Support Services: Optimizing Sales Lead Management in the Industrial Marketplace1 Jun, 2009 By: Angela Hribar Response
Some research studies show that up to 80 percent of sales leads within an organization can be ignored, 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. Sales people often complain that marketing is not generating the "right" type of lead. Yet even if there is universal agreement in your company on the term "sales lead" and leads are generated through marketing programs, the process of managing these leads might be flawed.
Companies achieving a high rate of lead conversion 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. 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: 4 Tips
In today's economic environment, effectively managing the leads generated by your marketing efforts means implementing a solid four-step lead management process 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 marketing, sales or even with a cross-functional team. Make lead management a priority and assign someone who has authority with both sales and marketing to be responsible and accountable for it.
•Respond appropriately. Leads come in to your company in various ways — via the Web, the phone or at an event. Creating a central repository for leads and responding to leads in a timely manner is crucial. 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. 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 E-mail inquiry about your company's products might be better suited to a simple E-mail response.
•Distribute leads for proper follow-up. Some companies distribute leads based on geography; others use distributors for some or all leads; others give only highly qualified leads to sales while others go to marketing. Wherever the leads go, they need to be tracked. Define who is responsible for updating the status of a lead so that, at any given 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. 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 when they become 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.
Successful lead management helps you catch leads that might fall through the cracks and enables you to calculate ROI for your marketing programs.
Angela Hribar is chief sales and marketing officer of GlobalSpec Inc., a specialized vertical search, information services and E-publishing company serving the engineering, technical and industrial communities. She can be reached via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.