Who is responsible for Lead Management and Process Flow within the Sales Funnel?
When serving your business from the Marketer role have you ever wondered – “where do all my leads go?” And, as a Sales Executive have you ever thought to yourself “does Marketing even know what constitutes a lead?” If so, your business suffers from a common ailment know as “Sales & Marketing Misalignment”.
As discussed two posts ago, if the definition of a qualified lead is not agreed upon by both Sales and Marketing, those leads are useless to your organization, and even worst — your offering is useless to your lead. Yet, just as important as it is for marketing to understand revenue goals and speak a common language with sales, it is also critical for sales departments to consistently provide feedback to Marketing on the quality or status of the passed-over leads. Today, we look at the third of the four critical components of how modern Marketers create a foundation for a revenue center; Lead Management and Process Flow.
What is Lead Management and Process Flow to a Revenue-Driven Marketer?
Lead management is a comprehensive B2B marketing strategy for generating revenue. Recently, I attended the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo and ran across the VP of Sales for a local payroll processing company, and asked if she or her sales team ever get frustrated with the quality of leads marketing is producing. Her response nearly floored me — “No. Our sales team finds its own leads, marketing supports us with materials for prospecting“. — If you have a similar response, please keep reading.
Lead management begins when a marketer first identifies interest from a prospective buyer based on behaviors and qualifications of a marketing qualified lead (MQL), a metric ideally defined by both sales & marketing. This prospect can come from inbound or outbound marketing activities. That is, whether that interest came through awareness efforts (such as social media and PR), discoverability efforts (such as search optimization, search marketing, and expo/tradeshows), or direct connection efforts (such as outbound calling and list acquisition).
*NOTE: Unless you are a company with three or less employees, the sales team at the beginning of lead management is only responsible for helping marketing identify the triggers of an ideal prospect, and providing a numerical value associated with each behavior to marketing activities known as a “lead score”. The remaining steps to lead management are developed via a process flow.
According to the American Society of Quality (ASQ) Process Flow [aka Flowchart] is “a picture of the separate steps of a process in sequential order” … “The process described can be anything: a manufacturing process, an administrative or service process, a project plan. This is a generic tool that can be adapted for a wide variety of purposes.”
Process Flow in Lead Management
Despite the use of flowchart shapes, the Lead Management process flow is a bit more science than art. From the beginning, successful lead management programs focus on building buyer interest through education and lead nurturing efforts. These programs require a high level of automation. Activities such as webinars, lunch and learns, white papers, and eBooks need to be promoted through a variety of marketing efforts, including the use of marketing automation to remain engaged with potential buyers. Sales and Marketing need to be jointly aware of these activities and have the next actionable step mapped out clearly.
Why is it important that Marketing begin the Lead Management Process Flow?
Marketing is often viewed as a cost center. This is because it is not responsible for generating revenue. In order, to hold marketing accountable for a measurable percentage of sales it needs to be involved at the beginning of the process. The reason you keep sales out of the picture is because they are typically measured on closed deals, not prospective buyers reached. Over time, as prospective buyers remain engaged and begin to educate themselves on a particular market space, they may begin to display signs of buying interest, which marketing can easily and more cost effectively follow-up on. As the prospective buyers lead score rises to the level of MQL, marketing can quickly identify interested buyers and get them engaged with your sales team. At this point sales can determine the prospective buyers attributes and decide whether to keep them as an MQL, or move them into the pool of Sales Accepted Leads (SAL).
So, lead management process flow might look something like this :
If SAL needs additional nurturing from marketing, but is qualified, then [move back to MQL]. If SAL needs more engagement from both sales and marketing, then remain as SAL. If SAL is nearly ready to close [move to sales qualified lead].
To take advantage of this aspect of lead management and process flow, you’ll need to build an objective definition of what constitutes a sales accepted lead, and a sales qualified lead (SQL) and make sure that both Marketing and Sales agree to it.
How to determine what constitutes a sales lead?
I love the way Eloqua addressed this question “Since there are so many ways to define a sales lead, the word “lead” can, ironically enough, become misleading. Different companies have different criteria for what a qualified sales lead should look like – and even within a single organization, Sales and Marketing may not agree on how to qualify leads. What some marketers consider a sales-ready lead would merely be considered an inquiry to others. This discrepancy lies at the heart of many sales and marketing alignment issues and fuels countless debates about lead quality.”
So, how do you overcome this discrepancy in definition?
Beyond what we have already stated, service-level agreements should be in place. Service level agreements allow your Revenue Team [Sales & Marketing], to have a clearer understanding of what the expectations are and what procedures they are to follow when they get a lead, regardless of a sales funnel stage — and further, they understand the criteria and the gateway that has to be passed in order for that lead to move to the next stage.
This is where lead management process flow kicks into high gear. Based on these definitions, you can build a process for handing qualified leads to the Sales team and create a service level agreement that governs the process. Sales can then 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 after an initial conversation reveals that the lead’s level of qualification is not as high as initially thought.
Hubspot offers a simple 4-step process for creating Service Level Agreements and a cool template with metric charts.
How do I get started with Lead Management & Process Flow?
To engage in effective lead management, you’ll 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 the mindset of a publisher, in which you identify which content buyers need at each stage of their buying process and ensure that this content is easy to access. We will cover this deeper in future post.
Lead Management and Process Flow Key Performance Indicators [KPI’s and analytics] :
- revenues attributable to marketing
- opportunities delivered to sales (sales accepted leads or SAL)
- cost per lead (CPL)
- lifecycle stage conversion rates
- campaign conversion rates
- channel conversion rates
- lifecycle stage timing (velocity)
- brand awareness and PR (visits, likes, follows, comments, mentions, links, syndication, etc.)
- thought leadership
- retention rates (churn)
By facilitating buyers, rather than pushing outbound messages, marketers who are focused on B2B lead management can generate more qualified sales leads and more revenue for their businesses.
Lastly, measurement is needed so both parties can see when expected outcomes are not going as scheduled. For example, if a deal is projected to close by the end of this month, but now that deal is in a stage that typically requires another 90 days to close, all parties should be alerted. Marketing Automation, again, is absolutely critical to get the kind of visibility required to make real-time adjustments to your marketing and sales plans. Next time, we will cover how the data you measure gives you the ability to view pipeline forecasts through multiple lenses, including average sales price, pipeline velocity and market segments
If you are interesting in learning more about Revenue-Driven marketing contact us directly, if you want to handle this yourself in-house schedule a FREE consultation to get some professional guidance.
Image Sources :
Pointing Fingers by Newtown grafitti
Flowchart by Partner Healthcare