by Sarah Goliger
Inbound Marketer, HubSpot
6 March 2012
So you are lucky enough to work in an inbound environment and your marketing team is filling your pipeline with leads for you to work and, hopefully, convert into customers. In order to make sure that the leads you get are qualified and ready for that phone call, it’s crucial that your sales and marketing teams work together to devise an effective lead management strategy.
By nurturing unqualified leads with email campaigns that deliver educational offers and opportunities to learn more about your company and your product, your marketing team can essentially guide them through the research stage of your buying cycle and further down your sales funnel. Once these leads have demonstrated a strong interest in your product and a significant likelihood of buying, they should be sent over to sales, so you can delve deeper into the purchasing process and close that revenue.
However, lead management is not just an important method for determining when leads should be moved from the nurturing stage to your queue. It can also be an extremely useful tool for you as a sales rep by providing a systematic approach to tracking and organizing your interactions with each of your leads. Here are 5 simple, but great lead management techniques you can implement to make your entire sales process more efficient from beginning to end, and effectively close more deals.
1. Use lead scoring. Lead scoring is a key part of the lead management process that helps you determine each individual lead’s level of interest in your product or service. Potential factors for determining a lead's score include demographic information and behavioral activity, but your scoring schema should be composed of criteria that are important to your particular business. Based on your sales experiences, decide what factors are most critical to consider when determining how strong a given lead is, and work with your marketing team to develop a process for scoring leads accordingly. As a sales rep, lead scoring will not only provide you with a basis for assessing the quality of each of your leads, but it will also allow you to better prioritize your calls.
2. Rate your leads. Oftentimes, sales reps are so eager to get anyone on the phone that they don’t prioritize their time effectively. However, as a sales rep, you know that however you choose to spend your time, there is always the opportunity cost of not doing something else. The more time you spend rediscovering lead intelligence data that you already have, the less time you’re spending driving revenue. Make it a practice to rate each of your leads as “low,” “medium,” or “high” after your first call with them. This will allow you to spare yourself the hassle of looking over all of your information again and reassessing where you stand with each lead before your second touch. You can simply sort your leads by quality and time zone to figure out which ones to call first, and put your time to much better use.
3. Research your leads. Once you have prioritized your leads, it’s important to conduct some basic research before you start dialing. Part of lead management is understanding your leads and their specific needs so that you can tailor the conversation to be as useful to your prospect as possible. Look up your lead on LinkedIn and see what kind of information you can find about their company, their position at the company, and their job description. Even demographic information can be used to your advantage in a sales call. The more background information you have on your leads, the better you’ll be able to understand and address their pain points and align your offer with their interests and needs.
4. Set a consistent tempo. Another important aspect of managing your leads as a sales rep is deciding how many times and how frequently you’ll touch, or reach out to, each of your leads. Set a specific, repeatable cadence of touches for each rating. For example, you might decide to touch your “high” rated leads 6 times and your “low” rated leads 3 times. Along with frequency, you should also determine a consistent strategy for which types of touches you’ll use. For instance, you might combine a phone call and an email for the first 2 touches, then follow up with a series of emails, and include at least one more call for “high” rated leads. Test your plan and make any necessary changes to ensure that it is optimal for your sales cycle. Also, work with your marketing team to set up a service level agreement (SLA), a numeric system that defines the expectations that sales has for marketing with regards to lead quantity and quality, as well as the expectations that marketing has for sales regarding how deeply and frequently sales will pursue each qualified lead. If a certain type of lead isn’t closing, tracking these metrics will allow you to identify whether the issue is the quality of the lead or the sale.
5. Update lead status. When you reach out to a lead, the action you take next will depend upon the outcome of your most recent touch attempt. Ideally, your leads are qualified and you can continue to pursue them as sales opportunities. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and sometimes you end up with prospects who are not yet ready to buy. However, this does not necessarily mean you should just toss them out. Any leads that are unqualified or not able to be qualified today, but have valid contact data, should be sent back to your marketing team to be nurtured. Lead nurturing campaigns are an extremely powerful lead management tool, and can save you from wasting valuable leads just because they’re not at the right stage of the buying cycle when you first talk to them. Of course, not all unqualified leads will be able to become qualified, so make sure you mark the “bad” leads, i.e. old or incorrect contact data, so you don’t expend additional resources nurturing them to no avail. By updating the status of each of your leads after each touch, you can maintain a more organized system for managing where they go next.
Implementing these simple practices will go a long way toward helping you to better manage your leads and your time. And let’s face it – with a brimming pipeline and a busy schedule like yours, you don’t have the time to waste.