• January 3, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Mismanaged Lead Management

Salespeople are supposed to pay attention to the needs of their prospective customers, but they don't appear to be considering their lead management systems. Research from the Sales Lead Management Association (SLMA) shows that nearly 69 percent of companies surveyed in its 2nd annual Sales Lead Management Study don't qualify inquiries before distributing them internally or to their channel partners. "Why is sales lead management ignored by some and championed by others," writes Mark Friedman, executive vice president of SLMA and report author, in his introduction to the study results. "For 41 years, since the introduction of the first 'inquiry management system,' the value of inquiries and the follow-up by salespeople has been a constant argument and a source of frustration. From marketing departments that generate the inquiries, to salespeople who must follow them up and the inquirer who is ignored, everyone complains." The survey was conducted with 144 businesses in southern California, primarily small, private businesses, according to the report. Inability to track ROI from leads was the major concern voiced: It garnered 23 percent of responses, yet 83 percent of respondents don't track the ROI for investments in lead generation, according to the study. Of the rest, approximately 5 percent track ROI in SFA, and the remaining 12 percent do, but not in SFA. There's also an interesting discrepancy in forecasting. The length of time it takes to create sales forecasts and their inaccuracy ranked among the lowest on the list of pain points (5 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively), yet results showed that 52 percent of respondents had no formal forecasting process in place. The ones that do are most likely to be using Microsoft Excel to compile them (21.4 percent). Furthermore, 52 percent of respondents answered "None" when asked what SFA/CRM system they used. Among the positive responses, ACT! led with 19 , ACT! by Sage led with 19 percent, equal to the other four named products (GoldMine, Salesforce.com, SalesLogix, and Microsoft CRM) and vertical ERP systems combined. While this is arguably good news for Sage Software, makers of ACT! and SalesLogix, the overall poor penetration among respondents is no cause for joy. Not surprisingly, satisfaction with CRM and SFA are low. According to the study, 55 percent of respondents rated theirs a 5 or less on a 10-point scale. "Granted these numbers reflect small company thinking (97.2 percent of those that took the survey have 49 salespeople or less), but even larger companies have similar roadblocks," Friedman writes. Friedman suggests that companies of all sizes may need to reevaluate how they manage inquiries, and start using closed loop lead management. Salespeople must be properly trained, and marketing must know how to forecast ROI and request the reports needed to spend the company's money on the best lead generating campaigns, Friedman says. "If not, it's time to go to work." Related articles: No More Dying by Inches
To help reverse the effects of its information malnutrition, a sales team must let its marketing department know what customer data is of value and what is not. What's in a Lead? Defining what a qualified lead means to a company is the first of many steps on the road to closing the marketing and sales loop, according to a new report. Success Strategies for Leveraging Customer Intelligence Re:Tooling--Partner relationship management tools When a Lead Isn't a Lead and What to Do About It How to find and convert high-value sales prospects.
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