Leads are the lifeblood of sales. Without them there are no sales. Without solid management, a lead is wasted — and that is hard to take.
We recently asked several leading sales experts to weigh in about sales lead management, both from general and social selling points of view.
A leading social selling author, speaker, and advisor, Barbara Giamanco understands the challenges that sales leaders and individual contributors face because she’s walked that beat herself. She has managed corporate sales teams, and has exceeded quotas in selling to multiple customer types: enterprise, small medium business, distributors, retailers, and channel partner customers. In the past 10 years Barbara has focused on the application of Social to sales and business processes, and her company, Social Centered Selling, was recognized by Triblio as one the top Social Selling training companies in the United States. Check out her blog.
Q: How do social selling activities support a CRM solution in sales lead management?
Knowing that buyers are blocking phone calls and emails, the primary point of using social in selling is to uncover opportunities to engage with (and capture the attention of) prospects in other ways. In order to manage potential opportunities and leads, you need a CRM system to do that. Here a basic process that I follow:
Create my target list.
Add target buyers to my CRM and note them as a “suspect”—I’d like to work with them but don’t know if they are interested or qualified yet.
Tag them as prospects on LinkedIn.
Find out if they are publishing LinkedIn posts, if so, follow them so I can comment on and share their content.
Follow them on Twitter if they have an account.
Pay attention to what they tweet (I use Hootsuite and have a stream strictly for prospects)—comment and retweet.
As they engage with me (e.g., thank me for sharing or follow me or share my content in return) I make note in my CRM system.
Meanwhile, I’m using a business intelligence tool—I use InsideView—to gain more insight into them as a buyer, but also their company. I set trigger alerts on key terms, so I know when there might be deeper opportunities to engage.
I will often send an industry report or some relevant information I think will be of value to the buyer with a note about why I thought they’d find it valuable.
At a certain point, I am typically able to set up a phone call to discuss working together.
All along I’m tracking interactions and making note of how targeted buyers seem to be responding to me. Again, it is all about the tracking of social activity. The point of the activity is to generate a sales return on the time invested. You have to know what’s working. That’s where a great CRM platform—like Pipeliner CRM—comes into play. Great selling is all about following a consistent process and measuring and tracking activity. It is especially important to measure and track your social activity to be sure you are expending effort in the right places and right way.
Tom Searcy is a nationally recognized author and speaker, and a foremost expert in large account sales. He is the CEO and Founder of Hunt Big Sales, a fast-growth consultancy and thought leadership organization. With Searcy’s systems, Hunt Big Sales clients have landed more than $7.5 billion in new sales with 190 of the Fortune 500 companies. Tom has also written for Forbes, Money Watch, and Inc. Read his blog.
Q: What are the most common errors organizations make with sales lead management?
There are two common and costly errors in sales lead management :
1. Lack of timely follow up. An expressed interest on the part of a prospect has a short shelf life. Companies who are effectively managing leads use an aging approach for ensuring that all leads receive sales attention within a short period of time. By using the aging reports on leads, management can be sure that their prospecting efforts, marketing dollars and sales systems are effectively integrated and monitored.
2. Qualifying. Expressed interest is often not enough to meet the threshold of qualification for the attention of a sales representative. Effective sales lead management includes ensuring that the proper information about the contact, prospect company, compelling issue, and intensity of issue are captured. Online methods of capturing leads often struggle with managing the balance of asking for too much information and discouraging interested visitors from responding, compared with an unqualified “come one, come all” approach that fills leads management with wasteful, unqualified leads. Sales lead management means capturing enough information so that a sales representative can give priority to leads in relationship to each lead from campaigns as well as the regular sales work the representative is doing.
A sales lead management system is similar to a sales process in that there needs to be a closed loop to the activity. A simple process structure might look like:
- Contact/Response from possible lead
- Sales representative contact
- Interest assessment and requalification
- Sales representative dispositions as a sales lead or disqualified
The point is that this process has a beginning, middle, and end. Contacts entering the system should be dispositioned within a defined period of time — or forcibly disqualified. Close the loop so that there is an active and real sales lead base to evaluate.
John C. Golden
In addition to his position as Chief Strategy Officer at Pipeliner Sales, Inc. John is the founder and CEO of Focused Revenue Results, Inc., founded to bring his successful business principles to small and medium enterprises. He is the Amazon Best Selling Author of Winning the Battle for Sales: Lessons on Closing Every Deal from the World’s Greatest Military Victories, and has recently published his second book Social Upheaval: How to Win at Social Selling. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @JohnGoldenFRR.
Q: What are the most common errors organizations make with sales lead management?
The biggest mistake with sales lead management, in my opinion, is very fundamental: a lot of organizations do not sufficiently define who their ideal target customer is. They therefore end up generating “leads” that require a lot of further qualification or sorting through to find the high value ones. It is better, at the end of the day, to get a smaller amount of better-targeted leads than it is to get a large amount of leads that are of dubious quality.
Core to a good Go-To-Market strategy should be a process of identifying the characteristics of your ideal target customer(s). This exercise is fundamental to pipeline management, especially to generating the right kind of leads, and then identifying and resourcing the right opportunities. If you are targeting the right lead profile, mapping the ideal customer characteristics to each new opportunity will immediately help you make the decision about whether this is a) an opportunity you want to pursue b) an opportunity you stand a better than average chance of winning or c) an opportunity that deserves to be highly or even overly resourced in order to win.
Absent a process such as this, opportunities tend to get prioritized and resourced based on how well the opportunity is sold internally within the organization. Having a defined process for assessing and resourcing opportunities eliminates the time spent by salespeople and managers, competing with each other to get their opportunities prioritized. Furthermore it ensures that salespeople and managers do a better job qualifying their opportunities in the first place. All of this results in the right opportunities being in your pipeline. The right opportunities are then properly resourced, which increases the likelihood of winning, and the velocity at which these deals move through the sales cycle.
In many organizations, one of the greatest and often overlooked expenses to the business are lost deals—that were in fact ill-defined leads, that turned into the wrong opportunities for the business to pursue, and which sucked up resources and focus, and overinflated the pipeline.
Jamie Shanks is a social selling evangelist and founder of Sales For Life, a company that assists sales professionals to find, engage, and educate clients and prospects using social media. Check out the Sales For Life blog.
Q: How does social selling align with sales lead management?
One of the toughest positions for a sales professional is “The Dead Zone.” The Dead Zone is the uncomfortable silence a sales professional is receiving for leads that go dormant without explanation. This is the single biggest challenge for lead management—how to continue to influence the deal, rather than be a pest.
This is where Social plays a vital role, specifically content. Great sales professionals begin sharing content that will help the buyer beyond the sale. They assume this prospect will be a future buyer, and they educate with insightful information that will help a buyer make informed buying decisions.