Running a business today can feel like training for the Marines. Consumer demands have never been higher. We want personalized experiences, answer to questions we haven’t even asked yet, quality products, flawless service … the expectations never end. In order to cope, companies turn to CRM software to help them manage the customer journey. And the first step on that journey is CRM lead management.
Leads are the lifeblood of your company. Without them, revenue eventually dries up and you have to shut off the lights. But there’s a problem. Leads aren’t as easy to come by as a Starbucks latte.
Consumers move fast and make fickle decisions. There’s not always a connection between loyalty and your product’s price or your brand’s reputation. It’s influenced by location, family preferences, local trends and a whole host of other factors.
You can conduct as many surveys and make as many projections as you like, but you’ll never have complete control over your customers — or your leads for that matter.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. CRM systems give you the tools to capture leads and guide them through your conversion funnel. And then maintain a strong relationship once they become customers.
Combine consumer mindsets and business complexities and it’s no surprise that the market for CRM software — and lead management tools, by extension — is booming. Businesses need an efficient way to process, develop and retain as many individual leads and loyalties as possible.
With industry competition becoming fiercer and customers demanding increasingly personalized experiences, companies can’t afford to overlook the lead management opportunities of CRM if they want to stay competitive.
That brings up a question: how different are lead management and CRM solutions? More importantly, does your current CRM system already cover lead management requirements?
Let’s take a jaunt into the world of managing your leads and your customer relationships.
What’s Lead Management Software and How Is It Different from CRM?
To understand the importance of lead management tools, you have to know how and why they differ from traditional CRM software.
The easiest way to keep them straight is to picture those Venn diagrams you probably saw scribbled on a whiteboard during a college class. If CRM is the outer circle, lead management is one of several circles completely inside it. Lead management is a critical subset of customer relationship management.
In terms of the software, lead management can come as a standalone system. It helps you through the process of turning prospects into customers, but its capabilities end there.
However, since lead management is a central component of CRM, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a CRM solution that doesn’t include lead management features.
Here’s a quick breakdown of each:
Lead management is straightforward: it focuses on capturing and retaining leads until they officially become customers with a purchase, subscription or other interaction to their name.
Lead management software brings in the leads and guides them through the process of qualifying and nurturing. Then, it hands them off to your sales reps who turn leads into paying customers.
This is the point where your CRM takes over. CRM software provides a range of features and functionalities that empower you to handle everything from contact management to sales forecasting.
The two approaches, while tackling different areas, work together. Without lead management, your CRM won’t have any customers to maintain relationships with. That makes it crucial to get the first piece down — like building a solid foundation for a house.
What Lead Management Does
Lead management can be a big asset for your business because it produces a clear plan of action. If you know which leads offer attainable value, you can invest more time and money on developing these particular leads. In other words, bet your marketing capital on safer candidates.
To help you better understand how the lead management process works, here’s an overview of the main steps involved:
Lead management can’t happen unless you’re bringing people into the funnel. Inbound marketing tactics have become a favorite approach to generate leads. As the name implies, you draw prospects to your brand by offering high-level content such as blog posts, videos and information-packed downloads.
Demand generation is another common method for filling the pipeline. It uses a variety of digital ads, email marketing and in-person activities like trade shows.
After someone takes an action to become a lead, they become an entry in your system. Lead management tools provide a central database for storing this information. You’ll use this data to help categorize your leads and send them the appropriate content during the nurturing phase.
Once you have leads, you need to sort them based on criteria such as demographics and buyer stage. To achieve this, lead management software mines data from multiple sources. Sometimes, it uses direct mailing or email marketing lists. Other times, it extracts information from customer databases or even social media platforms.
With access to the right data, it analyzes the information, segments valuable customer identifiers and produces a set of qualified leads. Not only does it do this with more accuracy than a traditional sales team can, it also does it at speed.
This method is how you determine how valuable each lead is. The objective is to try and identify the leads that match your blueprint of the ideal customer. What the ideal customer looks like will, of course, depend on your product and brand narrative, so you’ve got to integrate the software with your marketing strategies.
When it comes to your brand, people aren’t prone to love at first sight. This is especially true in the B2B world, where buying cycles are growing longer, according to the 2018 B2B Buyers Survey Report from Demand Gen Report. Over 60 percent of respondents said their buying cycle had increased somewhat or significantly from 2017.
You have to be patient, and that’s where lead nurturing comes in. Want people to buy from you? First, you have to give them valuable, relevant content that fits their stage of awareness.
The path to purchase involves nudging your leads further down the funnel until they hit the point where they say, “All right, I’m convinced!” and pull out their credit cards.
Transferring to the Sales Team
Once the leads are primed to take the next step, you’ll need a seamless hand-off to your sales reps. This transition point from marketing to sales is known for its difficulties. Having lead management already integrated into your CRM makes this process a lot smoother.
The main goal is to make sure the lead is actually sales-ready — which is where scoring each lead comes in. And on the sales side, reps should pick up the conversation immediately to prevent the lead from slipping back to a nurturing status.
Key Benefits of Using CRM Lead Management Software
Now that we’ve defined lead management and seen how it works, let’s take a look at some of the top advantages of putting a CRM lead management system in place.
Gain Insight and Drive ROI With Analytics
It’s never been easier to gather data. We’re practically drowning in it. But just because you can collect personal details about consumers doesn’t make it automatically useful. Without a strategy for using that data to inform better decisions and actions, you might as well be driving in the dark with your eyes blindfolded.
