The 7 Stages of Effective Lead Management

Many marketers involved in lead generation have long had a nagging suspicion that their sales team doesn’t take their leads seriously.

Published reports show that up to 80% of marketing generated sales leads lost, ignored or discarded when they are handed to sales person. If this sounds like you, you’re probably missing an effective lead management process.


Lead management is a multistage process that manages the conversion of sales leads to customers.

7 major stages of effective lead management:

1. Lead Generation
2. Lead Qualification
3. Lead Refinement
4. Lead Distribution
5. Lead Pursuit
6. Lead Tracking and reporting
7. Lead Nurturing

I find most marketers need to put more attention on the processes of lead qualification and nurturing.

With lead qualification, the key is to match readiness of the buyer with expectations of your sales team. Otherwise you’ll have a serious disconnect. You need to examine each lead ask if they are “sales ready” meaning they are ready to speak to a sales person.

Often when prospects have an identified need, they can spend months researching and seeking information on solutions that may satisfy that need. They are seeking education and information but would rather not talk to a sales person yet. This is why I think marketers should hold back and nurture early stage leads (with a human touch) on behalf of their sales team.

The goal of lead nurturing is to maintain a relevant and consistent dialog with viable leads – regardless of their timing to purchase – until they are sales ready. A key aspect of lead nurturing is the ability to provide valuable education and information to prospects up front, so that you become more than an expert; you become a trusted advisor.

Lead nurturing is a multi-touch process. Without lead nurturing program in place, I’ve found that early stage leads receive just 1 or maybe 2 touches before they are handed off to sales people. And that’s not enough, especially if you have a complex sale. At InTouch, we’ve found early stage leads may require 8 to 12 (or more) meaningful nurturing touches before they are truly sales ready.

In cases where your experience tells you that a lead is sales-ready, or would best be in the hands of a salesperson, you should create an exception code or status. I recommend asking the following question, “Can marketing continue to nurture this opportunity until they are more sales-ready or is this a situation best handled by a salesperson?”

This is why communication and cooperation between sales and marketing is so important. Sadly, sales leads often land on the scrap heap because marketers throw leads over the wall and then expect sales people to catch them.

I think marketers must start by viewing the sales team as our customer. Simply put, we need to be committed to helping our sales team sell. Marketers can help sales people prioritize their time by going beyond the basic lead. We can to help them qualify, cultivate and develop opportunities until they are mature sales ready leads.

How should marketers qualify leads? Not by using forms. Conversations are better. That’s why I think the phone is all too often overlooked by marketers. This is unfortunate, because if done well, outbound calling is by far the most effective tool for qualifying leads—particularly for the complex sale, in which few other economical options exist for contacting high-level decision makers.

So if marketers are committed to provide genuine, sales-ready leads to their sales team, they need to pick up the phone. In fact, this function is so important that companies are now creating or outsourcing the teleprospecting function to do lead qualification and nurturing so they can add a consistent “human touch” and maximize the potential of early stage leads.

Stay tuned, I’ll be sharing more detail and best practices for each stage of the 7 stages of lead management in the coming months.

2 Responses to The 7 Stages of Effective Lead Management

  1. Laurence June 15, 2007 at 10:19 am #

    reads good

  2. Perry March 12, 2009 at 11:12 pm #

    Great post! Not a lot of businesses are aware that lead management is actually a very comprehensive system. It is made up of various processes that are dependent of one another. For example, you cannot expect lead management to work well if you have done lead scoring right but not lead distribution.