But that doesn’t mean these leads have any real value. They have to be contacted, made an offer, and usually followed-up several times before they can be sold and converted into customers. This is a time-consuming and often expensive process, and it’s where most businesses get it wrong.
A lead is really just raw material, waiting to be turned into something of value. This value-add requires careful management, from the moment the lead is acquired until finally the sale is made and a new customer joins the database. Like any other industrial process that converts raw material into a finished product, lead management can be viewed as a series of steps that, when followed, will yield the desired results.
Leads are like raw materials in another important way – don’t do anything with them and they’ll just stay as they are, unprocessed commodities with no real value to your business. If you’ve bought a list of leads and don’t manage them correctly your results will be predictable and expensive.
There are many lead management software applications on the market and as you’d expect, some are better than others. Some are suited to smaller businesses and others cater to the needs of larger firms. We’ll just say that having a lead management system that incorporates one of these applications is always a good idea.
Modern lead management systems are a combination of people, software and processes that work together to acquire, manage and convert leads into sales. Lead management isn’t just having a team of salespeople that prospects and sells, although selling is an essential part of the process.
If your business already has a lead management system in place that doesn’t depend on a software application you may want to consider acquiring a program that’s compatible with your firm’s system. If you don’t have a lead management system but want to design one, here’s a way of going about it.
What is the sales process in your business?
How is selling carried out in your company? Are your products sold directly to purchasers or through a dealer network? Do you use agents? You need a clear understanding of the sales process now happening in your business including the people and processes involved. Which channels work best and which deliver the greatest profits?
You also need to identify responsibilities within the sales process – not just who does what, but who is in charge of the process. If you have multiple selling channels prepare an outline for each one. It’s important that everyone in the sales process is accountable for their achievements.
How are leads managed now?
Whether formal or informal, your business will have a lead management system of some kind, even if it’s just a database on the sale manager’s PC. Document the way in which your company manages leads from the time they enter the business until the time they’re either converted to a sale or abandoned.
Review this process to identify the trail of leads through your business. As you did with the sales process, identify responsibilities for everyone involved with handling and managing leads.
How do you create leads?
List your current sources of leads. Some will be purchased and others acquired through your own lead-generation activities. Leads are the ‘input’ into any lead management system and their sources need to be accommodated by the processes your business uses to deal with them.
Brainstorm what you’ve found
This is the fun part. You’ve documented what’s already been happening with sales and with leads; now comes the time to review it with everyone involved in the process.
Just by reviewing the processes now in use you’ll have identified several weak points or places where leads are being mishandled or not handled at all. Go through every step in your selling and lead management procedures and iron out the rough spots. Build on successes and get rid of the failures.
It’s most important that you identify any places where leads can be lost or drop out of the system. This is often the case when the next ‘trigger’ in managing leads depends on some sort of feedback from the prospect. They don’t always respond like they’re supposed to.
What you’ll end up with is a system with which you’re already familiar, but now it’s been ‘repaired’ and will work a lot better than it has before. Take this system to a specialist in lead management and look for the right application to bring into your business to help you get the most out of every lead.