Five Obstacles to Developing Lead Management Process and How to Overcome Them

As a B2B organization, improving the return of your marketing and sales programs is more important than ever. While there are many areas you could address – the quantity of leads, the quality of leads or supporting technologies – nothing will give you higher and more consistent returns than addressing your underlying lead management process.  While challenging because of the complexity and number of steps involved – data, lead planning, lead qualification, lead routing, lead nurturing, and metrics – it ultimately sets the foundation for success for all your lead and demand generation efforts.  But like any organizational change, there are bound to be obstacles and challenges to implementing a new lead management process.  To assist you with overcoming these obstacles, we’re addressing five of them below. 

1.  Executive Resistance

Many executives balk when first presented with a lead management initiative.  The reasons vary but often lie in the “perception” that there will be no tangible return on these efforts and therefore are not worth the time or the investment. 

The best way to address this is to speak the language of executives  . . . revenue.  Organizations that do not have a proper lead management process in place are likely currently losing revenue and are at greater risk of losing even more in the future.

We recently addressed this with one client by reviewing the following:

– Lead aging report
– Average cost per lead
– Sales win rate
– Average sales price (ASP)

When looking at their lead aging report, we were able to see that 70% of the qualified leads routed to sales had gone unattended and were sitting in the CRM system.  This totaled 491 leads for the month.   According to the client’s metrics, their sales win rate was 45% with an ASP of $100,000.  Now all that was left was simple math using this month’s data as a baseline:

- 491 qualified leads unattended x 45% close rate = 221 deals lost
- 221 deals lost x $100,000 ASP = $22,100,000 in potential lost revenue or lost ROI (LROITM)

By conducting this simple exercise, the executives soon saw the viability of a lead management process and the radical revenue transformation it would make in their organization.  You can do the same with very little data and be one step closer to getting the buy-in needed to move forward with this vital growth initiative.

2.  Sales Resistance

Any time marketing begins tinkering with sales leads, sales is most likely to ask questions and to put up potential roadblocks.  If you look beyond the initial reaction and try to get to the source of it, you’ll find it is most often rooted in the sales and marketing divide that exists in many companies.  Unfortunately, due to a lack of communication and collaboration, distrust often exists between marketing and sales.  

To have an effective lead management process it’s vital that marketing and sales work together. And the first step towards working together is for marketing to listen o sales. And we say “listen”, we mean “really listen” to sales.  .

One of our long term clients, USA Financial, had this exact issue when looking to develop their lead management process.  To get things moving marketing went to sales with one simple question – “when it comes to leads, what would you describe as your ideal lead?”  Sales responded resoundingly!  This paved the way for the two teams to collaborate on developing a closed-loop process, and for marketing to deliver high quality leads to sales.  The result was increased revenues and the elimination of the marketing and sales gap.

3.  Lack of Technology Resources

I often speak to clients who feel strapped when it comes to lead management and producing high quality demand generation programs because they believe they do not have the proper technology in place.  This is another myth of lead management.  Too many organizations have bought technology as a short-cut to improving lead management only to utilize a fraction of the functionality.  Why?  Because its only by addressing your process that you will maximize the benefit of technology and the features that go along with it such as automated lead scoring, qualification and routing.   

Technology is an enabler and you will get more from your technology if you develop a process first and then add the technology second.  Based on experience, this is how we’ve seen companies realize the best returns.  Doing it the right way the first time will also reduce the number of future changes and get things started on a solid foundation.

Aberdeen Group recently echoed the same sentiment when they stated “Nothing is more important than process when it comes to building a best-in-class lead management engine. “ 

4.  Not Knowing Where to Start

Undertaking the development of a lead management process is not an easy task, but it is well worth the effort and investment.  I recently spoke with a prospect who, when it came to decision-time, ultimately backed away saying “I know it would be beneficial, but honestly it seems like such a large project.  I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

Not knowing where to start is a common obstacle and is usually compounded by knowing there’s not just one problem area.  To simplify things, we recommend you start by auditing your existing lead management process. An audit will reveal both the gaps and opportunities within your process and help you prioritize what to address first.  We recommend you conduct the audit utilizing the guidelines outlined in our recent blog post, The Lead Management FrameworkTM.  In auditing these processes you will have the information to begin ranking the impact of each gap and creating a plan to fill those gaps and implement changes. 

5.  Trying to do too much too fast

The first time I ever ran a race, a friend gave me some great advice: “pace yourself.”  She told me that in spite of being really amped, make sure to pace yourself so you don’t crash at the end.  I wish I could tell you I heeded her advice, but alas I didn’t.  I sprinted off the line and for the first mile was well ahead of the pack.  Feeling good, I had visions of grandeur in my head.  At about the halfway mark my eagerness began to haunt me.  One-by-one other runners flew by me, and I ended up finishing in the bottom 10%.  I had run the race, but exhibited no patience and tried to take on too much of the race at an insane pace.

The same can be said for starting a lead management initiative.  Too many times after having an understanding of the benefits and improvements that will come, organizations sprint off the starting line and attempt to make full sweeping changes.  This often results in failure and frustration.

Once you complete your audit, develop a plan of attack and be methodical in your approach.  Rank the findings from high to low impact, mapping the dependencies. Then document your approach to plan implementation.  Having this plan with key milestones will allow you to pace yourself and ensure the project does not lose steam at the end.  As with the development of the process itself, be sure to involve sales in the planning stages. And remember, small wins lead to big gains and will help to maintain momentum for change within your organization.

Defining, developing and implementing a lead management process is one of the most important initiatives a B2B organization can undertake.  It will improve revenues, allow better communication with customers and unite sales with marketing.  Don’t be surprised or afraid of the obstacles.  Just work to address them and stick to the plan.