Generating sales leads is only the first step in a larger process called the sales pipeline or sales funnel. The sales funnel is called a funnel because it starts big at the top (a lot of potential clients) and gets smaller as you move further along in the sales process.
At the top of the sales funnel are all the unqualified sales leads and sales tips that are generated by the marketing department or salesmen using the techniques mentioned on the previous page. As the salesmen continues to work their way down the funnel -- making first contact, evaluating options and negotiating prices -- many of those initial leads will drop away.
It's important for salesmen to have a well-defined, well-organized system in place for tracking sales leads as they move through the sales pipeline. The more a salesman knows about his leads, the easier it is to offer the right services at the right time. To do this, each lead needs to be tagged or updated with important information to help the salesmen do their job [source: Entrepreneur.com].
For example, has the lead asked for a sample of the product? Has the lead changed addresses? Is the lead planning to initiate a large project in six months?
To keep track of all of this tagged information, many companies use special lead tracking software or other customer relationship management (CRM) programs. Lead tracking software has many helpful features for managing a large number of leads simultaneously:
- Automatically upload sales lead contact information into a database
- Easily update and tag leads through Web interface
- Assign leads to salesmen by geographical area or product type
- Generate reports on success of different sales campaigns
- Measure return on investment (ROI) of different marketing techniques
- Automatically collect and import sales inquiries from Web site and other sources for immediate response
In addition to the standard lead tracking software, a product called SalesGenius offers a new technology for tracking sales leads through e-mail. Here's how it works:
- A salesman sends an e-mail to a sales lead using the SalesGenius Web site or by using a special SalesGenius plug-in for Microsoft Outlook. The e-mail contains a special encoded link to the salesman's company Web site.
- SalesGenius will alert the salesman in real-time when the lead opens the e-mail and when he clicks on the link.
- Since each lead accesses the company Web site using a distinct URL, SalesGenius can track and record exactly which pages the lead views and what links he clicks.
- Using an online tool called the GeniusTracker, the salesmen can view which leads are currently on the Web site and even "replay" the pages they viewed to understand better what the lead is looking for.
Products like SalesGenius allow salesmen to capitalize on the timeliness of a lead. There's no better time to make a sale than when a lead is actively searching out information on your product. In the next section, we're going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing real time vs. opt-in sales leads.