Editor’s note: Daryl Toor, who has worked in marketing and public relations for more than 20 years, is founder of Atlanta-based “Attention.” He writes a regular column on Mondays about trends in marketing and communication.Few enterprise business processes are as clearly valuable … and yet just as clearly broken … as lead management.

Most enterprises recognize the importance of rapidly and efficiently nurturing leads and routing leads to maximize the effectiveness of their marketing and sales efforts. Nonetheless, more than 70 percent of leads are never acted on … typically because they do not reach the right person or organization at the right time.

Lead management remains a slow, inefficient and essentially manual set of operations that are seldom optimally orchestrated on an enterprise-wide basis. The result is that sales representatives generally believe that leads … with the possible exception of the highest-rated leads … have little value, and they act on them only when time permits. This perception, of course, simply increases the problem, because delays in responding to leads both increase their costs and reduce their value.

Improving lead utilization and lead close rates requires that enterprises address and embrace a holistic approach to lead management, with a particularly sharp focus on the relevance and timing of the information that is delivered. The place to begin in getting a handle on the challenges and opportunities presented by lead management is a thorough understanding of current and best practices for the
processes involved.

In upcoming reports, we will focus on the best practices in lead management, in these critical areas:

Lead Planning and Generation: Most marketers … being intensely and understandably focused on lead generation … fail to recognize the importance of lead planning. Effective lead planning is, in fact, a mission-critical requirement, because it provides the framework for the alignment of objectives and a coordinated approach to resource allocation.

Lead Qualification: Lead qualification prioritizes leads according to their readiness to be acted on and the opportunities they present. This, in turn, results in more-effective resource utilization and improved lead utilization and close rates.

Lead Distribution: Many enterprises, in an attempt to ensure timely delivery of leads, have deployed sales force automation or lead automation functionality that routes leads on the basis of basic criteria. Optimized lead distribution, however, depends on the use of a rich set of data and business rules, as well as incorporation of content that may aid in generating a sale.

Lead Maturation: Distributing leads that are simply not ready for direct sales attention is a waste of resources and opportunities. Effective lead maturation helps to eliminate this problem, positively affecting lead utilization and close rates.

Lead Measurement and Reporting: Enterprises can improve overall lead management efforts through more-targeted and more-intelligent delivery of relevant information, instead of a narrow focus on lead pipeline and close rates.

Any enterprise that wishes to enhance its lead management practices must identify specific areas where improved information quality and latency reduction can enhance their overall effectiveness. This requires a gap analysis to determine the distance between its current efforts and defined best practices in lead management.

This analysis should focus on process and automation, avoiding the all-too-common mistake of assuming the implementation of new technology will automatically deliver optimal lead management. Sales force automation and lead management applications certainly provide functionality that help automate processes and facilitates deployment of business rules.

However, without a thorough examination and re-engineering of their lead management processes and practices, enterprises will probably not achieve their desired goals, or realize the full sales and marketing potential of the leads they receive.

Attention: www.attentiongroup.com