May 23

B2B Lead management is far from an easy task

Lead Management


Companies that adopt effective lead management processes generate more revenue from their lead generation investment and have overall higher close rates on marketing-generated leads than those that do not. But I’ve encountered very few companies that really do lead management.

What is lead management? Lead management is a multistage process that manages the conversion of sales leads to customers. Some people say it’s the process of going from “the first contact to close.”

In Christopher Hosford’s BtoB Magazine article, he highlights some of the reasons why “Lead management far from an easy task.”

The article mainly highlights “lead scoring and automation,” but that’s only part of the solution. Lead scoring and automation support a process of lead qualification, but I would argue that more fundamental aspects of lead management often get overlooked.

Take a moment and think about your lead management efforts… do you see it as a process?

Imagine that your lead management process is a manufacturing operation and your leads are your product. Now imagine that 80% of your product coming off the manufacturing line were defective. In the manufacturing world, where concepts like six sigma are accepted, that kind of defect rate would a blinding sign of a problem (or multiple ones) in the process. Yet, for some reason, in sales and marketing, that kind of defect rate is often accepted as normal or acceptable.

Numerous business process improvement methodologies have seeped into companies large and small. Still, for some reason, they are not yet as prevalent in the field of sales and marketing.

This may be because much of selling and buying occurs outside a controlled environment making tracking difficult. However, a process can be implemented to track milestones and touchpoints. Lead management provides a framework for controlling and driving that process.

Here are the 6 major stages of effective lead management:

1. Lead Generation (generating inquiries)
2. Lead Qualification (are they a fit? Are they sales-ready?)
3. Lead Nurturing (cultivating early-stage leads)
4. Lead Distribution (handoff from marketing to sales)
5. Lead Pursuit (sales process and pipeline)
6. Lead Tracking and reporting (closed the loop between sales and marketing)

Do you have your process for each of these steps documented and understood by key stakeholders? If not, start now. You won’t regret it.

I’ve updated a figure from Lead Generation for the Complex Sale on lead management to give you a hand. (Click above image to enlarge or Download PDF)

I believe there are two funnels – a marketing funnel and a sales funnel. The marketing pipeline manages customer interactions from the first contact through to a viable sales opportunity (aka sales-ready lead). The success of your marketing funnel directly impacts that of the sales funnel. The bigger and better your marketing funnel, the bigger and better your sales funnel.

Within the marketing funnel, I find that most marketers need to focus more on the processes of lead qualification and nurture.

Here are the top three issues:

  1. Inquiries are improperly handed off to sales without being qualified.
  2. A lead nurturing program has not been implemented.
  3. Sales have not been given the means to hand unsuccessful leads back to marketing for further work or nurturing on their behalf.

Like other business process improvement initiatives, lead management must start with the proper mindset. Lead management is a process that can be documented, measured, and refined.

It’s certainly is not easy, so start with the mindset that leads management is a process and make that process as simple a possible. Don’t forget that software does NOT create collaboration. Make sure everyone in the process has “bought-in” and understands their role. Only then will you have the foundation that will support more complex lead management practices.

Related information:

Here’s an in-depth article on lead qualification I wrote for Target Marketing: What’s a Lead?

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing. He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Great comments, Brian! It’s difficult to sum up a tough topic in 850 words, and I have to do it every month! But hopefully the cumulative info will be worth it. I commend your expansion of this topic, and look forward to more from you!

    Christopher Hosford
    contributing editor
    BtoB magazine,

  2. Great post as usual Brian. As you pointed out in earlier posts, one of the main issues is the “hand-off” between Marketing and Sales and getting them both to agree on lead generation as a whole. So it’s not only about managing leads effectively, it’s also about the Sales-Marketing connection. Which is why I think that any lead generation software that simplifies tasks for Marketers and lets them concentrate on their communications with Sales is a good investment.

  3. It is crucial to measure your lead generation campaigns from beginning to closing to 1) justify running more 2) to know what works best and 3) to get the sales team excited. Let’s face it, you can have the best campaign out there that brings in a stack of leads, but if you do not have a sales team with the ability, or motivation, to follow-up timely on a lead, then it will be viewed as a failure.

  4. This is a great article. The disconnect between marketing and sales has become, what I have found, the most significant bottleneck sales organizations encounter. While Lead Management details a planned approach of progressing leads from contact to close, Lead Response Management is a strategy of how, when and by whom a lead is contacted.

    Lead Nurturing insinuates that the leads are somehow removed from the sales process, placed back in the hands of a marketing team until the lead shows some level of interest. Lead Response Management works in conjunction with the sales process to optimize contact efficiency and message delivery. By implementing a LRM strategy, the “Nurturing” can begin while a Lead Qualification team is attempting to make contact. Once contact is made, the change of status can either send the lead down a long term nurturing campaign, short term campaign or active prospect campaign where the LRM can continue to automate correspondences between prospect and sales rep, triggered by time spent in each deal stage.

    A proper LRM system will provide reporting capabilities and ownership to both marketing and sales, which offers transparency in the success of the lead gen activities.

  5. That is a very good post. I am new to the blog but I am impressed. Without an effective way to track and measure the results of leads and their respective marketing campaigns it is hard to accurately determine ROI.

    Larger companies spend millions of dollars on lead management systems in order to stay one step ahead of the competition. The good news is that there are several solutions out there. Now you don’t have to be a large company anymore to be able to afford proper lead management. It is a welcome sign to see the playing field being leveled a bit.

  6. I agree that lead management is not an easy task. However, lead management is greatly aided by many new technologies in the market today. Quick response to interested leads is an important step in successful lead progression. When a company can successfully address the concerns and questions of either their clients or their prospective cliental it leads to efficiency which in turn leads to the efficiency and success of the cliental. And if your clients are having success then in turn you are having success.

  7. You are indeed right. It even becomes a lot harder for very specific industries such as those who work or need home equity leads. However, the hardest part is always the beginning–how you get the lead. Once you can already surpass this one, and especially if you are using a lead generation software, everything else follows. You just need to do it step by step and avoid doing shortcuts to make sure that you don’t commit a lot of wrong decisions and fatal errors along the way.

  8. Excellent Article:
    Until the communciation problem between sales and market is streamline, there will always be a disconnect between the two departments. I see it all the time with customers I support. But from what I seen it begins with a mentality change of both marketing and sales to break the “norm”.

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