How to Manage Sales Leads From First Touch to Close (2021 Guide)
Managing sales leads is not a new thing. Due to ever-evolving email list management and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, the way companies manage sales leads is constantly improving.
In this post, we highlight how to manage sales leads most effectively in 2021. Let's explore the lead management process from qualifying to hand-over.
The lead management process
There are stages in your lead management process. Depending on the way you work, you may want to add or remove stages to best fit your approach. The core stages we want to explore here are:
- Qualify (you’ve got a list of contacts, but which are leads?)
- Segment (breaking your leads down for a more targeted approach)
- Nurture (inform and engage your leads)
- Hand over (give your warm leads to sales)
- Rinse and repeat...
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How to manage sales leads and where to start
You’ve got a nice long list of contacts, is it going to provide you with a healthy-looking Return on Investment (ROI)?
The good news is, if you have an existing list, the hard work is done.
But, you could risk a lot of wasted effort with your marketing campaigns by not taking the right steps to filter this list down to qualified leads.
Even worse, pass on those inefficiencies to your sales team and see drops in revenue. In fact, most companies lose 12% of revenue as a result of bad data.
Before we get into qualifying leads, it’s important to review our list health.
Turning bad data into useful data doesn’t need to be a difficult task.
Gone are the days of assigning your teams days of work to churn through endless lists to weed out poor data and outdated contacts. Clunky systems or complex tools are a thing of the past.
We wrote a guide on how to maintain pristine email hygiene to help you.
Alternatively, you can outsource this data cleaning to tye and let us deal with the bad data, so you can focus on the rest. We can do this directly within your CRM or ERP.
We check, clean, and analyze your list and set you up for much more powerful email marketing campaigns. There’s no list too long, we’ve just turned around an 85k+ list into a sparkling data set with 84% improved contacts.
1. How to categorize sales prospects (qualifying your leads)
Your data is looking healthy and you’ve cleaned your lists! You can now focus on pulling out your leads for a targeted approach. You know the difference between a lead and a contact, but your CRM tool doesn’t yet.
Sorting between them is the difference between an effective lead nurture campaign and, well, just an email campaign.
The more targeted you can be, the better ROI you will have. Not to mention, avoiding damaging your brand’s reputation. Or wasting resources on sending the wrong kind of email to the wrong kind of person, over and over again.
Understanding how to manage sales leads with lead qualification means you really have to get to know your customer. Find out who they are and what makes them tick, and use this to whittle down your list to a subset of qualified leads. This means the people that are interested and are ready to buy from you.
The answer to ‘what makes a good sales lead?’ will vary from company to company, and may change through time.
A good place to start is with your ideal customer profile.
You can do this by starting with a shortlist of your most engaged customers. Conduct interviews with them to compile a set of typical characteristics. This can then inform your future approaches.
Below you can find an example of the kind of questions that will help you build a customer profile.
Building up a picture of your customer is a valuable exercise to undertake and will benefit teams from across the entire business, and will help your marketing team create their all-important email campaigns (more on that later...)
2. Lead management strategy and segmenting your leads
Armed with a list of healthy leads, you can now break these down further into segmented groups. Going through this exercise means better results further down the line. Segmented email campaigns create a whopping 760% more revenue.
Don't miss our post on email list segmentation, best practices and what you need to get started.
Managing sales leads can be done in many ways. This depends on the approach you want to use later on in your email marketing campaign. Your leads will have varying levels of interest in your product. Some may have entered their email to only download content, whereas others might be ready to pull the trigger.
Here’s how to break your list down by their interest level:
Start with your streamlined list of leads. Here you’ll find 3 groups:
- Cold: Those who aren’t interested
- Lukewarm: Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
- Warm: Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
What is an MQL?
A lead who has shown enough interest by engaging with your marketing content that they are deemed more likely to become a customer. They are then ‘nurtured’ by marketing to help them along their buyer’s journey.
What is an SQL?
An SQL is a ‘sales ready’ lead, which means they have passed through the MQL phase and are ready to seal the deal.
Create a set of qualifiers that identifies unengaged or ‘cold’ contacts. Do this within your marketing automation system or CRM tool. You don’t need to remove them from the system, but filter them out so that you can focus your efforts on the MQLs.
What makes a contact unengaged?
Some contacts were never interested in the first place.
They entered their email to download some content, but they haven’t been back since.
