In May, I talked about the definition of the marketing suite and how lead management (LM) is starting to creep into this category. Questions often asked include: Is LM categorized as marketing or sales software? Where does lead management stop and sales force automation (SFA) begin?

These questions sometimes make it difficult to start LM initiatives because the definitions, roles and responsibilities are not well defined. But in sales-focused (typically B2B environments) or hybrid environments, LM can be critical to making the most of opportunities.

LM is often confused with campaign management or SFA. LM can be identified as automating the business processes involved with lead creation, lead assignment, lead follow-up and lead tracking.

The definition of a lead is typically closer to that of a prospect, but the organization could already be doing business with the lead. For instance, a lead could be a cross-sell or up-sell opportunity. The complexity involved requires that leads come from many different sources that need to be rationalized and distributed. Leads may come from: mining the current customer database for new opportunities (for example, marketing may send leads through their campaign management application), Internet registration or interest in a service or product, events and trade shows, the field sales force, business partners and purchased lists.

SFA provides the tools for defining the opportunity, defining the tactics/methodology to follow up with the opportunity and tracking the interactions with the lead. Many SFA applications have an LM component. Buying SFA and LM from the same vendor is enticing because these processes are so integrated. However, many SFA vendors cannot support the data integration efforts and complex LM process. This provides an opportunity for best-of-breed LM applications.

The bottom line is that LM ties sales and marketing together. Consequently, LM initiatives are cross-functional in nature and cannot be easily “owned” by one organization. The project can be owned by a specific organization from a budget and project management perspective, but the process must be owned jointly. Sometimes the project might be owned by the group that is feeling the most amount of pain. In some cases, sales might sponsor the initiative for the following reasons:

  • They think they are not receiving leads in a timely manner.
  • The manual effort for lead tracking is too cumbersome, and errors in contact or opportunity information cause the sales organization to waste valuable time.
  • The information being received about a lead is incomplete and needs better data integrity validation. This could require sales to continually loop back with the source of the lead to gather the information needed to close the opportunity.

In general, sales should sponsor the effort if they feel that a lack of automation surrounding leads is causing them to miss opportunities due to timing or data quality issues.
Marketing might own the project when:

  • They feel that the complexity of their lead-generation efforts can no longer be supported by email leads in a spreadsheet.
  • The volume of leads generated cannot be communicated effectively through the current process.
  • The loop needs to be closed more systematically so marketing can analyze the effectiveness of both the lead generation of marketing and lead follow-up efforts of sales

In general, marketing should sponsor the project when the process is breaking on the very front end or the very back end. Sales covers everything in the middle.
LM can become one of those messy, cross-functional projects because of its “middle man” functionality and ambiguous roles. Because it does not always fit clearly in neat categories, many organizations defer the project. However, the importance of making sure that the best opportunities are pursued by the right people with the right tactics is paramount for both marketing and sales organizations. Companies that figure out how to align sales and marketing around LM will boast large ROI results.

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