No doubt as an executive, you’ve heard of a hundred different companies and softwares that promise you the best lead management services available. And I’m talking about companies that actually deliver good results and not shady, two-bit ‘enterprises’ that are more interested in a piece of your budget than in providing genuine services. 

But in my experience, lead management delivers far better results when handled in-house, assuming you have the manpower, resources and skills to pull it off. Now I’ve got nothing against great lead management companies, but far too often I find that they don’t dig deep enough into the data or that they have too many companies on their client roster to give your operation the attention it needs.

In case you haven’t a clue how to implement lead management within your own sales operations, here’s a bunch of strategies and tips that I’ve collated over my years as a marketing specialist.

1.      Divide your sales teams into specialist sectors that deal with specific geographical areas or industries. This will let you set your company up as an authority in several diverse fields, lending credibility and confidence to your pitches. Additionally, tailoring your order submission forms towards greater prospect segmentation will allow you to effectively distribute leads across the entire sales department, minimizing lost conversions.

2.      Append your databases often enough so that you don’t waste manpower following bad data and uninterested leads. Studies have shown that sales-driven businesses that don’t employ automation lose between 6-12% of their prospecting time following what seem like good prospects, only to find that their contact information is defunct. If you’re using a mailing list, remember that list decay averages at around 25% each year, making it a good idea to append your database every 6 months or so.

3.      Taking your own sweet time to follow up on an inquiry is akin to punching a hole in your fuel tank before a road trip – you may get part of the way there, but you sure as hell won’t get reach your destination without spending a fortune on the fuel that keeps your engine running. If that analogy seemed vague, look at it this way: Every hour that you let slip by in between an inquiry and an effective response means more competitors slide into the gap that you create. Timely follow up means the potential client views you as highly driven and easy to work with and can shorten the sales cycle by as much as 50%.

4.      Most prospects aren’t quite ready to purchase your product at the drop of a hat, so clear away any of those lurking assumptions you have about the sales-readiness of your leads. Instead, nurture your leads with drip marketing programs that provide real value to their business operations. Additionally, make sure you implement the highest degree of personalization possible when following up on EVERY warm prospect.

5.      Deliver value every single time. I can’t quite emphasize this enough. If you don’t use lead management software, there’s a chance that a cleverly worded and charismatic sales letter might carry you through, but those automation junkies out there have to offset the lack of personalization with content that attracts and educates the target audience.  

6.      Don’t go overboard with the nurturing, though. An avalanche of information will result in your prospects running straight into the arms of rivals whose nurturing programs seem saner and less likely to deluge them with ‘value propositions’.

7.      How valid are your leads? Consider your target audience before you commit to a set of lead qualification criteria. Is your business local, national or international? If you only sell locally, will the cost of sale to an international buyer be too high for you to turn a profit? Or will the exposure gained outweigh the profit incentive? These are important questions to consider prior to developing a lead management strategy. 

Lead nurturing is a complicated process that takes time, energy and the right conversations back up by effective calls to action – make sure you get it right.

8.      Some enterprises receive several hundred leads per day. If your business concern falls into this category, I advise that you implement an automation system like AIMcrm or LEADTRACK to ‘score’ your leads for you. With experience, you’ll learn that prime prospects project commonalities in behavior and by identifying those patterns you can input variables to help your automation system prioritize the best leads.

9.      Closed-loop analytics (CLA) are quickly becoming the norm, especially when it comes to large organizations. If you don’t recognize the term, here’s a quick rundown – 

CLA basically involves tracking a lead’s actions from first contact to final conversion, monitoring how long it takes for them to convert, figuring out how much that conversion costs, correlating all that information with broad and narrow details about the prospect (including verticals, industry, age, size, etc.) and then using that data to derive a marketing and sales strategy that helps you maximize profitability and quickly achieve objectives and goals. 

That was a long sentence and you may want to read it again. 

Take your time.

Now that you’ve understood the concept, you may have also understood that CLA is essentially a live research project that helps you streamline your internal and external organizational functions towards better operational efficiency. Successfully implementing this sort of metric-driven strategy will also enable you to quickly adapt your sales process to different prospects and different needs.

10.  Get your metrics down pat. That involves archiving and organizing every action that a prospect takes with regard to your website and email marketing programs.  Record which links they click on, the amount of time they spend on each page, the resources they visit, etc. Combine metric measurement with A/B testing to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and to get a better idea of where you stand in relation to your audience.

11.  Listen to all the data that you gather including customer feedback and responses from your sales and marketing teams. Listening will help you truly understand what the different kinds of prospects out there expect from you and your product. If what you hear doesn’t correlate with what you provide, chances are you need to upgrade your offering or switch markets.
With a little luck and a lot of planning, analysis and skills, these little gems should help you get a lead management process up and running in no time. Do you have something to add or subtract? Let me know with a smartly worded comment and we’ll discuss strategy.