Article | 7 min read

How to create a lead management process that works

Use a robust lead management process to boost your business and move qualified leads down the sales funnel.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published June 21, 2021
Last updated July 29, 2022

Without the right lead management process in place, your sales reps could waste time on prospects who ultimately don’t convert. And that means they’re neglecting the potential customers who actually need attention—those who will convert.

To make sure you’re aiming your sales efforts at the right target, you’ll need a lead management process that cuts out the tire kickers in your sales cycle and prioritizes the leads who matter most.

To do that, you must:

  • Discover the best lead sources and craft marketing materials for them
  • Gain relevant insights into customer behavior and likes/dislikes
  • Establish criteria for which leads to prioritize
  • Set up a system for rapid communication so leads don’t slip through the cracks

In this concise guide, we’ll review the basics of lead management and break it down into stages so you can begin developing a process of your own.

What is lead management?

Let’s illustrate lead management with an analogy. Imagine you own a pizza restaurant that serves the best pizzas in town. Word has spread about your business, and suddenly the restaurant is packed with potential customers. That’s great, right?

The problem is, half of the people dining there aren’t crazy about pizza. Others know they want pizza, but they need help deciding what kind—yet they can’t ask the server questions because the server is busy dealing with a table demanding sushi. Some customers are shouting for a menu but can’t seem to get anyone to help them. Meanwhile, hungry guests who do want pizza are waiting outside in line and getting impatient. They’re starting to eye the pizza place across the street…

See the problem?

It’s nearly impossible to meet customers’ needs—and consequently build profits—without a transparent management system. This is true whether you’re operating a restaurant or a software company. Lead management provides a structure for getting the right people in the door so your sales reps don’t waste their time with leads who aren’t serious about purchasing. If you don’t have a clear, repeatable process for nurturing potential customers to conversion, you risk slowing down your business and frustrating a talented sales team.

It’s nearly impossible to meet customers’ needs—and consequently build profits—without a transparent management system.

Ultimately, lead management is a system for organizing your company’s leads so you can understand where they are in the sales funnel and tailor how you engage with them to encourage sales. It helps you invest in the leads that will generate business so you can keep opportunities from falling through the cracks.

What is the lead management process?

The lead management process is a series of steps that includes capturing leads, analyzing their information to determine how likely they are to buy, and tracking the conversion of leads to customers. A good process also involves sales force automation, which reduces the time spent on repetitive administrative tasks that tend to eat up schedules. This allows teams to handle a higher sales volume while still taking the right steps at the right time to nurture leads further down the funnel.

Keep in mind that the best lead management tools don’t just help you prioritize the best leads—they also capture and analyze data to provide more visibility into customer likes and dislikes. The data you collect about leads can be invaluable in providing greater insight into the business practices that are contributing to profitable outcomes (and which ones might be driving business away).

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

What are the 5 stages of lead management?

Every company can design its lead management system slightly differently depending on its needs. Generally, the process includes separate steps for identifying qualified leads, lead acquisition, lead rating, and nurturing leads to become loyal customers.

1. Define a qualified lead.

A qualified lead is a potential customer who’s the right fit for your business. One of the first steps in lead management is to get very clear about your company’s criteria for qualifying leads. That way, you can pursue the right customers and build relationships with them.

2. Set up a standardized lead scoring system.

This is a process that helps sales agents or marketers determine whether a lead is likely to buy a company’s product or service. It usually involves giving each lead a numerical score based on their behavior to indicate how sales-ready they are.

3. Map out every step of your customer journey, and use a lead scoring platform.

The customer journey is a culmination of all the interactions a qualified lead has with a brand—from discovery to purchase and beyond. Mapping out this journey will give you a clear picture of precisely where each lead is in the sales funnel. For example: Are they considering a purchase, or are they still just looking for information about your brand?

4. Establish processes for following up with each type of lead in every stage of the sales funnel.

It’s wise to know exactly how you plan to engage with leads at specific points throughout their customer journey. If a potential lead is starting to gain awareness about your product, for example, you might plan to obtain their email address so you can send them more details about how your product can solve their problems. Each stage will require a different action.

5. Create a process for continuously nurturing leads until they become advocates.

It’s essential to build trust with your leads. That can include sending frequent emails with promotions or interacting with them on social media. The idea is to maintain their interest and engagement until they become a loyal customer.

Following these steps will help streamline your lead management process and make your team’s jobs easier.

Why lead management is important

lead management

Leads keep your business alive. But not everyone is a serious lead, and not all leads hold equal value to your business. To consistently grow your business, you need a way to populate and manage your sales pipeline with the leads who matter, while weeding out those who aren’t ready to purchase yet.

There are several factors to take into account when deciding which leads to focus on. As tempting as it may be to simply sell as much as possible, it’s critical to be selective about who you target. If you sell to a customer whose problem can’t be solved by your product, the customer might blame your product instead of blaming themselves for not knowing which solution they needed in the first place. And depending on how much of a reach they have, their poor opinion could sway others away from you, too.

Lead management is an important tool for preventing your sales team from wasting time on unqualified leads. With the right lead management system and sales process in place, you can ensure your team is aiming their efforts at prospects who truly need your solution and are in the best position to purchase it.

Online lead management with Zendesk Sell

Lead management software houses information from the entire lead management process in one place, so your sales team can quickly gain insights about promising conversions.

Zendesk’s lead tracking software goes beyond centralizing data with even more features. Our solution has custom lead forms that work on websites, landing pages, or marketing email campaigns. It also provides templates to organize information about your new leads, create to-do lists, and sort leads by priority or activity.

Zendesk Sell—the customer relationship management (CRM) software solution for sales teams—helps you better understand all the data you collect on sales leads so you can boost conversion rates. Other key lead management features include:

Sales prospecting tools

Find out if leads fit your ideal customer profile by analyzing the different data points captured by your lead generation tools and processes. Gather contact information from various channels automatically, group leads by type in a unified database, and keep your eye on the trends that impact their habits so you can refine your approaches in real-time.

Lead scoring

Stop relying on gut instinct to decide which leads to pursue. Use the data you collect on prospective leads to assign numerical values to potential leads, and figure out how to invest time in building a relationship. Establish criteria to indicate which contacts have the most potential to become qualified leads, then let the system determine which are the hottest leads.

Pipeline management

Set up a series of goalposts that let you visibly track your leads and sales activities in your pipeline. Zendesk Sell’s pipeline management software features a clean, user-friendly, and customizable interface so sales teams can easily monitor and track their next steps—bringing more leads closer to conversion.

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

Improve your sales process

A good sales process is the foundation of any successful sales organization. Learn how to improve your sales process and close more deals.

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