Straight Up on Leads Management

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No, I'm not about to launch into a Paula Abdul cover (I won't even dignify that with a link).

Lead generation is a process that uses information to create interest in an enterprise's products or services. It's end objective is to generate sales.

Several steps are involved in this marketing process. Before a company begins, it needs to define the market that its product or service caters too, segment that market, and then identify its most profitable areas. Once this is done, the leads generation process begins. The leads generation process involves prospecting, preapproach, approach, and close. As a prospect moves through the leads cycle, information is being created and filtered. Sensibly, a business should use this information to follow up with its customers to see if they were satisfied with the service or product, and then generate leads metrics which will be used to further refine the leads generation and sales process. 

The leads generation process gathers a lot of information and involves a lot of tracking, and it should generate dialogue not only between the company and customers, but within the company between sales and marketing in particular. A leads management solution uses different methodologies and practices to govern this information and distribute it to the appropriate people within an organization.

There are a couple of factors that are spurring the need for effective leads management tools. The biggest factor is that consumers are becoming more savvy, and are not easily compelled by traditional marketing. Companies are seeking to effectively target their core market by catering to their target’s specific needs.

The following white paper by BLUEROADS (original caps), outlines a some of rules that vendors should adhere to when managing leads distribution. Some recommendations include

  • Using clear terminology for each stage of the lead pipeline

  • Using partners that are relevant and experienced in a particular area.

  • Having realistic expectations.

  • Using lead pull methodology.

Given this, enterprises need to find software that is appropriate to their needs. In his excellent blog, Brian Carroll points readers to a Forrester Marketing blog by Laura Ramos which highlights four key buckets of leads generation technology, aimed at improving the efficacy of leads generation. I'll repeat them here (but I do encourage you to visit both sites)

1) web analytics
2) database services
3) marketing automation
4) pure play leads management

Needless to say this involves a lot of technology and integration with existing CRM and SFA systems. On its own, a leads management system will not be a panacea for a business’s slumping sales. On this, Carroll reflects

"Software will not spontaneously generate collaboration between sales and marketing...I regularly encounter organizations that invest in expensive software before they fully understand the fundamental operational processes that it will be supporting."

In other words, enterprises do not appreciate the type of information they need and who will  be using it within the company. (He also writes how his company spent over a million dollars and nearly a decade to almost perfect their current leads management system. Brian, if you’re reading this, I invite you to try TEC’s tool…) A good leads management system is one that is used. There must be management buy-in, and the sales and marketing teams must be diligent in imputing and extracting information. For stakeholders to use the system, it must offer tools that they need. Failing this, money and resources are wasted housing dirty data—data which has no form or function outside of confounding business.

Enterprises should use a decision support system to help them map out their needs and measure their priorities. The decision process itself can be long and arduous if it is not managed correctly (It’s detailed here as a part of TEC’s software evaluation and selection methodology

For different vendor's take on leads management issues, visit our white paper site.

Here's a sampling:

B2B Demand Generation
5 Keys to Converting More Leads to Sales
How to Convert Web Site Visitors into Leads for Efficient, Successful Prospecting
Falling through the Cracks: The Hidden Issue that May Be Crippling Your Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service Database

Have any other resources or sites that have been helpful in your leads management quest? I would love to check them out.
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