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Lead management is part of any business that has leads — that is, any business that requires consideration before making a purchase decision.

There are many organizations that lack a cross-functional process that’s required in order to manage leads. It’s not that they don’t want to have a process, it’s that the organization’s leadership just hasn’t made it a focus. Sad but true.

In order to have a lead management process that works, you need these four components:

  1. Shared Vocabulary

  2. Set Expectations

  3. Clear Accountability

  4. Constant Communication

Shared Vocabulary

Seems simple, but if you think about it, makes complete sense. Whenever you’re part of a group, or a team, or a family even, you tend to make up words, or use phrases, or acronyms, that don’t mean much to those who are outside of the group, or team, or family. We do this because it allows us to have a tighter bond with the people that we spend a lot of our waking lives with — but at the same time, you wouldn’t use that same language outside of your close circle because you know you’re not going to be understood.

Yet, when Marketing talks about what a “Lead” is and when Sales talks about what a “Lead” is, they are talking about different things.

This of course creates a lot of confusion since two distinct groups use the same word to mean different things, and the result is a miscommunication resulting in mutual frustration.


Marketing Definition: Lead — A person with a valid email address that has expressed an interest in a product / service

Sales Definition: Lead  — A person from a company in my territory who talked to me at an event.

You solve this problem by bringing different groups together and defining the key terms, words, and acronyms that you use in your daily lives so that everyone has proper context and understanding of the language, and then language becomes the foundation on which you build everything else on.

Once you have a shared vocabulary defined,  write it down, create a giant poster, and hang it on a wall as a constant reminder.

Set Expectations

You know how when you’ve been working together with someone for a while, you start to know what to expect from that person. For instance, if you’re working with someone who says they’ll have something done for you by the end of the week, what they actually mean is by 8am Monday morning. It’s a bit frustrating at first, but you’ve worked together enough to know what the other party will do, and you adjust accordingly.

However, in a cross-functional team, you don’t actually see the result of the work, or when the work is done since it’s more like a relay race rather than a ping-pong setting.

So, you have to get realistic expectations of all parties out in the open so that the team as a whole can perform and improve over time. Know what to expect so that no one is disappointed.

These expectations need to be documented, they need to be measurable, and once defined they become service-level agreements (SLAs) that can be communicated to all the parties involved in the lead management process, including the lead!

And just like the shared vocabulary poster, print it out and hang it up!

Example SLAs might be when:

  1. Newly created leads are contacted within 2 days and status is changed from New to Working within 2 business days

  2. Leads need to be qualified or disqualified within 2 weeks

  3. An opportunity has stalled (and is eligible for marketing support) if no updates have been made within 2 weeks


**Note to self: Create chart template for all the roles associated in a lead management process**

If you’ve never heard of a RACI chart, it’s a chart that shows who’s Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for all the roles involved in any given team for all the activities and decisions that team is responsible.

These charts are great because they give clarity to everyone on the team on what their role is and therefore what’s expected of them.

I say this because it’s really all about change management. Doing the above means doing things differently, but doing things differently without aligning goals and performance measures doesn’t work unless there is executive support and sponsorship required to change the goals and performance measures associated with the roles that need to change.

So, whoever it is that monitors the SLAs needs to be able to incentivize and enforce the actions and behaviors that were agreed to as a group.

To that end, the SLAs have to be monitored daily, and there may need to be new roles created/changed to monitor and enforce those SLAs.

Constant Communication

There’s a saying: change is the only constant.

Everything up until now has been around getting on the same page and making sure people do what they have agreed to do — but that’s just the beginning.

As part of any lead management process, there needs to be a mechanism for communication of feedback and iteration. Just like with anything else, once a change is enacted, it needs to be reviewed, revised, and tested to see what could be improved.

A couple of suggestions would be a bi-weekly meeting to discuss how things are going, what’s working and what’s not. This is more so to ensure that the process that was developed and agreed to is being followed and to discuss the challenges that are coming up as well as successes that could be shared so that they could be replicated.

The second tool would be a quarterly review that looks at the performance of the lead management process for the previous quarter so that the big picture could be reviewed, but also to create opportunities for members of the team to propose changes to what’s not working.

Next Steps

I purposely talk about Lead management principals as principals as no two organizations are the same, so the specific steps will always be different. However, if the above principals are employed, then there will be a functional lead management process that will continue to improve as time goes on.

For the skeptics out there who feel that things are working well today, go ahead and play this game and prove me wrong.

Have four or five different people that are involved with ‘Leads’ in one way or another, from different teams, write down their definitions of what is a ‘Lead’. Have everyone put their definitions into an envelope (without their name or your help — this needs to be a blind test). Then gather as a group, perhaps over lunch or drinks and open up the envelopes and read all the definitions. If they say the same thing, then you’ve got a good process for communication, if not, you’ve got some work to do!


Nurturing is an important part of the lead management process, but you need to do more than just send emails. Find out how to nurture a lead from the beginning to the end of the sales cycle with “Lead Nurturing for Modern Marketers.”

See the guide.


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