Selling is an underappreciated art and science. Creativity is needed to present a product well, while a systematic approach is required to make a sale. When selling is viewed from this perspective, the nuances come to light and reveal the complicated processes that every sale goes through.
Every sale starts with a lead. Zoho CRM, a company offering Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software, defined leads as:
“…unqualified sales opportunities gathered at various situations, such as trade shows, seminars, advertisements, purchases from external sources and other marketing campaigns for the purpose of sales.”
Simply put, leads represent prospects that need wooing and convincing. They are the predecessors of the “buyer,” and they need to be persuaded to make the leap to the next stage of the buying cycle.
Lead management, from tracking who might want to buy to finally cashing in, is an integral part of the business cycle. It must be coordinated with all marketing and sales efforts to get optimum results.
Online Lead Management: What’s at stake?
Online businesses especially need to pay attention to their lead management process. The target clients of online businesses are considered a new breed: smarter and empowered consumers whom businesses reach primarily through the internet.
The new consumer does not take a traditional advertising for more than what it is. A study published by the Digital News Report revealed that in the US, 47% of internet users install software to block ads on their PC, smartphones and tablets. This proves that more and more consumers are getting weary and wary of online ads, and that fewer people are reached by traditional forms of marketing.
Online consumers know they have the choice: to click on that ad, or move on to another website. These people have access to tons of information via the internet, and they are well-aware that there are thousands of options for a single product that they want.
Given the competitive nature of online businesses, successfully generating leads is a feat in itself. To do this, your business needs to cover the basics of online marketing. This includes a well-designed, functional and optimized website. Business websites must give potential clients a quality and smooth online experience. The rule for brick and mortar stores apply to online businesses as well: Prospects should always be treated like royalty.
Once a strong online presence is set up and the leads come, the next step is to manage leads and devise a systematic approach to maintaining the leads and turning them to profit. The strategy for lead management is based on the “ideal customer profile,” or the persona of the buyer that the business targets.
Stripped of particulars, the elements of effective lead management can be narrowed down to five.
A Comprehensive, Automated, Up-to-date CRM Database
Data is everywhere on the internet, and businesses must utilize this resource to manage leads well.
Getting information on your leads helps you classify your prospects and identify which among them is worth pursuing at the moment. Online-based businesses can also use Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) technology to automate information gathering and study the behavior of leads when visiting the website.
Compiling raw data culled from the internet and other means and storing it in one database makes it easier for you to analyze leads and score them. It also guides the team in formulating action items and setting the schedule of tasks.
Another advantage to having a CRM database is monitoring plans, actions, conversations and problems faced by the team while following up on leads. Without a database to keep track of all the activity, important details may slip through the cracks and may affect your overall campaign.
A CRM database ultimately lessens the time, effort and expenses involved in tracking leads. Various software and applications now exist to help businesses streamline the lead management process and keep records of vital information. Small businesses with limited budget can turn to web-based and open source tools and try one that fits their business model.
All the people involved in lead management must have access to this database and know how to use it. This will get everyone on the same page and avoid misunderstandings. Updating and keeping the database as recent as possible should also be emphasized, so that the lead management team can seize sudden opportunities and act swiftly on urgent matters.
The Lead Nurturing Campaign
The road to buying varies for potential clients. Some of them take the shortcut or the freeway, while others like the long road.
Leads that take longer to crack need a bit of TLC. Lead nurturing means you have to use extra efforts to reach out to your prospects until they open up and buy your product. Digital advertising agency Marketo explains lead nurturing as:
“…is the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. It focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects, and providing the information and answers they need.”
Nurturing already sounds like hard work, but statistics on sales made out of nurtured leads can be motivating. Old and nurtured leads are estimated to make “47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads,” according to The Annuitas Group, a B2B demand strategy firm.
