Lead management in B2B includes both generating sales leads, and following them up and closing them. It therefore includes both sales and marketing. And in a digital economy, where speed is increasingly important, lead management best practice has become more agile. How many of these better practices have you adopted?

Follow up fast – Life moves fast these days, and if you don’t, someone else will move into the space. You need to follow up leads and inquiries within 24 hours at the most, and preferably sooner. After all, as a consumer, if someone doesn’t reply to your query within that time, you go elsewhere, don’t you?

Be organised about how you receive and store lead information – This probably should not need saying, but it is important to be organised about how you receive and store information about leads. You need a single source of information for everything, so that you can use it in multiple ways. Having two or three different databases for information from different channels is not going to improve your coordination of marketing campaigns.

Get your scoring right – Lead scoring is a process of evaluating where a lead stands in the buying process, on a scale (roughly) from interested in  your content through to ready to buy. It is important because it ensures that leads are handed from marketing to sales at the right point in the cycle. Sales and marketing need to come together to agree the scoring criteria, and ensure that both are clear about the point of handover. Are you publishing your lead scores so your team is sensitive to helping leads move along the funnel?

Lead nurturing is an important part of the lead management process – Sometimes your leads are ready to buy, and sometimes they are still exploring ideas. Lead nurturing—the process of helping potential customers to find information, and ‘being in the right place at the right time’ to provide advice—is very much a marketing function. If leads are handed to sales too soon, there should be a process in place to hand them back for further nurturing.

Put a formal agreement in place between sales and marketing – It may sound very formal to have a ‘service level agreement’ between sales and marketing, but it can hugely improve collaboration and the process of lead handover. It is not so much having a written agreement that matters, as the process of sitting down together and discussing expectations. Agreeing precise handover points and processes will go a long way towards improving working relationships and alignment.

The relationship between sales and marketing needs to be in both directions – It is not simply a matter of marketing handing over qualified leads to sales, who then deliver (or hand them back if not yet fully qualified). Marketing material should be discussed with sales teams in advance, to make sure that marketing messages fit with what sales know about their customers. Buyer personas can only take you so far in crafting messages, and your sales team often know your customers much better.

Adopt a ‘content mindset’ to providing information – Good lead nurturing requires you to provide the right information at the right time. Adopting a ‘content mindset’ means identifying what content is needed at which stage of the buying process. You can then produce the right content, and make sure that it is available and easy to find for your customers—that is, published via their chosen channels, and readily accessible.

Aim for two-way conversations, rather than ‘broadcasting’ – Providing information is not enough. You also need interaction, or you are in danger of falling into the trap of ‘broadcasting’: sending out information without ever listening to the response. You should aim for meaningful two-way interaction with your customers and potential customers. In other words, look for conversations.

Conversations may need to be kick-started – Conversations don’t start by accident. You can get them started by providing updates and other content that stimulates discussion. This means that you need to provide something valuable, that intrigues others, and encourages them to respond. You don’t want to be provocative, though, because you want positive engagement, not negative.

Remember that you are dealing with a person – Once you have received an inquiry, or made contact, it is important to remember that you are dealing with a person. People want to deal with people, and making an emotional contact can be an important part of the buying process. Making a human connection by sharing useful, tailored information is vital.

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