They stopped opening your emails 6 months ago.
They visited your website, but didn’t download anything.
You are now left with a list of MQLs and SQLs. To filter out your existing SQLs, work with sales to identify what makes someone ‘sales ready’.
Create a set of qualifiers within your marketing automation systems. Use this to filter out contacts when they complete specific interactions.
Use guidance from the sales team to pinpoint when this transition happens. This will ensure that you are delivering them with quality leads every time.
You are now left with a list of MQLs, leads that require more nurturing before they become SQLs. Use this to adapt your approach to provide your leads with more relevant information. The relevancy of the content depends on where they are in their buyer’s journey.
Once this task is complete, you can segment your MQL list in a way that allows you to shape the messaging, such as:
- By job role
- By company size
- By the challenge they are hoping to resolve
By understanding how to manage sales leads by breaking them down into groups, you can make your messaging relevant and personal. This enables you to approach them in a more targeted way, which we know means better results.
3. Nurture your sales leads
You’re now at the stage where you are ready to start reaching out to your leads. Use your segments to shape personalized and pertinent messaging.
Remember all those ‘email is dead’ articles that came out around 2018? Well two years later, we are here to tell you that it’s alive and kicking, and performing as well as ever.
But what is keeping it alive? Personalization.
Personalized email generates 6x higher transaction rates. People don’t want to be spoken to as a number in a list. We don’t want to engage with brands, we want to engage with people. That’s why the more personalized the email, the better.
How to create a lead nurture campaign
- Use your defined segments to create personalized messaging
The key here is understanding your customer profile inside out. Use this to create a lead nurture campaign that responds to your leads’ challenges.
The better you understand your segments and your goals, the more powerful the content will be.
- Provide something of value
It’s in the name - nurturing is all about guiding and caring for your leads. Don’t jump on them with offers and pitches. Content marketing is your biggest asset at this stage.
Share it with your leads to educate and help them feel they are getting something of value from your relationship.
- Create objectives for your interactions
Nurturing doesn’t just mean email marketing. It’s a combination of communication methods to keep your leads interested and engaged.
This might mean phone calls, special offers, whitepaper content… the opportunities are endless.
However, you need to ensure each interaction is meaningful, and achieves something both for you and your lead. This will also help you measure success later on.
- Create a timeline for your interactions
You need to keep your leads warm, so consistent interactions are important. Having a structure means you won’t overwhelm and annoy.
It also allows you to measure engagement against time, to make automation easier.
- Track and review your processes
You might not get it right every time. By tracking every interaction you can more easily reflect on the success of your campaign, and spot areas for improvement.
4. Lead management workflow and handing over your leads
The best way to manage sales leads is to track your efforts and the engagement levels from your leads in your CRM.
We’ll say it ad infinitum; clean data is essential throughout this process. Without it, you’ll struggle to make this a streamlined and simple task.
By now, your MQLs are all warmed up. They have the latest information and have become SQLs, and are ready to be handed over to the sales team.
Repeat the process that you undertook when you first filtered your list. Don’t be afraid to keep checking in with sales to ensure the conditions you put in place for leads to be handed over remain relevant and deliver high quality SQLs.
5. Track and repeat
As with all processes, you need to continue to review them, find out what worked, what didn’t and adapt. You will learn how to manage sales leads most effectively as you reflect and learn from mistakes and use it to rework your approach.
This may change over time as trends shift and your industry evolves. This is why it’s so important to keep an eye on your progress and the hard work your teams are doing.
The better the data in your CRM, the easier it will be to do this, so it needs to be clean! This means keeping it up to date meticulously, too.
Review your efforts by looking at how campaigns did across different segments. Aim to understand why some did well, and others didn’t.
Your CRM can help identify which segments have provided great ROI, and which need a little more help. You may need a complete change of approach.
You can highlight where you have made errors in segmenting and where new segments need to be created. Getting feedback from the sales team is crucial too.
Ask if they are happy with the leads coming to them, and what might not be working so well.
The important thing is to create a consistent review process, to ensure you are always working as efficiently as possible.
In summary: keep your list clean
One last time for the people in the back. The key to effectively managing sales leads? Keep your lists squeaky clean.
As you continue to build your lists and capture leads, undertake routine data cleaning. Clean and segmented data is the best way to ensure your campaigns stay effective and meaningful.