by Cory Koch

At one time, “lead management” consisted of responding to a customer who raised a hand and said, “Yes, tell me more.” Now, lead management is recognized as one of the most critical functions to impact sales success, and it has expanded and become more accessible because of affordable technology.

Lead management is the process of rapidly and effectively creating, nurturing, distributing and analyzing leads. The ultimate goal is to increase the likelihood that a lead will convert to a qualified opportunity and then a new, satisfied customer.

Change is happening throughout marketing organizations everywhere. Expectations are rising–“give us more, better-quality leads, faster”–while budgets and staff shrink. Doing more with less is now standard procedure, and the pressure is on for marketing teams.

The good news for marketing professionals is that lead management technology is now widely available. It’s no longer only the Fortune 500 companies who can afford to buy and use these tools for their marketing teams.

As lead management strategies come within the reach of mid-sized and smaller businesses, the value this technology adds is becoming irresistible to those marketers who need to prove their worth to an organization.

Marketers are traditionally idea people, experimenting with creative ways to generate leads, adding value to their research. But in reality most of us are faced with some questions of our own. “We know half of our marketing tools are useful, we just don’t know which half,” or “We know marketing is necessary, we just don’t know how good we are at it.” These aren’t uncommon questions to ask; we are all scrambling to adapt in a rapidly changing society. But ultimately, we need to be efficient at managing our leads.

The quantity of leads delivered is not the only criterion for measuring marketing success. Focusing on the quality of leads is far more important. Rather than asking how many leads were generated, ask what proportion of those leads resulted in closed sales. Answering this question means analyzing the entire cycle, from how the lead was generated to how the lead was sold.

To implement a lead management strategy, marketing and sales must work closely together. For best results, a lead management system should bring together the right people, processes and information at various stages.

Companies and organizations that follow lead management practices powered by marketing tools can expect to increase their return on every lead generated. By managing the process from the first stages of planning through qualification, distribution and nurturing, marketing teams gather meaningful data on what works, and what needs improvement.