Sales are the lifeblood of any company, and leads are the lifeblood of a sales team. Lead management systems, sometimes called Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, have been used for many years, whether they're a humble spreadsheet or, more likely, a dedicated SaaS-based platform. These applications work in a similar way, helping to record new leads and following the passage of a lead to its close, which hopefully delivers revenue.
The sales environment is more complex than ever; prospects do plenty of their own research before ever contacting a sales agent. Business partners can influence and close a sale before you even know it's an opportunity. Prospects can also close a deal themselves through buying on your website – or your competitors’.
All this means that managing leads is more complex than ever but more vital than ever. Using the classic qualify/present/close approach, lead management is harder to apply practically in an omnichannel world. Many companies are now looking for ways to use the vast array of data to which they have access to enhance their lead management process. They want to quickly find those leads that they need to focus on most, to close them fast.
Companies are turning to revenue intelligence platforms to give them the edge over their competition in lead management.
Let's explore the lead management process, the value of lead management systems, and how revenue intelligence capabilities help you remain competitive.
What Is Lead Management?
Leads are the gold dust that sales and marketing teams work hard acquiring, whether through sophisticated digital campaigns, in-person events, cold calling, or meeting with customers and picking up on a chance comment.
Companies invest heavily to find these leads, and they turn to lead management software to ensure leads are properly followed up and to measure the results. Used as part of the sales process, those leads that turn into opportunities will form the basis of sales pipeline reviews and quarterly sales forecasts. Ultimately, they inform the guidance given to investors and shareholders about the health of the business and its anticipated future performance.
The Lead Management Process
The lead management process is primarily focused on managing incoming leads, but its foundations will lie in the marketing automation systems a company will use to source most of its leads. Marketing teams have access to sophisticated digital tools to run marketing campaigns using search engine optimization (SEO) tools, social media, webinars, email, more traditional events, and direct mail routes. An effective lead management system will need to integrate seamlessly into the marketing automation platform to provide the sales team with leads, swiftly and efficiently, ready to follow up.
Let's explore the lead management process in detail to understand how to automate the process and ultimately enrich it with revenue intelligence capabilities.
Step 1: Lead Capturing
Lead management tools are the first stop for capturing all leads, whatever their source. Most will be captured automatically, using marketing automation systems. To augment those from marketing, salespeople who can source their own leads will need to register the leads on the same platform. This registration is essential if they’re going to be compensated on a deal if it closes. Lead capturing is the foundation of the lead tracking process.
Step 2: Lead Distribution
Lead management software platforms are the optimal way of distributing leads to salespeople. Rules-based lead allocation models ensure that leads are circulated to the right people, based on account ownership, product ownership, regional ownership, or whether a lead is from a new prospect or an existing customer, for example. When managing sales leads, the key is getting the right lead to the right person as quickly as possible so the business can start reaping the rewards of its marketing investment.
Step 3: Lead Enrichment and Tracking
Most lead management systems have capabilities that help busy sales teams to start acting on leads as soon as they get them. As well as ensuring they go to the right person, they can provide the details of the sales enquiry. Other pieces of information might be provided too, to better inform the salesperson about the history of the commercial relationship. This information might include details of historic customer orders and contracts or sales inquiries and links to sales support material to help them qualify and develop the lead most effectively. Lead management tools will also track follow-up and alert or remind a salesperson of the opportunity. Lead management platforms also allow leads to be re-allocated to other salespeople if an individual is unable to follow up a lead swiftly, for whatever reason.
Step 4: Lead Qualification
Lead qualification is where a salesperson begins to earn their pay. Here, they begin to understand their prospect's needs in more detail, to understand how the product or service they’re offering can help. For B2B companies, the questions will focus on the problem that the prospect has. What’s the business impact? Is there a defined project to address it? Has the budget been allocated? Is senior management involved yet? B2C companies may focus more on what features and functions a customer is looking for and what they want to use a product or service for.
