Leads can be collected and managed in any number of ways. Once upon a time, salespeople kept index cards in a Rolodex. Later, they used spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel. Today, far more advanced systems exist, and arguably none is more advanced or as effective as lead management CRM software.
CRM platforms take lead management to the next level by shifting the focus to the long-term value of a lead and the lifetime customer relationship and how that can be nurtured and improved. As a result, good lead management CRMs make it possible to go far beyond just collecting and storing basic lead information, and enable users to collect, manage and utilize an enormous amount of customer data – all in pursuit of the goal of making it faster and easier for sales agents to establish relationships and deliver better, more personalized sales and service.
Better still, lead management CRMs recognize that modern sales agents just don’t have the time to manually track the ocean of customer data available to them, and modern systems build in advanced automation to lighten the agent’s load and make most of the lead management process hands-off. By constantly running in the background and quietly capturing data from each and every customer and lead interaction, a CRM allows agents and staff to focus on bigger, more important things.
The 5 Pillars of CRM-Based Lead Management
Lead management CRMs are powerful sales tools that do a lot for both individual sales agents and organizations. When it comes to improving the lead management process, CRM users’ activities can be classified into five major actions: collection, qualification, categorization, maintenance, and reference – the five pillars of CRM-based lead management. While not all lead management CRMs are created equal, all should make it as easy as possible for agents to do these five things, which, taken together, form the basis for the most optimized lead management possible.
Collection is important for obvious reasons – only with a steady stream of leads entering the top of the funnel can the rest of a lead management system keep churning out sales at the bottom. But lead collection suffers from two problems: it’s time-consuming for companies to do themselves, and expensive to pay someone else to do.
A good lead management CRM makes lead collection automatic, allowing companies to generate new lead profiles in the system automatically through a number of interactions with their marketing materials. Everything from web forms to QR codes on print advertisements to inbound phone calls can be connected to the CRM and used to automatically trigger the generation of a new lead account in the database with whatever minimal information has been provided. Companies can still easily import leads from outside sources like purchased lists, but the ability to automate organic collection helps ensure the top of the funnel is always full while reducing costs.
Lead qualification is all about determining a prospect’s level of interest and where they are in the buying cycle. Good qualification is often the difference between chasing the ghosts of sales that were never going to materialize and an efficient, focused sales process that produces high close rates. Qualification starts with first contact, and doesn’t necessarily stop until a sale has closed, as cold leads can warm up and hot leads can cool off, especially over the course of longer sales processes.
A lead management CRM enables good ongoing lead qualification in two ways. First, it makes it easier to contact leads regularly by integrating communications tools like email, SMS messages, or, in some rare cases, even a built-in power dialer. Second, the CRM makes recording the results of contact attempts extremely easy. The basic information is often recorded automatically, and some advanced systems even enable agents to record call outcomes – like whether a gatekeeper guards the decision-maker – in a matter of a click or two. Agents can also quickly add notes describing everything from the prospect’s attitude to questions discussed to potential customer needs, and more.
Whenever qualification is performed, it’s important to follow it up with categorization. Categorization takes the unique information associated with any given lead and places it in an easy-to-understand group of leads in a similar state. Examples of lead categories might include:
- Sources, like “inbound call,” “website,” “purchased,” etc.
- Statuses, like “raw,” “recently contacted,” “sent proposal,” etc.
- Opportunity levels, like “hot,” “warm,” ”unqualified,” etc.
But companies can use any number and combination of categories they like. The key is to make it as fast and easy as possible to glance at a lead and know where they are in the funnel and what needs to be done next. A good lead management CRM not only enables users to create and use as many different lead categories as they want, it also automates the flow of leads from one category to the next based on interactions. For instance, a lead opening a welcome email could automatically move them from the raw category to the recently contacted category. A lead setting a sales meeting could automatically move them to an in-progress category. Automation ensures no lead will ever slip through the cracks due to an agent simply forgetting to update their status, leading to less rework and more successful closes at the bottom of the funnel.
Maintenance is all about ensuring accounts in a lead management CRM are kept up to date so that anyone working on them will always have the most relevant information possible. Good maintenance practices also maintain contact with prospects to ensure that a relationship can be formed even if the prospect won’t be ready to buy until some point in the future.
Lead management CRMs make maintaining leads easy by taking most of the work off an agent’s plate. Reminders can be set to automatically prompt agents to make follow-up contact whenever a certain amount of time has passed, and email and SMS follow-ups can even be set to go out automatically. Whenever follow-up contact is made, the details are automatically logged into the lead’s account, ensuring that no touch ever goes untracked and the key details of each contact are always available in the future. Much like the first contact, agents can also quickly and easily add notes to record additional context. The result is that a few minutes of work here and there can generate an enormous amount of lead data and ensure even the most lukewarm leads continue through the funnel, however slowly.
Finally, the biggest difference between traditional systems and a lead management CRM is the CRM’s ability to make the totality of collected data available to agents wherever and whenever they need it. Because the CRM handles not just lead management, but communication, scheduling, and, in some cases, even proposal generation and billing, an agent can perform most of their daily tasks from within a single system, and access the information they need on leads from anywhere. That ability to instantaneously reference lead information and the details of past interactions makes it possible for agents to do two important things: prepare better for the next contact, and deliver a sales process that feels more personal to the prospect.
A top lead management CRM, like CRMDialer, enables agents to get to a lead’s account in a matter of seconds from anywhere else in the system – even the included power dialer, making it possible to access lead info in real-time even in the middle of sales calls. The mobile application also gives sales professionals the ability to tap into key lead data (and additional features like the power dialer) from their smartphones – perfect for both last minute prep in the field or the quick entry of a new piece of important information.
By enabling agents to utilize these five pillars, lead management CRMs enable sales organizations to plug the leaks that traditionally make prospecting inefficient and expensive. The overall results are lower costs, more effective sales agents, and higher earnings for everyone involved.
To find out more about how CRMDialer can help your sales organization reshape the way you collect and manage leads, reach out to a member of the team or start your no-commitment free trial today.