The Secret to Managing & Tracking Sales Leads
The Secret to Managing & Tracking Sales Leads
Want to increase sales? Try these best practices for tracking leads, talking to prospective customers and managing the sales pipeline.
Before we get started, let’s answer the question, “What is a sales lead?” A sales lead is a person who has expressed interest in purchasing a product or service. You must have contact information for the lead, an email address or phone number at an absolute minimum. The lead may not be ready to purchase yet, but intends to purchase in the future.
Now, let’s dig into eight best practices for lead tracking and management:
Best Practice #1: Understand the Buying Process
Think about the last time you purchased a car. You probably asked yourself what you need and want in a vehicle. You gathered information online and asked friends for advice. Once you had a clearer picture, you visited several dealerships, listened to sales pitches and test drove a few vehicles. Finally, you reviewed your experiences and returned to the dealership to make the purchase.
Purchasing a car is a great example of a buying process. As leads move through the buying process, they become more educated, form opinions and narrow down their choices. From a sales standpoint, you can think of this as a funnel. You start with many leads, and as leads move from stage to stage, there are fewer, more qualified leads. The process varies by industry and is different for consumers versus businesses. Typically, the bigger the purchase and the more people involved, the longer the process.
If you’re identifying buying process stages for the first time, don’t overcomplicate it. Start by breaking the buying process down into 3 – 4 stages. To test whether you’ve identified the right stages, take your current list of leads and categorize them. If you can identify the buying stage for 80% or more, then you’ve got a great start. Consider what types of information leads would like to receive at each stage.
Best Practice #2: Keep a Lead Repository
There are hundreds of options for tracking and managing leads. What system you use isn’t as important as how you use it. Keep all leads in a centralized repository, using either spreadsheets, lead tracking software or full-featured CRM software.
Best Practice #3: Act Quickly!
According to InsideSales.com, “If a company attempts phone contact within 5 minutes after lead submission [online], the odds that the lead is contacted are 100 times greater than if it is contacted 30 minutes after submission.”
Acting quickly is extremely important, but more important is considering what the lead wants to know. If someone is still early in the buying process, he or she isn’t ready for a sales pitch. Rather, share content that educates and informs.
Identify one person in the organization as Lead Manager and implement a standard process to immediately contact leads. Ask questions early in the conversation to personalize and tailor future communications.
Best Practice #4: Qualify Leads & Remove Bad Data
Inevitably some leads have bogus information. Others don’t have the budget or the ability to make a purchasing decision. Early in the process, qualify leads to ensure they have interest, resources and the authority to make a purchase. As you learn more about which contacts are more likely to purchase, consider using a lead scoring system and focus on only the highest scoring, most qualified leads.
There are other important reasons you want to quality check information and fix or remove bad data:
- You don’t want to annoy leads by sending messages to, “tomsmith” or “Mr. SmithA,” just because Tom Smith entered a typo.
- If you purchase leads from a source, you can return bad leads for a refund.
- Organizations that routinely send messages to bad email addresses are labeled as Repeat Offenders with disastrous consequences. Messages are automatically relegated to Junk folders, or worse, blocked altogether by email providers.
Best Practice #5: Nurture Leads
Strong lead nurturing processes generate 50% more sales-ready leads than weak or non-existent nurturing processes, according to Forrester Research. Lead nurturing is a great way to stay in touch with contacts who aren’t ready to purchase, yet. Ideally, you should share information that will move leads through the stages of the sales process and help them make more informed decisions. It’s important to vary media, too. A mixture of emails, phone calls, webinars, research and even social media works well.
Best Practice #6: Keep Notes
Keep a record of all communications with leads. You don’t want to hound leads with too many messages or forget to touch base for extended periods of time. Organizations that don’t remember customers from one communication to the next lose credibility and respect in the client’s eyes.
As you learn more about the lead, add notes to your lead contact record so that you can have more meaningful conversations in the future. Remembering everything from industry interests to personal hobbies can help build rapport with a contact.
Best Practice #7: Assign Follow-Ups
InsideSales.com found that almost half of online-generated leads don’t receive a follow-up communication and a quarter of leads receive only one attempt, either by phone or email. There are huge opportunities for sales teams who are persistent. For every lead, assign follow-up tasks, whether it’s a phone call, email or other communication. Being persistent doesn’t mean annoying contacts, but rather, consider their needs and what they would find helpful. Offers to answer questions, sharing news-worthy articles and holiday messages are all non-invasive ways to stay in touch.
Best Practice #8: Monitor, Measure & Manage
Finally, manage your leads and sales pipelines by monitoring activities, measuring results and making adjustments. Host weekly coaching sessions to talk about the sales pipeline. Gather the team together and review leads, categorized by sales stage. To make the meeting more productive, ask each rep to share one success and one challenge. Have the team brainstorm ideas to overcome obstacles – odds are more than one rep is facing similar challenges.
Taken together, these best practices will help you sell more, land bigger deals, and have happier, more satisfied customers.