Lead Management That Suits

by: Doug Michaelides

There I was, in my snazzy new suit, talking about how to structure a lead management system.  I was about to sketch a funnel to illustrate the stages of an interconnected marketing and sales lead process.  Reaching into my inside suit jacket pocket, I fished out my pen when a small square of green paper fluttered onto the table.

My client raised a quizzical eyebrow as I unfolded the paper, like a fortune cookie message, to read the printing:  “#20 – Final Examination”. I realized that it was a tag placed in the suit pocket at the final quality inspection – the 20th step in the production process.  Searching my suit pockets I discovered other slips of paper:  “#3 – Creasing” and “#8 – Finished Press”.  Going with the flow, I asked my client, “ If it takes 20 steps to finish a suit, how many do you think it takes to manage a lead?”

Together we laid out an integrated marketing and sales funnel that started like this:

Marketing Funnel

1.  Contacts (email list, webinar audience, etc.)

2.  Suspects

3.  Prospects

4.  Opportunities

I stressed the importance of being clear about the criteria used to promote a lead from one stage of the funnel to the next, and about who would be responsible for managing and reporting on the leads at each stage.  Grey areas in the lead management process are the enemy of conversion rates!

We defined the lead-scoring criteria (eg.  website activity, company name and title, pre-qualification by Inside Sales, etc.) for each level.  At the “opportunity” stage a lead became sufficiently qualified to pass from the marketing funnel to the sales funnel.

Sales Funnel

4.  Opportunities

5.  Proposals

6.  Revenues

We agreed with the VP of Sales that once a lead became an “opportunity”, it would be assigned a provisional dollar value, a probability of closure and a timeline so that it could become part of the sales forecast. New leads resulting from executive business development and referrals could be injected at the appropriate stage in the funnel then added to the opportunities.

The next step was to select the metrics to track so that the company would have visibility on future revenues based on the state of the funnel.  Fortunately we had some historic data on conversion rates (% of leads that progressed from one stage to the next), lead aging at each stage and typical deal sizes so we could benchmark performance.  We would use the existing CRM system for the sales funnel but, until we implemented a Marketing Automation System, the marketing funnel would be managed with spreadsheets.

After about an hour’s work, my client pushed back his chair from the conference room table and said proudly, “Doug, I think we’ve just tailored a process that fits my business like . . . a custom-made designer suit!”  I smiled, pleased with our progress but knowing that there’d still be a couple rounds of alterations before I’d be ready to put my name on the label!

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