing a lead’s contact information, studying their behavior, scoring the lead, distributing the lead as necessary, and nurturing the relationship. This is done in hopes of encouraging a sale and having the lead convert to a customer.
Now that you know the importance of managing your sales lead under one system, you can begin seeing more qualified leads and an increase in sales. Best of luck!