Optimizing Sales Lead Management In The Industrial Marketplace

Some research studies show that up to 80% of sales leads within an organization can be ignored, then lost or discarded, translating into unnecessarily wasted resources. Some leads may be ignored or discarded by the sales team because the target customer is not properly defined or the lead properly "qualified."  Salespeople often complain that marketing is not generating the "right" type of lead.  Yet even if there is universal agreement on the term "sales lead" for your company and leads are generated through marketing programs, the process of managing these leads might be flawed.

Industrial companies invest valuable time, effort and budget to generate sales leads for their products and services. But, as most marketers know, your leads are only as good as your company's ability to respond appropriately and track them through the sales process.

Companies achieving a high rate of conversion of leads into sales share a number of characteristics. Invariably, their sales and marketing organizations work closely together and communicate well with each other. In short, Marketing and Sales are on the same page.  But to get there, an organization needs to obtain the support and buy-in of the executive team.  Senior management can play a vital role in ensuring that a sales team understands the importance of prompt lead follow-up and what it means to business, more so now than ever.  Responding to leads in a timely manner can result in increased sales, while delayed follow up can lead to lost opportunities and resources.

Successful Lead Management: Four Tips
In today's challenging economic environment, it's more important than ever to effectively manage the leads generated by your marketing efforts.  This means implementing a solid four-step lead management process, one that will define responsibility for lead management, provide guidelines for responding to and distributing sales leads, track lead status throughout the sales cycle and nurture leads that are not ready to buy.  

·      Assign responsibility - Depending on your organization, responsibility for lead management may belong with the marketing department, the sales department, or even with a cross-functional team. Make lead management a priority and assign someone who has authority and influence with both sales and marketing to be responsible and accountable for it.

·      Respond appropriately - Leads come in to your company in various ways - through the Web, over the phone, at an event.  What do you do with them? Key components of an effective lead management process include creating a central repository for leads, responding to leads in a timely manner, and distributing leads appropriately for follow-up.

A central repository can be as simple as a spreadsheet with a few columns added to track the nature and status of leads, or it can be a sophisticated database-driven CRM system. Either way, whoever touches leads should have access to the system to update information.

Once leads come in, you need to respond to them quickly and appropriately. Today, many leads are generated on the Web, which means your prospects are on Internet time. They expect a response within 24 hours and may move on to a competitor if they don't hear from you in that timeframe.

Your definition of a lead -- as well as knowing how a lead prefers to engage with you -- will help determine your response. For example, an RFQ is a hot lead; you should generate a quick response. A more general -mail inquiry about your company's products might be better suited to a simple email response. The nature and timing of your response will often determine your ability to establish a positive relationship with a lead.

·      Distribute leads for proper follow-up - Part of your lead management process is appropriately distributing leads. Some companies distribute leads based on geography; others use distributors for some or all leads, others give only highly-qualified leads to sales and the others go to marketing.

Wherever the leads go, they need to be tracked using your lead tracking system. Define who is responsible for updating the status of a lead so that at any give time you can determine what's working and what's not in terms of lead generation and lead management.

·      Monitor leads throughout the sales cycle - The majority of leads you generate may not be ready make an immediate purchase. They might get pursued by a salesperson and pushed aside if there isn't an immediate opportunity, or they might not qualify for a salesperson's attention to begin with.

Do not discard or ignore these leads! Long-term leads can represent significant opportunity down the road - as long as these prospects keep your company in mind and remember you when ready to buy. Marketing should take control of these leads and "nurture" them by sending relevant information and offers: keep them interested with white papers, articles, product announcements, Webinar invitations and other useful information. These prospects may someday be a hot lead ready for your sales team.

Successful sales lead management helps you catch leads that might fall through the cracks and enables you to calculate ROI for your marketing programs.   By putting a lead management program into place -- one that is supported by all levels of your organization -- you can increase the number of leads you convert to sales, benefiting your company in these uncertain economic times.
3 comments about "Optimizing Sales Lead Management In The Industrial Marketplace ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Quinn Regan from Veruta / MyBuys, March 26, 2009 at 3:04 p.m.

    How true. I agree with your piece 100%. I'll take it a step further - People that visit your website are overwhelmingly warm leads. Whether or not they completed the lead form,they have visited for a reason which means they have interest. A focused and dynamic retargeting strategy is crucial for any company that realizes the value of their website visitors. Turn browsers into buyers by working with a retargeting company that focuses on this one audience - your audience.

  2. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, March 26, 2009 at 7:33 p.m.

    Great post. If you have not followed up on leads, rather than throw them away - Have someone ring up or email and say.

    "Hi, this .... from ..... and I'm so embarrassed. I found your enquiry on a desk at work and I asked around and nobody has taken ownership or said they have contacted you. And boy this is just wrong. So I thought I would contact to see if you are still in the market for .....
    I can guarantee you if you are, I am the one who will be handling your account because we have treated you poorly and I would like to help and and make amends."

    This system works - I hope you don't have to use but it is great method to follow up.

    Cheers Kurt:

  3. Bruce May from Bizperity, March 27, 2009 at 12:32 p.m.

    You sound like a marketing VP lecturing a Sales VP. Since I have done both let me respond as a Sales VP might... “Of course I agree with you that we should fire every lazy sales person that fails to follow up these incredibly valuable leads you give us. However, it would be nice if you could provide us with a little more information about these leads. I understand that you now have interactive technologies that allow you to get more information from anyone interacting with the wonderful advertising campaigns you design. I have even heard that it is possible to engage prospects in a dialogue with both verbal and non-verbal tools. So do you think that maybe you could provide us with some information about what these potential customers really need… what are their biggest challenges…. What do they expect from our products and services…I don’t suppose you could do that could you?”

Next story loading loading..