Sales Lead Management: How To Find and Qualify Leads and Close More Sales
Do you feel like your prospects are wading aimlessly through a pool as your team tries to scoop them out with a broken net?
Yep, trying to manage your sales leads can feel like a losing battle when you don’t have a process in place to keep things flowing through the pipeline. While there are several frameworks you can choose from to structure your lead generation workflow, a lead management process is the backbone of any results-oriented strategy. Your lead management process should outline how to capture, track, qualify and nurture your prospects into purchasers so you can develop a predictable revenue-generating machine.
What is Lead Management, and Why it’s Important?
Lead management is the systematic and repeatable process of generating, managing, and nurturing leads until they become customers. Lead management is a tricky balance of pursuing new customers, communicating with current prospects, and making sure that no one falls through the cracks.
A strong lead management strategy will have a stringent qualification process that prioritizes the prospects worth pursuing while keeping those that aren’t a good fit now available for follow-up in the future.
Lead management is important because it helps optimize your strategies while maximizing your time by providing a structured prospecting method for your sales team and an organized tracking system to analyze and forecast your pipeline.
The Lead Management Process – How to Manage Sales Leads Efficiently
Your lead management process will create a virtual paper trail for every prospect interaction. It’s vital that you keep your data uniform and clean in your hunt for new clients. While you can track leads through a spreadsheet, we recommend that you consider incorporating a lead management platform to increase efficiency.
Lead management software can help you automate lead capture, profile prospects, and score leads by demographics, behaviors, and interests with AI-generated insights. In addition, lead management tools help your team engage with potential clients contextually, at the best time possible, with personalized experiences — no matter which sales development rep (SDR) engages with your prospects.
Through data-driven reports generated by the system, you can track response times, touchpoints, and other performance statistics to increase accountability and identify ways to optimize your sales strategies.
Let’s go over a brief outline of the different stages in the lead management process; then, we’ll get into the ‘how-to’ piece so you can put it all together.
Step 1: Lead Capturing
Whether you’re uploading a lead list for outbound outreach or capturing information on inbound traffic, an efficient lead management process ensures a stage is assigned to prospects so your SDRs can sort through the leads and follow up accordingly.
The usefulness of the information you collect on prospects depends on your databases and lead capture forms. Collaborate with your sales and marketing team to determine the details that are vital to the qualification process and what can be left to discover during the nurturing phase. However, if you’re missing information, there are ways to fill in the gaps with lead enrichment tools. The more complete the prospect’s profile is, the more accurate the lead’s qualification score will be.
Step 2: Lead Tracking and Qualification
Lead qualification involves engagement tracking and data analysis. Marketing and sales should set criteria for moving a prospect from a marketing-qualified lead to a sales-qualified lead and create a standardized scoring method. This can help make sure that your SDRs focus on the right people rather than wasting time with unqualified leads. Once a lead scoring system is in place, a lead management platform can be used to assess and pass qualified prospects on to sales automatically.
Step 3: Lead Nurturing
The final stage of lead management we’ll discuss is lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing helps educate and demonstrate the value of your offer to your prospects so they can move from awareness to a purchase decision. Every campaign that a prospect responds to tells you more about their interests. You can use this behavioral data along with firmographic and demographic information to determine the next step in the sales funnel for each lead. If you are using a lead management platform, you can automate the nurture sequences based on your qualification and scoring methods, reducing leaks and improving conversion rates.
You can also practice lead recycling to ensure prospects don’t get lost when they aren’t ready for sales. For example, you could launch a follow-up campaign every month to lost sales opportunities or unresponsive leads tailored to the last touchpoint in the sales funnel.
Now that we have a solid foundation for the steps let’s go deeper into the process.
How Do You Capture Leads?
Lead capture is a process by which new prospects are generated and can be a combination of strategies, including outbound campaigns, inbound marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and social media outreach. Lead magnets, commonly used in the lead capture process, describe an incentive that is given in exchange for contact information to help qualify leads before they are followed up on or converted into sales. By optimizing your lead capture strategy through these processes, you’ll ensure that SDRs have a treasure trove of information when they arrive at the lead nurturing stage.
Identify the Different Sources of Leads
67% of the buyer’s journey is completed online, so your sales team has very little control over the decision-making process. That’s why it’s essential to engage with prospects contextually, based on industry trends, buyer persona specific challenges, and online activity that signals intent.
Consider your different opportunities to source leads and how you’re obtaining leads now. Divide and conquer with your marketing and sales team to create a steady flow of incoming prospects. While your SDRs focus on outbound outreach, nurturing current leads and reviving past prospective deals, your marketing team can experiment with landing pages, lead magnets, social media campaigns, and advertising.