It’s a major waste of time if your mailing lists, web forms and social media platforms always collect and never deliver. However, with the right lead management tools, this information becomes a valuable asset that contributes to profit and conversion margins. They tell your business which leads are worth your money and attention, based on their likelihood of becoming a paying customer.
This ability to track leads greatly enhances your marketing efforts. Want to minimize waste and make sure you’re developing the right areas of the target market? Look no further.
CRM lead management software also enables you to pinpoint where prospects are entering your funnel. To illustrate, when a new lead — we’ll call him Joe King — enters the system, you can see that he got a free eBook in exchange for his info. No matter where your leads first interact, you can identify the sources.
Such insight shows you which types of content perform better and which channels are best to spend your time and energy on. By tracking these touchpoints where prospects become leads, you can optimize your funnel to enhance lead generate.
You can also use the data you’ve collected to your advantage and tailor your responses to better fit the context of each lead. For example, let’s say an HR manager downloads your guide on best practices when implementing HR software. Using that guide as a framework, you can use your lead management tool to build an automated sequence that triggers in response anytime someone downloads the guide. Now that manager will receive a 3-part email sequence that follows up with other valuable content related to HR software implementation.
Voila! Customers receive personalized content without having to wait. And that’s a key building block in creating the trust that draws them down the funnel. Personalized emails see a 14 percent average increase for click-through rates (CTR) and boost conversions by 10 percent, according to an Aberdeen study.
The ability to use data to your advantage comes with another nicely gift-wrapped result: cost savings. A robust lead management policy can end up saving you a lot of cash.
In the world of sales, there’s a big difference between “might buy” and “definitely will buy.” Once you can distinguish where each lead is at on that spectrum, it dramatically cuts down on risk and leads to a higher hit rate when it comes to closing the deal.
Qualifying leads is a fundamental part of moving them through the funnel. There’s no point in spending time on leads who aren’t likely to turn into buyers at the end of the line. To aid this, lead management CRM software provides features such as lead scoring to help you rank the quality of each lead.
Some solutions use a point-based system, while others let you rank each lead on a cold to hot scale. The particulars aren’t as important as the fact that this gives you an immediate and clear view of which leads are best to pursue.
Another benefit of using data? Placing each lead into the proper nurturing campaign. If someone converted via a middle-of-the-funnel datasheet, you’ll want to send them different content than Joe King who still needs more general offerings near the top of the funnel based on his first download.
In order to win someone’s trust, you have to keep an open line of communication. You can’t expect Joe to download an eBook and then buy your product the next week. He’s testing the waters to see if your company is worthy of his business. For the leads who aren’t sales-ready, nurturing is an essential activity.
Lead management enables you to date the customer, so to speak. You can provide various types of content and show how your product or service can help them achieve their goals. This nurturing process is a key part of turning someone from a consumer into a customer.
Operate With Context
Have you ever started watching a movie in the middle? If you’ve never seen it before, you don’t have any idea of what’s going on. Now apply that concept to your sales process. Cold calls are kind of like starting the movie at the midpoint: the customers don’t know what you’re about or who you are. See the problem?
Salespeople already get a bad rap. It’s easy for people to get frustrated when some random stranger calls and tries to sell them something. Say goodbye to all those leads you worked so hard to get.
But if you execute lead management properly, you can avoid this drawback. By tracking each lead through their journey, you can provide your reps with information that makes their job easier.
Let’s return to our friend Joe. He’s finally decided he’s interested in buying your product. When your sales rep makes the call, she can look at Joe’s information to provide a personalized, relevant experience.
In a world of fast-moving social media feeds and bite-sized pieces of content, attention spans are short. Consumers want responses yesterday. If you don’t follow up in a timely manner (like, immediately), you might lose them to a competitor.
Lead management tools help you avoid such tragic situations. When someone enters the system as a new lead, you’ll see it and be able to send a response. And that impacts your bottom line.
Research has shown that the early vendor gets the sale. If you’re the first to respond to a lead, you can expect to receive 35-50 percent of sales, according to an InsideSales study. Talk about some major ROI.
Save Time With Automation
If you ever watched the 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy,” you probably remember the famous “Job Switching” episode. Lucy and her best friend, Ethel, go to work in a candy factory, where their job is to wrap chocolates as the conveyor belt glides past.
Since they’re doing it by hand and without any experience, Lucy and Ethel quickly discover how difficult it is to keep up with the conveyor belt’s speed. The task becomes a disaster as they stuff chocolates under their hats, into their mouths and anywhere else they can find, in a desperate attempt to keep pace with the never-ending rush.
It’s an amusing story, but also a good illustration of how important streamlining tasks is. If you’re trying to manage leads without software to automate the process, your pipeline can spiral out of control. Maybe a spreadsheet was sufficient when you only had 50 leads a month. But what happens when that number swells to 5,000?
A lead management tool makes the process more efficient. This removes burdensome manual entry tasks and creates the freedom to increase productivity.
Selecting the Right CRM Lead Management Product
There are plenty of lead management tools to choose from, usually packaged as part of a larger CRM suite. Take your time when making a decision, ask plenty of questions, and keep your overarching goal in mind — building up a strong customer base.
If you work in a niche industry, don’t overlook slightly smaller providers. While some companies aren’t as well known, it doesn’t mean their software isn’t every bit as impeccable as a mainstream solution.
Navigating the software landscape takes time and can easily get confusing. We get it. That’s why we want to help guide you through the process so you can save time, know what your options are and choose the right system for your needs. We put together a free CRM comparison report that cuts through the noise so you can accelerate your research.
Don’t leave money on the table. Invest in CRM lead management software and take your business to the next level.
What are the most valuable elements of lead management for your company? Comment below to let us know!