May 03

Lead Scoring is a hugely popular topic when discussing demand generation programs.  It’s very relevant and a critical component to ensuring marketing and sales have a strong and effective working relationship to drive the business.  Before organizations go down the path of developing the lead scoring model, they must have a Lead Management Process mapped.  Amazingly I commonly work with large enterprises that sell B2B solutions that have an informal leads management process that isn’t documented.  Without a formal plan that documents the leads management process, the train will fly off the rails.

Tools and Technology – Marketing Automation and CRM

Many organizations have different ways they manage this process.  They can use CRM systems like Salesforce.com and marketing automation systems like Eloqua.  These systems tightly integrate together to help manage the process where the marketing team cultivates and nurtures leads and where the sales team manages the sales cycle with the qualified opportunities.

Building a Leads Management Process

Here are some outline ideas that can help B2B organizations build an effective leads management process.  This can sometimes develop into a complex workflow based on the buying cycle of the target market.  But once the sales and marketing team can agree to the process, the natural state of contention can be a “healthy” one instead of destructive and revenue-losing.

When developing a Leads Management Process, make sure to identify the for each step:

  • Process Owner: Identify who is accountable for each step.
  • Lead Stage: Leads move through stages based on qualification/engagement and can be identified in ways such as suspect, prospect, lead, opportunity, win loss, on hold, customer.
  • Duration: How long should a lead be in each stage of the process?  Hours, days, months?
  • Next Steps: With each step, what is the progression and the action?

Leads Management Steps – Some Ideas

1. Inquiries: These inquiries can come from multiple sources including web forms, phone calls, events, etc.

2. Lead Scoring: This is a step in the leads management process and not the process in itself.  Although, this is one of the most important as it helps identify and prioritize the leads to work with and how.  Think of ways how to identify leads that can be initially scored based on the following:

  • Compelling Event – what problem is the contact/organization trying to solve? Is this an official project or are they purely information gatherers?
  • Decision Making – What decision making authority does the contact have? Decision maker, influencer, recommendations, user?
  • Timeframe – When do they plan to make the final decision?  When do they plan to activate your offering?
  • Budget – Is this project officially funded?
  • Size – how do you rank the size of this opportunity?  Large, medium, small, microscopic?

3. Lead Nurturing – Leads that aren’t sales-ready can be managed by marketing where content is delivered in regular intervals to help with building awareness and educating on the solution.  Lead nurturing, like lead scoring, can be a sophisticated program that helps cultivate leads to a more qualified stage for future sales engagement.

4. Sales Follow Up – The appropriate sales representative initiates follow up based on pre-established qualification criteria.  This is often the area of greatest contention and stress between thee sales and marketing teams.  Are the leads truly worthy of follow up?  Does the sales organization follow up in a timely manner?

5. Sales Qualification/Disqualification – Sales can further qualify the lead based on the lead scoring criteria and either turn this into an opportunity or disqualify and pass back to marketing for further nurturing.

6. Sales Cycle Management - This is where the sales teams manage the leads through the cycle to actively drive a sale.  As you can see, there are many steps to follow before the sales cycle even begins!  The sales teams should use their CRM system to tracks the stages with these opportunities.  If an organization is using a marketing automation system that is integrated with the CRM system, a full view of the effectiveness of the leads management process can be reported!  Often this is where leads can get “stuck” and leads may need to be recovered by marketing for further cultivation and nurturing in order to keep

7. WIN / LOSS / ON HOLD - Did sales win the opportunity?  Lose it?  Is the opportunity on hold?  Does the lead need to be passed back to marketing for further nurturing using the marketing automation system?

The lead management process is critical to develop and manage with the right tools and technology.  Each company will have their own process that fits the buying cycle of their leads.  The ideas I have outlined here are a great starting point that can map an effective process that helps bridge the divide between marketing  and sales and drive revenue.

Let me know how you are managing your leads management process and some of the best practices or challenges you encounter.  Thanks for reading!

More information is also available from our site at Zephyr 47.

Thanks for your time!

Brian Hansford

President

Zephyr 47, LLC

http://www.Zephyr47.com

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