We see it all the time. Word comes down from the top about results that are lagging behind business goals, and all of a sudden “WE NEED MORE LEADS!” All hands on deck, get more leads in the door, flood sales and let’s close some opportunities. Finger guns.
Well, unfortunately that mentality distills a very complicated purchase process down to something that can be controlled at the very bottom of the funnel—sales. This really is an antiquated strategy that doesn’t work in the customer-focused business environment of 2001, let alone the 2020s. It assumes that for purchases to be made, we as businesses just need to remove the decisions from the customer and leave it to sales to make choices for everyone. In my experience as a marketing consultant, this almost always backfires.
Bringing in more prospects does not equate to more sales. This, of course, is entirely dependent on your specific situation (marketing tactics, products, industry, yada yada yada), but if I ever hear from a sales rep prior to researching myself, the chance of getting me to talk about any purchase dips below zero (and you can expect some salty messaging about your tactics). Not to mention lead quality—more overall leads, if they aren’t good leads, might not even mean more buyers.
As a marketing and sales department, you probably already have a giant cache of leads that could be customers. Don’t just keep piling people into lead purgatory. Instead, you need to do a more effective job of validating your product, nurturing prospects to get to the point of sale. What you’re really in need of is better lead management, to communicate the product or service differentiators about your business to specific leads when they’re ready for them. When done correctly, you can qualify the right people and improve sales rep performance by only sending along the leads that are truly qualified. Then lead gen flows into a well-oiled machine that moves people to buy. Be still my heart.
Obviously this is a big topic to cover, but I’m going to do my best to walk through the highlights of a proper lead management audit*. These are going to be the broad tactical buckets that should be addressed, with some tips here and there about the execution.
*A required caveat: Your business is a beautiful snowflake, and audits like these really should be tailor-made to your current marketing and sales ecosystem, your industry, and your customers. If you’re looking for that special touch, reach out to me and I can give you more information.
Here we go.
1. Ground Zero: re-confirm key lead identifiers and KPIs
When you’re working with an agency this part is critical, but it’s an important step to take internally as well. Ask yourself, “What is a lead?” Is it an individual contact? Is it a contact in the phase of shopping? Is it a contact with a known phone number?
Go through this process again and ensure that you have your definitions set for the following as they relate to marketing and sales:
- Marketing qualified lead
- Sales qualified lead
- Upsell opportunity
- Purchase cycle or timeframe
- Initial benchmarks and KPIs
2. Take inventory, both with marketing and sales
This step kind of goes hand-in-hand with the previous step, because it focuses on collecting qualitative information from the people on the front lines in your organization. Get a few key people from sales and marketing together and talk through your current lead management process and write down what both teams perceive to be working and what’s failing. Odds are that the right hand isn’t talking to the left, and things could be integrated better.
Optional: consumer-facing surveys
Take this one with a grain of salt, but all the data you own and can analyze is entirely one-sided. Without customer input, the best you can do is formulate hypotheses about your customers and hope that your decisions show positive results in the data. What we really need to discern is the customer journey, and whether we as a business are adhering to it.
What are we looking for?
- Are there content gaps, questions that leads want answers to before buying?
- Is the pricing structure confusing?
- Do people want something else entirely?
These are great questions that existing customers or even some active leads might be willing to provide answers to. Throw up a survey plugin on your website and ping the audience, see what’s really going on out there. Or, if you have a contact us form with a general comments section, try a keyword analysis to see what people are asking for and can’t find.
3. Map the existing ecosystem, and get the data you can
Now that everyone is on the same page about what is what, you should pull the information you can from the current processes and systems in place. This should give you a foundational understanding of how things work today.
Do what you can to get the quantifiable metrics from each system, such as dates, sources, lead activities, and sales activity, and do what you can to map out some of the key components based on what you have. Ask yourself questions like:
- Is the time to close for a lead what we thought it was?
- Are certain types of business more active than others?
- Do more leads close looking for a certain product, or coming from a certain place?
