10 Ways to Manage Sales Leads and Boost Sales

Don't let good prospects get away. Use these 10 sales-lead management tips and boost your closing rate.

If you're looking for ways to increase revenue--and whatsmart entrepreneur isn't--one of the fundamental processes youneed to review is your lead management program. Prospect leads canoriginate in a variety of ways, and there is often only a veryloose structure in place to manage and react to those leads. Yoursales pipeline and your ability to hit revenue targets all beginwith good lead management. Try these ten strategies for improvingyour lead management efforts.

1. Develop a concrete definition of a lead and make sure allemployees understand it. One of the biggest disconnects betweensales and the rest of the company is the definition of a lead. Whendoes a prospect become a lead that a salesperson will actually workon? It's estimated that 90 percent of the leads that are sentto sales staff are never acted upon. And there are generally twoprimary reasons for that. First, the lead is routed to the wrongperson and never gets passed along to the correct person or atleast not in a timely fashion. Second, the lead isn't ready toengage with a salesperson yet. So the sales person will make one,maybe two contacts with that prospect and then move on to"lower hanging fruit." For better sales effectiveness,your sales staff and the rest of the company need a more granulardefinition of when a prospect becomes an actual lead that should beforwarded to sales.

2. Install an effective customer relationship management(CRM) tool. For optimal sales effectiveness, you need toprovide employees with a tool that captures information about eachand every interaction with your prospects and customers. Thisincludes integrating your different channels, such as yourwebsite.

3. Track the source. People most often hear about yourcompany and products and services through ads, referrals, onlinebanner ads or some other form of advertising. You need to keeptrack of what actually caused these suspects to raise their handsso you can better determine what works and what doesn't. Inaddition, it's important to capture the source of eachintervening event so you can determine such things as how manytimes you need to touch a customer or what order of touches workbest. If you don't capture the source, you have no way offiguring out what's working.

4. Distribute your leads quickly. Studies have shown thatif you respond within 48 hours of a prospect contacting you, yoursales closing rate goes up dramatically. Think about your ownexperiences. How many times have you tried to contact a company torequest information and they never get back to you? By respondingquickly, you set yourself apart from your competitors.

5. Nurture your leads. Depending on the products andservices you offer, most people are probably not ready to buy basedon their first interaction with you. Best practices call fornurturing your leads over time. You need to develop campaigns thatallow you to touch your prospects multiple times so you can movethem through the sales cycle until they're ready to think aboutactually purchasing from you.

6. Excite your sales staff about each prospect. The bestsalespeople focus on detailed qualifying, and so should the rest ofyour staff. The more information you have about a prospect, themore excited your salespeople will be about the lead. Whoever'scollecting prospect information needs to extract additionalinformation from every prospect with each interaction, includingsuch things as "what interested you about our products"and "why is it important to you." They should also try tomay the organization so your salespeople are getting in touch withthe decision-makers in each company.

7. "Tag, you're it." How do you save thoseinteresting bits of information about customers and prospects? Ifyou tag your records with the names of your competitors on deals,what their objections are, whether they'll be a referral ornot, which products they already own and so on, you can then findthose detail fast in the future. This allows you to leverage whatyou learn in order to be more successful.

8. Treat your prospects like customers. By capturing thesource I mentioned above in #2 about each prospect, anyone at yourcompany can answer a call from that prospect and more effectivelyanswer their questions. This will have a significant impact on yourprospects and will cause them to want to engage with your teamfurther.

9. Measure everything you do. But in order to measureyour results, you need to decide what you want to measure and why.Then you can capture the correct information upfront. And once youhave the right information, you can determine the return oninvestment of your campaigns and focus on the campaigns andprospects that will increase your sales pipeline.

10. Hold regular meetings with your sales staff and anyoneelse involved in the sales process. You should meet withappropriate staff members on a regular basis to review leadquality, win/loss records, and tracking CRM systems so you cancontinue to improve your sales effectiveness.

Bonus Tip: Preload your database with the rightprospects. Your customers are the first step in prospectingsales leads. Most people think they already know who theircustomers are, but many companies tell us they find a few surpriseswhen they do an analysis of their customer base. So confirm whatyou know about your customers. Then, once you know who yourcustomers are, define a few key attributes about them. This couldbe external attributes such as geography, SIC code, company size(employee count and revenue), or internal attributes such asproducts, territory, credit type and contract type. Now you can usethe profile of your best customers to better define and acquire newprospects.

Greg Anderson is the director of product development forGoldMine software for FrontRange Solutions.

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