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How to Improve Lead Flow And Why It Matters

By Kristen HicksDec 16, 2016

how-to-improve-lead-flow.jpgAre your sales and marketing teams dropping the ball on lead management? For every lead that isn’t followed up with properly, potential revenue is stripped from the bottom line.

Here’s a look at how to improve lead flow from marketing to sales and why this process is so important to your customer acquisition.

What is lead flow?

You already know there’s a process by which leads move through the sales funnel. They’ve usually had several interactions with your company by the time they hand over their contact information to become a proper lead, and there are usually several more interactions after that before they become a customer (if they actually get that far).

Lead flow describes how well they move through that process. When you have a clear lead flow structure, there’s always a clear next step for dealing with each new lead and they’re all ushered along the funnel in a timely manner. Many organizations lack a clear lead flow structure, which means leads with potential get lost in the shuffle, ultimately costing the business revenue.

The Problems Caused by Poor Lead Flow

If your marketing department is getting loads of new leads and sending them over to sales all at once, your sales team is stuck with more work than they can handle. Making matters worse, if they don’t have a clear idea of which leads are most likely to pay off, they could end up focusing on less valuable leads while letting the promising ones go cold.

How quickly leads are contacted plays a significant role in how likely they are to move to the next step in the sales process. Research has found that buyers are 50 percent more likely to go with the first business that responds to them, and 21 percent are more likely to enter the sales process if they’re contacted within the first 5 minutes than if it takes 30.

A strong lead flow process is an easy way to differentiate yourself and improve results.

The good news here (for you, anyway) is that many businesses are failing when it comes to lead flow. The average response time to a lead is currently 61 hours for those that bother to respond, while 47 percent of companies’ leads get lost somewhere along the way and never receive a response.

If your company can get an efficient lead flow process established to ensure your sales team makes contact quickly every time a promising lead comes in, you’ll be doing better than the vast majority of your competitors.

Steps to Improve Lead Flow

If reading to this point has made you realize your organization needs to improve on lead flow, you can take a few key steps to get there.

Create a lead scoring system.

First things first: You must acknowledge that not all leads are created equal. As a marketer, it’s tempting to want to revel in the quantity of leads you’re bringing in—big numbers make your team look more successful. When you zoom out to look at the bigger picture of what helps the company earn more sales and profit, though, the quality of those leads matters more than the quantity.

You have to do the work of determining which leads are most valuable before you hand them over to sales. Start by talking to sales about what a strong lead looks like. What do the leads they feel are most valuable have in common?

Use that information to grade your leads based on criteria that fall into two main categories:

  • How close they are to your ideal customer
  • How ready they are to move to the next step in the process

Some leads that aren’t at all like your target personas can be discarded altogether, while others simply need more lead nurturing before you hand them over to sales.

You can see more detail on this process in our eBook on sales enablement. Once you start scoring your leads, sales will consistently have a more manageable load, which helps them respond faster to the leads most worth their time.

Develop a clearly defined lead flow process.

Every marketing and every sales employee should be on the same page here and know the exact steps to take. Your lead scoring will do the work of showing you what stage each lead is in.  Develop clear guidelines defining who’s in charge of leads at each stage in the process and what steps they should take.

Make use of your CRM to properly label and score your leads so everybody on both teams can quickly see where a lead currently is in the process.  When there’s a change and it’s time for someone new to take over, the CRM should alert them immediately so they can move fast.

Pay attention to what works.

Your lead scoring system and lead flow process shouldn’t be set in stone. Over time, both marketing and sales will gain more insights into what makes a lead valuable and what changes to the process can improve results.

Revisit your processes every quarter to make improvements based on what you’ve learned—and make sure both teams are involved when you do, so you always stay on the same page.

Don’t be one of the businesses that reaches out to valuable leads too late or lets them fall off the radar completely. With these three steps and the additional information in our Sales Enablement and CRM guide, you can move toward consistently better results.

Sales Enablement and CRM guide

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The Author

Kristen Hicks

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and content marketer specializing in helping businesses connect with customers through content online.
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