Check out what your competitors are sourcing leads. Assess whether they’ve been fishing in the same pond for a while or if it’s a new venture. The longevity of their current campaigns will be a signal for success. Don’t copy their exact methods, but look for
opportunities for improvement to develop a winning strategy.
Develop a Strategy for Capturing Leads
Your lead capture strategy will depend on the company’s products and sales cycle. For B2B lead generation, you’ll want to develop an approach that includes both outbound and inbound campaigns working in tandem to surface new opportunities. Because there is an average of six to eight decision-makers in B2B sales, you need to create content of sufficient value to interest customers throughout the sales process, such as case studies, webinars, market research, and news articles.
By coordinating your inbound and outbound efforts, you can launch campaigns personalized to your specific potential buyers’ needs and intent to capture more leads. For instance, you may find a particular pain point strikes a chord with a particular persona of a buyer due to an overwhelmingly positive response in an outbound email campaign. Your marketing team could create a lead magnet that addresses that problem and use it on a landing page for a PPC ad.
The most important thing is to execute as many data-driven strategies as possible to find what sticks.
Implement the Strategy
It can be challenging to know where and when to implement lead capture strategies. Think about where you’re capturing leads now. Find ways to optimize those channels first. Again, think about where your competitors are getting their leads. Can you build traction through the same channels?
Most lead capturing strategies are launched online through email marketing, websites, landing pages, social media, and advertising. One of the easiest ways to get started is by capturing emails to introduce your company’s value gradually. There are a plethora of platforms available to help you launch your lead gen machine in minutes. But don’t forget about tried and true methods like referrals and your network.
If your lead generation is minimal, or you’re just not gaining any new sales opportunities despite your efforts, consider working with an outsourced sales partner that can assess your current strategies and implement proven methods for success.
Evaluate Results and Make Necessary Adjustments
Identify which lead sources are bringing in quality leads so you can maximize marketing efforts. While you should make adjustments frequently based on engagement data, give your strategies at least 90 days before deciding to ditch the project. It can take some time, especially with a new concept, to scale your lead generation.
How To Do Lead Tracking
The way you track leads after capturing them will depend on your tools. There are some amazingly intuitive platforms that can help you keep track of when leads engage with your content, even outside of your email marketing and social media campaigns. But, no matter the sophistication of your tools, setting up a tracking system to manage your leads efficiently is doable at any stage of your business’ marketing journey.
The Benefits of Lead Tracking for Businesses
Lead tracking helps your sales team convert leads to opportunities quickly and maximizes their selling potential. By tracking your prospects’ flow through the pipeline, you’ll discover specific target audiences in your marketing campaigns, prioritize high-value sales opportunities, generate reports, and measure ROI.
Set Up a Lead Tracking System
As leads come in, you need a system that safely and securely tracks the information in your database. Setting up your lead tracking system will take some forethought and more collaboration with your marketing and sales team.
Capture Leads and Track Them Through the Pipeline
It’s vital that every channel of marketing is monitored and accounted for in the lead tracking process. Look for lead management platforms that integrate with your current lead capturing tools and makes it easy to attribute the source and score of incoming prospects. Before choosing a software, look for features that automatically link communications to a lead’s file to help your team manage contacts more effectively.
Designated stages that can be assigned to each lead align with the buyer’s journey so marketing and sales can match up the nurturing campaigns with content most likely to further the relationship. Tracking leads through the pipeline will play a vital role in assessing the productivity of your sales cycle.
Analyze the Results and Tweak the Process
By tracking leads, you may find leaks to plug or kinks in the system that are causing a pile-up in the funnel. Find commonalities within the data to pinpoint the problem and find a solution. Touchpoints may need to be increased — you’ll need no less than five follow-ups to close 80% of sales. Or you may happen on a particular sequence that boosts conversion by 10%.
Analyzing the path through your pipeline can also make it easier to hone in on qualified leads as soon as they enter your funnel.
How Do You Qualify Leads?
Qualifying sales leads is necessary so that they can be labeled based on sales-readiness. During the process of qualifying and converting leads, companies might use filters such as marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and sales-qualified lead (SQL).
While there is a lot that goes into moving leads through the qualification process, here’s a brief description of the two main stages:
- Marketing-Qualified Lead: An MQL is an individual who has responded to your lead generation efforts that need to be further pursued and qualified by the marketing team.
- Sales-Qualified Lead: An SQL is an MQL that matches your ideal client profile (ICP) and has shown interest in learning more about your offer.
The complexity of your lead generation strategies may warrant a need for additional stages. Some companies may use other qualifying terms such as cold, warm, and hot. But no matter how you divide it up, qualifying leads will help organize your efforts for a more meaningful experience for your prospects and your SDRs.
