You know that you need to generate leads and connect with them in a timely manner. But does lead flow really matter? Does it make any difference to your end goal of serving your prospects? Do you really need a structured process that starts at the top of the funnel and guides your reps all the way to the bottom?

The short answer is “yes.” The longer answer is that a healthy lead flow is essential to avoid the loss, miscategorization or bottlenecking of leads.

According to HubSpot, 50 percent of buyers choose the vendor that responds first. All things being equal, your leads will purchase on a first-come, first-served basis. Not paying attention to your lead flow can therefore lead to a loss of opportunity.

Let’s take a look at how you can identify and fix common CRM lead flow issues so that your sales process becomes a well-oiled machine.

Are Your Marketing and Sales Teams Communicating?

Is the marketing department making assumptions about your sales team? Are you making decisions about lead flow without their knowledge, consent or understanding?

Putting together an effective lead flow plan is impossible without synergy between the marketing and sales teams. This is where most problems start, so if you have yet to talk to sales, it’s time to open the lines of communication and understand how to support them.

Here are several questions you need to ask and discuss:

  • Who is an ideal prospect? How does the sales team define one?
  • What does a qualified lead look like? What factors are you using to determine this?
  • What indicators point to the fact that a prospect is ready to talk to sales?
  • How long does a typical sales process last?
  • Who is involved in the buying process? Is there one decision maker, or are there many? Where are the bottlenecks in the sales process? Where do leads tend to struggle, or what pain points do they have?
  • How does the hand-off process work?

The questions are just a starting point, and it may be necessary to cover other topics in your discussion with the sales team. But when you prioritize this conversation and apply your fleshed-out understanding of what’s needed in the lead flow process, all steps that follow will go more smoothly.

Do You Have an Effective Lead Scoring and Grading System In Place?

In an ideal world, all business systems would be simple. But if you use too few criteria in lead scoring, you risk miscalculating the value of leads and their natural tendency to depreciate over time. This also could misuse of your sales department’s valuable time.

The first question to ask yourself is whether or not you have a lead scoring system at all. If not, start there. If you do, consider its effectiveness. Talk to your sales team, and evaluate key performance indicators to understand what’s working well and what isn’t. There’s a minuscule chance that it’s perfect; be ready for imperfections though.

We suggest using a simple four-step process for scoring your leads.

  1. Determine what factors you’re going to use in your lead scoring. What do your ideal leads have in common? It’s up to you to decide what elements should factor into the scoring process: industry, job title, annual revenue, number of pages they’ve viewed on your site and so on.
  2. Assign point values to the factors you’ve chosen. Stick to a scale of 0 to 100. Prioritize leads based on their sales-readiness.
  3. Score leads. Now you’re ready to grade your leads. This process can vary depending on the CRM software you’re using. In HubSpot, you can assign positive and negative attributes to your contact. In Salesforce, you can create fields to be used as lead scoring factors.
  4. Create a score threshold for when a lead is ready for sales. For example, you could set the threshold at 80 points, or any value that makes sense. Transfer the lead to your reps using a method they prefer.

As noted earlier, your lead scoring and grading system won’t be perfect out of the gate, and will likely require some refining and tweaking. But a plan, however crude, is almost always better than no plan at all. The ongoing communication between sales and marketing will be essential to lead scoring success. Keep with it, because it might take a significant amount of time and effort. Eventually, you will arrive at a process that works.

Are You Automating Lead Flow?

A healthy lead flow begins with open communication between sales and marketing. But it doesn’t end there.

Once you have a satisfactory lead scoring and grading system, you need to implement a lead distribution and follow-up plan. Now that you have a threshold score, you can have your CRM automatically assign leads to the right sales reps, and that makes the overall process less cumbersome and more efficient for all involved.

But the “right sales rep” depends on the circumstance. In some cases, you might choose to have qualified leads assigned to the next available rep. You could also use a more sophisticated approach using lead queues.

As we established at the beginning, timely follow-up is essential to closing with leads. It’s important to be aware of bottlenecks in your process so that they can be addressed and fixed when necessary. For instance, one of your superstar reps could be overloaded with leads as he or she is being assigned a lead of a particular description (based on your factors) or score threshold. You would then need to distribute your leads a little differently so that you can follow up quickly and not miss an opportunity.

Keep Talking and Keep Tweaking

Encourage the ongoing communication of your marketing and sales team. If the first model you develop requires some refining—and it likely will—then your teams need to work closely to solve any CRM and lead flow issues that arise. This is also the best way to ensure early detection of possible challenges.