Managing Leads In a Recovering Economy
What is the difference between lead generation and lead management?
It’s quite simple, but if you don’t know the difference, you could end up making some costly mistakes in your efforts. Here’s the gist: you need lead generation when you don’t have any leads…you need lead management when you have plenty of leads but you are having a difficult time managing these leads. See? I told you the difference was simple. Most sales organizations have both problems. I know that seems counter-intuitive; how could you have too many leads and not have any leads at the same time? Well, when you are not managing your sales opportunities properly, then you have a difficult time discerning qualified leads from unqualified and you end up missing many exceptional opportunities.
Therefore, you need a never-ending supply of new leads to continue the search. It is a vicious cycle that results in spinning your wheels—you spend precious time uncovering new leads that could be much better spent properly following through on existing leads.
There are two different types of leads you need to make a concerted effort to identify: the long-term lead and the short-term lead. The short-term lead is the one who is ready to make a decision right now: yes or no, thank you very much. In lead management the most challenging moment for most sales organizations is managing the long-range lead. Why?
Consistency is of vital importance in your management practice. Long-range opportunities need to be managed with procedures that everyone on the team uses. In other words if there are 6 sales reps on your team you can’t have 6 different lead management procedures. Everyone needs to be classifying leads in the same manner, and following up with the same (or at least similar) techniques.
You need a centralized database where this lead management process is conducted. A system everyone has access to, so they can all see the notes on existing leads made by other reps. This is a simple means of internal communications so no one slips through the cracks. Leads need to be ranked with the same criteria…and long range opportunities should be date sensitive for follow up in the correct time frame.
Manage your existing leads properly, and you won’t have the same need for a constant, bottomless stream of new leads. If your management program is handling prospects properly, you will relieve a lot of stress from your generation program. That will save you time and money…as well as create an increase in the number of qualified leads you see consistently over time.
Now that we have defined the difference between lead generation and lead management lets drill down in to an important issue. Will your sales team ever be good at managing leads? Most sales people have varying levels of computer experience, little time for an extra load of administrative work at the end of 55-hour week, and are not paid to think long range (they make most of their money on sales they write this week, month or quarter). If your sales people are good at closing the deal with highly qualified prospects that are ready to commit, then you might make better use of their time by relieving them of lead management tasks. Moreover, if you are paying them on a commission basis for the sales they make, you are cutting into valuable income-earning time by asking them to keep up with administrative tasks. With that said, most lead management programs fail because there are a lack of procedures and the administrative support to make them work. Your sales people’s time is most productively spent selling. All of your managers are busy managing your sales staff. And it can be more in depth and time consuming than your assistants or clerical staff can keep up with. It might be time to take a look at outsourcing your lead management to an organization with the resources to properly manage your leads.
Outsourcing lead management makes sense. Here is why; if your leads are pushed to an outsourced lead management firm then you can have all of your leads qualified before your sales team even touches them…that means your team only sees the “A” leads. Your longer-range leads are data based properly and re-qualified at some later date not by your sales reps but by your outsourced lead management team. Those leads are then pushed to your reps if and when the lead matures in to an “A” status. So, if your sales team seems to be under-performing AND are complaining about having to handle administrative work that doesn’t relate to immediate sales, the simple solution to your problem just might be to let someone on the outside handle the long-term lead management tasks for you. The benefits of this are as follows; all your leads are qualified with the same criteria, you can therefore determine if your lead sources (web, direct mail, trade show etc.) are working for you. Your team is happier because they are only working with the “A” leads…this increases key selling time and thus your investment in lead management is going to produce solid ROI. You hired your staff for their ability to sell; outsourcing lead management functions can let them focus more on the task you are paying them for, and increase their productivity.