Best Practices in Managing Leads

Lead Management

For your Sales and Marketing Teams

Lead management is equally as much important, as new lead generation. Managing your leads in a systematic and structured way has a tremendous impact on the number of leads you generate and the leads you convert into customers.

Lead Management is the process of managing leads from the moment they show interest in your products/services, until their conversion into sales and long-term relationships.

Lead Scoring and Lead Grading

Lead scoring and grading is a great way to manage leads, with marketing and sales team working in synergy. It is important especially for the following reasons:

  • To avoid the sales team wasting time on leads that are not yet ready to buy.
  • To identify which leads require lead nurturing from the marketing team.
  • To allow the sales team to identify leads that are ready to buy more easily.

Lead Scoring defines how much interest the lead has shown in your offering. The score increases with more activities of the lead, for example, by consuming content that signal buying intent.

Lead Grading is a way to see how interesting the lead is for you based on their attributes. Often discrete criteria such as job role, industry, seniority, and whether the company they belong to is already a customer or not.

Based on their score and grade leads can fit in one of the four quadrants described here:

  • A: Not interested, not interesting: Ignore
  • B: Interested, not interesting: Nurture for your fan club (they are valuable for marketing, branding and PR purposes but not for sales purposes)
  • C: Not interested, interesting: Nurture for sales (they are potential sales opportunities but not yet ready to buy)
  • D: Interested, interesting: Contact by the Sales team

When they are interested and interesting, they become an MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead). Then they are passed over to sales, who does manual follow up (research, personal email, call) and checks if there is a potential business opportunity. If so, the lead becomes an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead), and you create an opportunity.

Lead Nurturing

The lead management process should also incorporate the lead nurturing process. It can be both automated and personal follow-up emails that help convince them of the value of making a purchase or just stay on top of their mind until they are sales-ready.

The standard Process for Managing New Leads

A marketing automation system, such as SharpSpring, allows you to combine your marketing processes with a CRM system. Here’s how the process works:

1. A new lead comes in (shows interest in your company’s product or service in some way).

2. Someone responsible for checking all new leads and adding info to them and adding them to existing customers etc., if those exist.

3. Grading and scoring criteria set the lead to MQL.

4. MQLs show up in the SharpSpring CRM, where sales is responsible for manually checking and following up with personal communication to turn them into an opportunity.

5. If there is a business opportunity (based on internal criteria you define in your own sales team), they are an SQL, and you create an Opportunity in the system for follow up and assign it to the salesperson who should follow up.

6. Sales manager uses various reports to follow up on the lead-to-sales process:

  • Pipeline Value: Monthly, in sales meetings, to go through the overall sales forecast for the period and what stages various deals are in.
  • Sales Performance: Monthly, in sales meetings, to see what’s been closed per month by which rep/team and what’s forecasted by month.
  • Opportunity Health: Monthly, in sales meetings, to check if there are problems with opportunities that need to be addressed (no follow up, stalled, etc.)
  • Conversion Analysis: Quarterly, to check how well new leads are converting and if the process can be improved, and also to compare different reps and teams to see if they can learn from each other and if the pipeline % can be adjusted to give more accurate forecasts.

Two Methods of Following up on New MQL

Method A: Have a dedicated role responsible for following up on all new leads

Recommended if you have a lot of leads, which warrants a dedicated Inbound Sales role. This role is responsible for quickly and efficiently checking new leads, populating them with information so that they can be graded accurately, following up on all MQLs in the system, creating opportunities from MQLs that have been sales qualified, and finally assigning opportunities to salespeople and helping them drive these opportunities.

Measurement metric: How many opportunities have been created from new leads that convert to sales?

Method B: Salespeople pick interesting new leads from the MQL list

Someone in marketing is responsible for populating all new leads with info so that they can be graded accurately. Sales, in turn, are responsible for ensuring that all new MQLs are followed up on if they are potential opportunities.

The system is set up so that if MQLs remain qualified for a week and nobody picked the MQL up within that timeframe, the MQL is assumed to be not interesting for sales, and is sent back to marketing for further nurturing.

The sales manager measures the salespeople on whether they have picked up new leads and converted them to opportunities and business.

Marketing gets the “unpicked” MQLs into a special list so that they can evaluate and improve their grading and scoring criteria.

Dedicated Inside SalesFree for All Process
If you have many leads.

A dedicated role ensures that all leads are followed up and qualified according to a well-defined and measurable process.

– Fast lead response times.
– Good feedback to marketing.
– Helos you structure the process.
– Allows the sales team to focus on sales.

– Leads not followed up on by a senior person.
– Cost for the dedicated resource.
For a well-structured Sales team.

Sales reps get email notifications with interesting leads, and “first come first served” principle is applied. Leads not taken care of are assumed to be not interesting and get sent back for more marketing/nurturing.

– Senior sales team follow up new leads.
– Not as resource-intensive or costly.
– Can create motivation through “co-competition”.

– Leads can “fall through the cracks”.
– Not as good feedback to marketing.
– Not as well defined lead management process.

It becomes obvious that both marketing and sales teams need to have an ongoing conversation about lead conversion and constantly evaluate what’s working, what’s not, who it’s working for, etc. There is no such system that could be used universally for all businesses. It depends on the products/services you sell, your audience, and the buying cycle. The only way to find that is by trial and error, communication between both teams, and evolution.

A related article published on our Help Site:


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About the Author

Marie Vitkova

Marie is a Project Manager and a Templates, Forms and Funnel Workflows Specialist at FunnelBud. She loves Inbound and enjoys creative work and template design. She manages FunnelBud’s marketing activities, their own website, and multiple “managed website” clients who also do inbound.