Answers to these questions should get your gears turning and serve as bellwethers for your upcoming lead management updates.
With qualitative and quantitative lead data in hand, try to create a visual map of your current lead management process. Show the flow of how people engage with your marketing content, and where sales and marketing influence their experience.
4. Create the ideal lead profile, and work backwards
Now let’s begin making some adjustments to try and improve the system, starting with determining who is the ideal lead (and eventual customer). With your data in place, find the best converting leads for given products, and outline who they are and what we know about them from a data perspective. This could be known information or aspirational.
You now have a look at where you need to go in order to get more people who are likely to buy. Hopefully this should illustrate whatever gaps exist in your current lead management ecosystem. What if you need more data on leads, collected via marketing engagements and handed off to sales? What if your ads are targeting the wrong demographic base? What if you have a massive gap in communication and leads are going cold?
Come by this honestly so you can see your own blindspots. The point here is to iterate and improve on your system, not to pretend everything’s working perfectly.
5. Set new goals and build the system to hit them
Next, find some new goals that you’d like to move towards. These can be detailed (e.g., shorten the time to transition to SQL by 30 days) or more general (e.g., increase lead generation year over year). The call is yours to make, and the idea isn’t necessarily to hit that mark precisely, but rather to have a benchmark you can work towards with your management changes.
6. Generate a strategy that fills the gaps: content, messaging, personalization and more
You have all the pieces in place:
- Your current system
- Your leads and customers
- Your sales and marketing process
- Your ideal leads and missing gaps
- Your new goals
Next, you’ll need to come up with a strategy to create better lead engagement for your marketing and sales departments. And, unfortunately, I can’t really help out too much here because of the whole customization problem. This is a very specific strategy to your company, leads, and industry, and the variance is so high that I really can’t say you should always do one thing or another.
You have an awareness problem? Maybe we need to do more advertising, connected TV, search, or otherwise.
Leads can’t find us or our products when searching? Content strategy and SEO rework is a must.
Prospects can’t distinguish us from competitors? Again, maybe a content strategy with a robust email campaign to lay all that out.
Since it’s so case-by-case, it can be pretty tough to get this part hammered out. If you’re really struggling, this might be a good place to start thinking about bringing in outside expert help. A second opinion from an agency or a consultant could help get you on the right track.
7. Re-configure the CRM and automation processes first
No matter what strategy you decide to go with, it’s important to make any changes to your systems that fire behind closed doors first. If the sales teams depend on information that is sent directly to them, and something changes to prevent that, then all hell will break loose when it shuts down. Part of the benefit of mapping out your ecosystem in step 3 is that it allows for you to then see the interconnected software and mechanisms to try and mitigate this damage.
Ideally, you would make any adjustments to the CRM, automation, or workflow processes prior to changing things on the front end. That way, when you do make changes, the system will already be prepared. Everything keeps flowing.
8. Strategy execution
Okay, everything is in place and ready to go—all that’s left is to pull the trigger. Finally, you can begin to put your strategy into play. Depending on what you come up with, it could mean a lot of new content, new systems to add, live events and more. The one thing that’s for certain—the work isn’t over, because you’re going to have to continually iterate and update to keep up with changes in your audience and industry.
Don’t let your leads dissolve
Proper lead management can make or break your sales cycle. Marketing should flow right into sales, and can really amplify your efforts. Effective lead management is the nexus of sales and marketing integration, and for purchases at enterprise scale, it’s a must.
Looking for more details on lead management, or assistance with your current marketing and sales ecosystem? If you’re in need of better lead management, you’ve come to the right place. Element Three not only specializes in the technical setup of martech systems to work with both marketing and sales, but also how to target the right people and communicate messaging that moves them closer to purchase. You can explore more on the E3 blog, or reach out to us for further assistance. We’re always happy to help.
When asked to sum up himself with just a single sentence, Grady responded with the following, "Commander of the resistance, unrelenting leader in the defense of organic life, chocolate lover."
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