An optimized lead management process will significantly impact the sales funnel by increasing the conversion of qualified leads to qualified opportunities. However, several implicit and explicit factors can prevent the optimization of the lead management process. Specific questions to address include:
- Does Sales or Marketing own lead management?
- Have clear goals been set for the lead management function?
- Has an assessment of the lead management function been performed?
- Is lead management tightly integrated with lead generation?
- Are there automated systems in place?
- Are there managed, repeatable processes in place?
- Have roles and responsibilities been clearly communicated?
- Is the data clean?
- Are there a set of metrics, dashboards, reports and KPIs in place that are monitored and actively managed?
- How is feedback incorporated into the process and if so, how?
As you can see by these questions, a lot of moving parts exist, not to mention the task of aligning and integrating sales and marketing. It is a best practice in lead management to develop a high level flow chart of the desired lead management process. Why? Because it requires the entire process to be thought through and presented on a page. Why one page? Because it requires a complete and thorough understanding of the lead management process to be able to clearly articulate a comprehensive process in one page.
The one page flowchart summarizing an optimized lead management process should include:
Lead Management – A Summary of Lead Sources
This summary documents where the responses are generated from outbound and inbound campaigns. Typically, this would include inbound and outbound responses such as a completed web form, a phone call, face-to-face contact or matching an IP address back to a suspect, prospect or customer database.
Lead Management – The Marketing Automation System
Identify the marketing automation system in place whether it is Aweber, Hubspot, Pardot, Marketo, Eloqua or a custom-built system. At a high level, summarize should be accomplished in the Marketing Automation System at this point.
Lead scoring may involve creating a new lead (at the individual or account level) and adding or subtracting points, updating and appending an existing lead (at the individual or account level) and adding or subtracting points and sending lead alerts. In some cases, it is appropriate to separate “dead” leads into a separate bucket. Some marketer’s starburst dead leads as the assumption is that there is smoke in the building and the dead lead simply signifies the wrong entrance point was pursued.
Lead assignment rules are critical and should be tightly synchronized with the sales force automation system. In broad terms, the lead assignment rules engine will pass the lead to the right channel: Marketing, Telesales, InsideSales, Sales, Partners, etc. It is always important to collaborate with the sales channels to ensure that the proper process is followed. This is because some accounts may need to be suppressed from the process depending upon there status in the sales funnel or customer satisfaction issues.
At this point in the lead management process, preparing to speak with the lead is the primary concern, except for those leads that are passed to nurturing. Lead research is critical in order to increase the probability of a positive outcome for the cold, warm or hot call. Prospects are usually interested in speaking with someone who has value (knowledge of the specific company, the market, technologies, competitors, workflows, etc.) so it behoves the TeleSales, InsideSales and Sales reps to leverage:
- Information in the Sales Force Automation System
- Company and product related blogs
- Competitive information
- Organization charts
- Industry statistics
- Market research
- Existing purchases
- Support notes
- Internal call guide
Lead Management – The 30 Day 10-Touch Model
There is a quote from the movie Boiler Room that is very appropriate at this juncture. It is when the character Jim Young (Ben Affleck) says “And there is no such thing as a no sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now be relentless, that’s it, I’m done.” Being relentless–that is the phrase that best summarizes the most effective lead management processes. Although it will take some time to set-up but if the focus is to optimize the process to convert qualified leads to qualified opportunities it is an absolute must.
At a minimum, is a best practice to incorporate a 30-Day Touch Model. The 30-Day Touch Model includes a minimum combination of five relevant emails and five phone calls that are supported with relevant cold call scripts that correlate to the prospects’ interest stage, industry, product, etc. It’s critical for sales and marketing to be on the same page here. Why? Because these leads were generated from integrated demand generation campaigns that have targeted the right companies and the right people in those companies with the right message-one that supports the unique selling proposition.
The messages used in this process should NOT be typical boilerplate language but the sales messages that were developed within the messaging and positioning framework. Because these sales messages are designed to facilitate sales conversations with prospects, they must be tailored to the specific audience. The sales messages must also reflect the needs of both tactical and strategic audiences as well as technical and business audiences.
After each touch, a lead:
- Meets the qualification criteria and progresses to the next stage in the sales funnel
- Does not meet the qualification criteria and is deemed dead but a referral is provided
- Does not meet the qualification criteria and is deemed dead and the account may be pursued through other contacts
- Has not been contacted live
The timing (length of time to follow-up, day of week and time of day) of lead follow-up will exponentially impact the conversion of qualified leads to qualified opportunities. In general, the quicker the follow-up on initial leads, the higher the conversion to qualified lead and this timeframe is measured in terms of minutes. In addition, follow-up has to be relevant and perceived to be of value that is specifically related to the prospect’s areas of interest.
Another best practice is to ensure that all touch attempts do not happen on the same day of the week or at the same time of day. Travel, standing meetings, the start time for the work-day, lunch breaks, etc. vary by individual and attempting contact on different days at different times will typically enhance results. Formalize a calendar to account for the days of the week and the time of day that the 10-touch communications will occur.
Lead Management – Nurture Paths
Nurture paths should be customized and implemented for each homogeneous segment. At a minimum, a homogeneous segment should accommodate the stage of the sales cycle, interest level and focus area. The golden rule for email communications is that as long as the content is perceived to be of value, it is acceptable to send an email. Resist the temptation to cry that someone will object to this process. Someone most certainly will – which is why there is always an unsubscribe option. Remember, this person opted in to receive these communications. The important concept to remember is that the process is set-up to accommodate the general rule (the middle of the bell curve) and not the tail end that accounts for aberrations.
Lead Management – Lead Qualification Matrix
The glue that cements or separates sales and marketing is more often than not the lead qualification matrix. The lead qualification matrix includes the key criteria used to determine whether or not a lead is a qualified opportunity. Sales and marketing must collaborate to jointly define the lead qualification matrix. Responses for each criterion in the lead qualification matrix need to be documented in the sales force automation and marketing automation systems. Since this information is captured by a person, usually a TeleSales, Inside Sales or Sales representative, this is a manual process.
To make this an efficient and effective process, it’s important to embrace automation by modifying the sales force automation software. Or, one can use use plug-ins to automate as much of the process and to self-regulate the process (records can’t be saved unless key fields are completed or exception reports are sent to management). Also, it’s best to try and use closed-end responses to criteria as these responses are much cleaner to roll-up and report against. However, this will require continuous feedback from sales as to whether the responses are accurate and meaningful.
Lead Management – In Closing
The 30-day 10 Touch Model is a great start, but advancing to a 90-day 30 touch model will provide even greater returns. In general, 90 days will span quarters and budgets. Also, personnel and priorities may change and those factors may in fact present an opportunity where a lead now becomes ready, willing and able.
When this happens, make sure you don’t miss out on this opportunity and allow your competitor to capitalize on your investment.