Categorize Based on Lead Scoring System
Scoring systems prioritize prospects based on job title, online behavior, and engagement with your company. But because not all data is readily available, leads must be scored based on a combination of explicit and implicit information. Marketing and sales need to decide what constitutes a lead that needs more attention to develop a lead scoring strategy for the company’s purchasing cycle.
The scoring system for your company will change over time as leads’ interest in your company fluctuates. You may also find that your ICP shifts based on the similarities in newly acquired customers uncovered through your lead tracking system.
To get started, gather a list of your current clients that benefit the most from your product or services. Find the dominating factors that make your solution the best fit. Consider asking questions like:
- What’s the company’s structure?
- What decision-makers were active in the sales process?
- What content did prospects engage with most frequently?
- What problems did you solve for the company?
- What businesses did you have to compete with during the sale?
Next, move on to the lost sales opportunities and consider why they didn’t make it to the finish line. Compare and contrast the data to find out why those deals fell through. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about the weight of each lead attribute and assign values within your tracking system.
Measure the Success of Your Lead Qualification
Correlation does not imply causation, which means that evaluating your lead qualification and scoring is a continuous cycle.
If you find that your sales are slipping, it may be time to make some adjustments. Check in on deprioritized leads to ensure you’re not missing out on opportunities. Make sure that those leads prospects that aren’t making it to the sales team yet are still engaged so that when it’s time for them to make a decision, your company is still in the running.
A successful lead qualification and scoring system will be evident in the number of SDRs meeting their sales quota and an uptake in the number of leads flowing through your pipeline.
How To Nurture A Lead
Nurturing leads can reduce your cost per acquisition by 33% while boosting your sales by 50%. Luckily, once the content is created, the majority of your nurturing process can be put on autopilot through engagement tracking signals and re-targeting campaigns. The more data you collect during your lead capture, tracking, and qualifying phases, the easier it will be to nurture leads into clients.
Nurture the Lead with Personalized Content
The best way to create relevant and exciting content is by personalizing it for each prospect. This seems a lot more time-consuming than it actually is. I am sure you’ve heard of buyer personas. By grouping your leads based on the attributes that link them to a specific buyer persona, you can create customized sequences that speak to the prospects directly — like it’s a one-on-one conversation. Through a lead management platform, you can more easily initiate personalized experiences for each prospect through emails, LinkedIn, text messages, and calls.
Focus on content that is unique to the lead’s situation and preferences. Something like “A CMO’s Guide to Purchasing a Social Media Management Platform” is much more valuable than a features and benefits page that will be more useful for a manager that’s more in the weeds.
Webinars are also a great way to nurture leads on a more personal level. The live interaction gives leads the opportunity to ask questions and for you to answer those questions in a way that uniquely serves their curiosity. Webinars also provide you with insight in bulk that’s just hard to obtain through emails and calls.
But whichever channels you choose, the main objective is to remind your prospects of your presence continuously.
Stay Top-of-Mind by Continuing to Nurture the Lead
You want to walk that fine line between being pushy and persistent. It’s generally recommended that six follow-ups over a 30-45 day period are an appropriate number of touchpoints for any given prospect. But that doesn’t mean that the nurturing has to stop there. Most people aren’t going to snub you for sending valuable or helpful content to their inbox once or twice a month.
The name of the game is consistency. By bringing your brand to mind in a meaningful way, your prospects will be more likely to remember you when the time comes to make a purchase.
How Do You Close More Sales?
The whole purpose of defining and implementing a lead management strategy for your team is to close more sales. By standardizing each sales cycle stage, your team will be left with repeatable processes that simplify lead generation. However, there are still some pieces of the puzzle we need to put together.
Develop a Process Based on Automation
We’ve touched on this in previous sections, but seriously, automation is a must in today’s fast-paced, high-traffic environment. Some leaders may be concerned that automating lead generation can hurt response rates. But automating your processes doesn’t degrade the experience. It’s quite the opposite. Automation is a way to ensure that no one is left behind.
In fact, businesses that have embraced sales nurturing automation have seen a 225% increase in conversions.
Respond to Leads Promptly
While you can automate the outreach, you’ll want to invest in a platform that immediately notifies your team of incoming messages so they can respond with personalized messages faster than your competitors. Why is speed so crucial in responses? 78% of prospects buy from the company that responds first.
While a strong lead management process doesn’t guarantee you will generate leads, it does ensure that once their in your pipeline you’ll make the most of every opportunity. While lead management will significantly improve your SDRs performance, the more surprising change you will see is in the positive feedback from your prospects.
If you need more ideas on how to capture leads you can read the guide about the 10 ways you can generate leads online.