The answer is really quite simple, but if you don’t know the difference, you could end up making some costly mistakes in your B2B lead generation efforts.
Here’s the difference:
Lead generation is what you need to do when you don’t have any sales leads. If there are no prospects in the pipeline, or not enough good ones, then you need to ramp up your efforts at finding new business leads.
Lead management is what you need to do when you have plenty of sales leads but you’re having a difficult time managing them. For example, if you have a steady flow of new sales leads, but your appointment setting efforts are failing to keep up, or if you are having a hard time converting your generic sales leads into highly qualified sales prospects.
And the truth is, most sales organizations have both problems. Maybe that sounds counter-intuitive – after all, how could you have both too many sales leads and not enough sales leads at the same time?
Here’s where the problem arises: When you are not managing your sales leads properly (even if you have a steady flow of new business leads coming into the organization), this often creates difficulty in discerning qualified sales leads from unqualified ones. Without a solid process in place to manage your sales leads, you often end up missing out on exceptional opportunities. And as a result, you constantly have to go “back to the well” with your B2B lead generation efforts, spending time and resources drumming up a, never-ending supply of new sales leads to continue the search.
Conducting lead generation without effectively managing the sales leads often results in a vicious cycle of spinning your wheels. You spend precious time uncovering new business leads that could be much better spent by properly following through and handling appointment setting for existing sales leads.
One of the immediate goals of a good sales lead management program is to identify and separate your long-range sales leads from your short-range sales leads.
What are short-range and long-range sales leads?
Short-range sales leads are decisive, motivated prospects who are ready to make a decision right now: yes or no, thank you very much. (Sounds easy, right? If only all sales leads could be “short-rangers.”)
Unfortunately, sales leads are not always so easy to classify or so quick to decide. The most challenging task in lead management is managing long-range sales leads – these are the business leads that need extra attention and careful handling over the course of many months. Even though they aren’t ready to buy today, they might change their tune in a few months.
It’s important to be consistent when managing long-range business leads by making sure that everyone on the sales team uses the same procedures. If there are 6 sales reps on your team you can’t have 6 different lead management procedures. Everyone needs to be classifying business leads in the same manner, and following up with the same (or at least similar) techniques. Here are three easy ways to keep your sales leads under control:
- Create a centralized lead management database. Everyone on the sales team needs to be able to access the lead management system, so they can all see the notes on existing sales leads made by other reps.
- Maintain a simple means of internal communications so appointment setting can be conducted in an orderly fashion, so no business leads slip through the cracks, and no sales leads are kept listed in the system against their will. (You don’t want to anger/annoy customers by following up or trying to do appointment setting after they’ve already said “no” to one of your other sales reps.)
- Rank all business leads with consistent criteria, and make sure that long-range sales leads are marked as date-sensitive to ensure follow-up and appointment setting in the correct timeframe.
Lead generation is only part of the equation for sales success; the truth is, managing your sales leads is just as important. With solid lead management processes in place, you won’t need to spend so much time and energy on lead generation. If your lead management program is handling prospects properly, you will relieve a lot of stress from your lead generation program. That will save you time and money, and increase the number of qualified leads you see consistently over time.
Whether you need more energetic lead generation or more meticulous lead management, Strategic Sales & Marketing can help. One of the “leading light” lead generation companies, SSM specializes in lead generation services, offering appointment setters and comprehensive B2B sales and marketing consulting.