Working on Marketo’s definition, lead nurturing covers a lot of ground. Sales calls, content marketing, drip emails, social media promotion, personalized ads, text messaging—all of these can be part of a multi-channel lead nurturing campaign.
The key to winning and converting leads is a personalized approach. As most transactions happen over the internet, online leads tend to be a bit more distant and cold. To draw then in, businesses need to make a deep impression and lasting connection with their prospects.
For instance, phone calls and text messages are still viable channels because they allow personal interaction. The trick to using these tools effectively is to avoid spamming the lead with calls and texts. Businesses should also stick to a professional but conversational tone to encourage engagement.
Personal touches on emails and interaction on social media can also go a long way. To be more effective, businesses must give quick and informative responses. Canned messages, on the other hand, can be a major turn-off for prospective buyers. Using well-written templates that communicate the personality of the brand is advised to further engage target clients.
Lead nurturing can be a game-changer in online lead management. To successfully nurture leads, you need to remember that building the relationship is the goal—and the purchase is the byproduct of this interaction.
Intelligent and Interactive Content
Content plays such a big role in lead nurturing that it deserves a heading of its own. Content is the lifeblood of online marketing, and businesses need web content to effectively communicate with its target market.
Effective content should increase brand awareness, generates website activity, and engage prospects. In lead nurturing, producing targeted content to match the buyer profile is said to increase sales opportunities by 20%, based on an article by Demand Gen Report.
So how do you create content that can convert leads into sales?
- First, the lead management team needs to be clear on the kind of buyer the content wants to reach. Information on the persona, tastes, and needs of the buyer can be sought from various sources. The business can conduct surveys, visit online forums and scour social media to better understand what the buyer wants.
- Second, divide the leads into segments. Combine what you know about your leads and the buyer profile to create a detailed picture of the person at the other end of the communication line.
- Third, ensure that all your content has the brand printed all over it. This means that tone, style, and format supports your brand goals and communicates the kind of business you have. This way, your prospects will remember your brand wherever they may encounter it.
Again, personalizing the content is important to succeed in engaging your leads. To be more efficient, use a software that allows you to add personal touches while dealing with large numbers of leads to follow up.
You can also experiment with multimedia content such as videos, podcasts, infographics, among others, to give variety to your content selection. Different media elicit different kinds of reaction and levels of engagement, and over time, you will have a handle on what works best with your target clients.
The Human Factor: Passionate and Organized Salespeople
Following up on leads and maintaining interactions with clients require commitment. This may be a tall order for sales and marketing people, but the reality is that without commitment, the business will not profit.
This is why members of the lead management team must be screened and trained well. The tasks in lead management, such as email marketing, making sales calls, among others, require a certain set of skills. There are also specific qualities that a person must have to successfully clinch sales from leads.
To adequately fulfill lead management tasks, sales and marketing personnel need:
- Organizing skills
- Persuasive personality
- Basic CRM knowledge
Market Reporting Tools
Organizing lead management efforts is not a walk in the park, especially with the all the details that must be accounted for. To fairly quantify and qualify the success of lead management, businesses must measure the performance of leads vis-à-vis the effort expended by the company.
Here are important metrics to consider in evaluating the lead management efforts, according to WorkFlowMax.com:
- Cost per lead – How much did the company spend? Was it worth it?
- Customer Value – How much value does the client bring in? Who were the most and least valuable clients?
- Channel-specific Traffic – Where do the leads come from? What kinds of situations bring the most leads?
Knowing these three basic things can help you gauge how much business you have generated from managing your leads. You can also compute for losses, such as the cost of follow-ups that ended in zero profit.
All of this information, however, must be viewed within a specific time frame. There are many cases when leads that have been quiet for months suddenly convert.
Businesses need the right mix of tools and techniques in the hands of competent salespeople to make money out of leads. The mix of tools and techniques differs from business to business, depending on the model and nature. There may be no single way to do lead management, but the goal is the same: to cash in on leads and turn opportunities to profit.
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