Recent research published by lead management software solution provider Leads360 showed that 34% more companies continue buying internet leads for over one year if they use a lead management solution versus receiving leads by email. There could be a number of reasons for this including the fact that if a company invests in technology they are also more likely to be more committed to the marketing channel from the outset. However, more than anything else, I think that this finding shows you something that nearly everyone working in the lead industry has accepted for a long time anecdotally. Lead buyers who use lead management systems are far more successful than ones that don’t.
What does a lead management system do?
There are several different types of lead management solution available (which we will look at later in this post) but at their most simple they all do the following:
1. Receive leads
Integrate with a variety of lead providers and your own website so that leads that are posted by consumers are instantaneously transmitted to your system.
2. Distribute leads
On arrival, the lead can be distributed to one of your sales reps to be worked.
3. Manage Leads
A core function of a lead management solution is to help you organize your leads according to what stage you are at with them and the length of time it has been waiting for an action. A lead management system (LMS) is very similar to a CRM in that respect; except that it handles prospects as opposed to customers. An LMS helps you attract customers whereas a CRM enables you to keep them.
4. Track Leads
In my last post I looked at Lead Analytics. Lead Management systems do most of this analytical heavy lifting for you, providing dashboards and reports that help you to improve both lead buying and your sales processes.
While the 4 core functions of a lead management system described above are fundamental to any solution you will find on the market today, there are also a handful of features that the better systems have that can significantly aid in closing more business. These are:
1. Advanced distribution
There are two core distribution methodologies; pull and push. Push is most common and basically distributes the lead to your sales people based on either a “round robin system” (each sales rep in turn gets a new lead) or by some other rules that you have set up. Pull distribution allows you to create a “bucket” of leads that sales people can pull from when they are ready to receive their next new lead. Going into the advantages and disadvantages of the two methodologies is a subject for a future post, however some systems do support both push and pull.
Beyond the actual methodology, systems differ in terms of the configurability of the rules that leads can be distributed by and how quickly a lead can be sent to the sales rep after it arrives in the system. A handful of the better systems support “real-time” push distribution.
An amazing amount of time is wasted dialing leads. Mis-keying is common and manual dialing is a cumbersome activity that sucks the will to live from many sales reps. Some lead management systems have in built dialer systems that not only reduce the time spent calling leads but also provide the ability to track your sales team’s time on the phone. There are several different types of dialer that lead management systems provide, each of which have different pros and cons; these are:
The ability to click on a lead and have a call placed automatically, normally through the sales reps existing headset.
b) Power Dialer
This is very similar to a click to dial system except that it provides the ability for the rep to line up a list of leads for the system to rapidly dial through until a connection is made. The better systems can detect and ignore voicemail.
c) Predictive Dialer
These systems continuously call a list of leads on behalf of a group of sales people and once a live connection is made the customer on the other end is connected with an available sales representative.
3. Third-Party Integrations
This is the subject for my final post in this Leads 101 series. However it is suffice to say that the best lead management systems are integrated with a plethora of third party systems such as pricing engines, credit reporting bureaus, customer management systems etc. The better lead management systems also have ways to easily integrate with any third party systems using technologies called XML or Web Services (that’s probably as technical as I want to get on this blog).
One of the more important aspects of good lead management solutions is the ability to send both automated emails and provide templates to your sales reps to send out manually.
5. Appointment and Reminder management
A decent management system will have a Outlook-style calendar that will allow you to set up lead-specific appointments and reminders.
Lead Management Solutions
There are a large number of lead management solution providers, however I will try to give an overview of the most established and well-regarded ones here. The best way to categorize the different lead management solutions is by the core focus of the companies providing them.
Lead Management Specialists
There are a handful of companies that specialize just in lead management. They don’t generate leads, they didn’t start life as a CRM solution or a mortgage-pricing engine. Arguably these companies are the ones with the most sophisticated and feature-rich solutions. The following are the primary solutions in descending order of size:
Lead Provider Solutions
Some lead providers offer their own basic lead management systems. They are almost always free but the downside is that they are also tied to just one lead provider. It is bad practice to single source leads. However, if this option appeals to you I is worth checking with your lead provider to see if they do have such a system that you can use.
Pricing Engine Solutions
Some of the companies that offer either mortgage or insurance pricing engines provide integrated lead management solutions. If you operate in one of these industries then these systems are worthy of consideration. Do bear in mind you are first and foremost buying a pricing system and not a lead management system in this case though so you will lose out on the deeper, more robust functionality offered by a lead management provider.
Most customer relationship management solutions have a lead management module or integrate with 3rd party applications that provide lead management capabilities. The pros of these systems are that if you truly need a high quality CRM then this ensures you have a tightly integrated lead management system. The cons are that CRMs are much more expensive and difficult to configure and set up than lead management systems are.
How much does a Lead Management System Cost?
Obviously this depends upon what you want. The lead providers often provide free systems and Leads360 has even released a product called Leads360 Express that starts out free for a limited number of users. More typically however, you should expect to pay somewhere between $30 and $80 per month per user on most systems depending on their feature richness. Some systems charge per lead which works out cheap if you don’t buy many leads but can really expand quickly if you increase the volume of leads you buy. The bottom line of course is, as with everything, you get what you pay for but if you are buying leads I can guarantee that the investment you’ll make in any lead management solution will be an ROI positive one.