A lead is really just raw material waiting to be turned into something of value – a customer. Achieving this requires careful management, from the moment the lead is acquired until the sale is made and a new customer joins the database.
Modern lead management should be a combination of people, software and processes that work together to acquire, manage and convert leads into sales. Lead management isn’t just having a team of salespeople that prospects and sells, it’s about having a systematic process for ensuring leads are dealt with in the best way to turn them into customers.
1. Qualify leads: to avoid wasting time on tire kickers or missing out on a hot lead you need a system to qualify the leads that come in. It might be as simple as a checklist of the ideal customer or the ‘feel’ of the person who took the inquiry, but it needs to be made so that response priorities and the amount of time and effort to invest in nurturing the lead can be assigned.
2. Ensure good leads are responded to in a timely manner. Like fruit left too long, leads spoil. Surveys show a surprisingly high number of SMEs either are very slow in responding to a lead or even fail to respond at all. That can be for a variety of reasons (don’t check their email frequently, have no one responsible for dealing with them and so on), all of them resulting in lost opportunity and bad reputation. Have a back-up plan that kicks in when the primary individual responsible for contacting leads is not available.
3. Respond to leads appropriately: if you have qualified a lead as ‘hot’ you can move to the sale quickly. If the lead is just ‘warm’ then more time is required to supply information and build their confidence in your ability to supply just what is wanted. Too much pressure could cool the opportunity.
4. Develop a system to get leads to the right sales channel: a particular lead may stand the best chance of turning into a sale depending on whether it goes to an individual sales person, the territory manager, a reseller, or a distributor. Don’t risk it getting passed around and going stale.
5. Make each person who has contact with a lead responsible for updating the customer database: it should be possible to call up the lead’s record any time and have an up-to-date snapshot of where things are up to. This is critical since it’s the only way you can accurately measure the quality of leads and decide your next move with them. In the longer term this data will allow you to assess the effectiveness of marketing programs and the ROI you achieve.
Copyright Bullseye Business Solutions. Article originally published in Grow Your Business newsletter July issue 2007
Article courtesy of RAN ONE: http://www.ranone.com/features/news.asp?ID=4314