Are you guilty of approaching lead management in a mechanical manner? Have you ever examined lead management from a customer experience perspective? If not, you may want to reconsider your approach for a number of reasons.
First, the average conversion rate is a mere 1.54%. And, this isn't a figure I just pulled from the air. This is according to leading market research firm Forrester. The import of this is that almost 98 percent of leads that get into the sales funnel are lost.
Secondly, in a 2017 survey conducted by DemandWave, most marketers acknowledge that generating high-quality leads is their top challenge.
Clearly, merely improving lead quality or quantity, which are the main tactics businesses have used for decades, doesn't seem to have much effect on the dismal conversion rate and marketers concede as much. Improving lead quality and/or quantity only increases the conversion rate when there is a commensurate focus on customer experience.
Why Does Customer Experience Matter?
Let me demonstrate the importance of customer experience by using a hypothetical example. Bank Inc, is a large bank. A typical large bank would have several divisions each dealing with a specific service, for example, personal banking, business banking, mortgages, investments, bancassurance and so forth. So, imagine a situation where a customer, whom I will call "Mr. Snape", holds a personal account with Bank Inc. Mr. Snape is also the Chairman of a local elite school that doesn’t bank (business account) with Bank Inc. In the course of generating leads for the business banking team, the marketing team of Bank Inc, sends the name and contact details of Mr. Snape to the business banking sales team to chase up on the opportunity to sign up Mr. Snape’s school. Unfortunately, Mr. Snape has been having serious problems with his personal account at Bank Inc. Several weeks ago, an unauthorized payment was made from his account and the matter is yet to be resolved. As soon as the business banking sales team calls Mr. Snape and solicits him for the business account, he goes ballistic and soon everyone is stampeding trying to find out what went wrong.
This is a typical example of how mechanical lead management can create a bad customer experience, suppress conversion rates and seriously dent business reputation. In the situation described above, Bank Inc would be lucky to retain Mr. Snape’s personal account let alone acquire the business account.
To create a better customer experience, marketers must do two things. They must understand the experience they want to create and secondly, they must approach lead management in a holistic manner where there is close collaboration with all team players.
How Lead Management Falls Short?
The following are some of the main ways lead management falls short:
- Marketing teams often fail to consult sales teams and arbitrarily come up with criteria on what constitutes a marketing qualified lead (MQL).
- Using behavioral scoring on its own without considering customer profile fit when generating leads.
- Relying on a single channel such as email, to nurture leads.
- Lack of collaboration between sales and marketing the approach and process of generating leads.
- Failure to take customer experience into account.
How to Optimize Lead Management for Conversion?
To optimize lead management and improve conversion by focusing on customer experience, there are five steps that must be followed.
Step 1: Create and test an Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Universal Lead Definition (ULD)
Marketing departments usually have their own methods of determining the quality of a lead. But, interestingly, few know what salespeople identify as a qualified lead. The effect is often two teams in the same organization working without synergy. Creating an SLA and ULD solves this problem.
An SLA will typically define the criteria for lead routing, the sales time-to-follow-up, marketing support accorded to sales and basically document the process that leads go through from the time they are first identified to the time they are closed.
The ULD defines when a lead becomes sales ready and clarifies what constitutes a lead to everyone in the company. Essentially, a lead will not be scored if it doesn’t satisfy the ULD.
Both the SLA and ULD must be tested before proceeding to step 2.
Step 2: Lead Qualification Using ULD
The second step involves filtering the leads based on the agreed upon ULD. In this stage, leads are scored by sales development reps or marketing automation tools and moved further down the sales funnel.
Step 3: Lead Nurturing
This step involves nurturing early stage leads until they are sales-ready. And, what does lead nurturing look like? Lead nurturing goes beyond sending emails and consists of having a regular and genuine dialogue with the potential customer irrespective of when they intend to buy. It's about adding value whether or not the customer buys. This could be done by providing them with useful and relevant information/content. Note, the point here is MEANINGFUL communication with potential customers. Lead nurturing IS NOT calling the prospect once every few weeks to find out if they are ready to buy. Some of the channels available for this meaningful communication include; email, phone calls, social media, content marketing, public relations, events, company website, direct mail and much more. Use as many channels as reasonable to nurture leads until they are sales-ready.
Remember a buying decision is a journey and you must walk hand in hand with the prospect on this journey to increase your conversion rates.
Step 4: Lead Routing
Have you ever watched the Jamaican and US 4 x 100-meter relay teams in action? There is a reason these two teams have dominated this event for years. In this race, there is no room for error during the baton handover. In a similar manner, the handover of leads from marketing to sales must be executed flawlessly. This is only possible by documenting the process in the SLA and, in particular, paying attention to the following:
- Leads must be sales-ready before routing.
- The routing process must be clearly defined. For example, who takes ownership of the lead. There should never be a situation when it isn’t clear who has the responsibility of follow-up.
- Follow-up and turnaround should be monitored based on the agreed upon SLA.
Step 5: Track, Evaluate and Refine
Proper communication between sales and marketing is a key ingredient to the success of organizations. Regular team huddles should be held where both teams can track progress, evaluate the effectiveness of their current approach and refine to improve future campaigns. During such team meetings, communication must be honest and cordial to ensure actionable feedback is provided.
As far as lead management is concerned, a human-centered approach wins every time because it helps prospects on their journey to making a buying decision. It is only through such a strategy that organization can optimize their lead generation, improve conversions and generate additional revenue.
What is your lead generation conversion rate? Are you doing better than the average conversion rate? If so, share how below! And, don't forget to check out GetProfiles a social media list building tool and get 100 FREE leads every month.