You've got them, now what? How to manage your sales leads effectively

I’ve been a salesman for more years than I care to remember. Most people think sales is all about convincing people to part with their money. But it really isn’t. It’s about building relationships with people who are already in the market for a product you’re selling.

That relationship gives those people, those leads, the confidence to purchase from the business you represent. A relationship that isn’t just about schmoozing someone. It’s about understanding their pain points (the problem they want to solve) and how you can help alleviate them.

It involves a lot of effort and background work to get right.

I often use the swan example: a good salesperson looks like they’re gliding serenely along the water, but they’re working like crazy just below the surface.

And that’s because salespeople aren’t just trying to build a relationship with a single lead. They’re working on building relationships with lots of people…and effectively keeping all those plates spinning takes real effort and skill.

When you get right down to it, it’s all about the management of lots of pieces of data about your lead, your product, and your business.

In this blog, I’d like to talk about the top three things you have to do to effectively manage those sales leads (and win the sales):

  • Make sure your data is right (scrub your list if you have to),

  • Have the right marketing/sales automation tools, and

  • Keep clear records of conversations


Getting the initial data right

I know, it sounds like an obvious one, but you might be surprised at how difficult this first step can be.

The way I see it there are three things you have to get right when managing your lead data, and before you do so, you’ll want to ensure that you have a good B2B lead generation process in place:

  1. Stored in the right place,

  2. With accurate information, and

  3. Be segmented in a way that is useful.

I’d like to go through each to discuss their importance and some tips on how to achieve them.


Getting your data in the right place

I will always think that a CRM lead management system is the best place to manage your sales process. But I know not everyone uses a CRM system like OpenCRM. If you’ve got another process or system that you use, that is perfectly fine, provided you are meeting a few key requirements:

  • Do you have a way of separating your leads from your customers?

  • Can you gather all relevant information about these leads?

  • Is there a way to track when they are converted from a cold lead to a warmer or piping hot lead?

You will need all of the above, as a bare minimum, to effectively manage your sales leads. Whether that’s in a CRM lead management system or an Excel spreadsheet.


Making sure your data is accurate

Once you’ve got all your lead data in a central location, you need to make sure that data is both relevant and accurate.

The accurate one is fairly obvious… if the data you hold is wrong, you aren’t managing sales leads. You’re just managing junk data that resembles your leads and wastes your time.

This could be anything from inaccurate data, such as the wrong phone number to not knowing what they want to purchase from you. A CRM system can help stop inaccurate information, for example removing email addresses that have bounced. But a lot of it will be down to your own management of the data you record.

When it comes to holding relevant information, this is equally important. When gathering data on your sales leads, there is a temptation to find out as much as possible about them. And that’s great, you never know what nugget of information could be useful to building your relationship.

But the reality is that you want to gather as much relevant information as you can about them. Not just random data.

If you don’t have age requirements (or send birthday messages), don’t ask for their birth date. But if you send out customized samples of your product in a range of colors, you may want to find out their favorite color.

Knowing what data to gather (and ensuring its accuracy) is more than half the battle… the rest of it is having that central location to store it. And store it in a way that lets you search and segment your data.



Segmenting and using your data

Being able to search and segment your data gives you so many options for effectively managing your leads.

It means that you can send targeted messages or campaigns to only those people who fit a particular description. Or assigning leads to the salesperson who is best equipped to deal with their questions.

This segmentation also gives you the ability to report on the performance of different campaigns or lead sources. That way you can see what is doing well and where to invest your budget in the future.

If you are using OpenCRM as your CRM lead management system of choice, you can build and automate reports to be sent to you on a regular basis. I.e. every Monday morning ahead of your sales meeting. You can also create lists for your sales team to work from, crafting individual views for each person with just a few clicks.

This segmentation is key to managing your leads because it means you can spend your time taking action and building relationships, rather than searching for the leads that would benefit from those actions.



Unified communication

So you’ve got your data in a CRM and it’s accurate, with loads of relevant information for each person. The time has come to start building those relationships.

Whether it’s the first step or the third, at some point you’re going to send an email to this prospect of yours. And you want that email to be well written, on message, and brand.

Those three things are what reinforce the trust you are building with your lead. If it is branded and well written, but the details are wrong, it looks like you don’t know your own product. If it’s well written and accurate, but the branding is off, you lose credibility (and may even look like a spammer).

It’s the same with any PDFs, mail merges, or other documents you want to send out.

Using a CRM as your lead management system can help you manage this kind of unified communication through the use of templates. Or you can use a shared folder for your documents and email templates, underlined with a solid process for how you use them.

However you decide to manage it, the importance of well-written, accurate, and branded communications during the sales process cannot be overstated.


The historical record

Now you’ve got your data in order and everything you need to communicate with your lead effectively, the time has come to really nurture those relationships you started building. And that is not simply having conversations about your product and their requirements. It’s about keeping track of the whole relationship; which means every conversation and email you’ve had.

To manage your sales leads effectively, you need to know what has been said when it was said, and by whom. This is where a CRM system really comes into its own. And where the relationship between your sales team and their CRM system can break down.

It’s the manual aspect of entering the details of your calls and meetings into an activity. Or updating your opportunity (or potential) with the latest on the negotiations.

There are features that can help speed this up, of course. From automatic email importing and linking to updating opportunity values based on the latest quote sent out.

But there will always be a manual element to it. Where else will you get the details of what was discussed in that call or meeting? Or record a salesperson’s considered view of how the deal is shaping up? Or when they think it will close?

These details are what give you all that rich history of your relationship with your leads. And we all know that the relationship is a huge part of winning a sale.

That’s why my final tip on managing leads effectively is all about keeping detailed, accurate, and up-to-date records of what is happening with them.



In conclusion

And that’s it for my tips on how to effectively manage your sales leads. Once you’ve got the right data in the right place with the right tools, it’s down to your communication and record keeping along with the skill of your salesperson in managing those communications.

Obviously, I think a CRM system is going to be the best place to carry out this lead management. Mainly because of all the great features that are available to you to achieve these goals.

But then I would say that… I’m a salesman after all. 😊



Graham Anderson

I am the founder, System Architect, and Managing Director of OpenCRM. We pride ourselves on being a UK-based CRM provider. That means all data stays in the UK and our team spends their days in sunny North Yorkshire.

Before I got my start in the tech industry as part of Apple's UK Mac launch team, I was a professional drummer (notice I didn’t say, musician). But once I got in, I was hooked and I’ve been involved in the tech industry, primarily software development, for over 20 years.