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Buyer's Guide

by Craig Borowski,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 24, 2017

While many customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) vendors provide the ability to manage leads within their software, some offer solutions specifically designed for this function. Lead management software provides companies with an automated way to track leads and nurture them until they become buyers.

There are numerous types of lead tracking software available in the market that provide lead management CRM capabilities. To help buyers narrow down their choices, we’ve created this guide outlining the typical features found within these systems, the types of buyers that generally evaluate this type of software and other important considerations to weigh before making a decision.

Here's what we'll cover:

What Is Lead Management CRM Software?
Common Features
Expected Benefits
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Market Trends to Understand

What Is Lead Management CRM Software?

CRM systems help companies gather and store information on prospective and existing clients to better organize and manage relationships. Lead management software, however, helps organizations automate the movement and tracking of leads through the lifecycle from acquisition to conversion, helping increase efficiency and qualification and conversion rates. While features vary from one vendor to the next, the following are common to most lead management systems:

According to Gartner, CRM lead management involves processes that integrate unqualified contacts and opportunities from a variety of sources. The outputs of these processes are qualified, sorted, scored, nurtured, augmented and prioritized selling opportunities. These are then distributed to direct, indirect or digital commerce sales channels for further action.

Common Features

While features vary from one vendor to the next, the following are common to most lead management systems:

Lead capture: Lead capture helps to generate more data from people who are interested in the products and services you offer. Leads are generally captured using lead forms placed at prominent positions on your website. The captured leads are nurtured and scored to enable faster sales.

Lead storage and distribution: Lead tracking software allows companies to manage the flow of leads captured through various channels (e.g., email and web forms). These leads are stored within a database, where they can be evaluated and distributed to the right employee within the organization based on certain criteria.

Lead nurturing: Companies can use nurturing tools to check the status of leads and automate the process of following up with and delivering relevant content to these leads. This helps maintain and strengthen the relationship until the lead is ready to make a purchase.

Lead scoring: Lead scoring is the process of grading leads using certain attributes to identify those most likely to result in a sale. Lead management software facilitates this process by filtering leads according to job title, demographic, online behavior and other variables companies deem most desirable.

Lead segmentation: Lead segmentation is the process of sorting leads into various categories based on criteria, such as geography, professional qualification, job role or industry. This practice targets potential leads more effectively as the right message, service or product is sent to the right set of potential buyers.

Lead analytics and reporting Creating and analyzing lead reports provides companies with an overview of marketing and sales results to help understand which leads are converting at the highest rates and which campaigns are most successful.

Pipeline management: Pipeline management allows you to track the status of potential customers or leads. It helps you understand the sales process as well as manage and assess all sales opportunities throughout the sales cycle.

Expected Benefits

Streamlined lead lifecycle. A lead management system automates the lifecycle of leads once they’ve been captured, preventing them from being overlooked and ensuring they’re promptly followed up on to increase the chance of conversion.

Improved lead prioritization. By using software to evaluate and score leads, sales and/or marketing teams can increase the speed and efficiency of conversions by highlighting those leads most likely to result in a sale.

Customer data capture: Having a lead management system in place helps businesses capture a prospect’s complete history of interactions with the company. You’ll have a database of customer information that can help in further marketing or cross sales. You can analyze this data to understand how a prospect was converted to a customer. The software also helps to keep all data uniform, making it easier for sales representatives to know what information is available.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

B2B buyer. These buyers work for firms that sell their products or services directly to other businesses, as opposed to consumers. Because the lifecycles of these sales interactions are typically longer, B2B buyers need robust lead nurturing and scoring features to successfully maintain and grow the relationship with prospective customers.

B2C buyer. Professionals who market directly to consumers often need lead tracking software to help organize and prioritize the large amount of data associated with individual consumers. They also usually require analytics features found in these solutions to identify and break down consumer segments to improve their marketing strategies.

Market Trends to Understand

Cloud-based vs. on-premise: A 2014 Software Advice research indicates that in 2008, 88 percent of prospective buyers across all markets wanted on-premise software. This number has changed now, with 87 percent preferring cloud-based solutions. This figure is even higher for CRM buyers: according to our 2013 CRM BuyerView Report, 96 percent of prospective buyers prefer cloud-based software.

Social media integration: Social media is used by nearly one in four people worldwide and companies have realized that monitoring these channels is critical to engage and build relationships with prospective buyers. Many vendors have followed suit and now offer advanced mobile apps to help professionals manage leads via a smartphone or tablet, no matter where they are.

Use of analytics: Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management (2016) states that CRM lead management software vendors are investing in predictive analytics, dashboards and KPIs. This is reflective of the need for better data analysis and intelligence for sales and marketing teams. The increasing collaboration between sales and marketing departments reflect the need for better analytics tools for decision making.

Growing investment in CRM lead management systems: The abovementioned Gartner report also says that companies continue to invest in lead management applications. It also states that smaller companies that previously didn’t use lead management software due to implementation or complexity issues are increasing their adoption of this feature. Vendors are also offering lead management applications that are easy to use, integrate with other applications and have re-designed UIs.

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