The greatest challenge faced by small businesses? Turning leads into sales with limited resources. Max your return with these tips.

Tip #1: Align sales and marketing


Having your sales team try to sell to a lead that isn’t going to buy is, frankly, a waste of time. To generate qualified leads, the sales and marketing teams need to get in sync. The sales team should paint a picture of its ideal lead. Then, the marketing team can help source a lead that fits the mould.

Make sure the teams communicate well and know the other's strategies and processes. Work off the same buyer profiles. In some organisations, the sales and marketing teams create their own buyer profiles and personas. Sure, they may overlap in places, but ideally, everybody should be on the same page.

The sales and marketing teams should use each other (in a good way).

Salespeople know what kind of buyer currently brings in business, and where long-term, profitable relationships can be found. They also know the type of buyer who could present a problem, and who should be avoided at all costs. The marketing team offers insights into where similar prospects could be found. It’s a win-win.

Collaboration between sales and marketing is key. By creating shared buyer profiles and aligning goals, you’ll find more qualified leads. Quality, rather than quantity, can make a real difference to your bottom line.

Tip #2: Harness the power of data


Most businesses boast a wealth of historical data, which they mine to avoid wasting time – not to mention improve sales productivity! Historical data can also supercharge lead scoring.

Lead scoring shows how likely a prospect is to become a customer based on a particular kind of interest, behaviour or action. It helps you prioritise leads.

For example, if a lead has indicated it has a budget that you know makes it very unlikely to buy your product, you can prioritise it accordingly. (Read: move it to the bottom of the pile.)

By combining your own experience and analytics, you’ll get an even clearer idea of whether a prospect, or lead, will convert based on their behaviours. Someone who simply downloaded an e-book might be fairly early in the buyer journey, while someone who has asked to be contacted via your pricing page is probably ready to buy.

Data can help you better create and target buyer profiles, which drives quality lead generation.

Tip #3: Think before you spend


Running a small business on a tight budget? Avoid the ‘spray-gun approach’ to marketing. Focus on low-cost lead generation methods, and stick to your target markets and prospects. Heed what has worked for you in the past.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Every campaign should be carefully monitored. Track your leads at every step through the sales process. All the ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ in the world mean nothing unless they turn into sales.

Think about how you spend money on staffing and systems, too. Are key people spending valuable time doing low-level jobs that could be automated, such as sending follow-up emails? Could you cut costs by reducing the time and effort spent on these processes? Would automation free up staff to think and act strategically?

By tracking campaigns – and the tasks your employees are spending the most time on – you’ll be able to see what’s working and what’s not, and cut costs accordingly. The result? Champagne leads on a beer budget.

Tip #4: Make the customer journey flow


The ‘customer journey’ is a series of touchpoints the customer moves through, from awareness to engagement to the holy grail – purchase.

Mapping out this journey can help you identify which of your sales and marketing materials, or aspects of your website, need improvement. Do you constantly see people dropping out of the funnel at the same point, for example? That’s one issue right there. Maybe you’re falling short with the information your prospects need, or perhaps you’re not following up enquiries as quickly as your competitors.

If you’re getting loads of people through to a certain point but the vast majority never buy, you may be wasting time following those leads. Ask yourself, ‘‘Is there a way to further qualify the leads?’

Mapping these touchpoints will speed up the rate at which leads become sales.

Tip #5: Never. Stop. Testing.


Times have changed. Rather than relying on their gut, sales and marketing professionals can get serious insights from real-time tracking and measurement.

Almost any variable can be tested, from sending emails at different times of the day, to the types of messages that get the most click-throughs or shares, to whether leading on price points or offers gets results.

That said, data from an EDM with a high click-through rate needs to be examined, rather than simply passed on, or you could flood your sales team with low-quality leads that are less likely to convert. The answer? Following up testing and optimising with tracking what is actually turning into sales.

Keep in mind that just because something works well now doesn’t mean it always will. Technology changes - which is a good thing - and buying habits evolve. Markets mature. New competition enters the arena. So keep testing new processes and strategies, learn from the results and turn them into sales.

The sales cycle is more complicated than ever. Or it can be – to find out how to make winning more customers simple, download our ebook How to Simplify the Modern Sales Cycle.

Find out how Salesforce CRM can help your small business.