Too often businesses put an emphasis on lead generation without giving much thought to how those leads will become customers. It’s akin to the “build it, and they will come” mentality. Considering that 96% of website visitors aren’t ready to purchase, there should be little doubt that leads need to be nurtured before they become customers.

By managing your leads in a systematic and structured way, you can increase both the number of leads you generate and how many of those leads you convert. These are some of our lead management best practices to help you increase your pipeline, make sure you focus on the right leads and track what works and what doesn’t.

Align sales and marketing teams

Sales and marketing teams need to be in alignment and working together for effective lead management. Typically, leads first enter your organization’s pipeline mildly interested in what your business offers. It is up to the marketing team to understand how that lead should be handled and what will result in a positive response. Marketing will also be able to help decide if the lead is a potential customer or not. It is their tactics that will take a cold lead to a warm future customer.

Once marketing has directed your lead down the pipeline, it is the sales team who will make them a buyer. Mapping your sales process and clearly defining how and when leads will be handed off to sales is crucial. This will ensure no lead is overlooked or dropped.

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To Do:

Create your own lead funnel that will help your teams understand the differences between MQLs and SQLs as well as how each department communicates with people who are or will become customers. These definitions will help create clarity in the right approach to lead management, manage individual department KPIs and help pinpoint weaknesses in your current strategy.

When developing your lead funnel, or customer journey, think of your unique organization and offering. Some companies are linear with very few lead entry points and quick sales cycles. Others have products with higher price points or software that serves multiple purposes in one organization. Those differences can make for a radically different definition of success in marketing and an even more unique sales strategy.

Overall, your funnel should feature:

  • Discovery Points: How your leads learn about your organization or product/service.
  • Awareness Tactics: Ways your business warms cold leads into customers.
  • Assessment Tools: How your leads/customers self-select potential service/product options.
  • Entry Points: How the conversation between your organization and the lead starts.
  • Enablement Strategy: The tools and tactics that help close the deal.

Automate lead capture

Using a marketing automation tool, such as Pardot, or web-to-lead features in Salesforce Sales Cloud, will help make lead capture efficient and consistent. By automating lead capture from your website you can not only capture important data points from leads but also begin them on a nurturing journey using autoresponders, workflows and white paper downloads. You also avoid the risk of overlooking and losing potential leads with automated lead assignment and notifications.

Automated tools can be more easily monitored by your marketing and sales teams. Your marketing team can watch what types of content are garnering the most interest from a specific individual, which can, in turn, guide the types of materials they see in the future. From there, your sales team can begin to understand what these leads are struggling with most and tailor their sales approach. Overall, both teams can ensure no one lead is getting too much or too little communication.

Keep your data clean

Data hygiene is always critical and can quickly get out of control. Leads can come into your CRM via manual entry, automated lead capture from your website and mass imports. With so many ways leads can enter your CRM, duplicate records are bound to happen. Maintain your data integrity by using a de-duping app from the AppExchange.

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Incomplete lead data can also be a challenge. Features in the CRM can be leveraged to improve data quality. For example, validation rules can prevent leads from being converted if no email address was entered or if a need has not been defined. This can help keep leads that are not ready to move to sales with marketing for further nurturing.

Prioritize your best leads

Your leads will likely differ in quality. Some may fit your ideal customer profile better than others. Using lead scoring and grading will help Sales know which leads are “hot” and a best fit. Pardot uses a blended scoring and grading method, where score is based on the actions and activities of the lead. And grade is based on how closely they match your ideal customer profile. Using a blended scoring and grading model gives you a full picture of your prospects. Then you can route leads to the appropriate inside sales rep or team using Automation Rules.

To understand the best way to grade your customers, you will need to have a profile of an ideal customer and how that aligns to specific parts of your product or service offering.

Ask questions like:

  • What sector or industry does your ideal customer serve/work within?
  • What location is your ideal customer in?
  • How big is your ideal customer? What is your minimum?
  • What is the annual revenue of your ideal customer? What is your minimum?
  • How does our product/service structure translate to our customer’s needs? (ex. Do you have multiple offerings that can help a diverse market? If so, do you require those customers to package specific features?)

Establish closed-loop reporting

Sales, Marketing and executives alike will want to know which channels, promotions are most effective at driving quality leads and resulting in sales revenue. Data from Pardot and Salesforce can support that analysis by linking marketing activities to your Salesforce CRM data. You’ll know which lead source brings in the most leads, how many progress through the sales funnel to result in pipeline and how much revenue has been influenced by marketing.

Closed loop reporting also helps keep Sales and Marketing in alignment, allowing everyone to track and measure lead quality. A combination of Salesforce Campaigns and reports and dashboards can give you critical ROI calculations so you will know where to put your marketing dollars in the future.


Leads are too valuable to your business to let lead management be an afterthought. Poor lead management can mean lost opportunities and revenue. So, put the time and effort into creating a strategy that brings sales and marketing together and leverage the tools your CRM and marketing automation can provide.

Post Updated on September 10, 2018.