An improvement of your lead management efforts enables sales teams to convert prospects more frequently and enhance customer satisfaction scores. According to the Sales Lead Management Association, organizations fail to follow up on 80% of all leads generated, indicating there is a clear gap where many companies can improve.

Though lead management typically falls under a sales team’s purview, it shouldn’t belong solely to any one unit. Marketing, sales, and customer service each play a vital role in ensuring leads are properly managed. By creating detailed processes that are integrated across units, training your associates on lead management best practices, and employing innovative technology such as lead management sales software, you can ensure your best leads remain in your pipeline.

Ultimately, revitalizing your lead management process with the right people and software is bound to have positive effects on your bottom line.

 
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The foundational aspect of successful lead management is marketing and sales alignment. Lead management is usually the responsibility of the sales team, but creating harmony between these two crucial units often sets the stage for whether or not a company will be able to reliably generate, nurture, and convert the best possible leads.

With this step, the ultimate goal is to agree on conventional definitions, develop an integrated process for managing the entirety of the sales funnel, and transfer responsibility to various parties once they’ve been apprised of the expectations. Create definitions of terms and disseminate the information to everyone who will be using them. Once you have informed all marketing and sales team members about the various KPIs that will be used to assess the lead management system, solicit written confirmations from them that indicate they understand how these responsibilities fit with their roles.

Marketing automation software has been a force for good in the business world. It opens new avenues for engaging with higher quality leads, makes personalization easier, and frees front-line reps from repetitive tasks so they can better connect with potential buyers. This fact, however, shouldn’t be taken to mean that relying on marketing automation is all you need.

Marketing automation on its own is not a substitute for lead management software, or for creating a robust system for monitoring lead management from initial customer awareness to point of sale and beyond. Find ways to integrate marketing automation with CRM software so that your various team members can deliver a seamless experience from start to finish. Companies that excel at lead management create well-designed frameworks for engaging leads in a variety of ways, and then place the right people and the right technology into those frameworks for maximum impact.

To rebuild your lead management system, one of your first substantive processes should be to evaluate every one of your buyer profiles, and then improve the quality of your data. When you equip your marketing and sales professionals with highly detailed customer personas, you provide them with the context they need to make decisions quickly and easily determine what steps they should follow with each of their leads.

Even if you believe many of your buyer profiles haven’t changed, and therefore don’t need to be updated, now is the time to examine them. Information has a way of being compromised over time, and in many industries crucial details can evolve almost instantly.

Many marketers like to stick with what they know works well. This tendency makes sense when you think about the specific challenges of the profession: Out of a seemingly limitless number of opportunities, marketers are tasked with routinely identifying the right buyers at the right time. When they strike on a channel that delivers reliable results, it makes sense that they get comfortable in that role.

The realities of most industries mean the sources of B2B conversions frequently change. The effectiveness of specific channels is constantly in flux due to new technology, industry developments, and regulatory issues, so marketers and salespeople must cast a wide net to secure the best leads. This initiative is paramount: According to the 2015 B2B Lead Generation Report, generating high-quality leads was both the biggest priority for the majority of marketers surveyed (68%), and the most significant challenge indicated (59%).

According to data from B2B marketing researchers, there is still a significant opportunity for most companies to improve their lead scoring processes. One report indicates that an astonishing 79% of companies had not established any kind of formalized lead scoring system. By introducing a scoring system, team managers can transform their lead qualification effort from a largely qualitative affair into one that is data-driven.

This is one task where marketing automation is very valuable. With well-defined buyer profiles in place, you can use your marketing automation platform to dynamically sort customer data and decide on scores that can be applied without bias. By implementing a transparent lead scoring system, your marketing associates can use accurate data to inform their decisions and provide their sales colleagues with the best possible leads.

The more information you can give your team members at the beginning of the lead nurturing process, the better equipped they will be to deliver a well-curated experience throughout the customer journey. Therefore, a vital component of your lead management system must be a commitment to capturing data from your leads early and often. To succeed in this venture, you need effective collaboration between various groups, including IT management, web design and maintenance, content marketing, and sales.

Representatives from these teams will be responsible for tasks such as:

  • Inspecting landing page links on email marketing content

  • Ensuring that CTA buttons are followed by data collection forms

  • Creating a web experience that naturally guides your leads to volunteer information

  • Reviewing lead management CRM software for missing or obsolete data points

  • Following up with leads when data is incomplete

Once you have procedures in place to collect the data you need, it is also critical to ensure it is organized intuitively and analyzed exhaustively. It is unlikely that the person who completes certain data fields will be the only employee who will need to access it, which is why it is so important to have standards that outline when and how data must be populated in various systems, and ensure that everyone who will need to access it has had proper training in said systems.

Remember that data can help you take your lead generation management from mediocre to exceptional, but it won’t happen in a vacuum. Only after you have set strict guidelines for organization and analysis can you act on the intelligence you have gathered on your prospects.

As we journey through the lead management data pipeline, we go from collection to organization and analysis, and finally we come to utilization. Content is one of the most powerful tools your organization has when trying to improve your lead management, and using data provided by your prospects is the key to creating an engaging content generation platform that adds value at every stage of the customer’s journey.

Every department that interacts with leads and customers throughout the process can make use of content driven by data. Use advanced data analysis to find out what kinds of articles, blog posts, and ebooks your audience wants based on their responses. Then, task everyone with creating those assets. In many companies, marketers are frustrated because they feel their best content isn’t being used, while 65% of sales reps simultaneously report they don’t have the right content to send to prospects. You can break free of this scenario by dedicating yourself to value-added content generation in all stages of the buying funnel.

At the end of the day, successful lead management is simply the sum of multiple people and processes coming together to execute on the customer experience. When you consistently identify the correct buyers, expertly show them why your product is valuable to them, nurture them through the experience, and respond at every stage, then you give them what they need to make a favorable purchasing decision. In this workflow, though, one unit dropping the ball throws a wrench into the gear that is the entire lead management system.

In your training programs, you must instill in everyone the importance of delivering an exceptional customer experience — always. Marketers must understand the timing of lead transfers is central to the experience. Salespeople must trust marketing is sending them qualified leads that deserve attention. Customer service professionals must proudly bear the responsibility of executing on all of the promises their colleagues made earlier.

 
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No process in a B2B-focused organization is exempt from requiring a structured performance management process that is based on defined metrics and comprehensive evaluation, and lead management is no exception. However, it isn’t enough for each phase of the lead management cycle — marketing, sales, and customer service — to have their own systems for tracking the efficacy of the program.

Successful lead management is an integrated program, and any performance management process applied to it must be integrated as well. You will need to evaluate processes such as email marketing, content engagement, lead qualification, customer support, and more in relation to each other. This is the only way to arrive at a holistic assessment of the procedures you have put in place.

Danny Wong is an entrepreneur, marketer, writer and co-founder of Blank Label, an award-winning luxury menswear company.
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