Step 5: Lead Nurturing
Lead qualification is about understanding where a customer is in the sales process. They may be at the exploratory stage, seeing what options are available for a future project. Equally, they may want to buy now. Those that want to buy now can be sold to now. However, trying to close someone who isn't ready to buy can harm future relationships. These leads need to be put into a nurturing process, ready to receive invites to events or webinars to maintain the relationship. Keep the relationship warm until the prospect is prepared to buy. This lead nurturing may be done by an account manager, the marketing function, or more likely by both.
Lead Management Systems Benefits
Success for sales and marketing teams depends on having a clearly defined lead management process. Having the ideal lead management solution in place provides scope for automation, scalability, and efficiency, helping the business achieve its commercial objectives.
Let's explore some of the benefits of using a lead management system.
1. Automate Lead Generation and Assignment
Any marketing function aims to get interested customers to engage with the sales team in the shortest possible time. The optimal lead management software system can help facilitate this by using APIs to integrate seamlessly into any marketing automation platform. Rules-based lead allocation models can ensure that the right people handle the right leads in the right way.
2. Improve Productivity with AI
Sales can benefit from accessing the vast sources of company and customer data in the same way as any other function. However, a sales rep's time is literally money – there are typically only 200 selling days per year. They don't and shouldn't have the time to wade through files and systems trying to find the leads they can close now and the leads they can use to build their pipeline.
The best lead management software platforms utilize AI capabilities to help salespeople find the “diamond in the rough” so they can prioritize their time on the right deals and prospects at the right time. The same AI capabilities can also highlight to sales management who is focusing on the deals now, at the expense of opportunities in the future. AI can also highlight if there’s an insufficient volume of leads coming to the sales funnel, alerting senior management about the need to re-allocate resources to solve the problem.
3. View Lead Lifecycle and Engage Contextually
Lead management tools allow sales and marketing teams to look at the same issue from their different perspectives. Sales managers and account managers can look at their sales pipeline and understand how they need to engage with the leads to hit their targets for the year. It helps them plan campaigns, develop opportunities and deals, and identify the budget holders they need to engage with to close their deals. In parallel, the marketing function can use the same information to develop micro-campaigns, targeting a small number of people at one company, to help support the sales teams during their campaigns.
4. Segment and Nurture Leads
The vast array of business data that companies have access to means they can, if they wish, target and service ever more precisely customer segments than ever before. Marketing automation platforms and lead management platforms can help identify these segments by industry, size of business, business issue, or by different consumer needs and preferences. Use this insight to engage with prospects throughout the lead generation and nurturing process so they receive a regular stream of relevant, targeted, and personalized material that keeps them engaged.
5. Measure Results
All this lead and sales data means that companies can measure more accurately, more often, more efficiently. It means they can get the insights they need when they need them so that sales managers and salespeople can allocate their scarce time and expertise to those issues that'll have the most impact as they aim to hit target year after year.
How Revenue Intelligence is Changing Lead Management Systems
While what we’ve explored may sound like a CRM system marketing brochure, it’s equally clear that many companies are using sales data to enhance their go-to-market strategy. Little of what we’ve covered is beyond the capabilities of most sales and marketing teams.
And that's the problem. Many companies are pursuing this approach, and in a rapidly changing world, they need to maximize their competitive edge. Revenue intelligence capabilities provide this competitive advantage. Revenue intelligence platforms are the ideal counterpart for any CRM system. They provide new insights – at a glance – about your sales process and your sales function that help you better manage your business in a complex and fluid market.
Revenue intelligence capabilities allow you to see, for example, how long deals take to move through the funnel, so you can see the outliers that might be in trouble. You can see which open deals have seen little activity recently and others that keep slipping, and why. You can see how and when discounts are best applied and what lead types have the best chance of closing so that you can focus more effort on them. Revenue intelligence capabilities also allow sales reps and managers to receive AI-driven alerts and notifications that help them create more opportunities and close bigger deals by presenting training and coaching opportunities.
Revenue intelligence solutions allow you to visualize your pipeline in real-time, helping to understand what sales behaviors are most effective in your business, so you can train all your salespeople to raise their game. Powerful AI capabilities allow you to become your own data scientist, so you can leverage multiple data sources to find, sort, and manage those opportunities that will drive the growth of your business.