In my years running marketing and client programs for a B2B media company, we worked with literally hundreds of companies on their lead generation programs. The difference between those with lead management, and those without, was night and day. We basically knew off the bat who was going to make it or who wasn’t. Lead management to me is the platform (including process, people, technology, and methodology) to manage leads from lead generation (getting a prospect to raise their hand) to close. Over the years, I have seen lead management machines and I have seen lead generation disasters.
In preparation for this blog post, I asked one of the leading experts in lead management, Carlos Hidalgo CEO of Annuitas Group for his definition of lead management. Carlos: “Lead management helps organizations answer the question, “I generated a lead or inquiry, now what?” You are doing the right thing if you can answer that question.
There is a simple rule: We don’t pass leads/inquiries to sales. Instead we pass qualified leads; that is, leads that are ready to be worked by sales. To achieve this goal, we need lead management.
Here is a simplified way to think of the lead management process:
- Lead/inquiry generation – CliffsNote: the process of getting people to “raise their hands” to hear more from you. In B2B, this typically manifests itself in a registration form for an offer such as a whitepaper or a webinar but can also be someone who opts into a phone conversation or calls you back from a voicemail or email.
- Lead nurturing – CliffsNote: a series of marketing “touches” featuring enticing content delivered via a variety of channels such as email, phone, live events, etc.
- Lead qualification – CliffsNote: the process of deciding whether a lead is ready to be consumed by sales. The ultimate lead qualification is a combination of programmatic process (lead scoring) and human touch (phone qualification).
- Marketing-to-Sales handoff process – CliffsNote: the process that governs when a lead moves from lead qualification to sales. There are a number of features to the handoff process, such as qualified lead definition (what constitutes a prospect ready to talk to sales) and an SLA (service level agreement) between sales and marketing to follow up if a lead achieves that definition.
- Closed loop – CliffsNote: the process that sends data from sales back to marketing, allowing them to optimize lead quality. This process should be automated but should also include an optimization meeting between sales and marketing so they can qualitatively discuss lead quality.
To support lead management, you will want to have the following:
- A defined process – The goal is to draw a picture of your defined step-by-step process. Successful lead management means you know every step a lead goes through before hitting, and while progressing, through the sales funnel.
- Operational metrics – The carefully defined steps you outline in your process should have metrics assigned to them so you can constantly optimize your process.
- People – You will want someone in charge of each step in the process as well as someone who is skilled in managing your technology. Yes, in some cases, marketers will manage multiple roles but as you scale, your optimal set-up will have people assigned across the process.
- A technology platform – Marketing automation and CRM are the baseline for executing your process.
When the answer to “now what?” becomes: “For every x leads or inquiries we create, we create y number of qualified opportunities and z amount of revenue,” you are now a black belt in lead management.
About Our Guest Author
Craig Rosenberg is a well-known and respected thought leader on marketing and sales topics with an emphasis on demand generation. He speaks frequently at both live and virtual conferences and other events on a number of topics in which he is immersed, including demand generation, lead management, marketing trends, social media, and marketing technologies. Craig also contributes to e-books, webinars and a range other digital content. Many in the industry also know him by his blogger handle: The Funnelholic. You can also follow him on Twitter.