1. Decide who owns sales lead management
While Sales and Marketing teams should be collaborating closely on all aspects of sales lead management, determining who should own it will largely depend on a company’s strategy for generating new business leads.
(When we say ‘own’ we’re talking about who will be responsible for driving the sales funnel management processes and technologies required to properly track and manage leads. The same team will also be responsible for implementing new practices or adjusting existing ones).
For example, sales driven organizations who rely on traditional methodologies like emails and cold calls to build new business will typically put sales lead management into the hands of its sales teams, while companies who invest in inbound strategies will rely on marketing.
Getting this right is essential to gaining clear visibility into the lifecycle of your leads and to ensuring accurate and actionable reporting.
2. Fine tune your tech stack
Think about how teams will work together.
As a lead management best practice, Sales and Marketing teams should be working toward a set of mutually agreed upon metrics. But all too often the two are using completely separate technologies with no visibility into one another’s data, resulting in a lack of transparency and closed loop reporting. No one ever really knows what’s working, and often, each blames the other without real evidence.
Instead, bring teams together to clarify goals and KPIs early and then decide on either a single platform (like HubSpot) or two platforms that integrate closely (like Salesforce and HubSpot, Pardot, or Marketo) and which can support both CRM and marketing automation functionalities.
Build your sales lead management processes collaboratively and manually first. At HELLO Marketing, we start with a spreadsheet with tabs for lifecycle stage definitions, deal stages, lead scoring, and lead routing workflows.
(Pro Tip: Don’t forget to note why you’ve designed your system in a particular way. This is critical as organizations, and data sets, evolve.)
Be sure to set regular meetings with both Sales and Marketing stakeholders to discuss how these processes will fit into daily and weekly rhythms. A great sales management process will never be adopted if it’s excessively disruptive or time consuming.
Keep your data clean.
As part of your sales lead management process, establish rules about which contacts can be imported into your CRM or marketing automation system. Should Sales import all of the contacts from a recent trade show? Or only the ones that meet a certain lifecycle stage definition? How about contacts earned through a third-party content syndication program?
Be sure to set protocols for which data points are must-haves and set expectations with Sales teams to ensure they’re entered accurately. Skipping this step can have implications for workflows designed to touch leads meeting specific criteria. Essentially, put in the effort to enter lead data correctly now so leads don’t fall through the cracks later.
3. Qualify and score leads
Begin with Sales and Marketing alignment.
Because Sales and Marketing teams should ultimately be working toward a shared set of metrics, it’s critical that they work together to define best-fit new business leads. It’s not enough to simply assume Sales has this worked out. (And, no, anecdotal definitions won’t fly).
Work backwards from a list of Sales’ target accounts to identify commonalities and use them to develop lead qualifying questions. Marketing can work these questions into buying stage forms for gated assets, and Sales can build them into a universal questionnaire.
(Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to think beyond simple BANT or GPTC questions. Ultimately, qualification should uncover pain points that your solution can best address.)
Think beyond firmographics to qualify.
A quality lead is defined by more than just industry and company size; it’s the place where fit, interest and intent meet. While fit can often be identified by basic business characteristics, it could also include more nuanced information–for example, a company’s unique sales process or management structure, or even real estate footprint. Interest is often expressed by behavior such as content download, or attendance at a conference or trade show.
Intent to purchase can be tricky to uncover. But we contend that it’s a fair question for Sales to ask (i.e., What are you hoping to accomplish today?) once you’ve earned a certain degree of trust by positioning yourself as helpful. You can also include the question on a form for a piece of high-value, bottom of the funnel content.
Once you’ve established criteria, ensure that all lead gen channels have a way to capture qualification information, either natively or via nurturing workflows.
A word about scoring.
Lead scoring can be especially useful for very sales-dominant organizations without a lot of marketing in effect. Scoring can also allow for variance in qualifying B2B sales leads. This typically satisfies a hungry sales team who may push back on simple qualifying criteria that could exclude a potential deal because it doesn’t check all the boxes.
We recommend beginning by applying values to the answers to your qualifying questions. Remember, a good lead scoring system will consider a spectrum of answers to key questions about the nature of the business, the contact, and their behaviors.
(Pro Tip: Build it out in a spreadsheet before you automate it, in order to allow Sales to begin working with it immediately. It’s a great way to work out any issues.)
4. Route leads effectively and quickly
Evaluate in-place lead routing practices.
Many organizations do not have formal lead routing criteria in place. While that might make sense for a company with fewer than 5 salespeople, the reality is almost every company can benefit from establishing some ground rules for lead routing.
Your lead routing structure should ultimately reflect your sales structure. If you sell solutions regionally, consider routing by territory. If you have dedicated reps for verticals or products, set up your routing accordingly. And, if salespeople are incentivized by commission, then routing via round robin might be more appropriate. However you decide, remember that you’ll have to ensure you gather the right data at the outset to enable the proper routing. So, be sure to add relevant fields to your forms or screening questionnaire.
Consider account familiarity.
Often account familiarity will override all other routing structures to determine who ultimately works the lead. If this is the case, then you’ll need to build that into your sales lead management process. If you’re using a CRM and/or marketing automation, you’ll want to be sure you add in a step to workflow to scan new prospects against all existing accounts and assign to the contact owner.
Automate lead routing whenever possible.
Effective automated lead routing speeds up response time, and that’s critical in a world where leads are most responsive within 5 minutes of the initial contact (yup, you read that correctly).
5. Nurture everyone
At HELLO Marketing, we use workflow automation, triggered by specific first touch events, to drip out relevant content to leads based on things like buying phase and persona. This ensures all leads are appropriately nurtured. Because we also have lead scoring in place, it also allows leads to qualify themselves and Sales teams to maximize their time.
We certainly recommend building out campaign-specific follow up as part of your sales lead management effort. However, we find it’s well worth spending the time up front to develop a series of evergreen content assets designed to address your ideal buyers at critical phases of their unique buying process. Prospects are happy to receive timely, relevant content. Marketing teams can feel confident that every lead was touched. And Sales teams are freed up to focus on only the most valuable leads.
Plan, plan, plan.
We cannot stress enough the importance of preplanning for sales lead nurturing workflows. Whether you use pencil and paper, sticky-notes, or a spreadsheet, take the time to create a map of your intended evergreen nurturing structure and don’t forget to include things like time-delays or email resends that include new subject lines when an email goes unopened. These kinds of maps are invaluable when you need to tweak your original design.
Provide an early accessibility to sales.
Over the years, we have discovered that even the most thorough workflows may not always account for the variances in the buyer’s journey. As a result, we recommend building in an early “off-ramp” to a dedicated Sales person, positioned as a helpful resource and typically including an opportunity to schedule time together. When a lead accepts, she is removed from all nurturing workflows and is considered the responsibility of Sales.
Need some help designing the right sales lead management process for your organization? Contact HELLO Marketing for a free 20-minute consultation that will help get you on the right path. Call Lauren at 973.214.5942 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.