For B2B sales organizations, few challenges are more daunting than the sheer volume of leads we collect. Last year, I received over 22,000 new contacts, of which only 5,000 would ever amount to qualified leads our sales team could make a pitch to.
When I first started in sales over a decade ago, I used to obsess over every contact that came across my desk, spending valuable time researching each and every lead. Naturally, this got overwhelming pretty quickly. Through the years, I’ve been able to develop a system that combines technology tools and my own instincts to help us filter, evaluate and track the leads we generate at GumGum.
Based on my experiences as a sales development rep and demand generation marketer, here are three tips for managing the sales funnel and turning new leads into new customers:
1. Use automation to filter and fast-track.
Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to witness the rise and continued improvement of AI-powered automation software that can sort and categorize leads before I ever look at them. Right off the bat, these tools weed out the junk and reduce my marketing funnel by about 50%.
Conversely, my marketing automation tool, Hubspot, also saves me time by pushing the most promising regional contacts directly to our regional sales leads. This setup speeds up the sales process and ensures that our most likely customers never slip through the cracks.
"If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that putting a thoughtful lead management system in place is every bit as important as having the right pitch once you meet the customer."
2. Be thoughtful about prioritization.
With so much to look at, it helps to set up a nuanced, automated system for determining which leads are the most important for us to get to first.
Our website brings in leads from over 50 forms, so I use Hubspot to identify “HOT” leads, which come from the specific forms on the contact us and demo request pages. These leads are filtered and selected as most deserving of my immediate attention. Hubspot’s alerts do a great job of helping me stay on top of things.
“COLD” leads, which come from less valuable accounts or forms, can be upgraded to “WARM” if the lead downloads a piece of our content, leaves a comment with a legitimate ask or belongs to a Fortune 1000 company. Once the lead is upgraded to WARM, we’ll assign them to the appropriate sales rep. Otherwise, we’ll add the user to the nurturing portion of our funnel by subscribing them to our content newsletter until they make an inquiry to learn more about us.
3. Build a robust tracking and evaluation plan.
With so much going on, it can be difficult for an experienced sales teams to keep track of the entire operation. In order to keep leads from getting lost in the shuffle, we’ve implemented an expansive tracking and evaluation system.
Each day, our Salesforce management dashboard shows us how many leads are coming in from which channels, with insight into whether they’re marketing qualified or sales qualified, and whether they’ve been read by a sales rep. Our dashboard also tracks our conversion rates to close the loop.
In addition, we include a lead generation flow component in our weekly regional sales dashboard, which helps us hold sales reps accountable for follow-up while tracking our sales activities in the Salesforce inbox. Crucially, this helps us keep tabs on how are leads are moving through the key touch points of the conversion and opportunity stages.
Best of all, we use Looker to sync these metrics into our core business dashboard, giving us a full picture of how our inbound leads are driving revenues.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that putting a thoughtful lead management system in place is every bit as important as having the right pitch once you meet the customer.
With lead generation making up about 20% of my marketing mix, the strategy outlined above has allowed us to spend more of our time and resources on the most qualified potential customers. By building an efficient process and tracking the customer from content to conversion, we’ve been able to identify key patterns that have allowed us to drive major revenues for our company.
Once you have your system in place, all that’s left to do is get your sales team to buy in and adopt it. From my experience, it just takes is one big win, and the rest of your team will follow.