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What Is Lead Management? Tips, Strategies, and Best Practices

A woman in a leadership meeting
Good lead management means you're giving each customer a personalized experience. [Adobe / Studio Science]

Learn how to use lead management best practices to accelerate sales and increase win rates.

What do networking events, parties, conferences, and speed dating all have in common? They attract likeminded people looking for connection. With each conversation, an exciting and memorable interaction might evolve into a lasting relationship. In these settings, the aim isn’t to meet everyone; it’s about finding the ones whom you resonate with, where the connection feels just right.

Sellers are also on a mission to find the right match. According
to Harvard Business Review, the first five minutes of prospect contact are make-or-break for hooking leads, much like landing that second date. However, effective lead management is not all about the first impression. It’s about building and continuously nurturing connections in order to build a strong customer relationship that wins you deals.

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What is lead management?

Lead management is the process of managing prospective customers, known as leads, from their first interaction with your company to when they purchase. Successful lead management focuses on delivering value, addressing needs, and meeting expectations so you can close quickly while ensuring customer satisfaction.

Why is lead management important?

Good lead management means you’re giving each potential customer a personalized experience that addresses unique pain points and needs. That engenders trust, which makes it easier to close. Research from McKinsey shows when people feel understood, the likelihood they’ll make a purchase increases by 40%.

Another big lead management benefit: sales cycle speed. When you hook the right leads and nurture them correctly, you move them through the pipeline quickly. That means you waste less time and fewer resources. You can also focus on the leads that are most likely to convert.

If you neglect to manage leads, it’s easy to overlook potential customers who might be interested in what you offer. That means missed sales opportunities. You might also find yourself spending too much time on leads that are unlikely to result in sales, which can be inefficient and frustrating. Worse still, it can lead to missed quotas and sales targets.

Stages of lead management

Lead management unfolds in stages, starting with lead capture and moving through a series of steps to convert leads into customers. This structured process ensures that each potential customer is guided efficiently through the sales journey.

Lead capture: This is the first step, where you collect information about potential leads. You can do this through various channels such as email, social media, webinars, and other marketing activities.

Lead qualification: In this stage, you assess your leads to determine how likely they are to make a purchase. This can include holding discovery calls to understand their needs and matching them to your ideal customer profile.

Lead distribution: Once leads are qualified, you must assign them to the appropriate sales team based on factors like lead type, industry, or product interest. This ensures that the right team handles each lead for the best possible outcome.

Lead nurturing: Not all leads will be ready to make a purchase right away. Lead nurturing involves maintaining a relationship with these leads through regular communication and marketing efforts, addressing needs, and keeping them engaged until they are ready to buy.

Lead tracking: Throughout the lead management process, you can use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to track lead activities and interactions with your company. This helps you understand common lead behaviors, interests, and needs, which gives you the data necessary to improve training and guide forecasting.

9 best practices for lead management

Effective lead management is a delicate balance of efficiency and personal touch. Finding the right mix of automation and one-on-one touchpoints to smoothly move prospects from initial contact to successful deal closure is key. Here are nine practical tips to fine-tune your approach:

  1. Develop a systematic approach: Start by thoroughly understanding your current sales cycle. Break down each stage, from initial contact to closing the deal. Identify key actions, decision points, and criteria for advancing leads to the next stage. This process should be consistently reviewed and refined based on performance data and team feedback, ensuring it remains efficient and effective.
  2. Prequalify leads early: Quickly identifying whether a prospect is a good fit saves time and resources. Develop criteria for qualifying leads and apply them early on in the interaction. This might include assessing their need for your product, budget, and decision-making authority. All in all, efficiently qualifying leads ensures you focus your efforts on those with the highest potential to convert.
  3. Align your sales process and sales cycle: Tailoring your lead management to fit your typical sales cycle is crucial. If you have a longer sales cycle, your focus might be on nurturing leads over time. Conversely, with a shorter cycle, your approach may be more direct and action-oriented, ensuring the greatest impact early on in the prospect-rep relationship. Work closely with your sales team to understand the nuances of your sales cycle and integrate these insights into your lead management strategies.
  4. Tailor strategies to different stages: Recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in lead management. For early-stage leads, your focus should be on building a relationship and understanding their needs. As the lead matures, your strategy should shift toward addressing specific objections, providing tailored solutions, and reinforcing your value proposition.
  5. Use clean data: Quality data gives you accurate insights into what leads want and how they tend to behave, giving you the information you need to nurture effectively. Prioritize collecting first-party data directly from your customers and leads. This data is not only more accurate but also ensures compliance with data privacy laws. Regularly audit your data for accuracy and relevance, and avoid the temptation to rely on large, potentially outdated third-party data sets.
  6. Pre-frame interactions: Before engaging with a prospect, set the right tone. This can be done through personalized emails or messages that reflect your brand’s voice and values. To put it another way, you can use these communications to provide insights into what the prospect can expect, including when demos will be shared, what kind of communication is possible, and how you move from sales call to close. This approach helps to build trust and comfort, making the initial conversations more productive.
  7. Follow up consistently but not intrusively: A robust sales engagement system is key to maintaining potential opportunities. This could involve automated reminders, scheduled calls, or personalized emails at strategic intervals. The goal is to keep your brand at the top of the prospect’s mind without being pushy.
  8. Foster collaboration between marketing and sales: Use lead management software to define what constitutes a qualified lead and ensure both teams have a shared understanding. Integrating marketing automation with your CRM allows for a more holistic view of the customer journey, helping to improve lead handling and conversion.
  9. Avoid common pitfalls: Be mindful of stopping follow-ups prematurely or rushing to close deals inappropriately. But if a lead just isn’t the right fit, don’t hesitate to direct them elsewhere. At the end of the day, it upholds the integrity of your sales process and respects the prospect’s time — and yours. Properly managing these pitfalls ensures a more effective lead management strategy.

6 lead management tools and technologies

To effectively handle lead management, it’s crucial to have tools that make the process smoother and more efficient. These tools are not just about organizing data; they’re about making the most of your interactions with potential customers. By automating and simplifying lead management, sales teams can concentrate on building relationships and closing deals rather than getting bogged down in manual tasks.

  1. Customer relationship management (CRM) software: This software acts as the central hub for all your customer information. It’s designed to automatically integrate data from various channels of prospect engagement such as emails, calls, and chats. This centralization helps to efficiently manage customer interactions and sales processes, and provides a comprehensive view of each customer’s journey.
  2. Real-time sales data and analytics tools: Use analytics tools to track how leads are generated and how/when they move through the pipeline. Common metrics to track include cost per lead, engagement rates, and win rates. These insights, which can be quickly served up with AI, help you understand how to effectively move customers through the sales funnel. With this data, you can continuously refine your approach and focus more on tactics that yield the best results.
  3. Sales enablement tools: These tools provide your sales team with the necessary resources, knowledge, and strategies to effectively engage with prospects at different stages of the sales funnel. They include customer training, coaching modules, and content that help reps address customer queries and overcome obstacles in the sales process.
  4. Sales engagement tools: Essential for building and maintaining relationships with prospects, these tools facilitate communication across channels — think chat, social, phone, and email. They track all interactions for a richer understanding of each prospect and often use AI to automate tasks like updating deal records and customizing emails.
  5. Lead nurturing tools: For leads that aren’t ready to make a purchase, these tools are vital. They automate the distribution of content, personalized email campaigns, and other resources designed to advance leads through the pipeline.

Lead the way to lasting customer relationships

Just like finding the right connection at a networking event or speed dating, lead management is about more than making a great first impression. You’ll need to continuously nurture leads in a meaningful way, delivering value and addressing need while keeping communication personalized. This turns initial interest into done deals and builds lasting customer relationships.

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Elyse Archer
Elyse Archer Founder & CEO of She Sells

Elyse Archer is the founder of Superhuman Selling and She Sells. Elyse helps entrepreneurs and sales professionals leverage their natural gifts and build wealth. She is also an international keynote speaker and host of She Sells Radio, where she shares best practices from female sales leaders who have accomplished extraordinary goals. Elyse is a 2X Salesforce Top Sales Influencer and has been featured in Forbes and Inc.

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