Lead Generation Process: The Simplest Flowchart for the Most Effective Results
For many businesses, leads are an essential part of the sales process. A lead is typically defined as a person or business who might become a customer at some point in the future. It is a different process for customers of retail stores, for example, when people go to a store with the intention of shopping and making purchases.
Instead, a lead will usually need to be sold on a product before they make a decision to buy it. This can take time as the lead will likely have questions and reservations that need to be answered.
In order to convert a lead into a sale, you will first need to have a lead in the first place, and this requires lead generation.
What is Lead Generation?
As the name suggests, lead generation is the process of acquiring leads. Without leads, there’s nothing for marketing and sales to work on – nothing to convert into sales. This makes lead generation just as essential as any other part of the process.
The Transition of Leads through the Buying Journey
The acquiring of a new lead is just the start of the sales process, and marketing will usually need to work with them before the prospect is ready to buy something from you. Each lead will go through a journey from the point of the first contact with the company, to the point where they make a purchase. They can be broken down into four main categories:
- Leads: The details of an individual who may or may not become a customer at some point in the future.
- MQL: A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) has expressed some interest in making a purchase. They are considered to be more likely to buy than other leads.
- SQL: A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is ready to make a purchase. Depending on the structure of a campaign, an SQL will have been qualified by sales after being passed on from marketing.
- Customer: A customer is somebody who has already made a purchase. This doesn’t mean they drop out of the post-sales nurturing process.
The Importance of a Lead Generation and Processing Mechanism
As outlined above, leads are at different levels of readiness during their journey through the buying process. If you approach a lead before they are ready to buy, you are unlikely to get the response you are looking for and you may end up scaring them away. If you have a lead that is ready to buy and you leave it too late, they might end up changing their mind.
With this in mind, it’s important to process leads to help extract maximum value from them; to work with them according to where they are in the process personally.
Below is a workflow that helps outline the process of taking a raw lead through the journey to becoming a customer.
The Lead Generation Workflow
The seven stepped workflow would look something like this:
But what do each of these steps mean? Let’s take a closer look.
There are various ways of achieving this, perhaps the most common being PPC advertising and SEO. The prospect will typically spot an ad for something they are interested in and click on it. The prospect will then be directed to a landing page or other asset where they are asked to sign up for more information on the product, news on promotions and other deals, and similar. Different methods are used to help encourage the prospect to share their personal details. One such method is known as a lead magnet which is often in the form of free content (like an eBook) – provided the prospect signs up.
Another way to acquire leads is by building a sales funnel, the organic or unpaid way. For instance, software as a service (SaaS) companies can build a SaaS sales funnel by relying less on paid ads and creating SEO-optimized and valuable content. Every content should appeal to its target audience, getting the SaaS brand in front of them at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Hence, it’s necessary to develop content that generates organic traffic and converts cold prospects to SaaS users. Once you master this strategy, you’ll attain a scalable sales funnel that converts leads exponentially.
When a lead is first acquired, they will likely have some interest but still be some distance from being ready to buy. This means that marketing will need to nurture them; educate them and answer any questions they might have. This can be done in a variety of ways, one of the most common of which is with drip campaigns that involve sending relevant information to the prospect according to their behaviors and other factors.
Lead nurturing will also often involve remarketing. Remarketing means using ads to reach back out to prospects that have visited your site but not taken any action. It’s a great way of reminding people you’re still there. In addition, remarketing can help in lead generation and conversion. For instance, an online store can reduce shopping cart abandonment by showing the products to the user while navigating the app or sending an in-app notification or email that the products are still available and waiting for checkout.
Marketing Lead Qualification
In addition to nurturing a lead, marketing also has the task of qualifying the lead. This means ensuring the prospect is genuinely interested and almost ready to buy the product. Qualifying also means ensuring the prospect is in a position financially to make a purchase and that the contact is the person making the decision.
The importance of speaking with the decision-maker cannot be understated. If the contact is not the decision-maker then they will need to report back to the person who does make decisions. However, that person has not been through the same nurturing process that the contact has. This makes it a lot less likely a sale will be made and trying to make a sale to the wrong contact can end up with the prospect being lost altogether.
So, how can a marketer or brand connect with the right person? To reach the decision-maker, you can request your contact to arrange a virtual or face-to-face meeting or provide you with the person’s contact details. While your first contact isn’t qualified as a marketing lead, the individual can be your excellent bridge to the decision-maker, who can also serve as a referee or brand endorser.
Once a lead has been qualified by Marketing, it would be passed on to Sales. This means that Sales does not need to talk to every lead. They only need to talk to leads who are marketing qualified and ready for sales to take over. Marketing can use a tool like Salespanel to qualify leads using segmentation and lead scoring and automatically transfer them to sales when leads are marketing qualified.
Sales Lead Qualification
Although marketing is expected to qualify a lead, sales will also often perform their own qualification check. This might involve somebody from sales giving the prospect a call to ask them more questions and evaluate their readiness to make a purchase. The process also helps to prep the prospect further for a sale to help ensure they are ready when an offer is made.
If the lead is not fully qualified yet then it does not necessarily mean the prospect is lost. Sales can find out the reason why the prospect is not ready and, if needed, pass them back to marketing who can get back to the task of nurturing the prospect until they are ready to buy.
Of course, the ultimate task for sales is to convert the lead into a customer. Or, in other words, compel them to buy the product. This will often mean negotiating with the client regarding price and terms and conditions to try and come to an agreement. It’s also often important for the sales department to maintain a good relationship with the customer because there will often be other sales opportunities further along the line, such as other products, and upgrades to products the customer has already purchased.
Once a customer has been acquired, you will then need to work on keeping them. There are various strategies that you can employ to help ensure their customers stay loyal to them.
- Customer Services: Things will occasionally go wrong – it’s a part of life. What really matters is how a company deals with problems when they do occur and how they put things right for their customers. A good customer service department will help to overcome any issues that do occur, helping to keep the customer happy. In a sense, having problems arise can even work in the company’s favor as it’s an opportunity for the company to show they do have their customer’s best interests at heart.
- Loyalty Rewards: Loyalty reward systems are very popular. They help companies let their customers know they are appreciated, encouraging the customer to stick around for longer. Loyalty rewards are also great for driving extra revenue as they encourage people to take up deals and make purchases that they might otherwise not have taken.
- Request Feedback: Feedback, good or bad, can be instrumental in helping you to keep your customers on board. For one, thing, people appreciate being given the opportunity to voice their opinion. For another, the feedback you receive can help you to maintain high standards and continue delivering what the customers want. Try not to reject negative feedback. If anything you should embrace it. See it as your customers telling you how to deliver quality service and product, helping you to keep them for long into the future.
Generating revenue involves so much more than just telling people you have something and waiting for them to buy. Instead, it involves whole processes within processes, each of which leads up to the next process and is part of an overall sales and marketing campaign. The process is also not over when the customer buys something. Rather, it is simply the beginning of another process that can go on throughout the customer lifecycle.
Above is a brief outline of a typical flowchart of these processes and how they tie in with each other. It shows how different departments will need to work with each other and how those at the very beginning of the process are essential for those at the end. If you were to follow this outline as a guide then you are well on your way to generating more revenue in the short term and the long term.
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