Sales lead management acts as a comprehensive B2B marketing strategy for generating revenue. On the spectrum of B2B marketing initiatives, it falls somewhere between broader activities, such as branding and advertising, and direct one-to-one efforts, such as direct or channel sales.
What exactly is lead management? It involves identifying, engaging, and qualifying potential buyers before they are passed onto sales in the hopes of closing the deal.
Sales lead management begins when a salesperson first identifies interest from a prospect, whether that interest came through awareness efforts (social media, PR), discoverability efforts (SEO, paid search, events), or direct connection efforts (outbound calling, list acquisition).
Right from the get-go, sales lead management programs focus on building buyer interest through education and lead nurturing efforts. These could include webinars, breakfast events, white papers, and eBooks, all of which are promoted via a variety of marketing efforts, including the use of cross-channel marketing to remain engaged with potential buyers.
When it comes to lead management, you cannot overlook the importance of lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing uses highly relevant educational content to help build brand and product preference long before your prospects are ready to buy. The key to successful lead nurturing lies in delivering content that’s valuable enough to keep your audience engaged. If you do it properly, lead nurturing can help you build a strong brand and solution preference in your prospects long before they have become actively engaged in a buying process. Lead nurturing software can then allow you to track qualified sales leads and automate content delivery through various marketing channels.
When you launch a lead nurturing program, aim for these three goals:
|Make sure that you have permission to keep in touch with the prospect.||This is by far the most important goal of lead nurturing. Without it, the other goals are impossible. If a prospect loses interest in your messages, they’ll disengage by unsubscribing, marking your messages as spam, or they might just ignore or delete your messages.|
|Establish key points, ideas, or comparison points through education.||A potential buyer whom you’re nurturing may not actually enter a buying process for a long time. But during the lead nurturing phase, if you can educate prospects and guide their thinking to incorporate specific requirements and ways of thinking about the market, you’ll be positioning your company and solutions in their minds for when they do become buyers.|
|Watch for signs of progress throughout the buying cycle.||While you nurture potential buyers, you can watch their Digital Body Language to help you understand where they are in their buying process. Digital Body Language entails everything someone does online. As a person’s body language might give away their interests and preferences, so much their Digital Body Language. It will help indicate when a prospect has progressed to a point to when they are ready to engage with sales.|
There are two more important things to remember when it comes to lead nurturing.
|Personalization||You should tailor your lead nurturing approach for each prospect. Adding personal touches can make them more engaged and interested. Is the content you’re presenting valuable to them? Does it help them solve business problems and come at their concerns from a different angle? Is it delivered in a format that they prefer? Is it relevant to their position, industry, or the software they use?.|
|Do not ignore your current customers.||You should not only be nurturing prospects but our current customers as well. You should keep in touch with them, since they will probably eventually need a service or product update and might present an upsell or cross-sell opportunity. The benefit is that they are already your customer, so you already have established a business relationship with them, which gives your marketing and sales teams a firm foundation to work with.|
Lead nurturing can serve as a powerful way to stay engaged with future buyers. When you execute the process successfully, you establish buyer preference for your solutions while at the same time gaining an understanding of buyer timing. But this will only be possible if your lead nurturing programs deliver content that’s of sufficient value and interest to prospects so they stay in touch and keep you top of mind.
How do you know what types to use for which prospects? It will depend on their preferences, backgrounds, and needs. You might also consider using content that depends on where they are at in the sales cycles and how interested they are in the product and close to wanting to make a purchase.
This is where lead scoring comes in.
What is lead scoring? It’s assigning a ranking to each sales prospect based upon your understanding of their level of interest and buying intentions. As prospective buyers remain engaged and begin to educate themselves on a particular market space, they may begin to display signs of buying interest. By keeping track of these signs of interest, you can identify who the most interested buyers are and when to get them engaged with sales. However, marketing and sales need to work together and be on the same page on what constitutes a qualified sales lead. From there, you can build a process for handing qualified leads to sales and create a service level agreement that governs the process.
Sales can follow up with each lead and either begin to work on it as a sales opportunity or hand it back to marketing for further lead nurturing if they have determined that the level of interest is not as high as initially thought.
What helps you determine how interested a prospect is? Again, digital body language could help.
Today’s customer has taken control of the buying process. With online access to all the information they need, customers can self-educate on leading vendors and the solutions they offer. As marketers facilitate this process, they must pay careful attention to each prospect’s Digital Body Language, so that they can identify the most qualified leads that are ready to engage in a purchase conversation with a salesperson.
Lead scoring can’t begin until marketing and sales agree on the definition of lead qualification. Once they’ve reached this point, marketing can work to generate qualified leads and sales can work to close them.
The definition of a qualified lead must include how good a fit they are to be a sales lead as well as determining an appropriate level of engagement a prospect must have to be one. How od you go about dining out these two things? It requires looking at both a prospect’s identity, background, and level of interest, which would include:
Over time, a lead’s level of interest might waver, increase, or plateau for a multitude of reasons. A lead nurturing program, however, may be able to keep potential buyers educated and engaged as their lead scores change.
Also, bear in mind that you will have to refine your leading scoring for your prospects over time. With each action a qualified prospect takes, the lead score will change. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that each action a prospect takes and each day that passes triggers a re-scoring process so that you can stay on top of everything.
Both lead nurturing and lead scoring make a huge difference in any effective lead management strategy. However, you’ll also need to have a true marketing mindset in which you focus on helping buyers become aware of your solution category, educate themselves, and validate which solution is right for them. Try to adopt a publisher’s mindset, where you identify what content buyers need at each stage of their buying process and ensure that this content is easy for them to access, understand, and digest.
Remember that prospects and customers receive vast amounts of marketing messages every day across multiple channels, including email, text, social media, display ads, the web, TV, radio, podcasts, and more. To properly nurture and manage a lead and have a hope of converting them into a customer, you have to stand out.
How can you do so?
Personalization can do wonders in this regard, but also consider timing. What is the most opportune moment for them to receive a certain type of content? This would be where lead scoring might come in handy.
More than anything, your products and services must be viable solutions for their business problems and you need to be able to communicate this properly to them. Your content must be relevant and useful to drive engagement and interest. Your marketing and sales need to be aligned so that a prospect can be properly nurtured by marketing and handed off to sales at the right time. Also, sales and marketing have to share information to create a consistent personalized experience for the prospect when they go from one to the other and that a prospect’s preferences, interests, needs, and other pertinent data are acknowledged and addressed.
As always, data sits at the center of all your efforts. It will tell you which prospects to pursue, nurture, and move up through the sales cycle. It will dictate how you communicate to them and when, and it will help you form a business relationship with the prospect that could very well lead to a sale.