Lead Management: Steps, Tools, and Tips to Drive Real Sales Results

Let’s say you’ve just completed a successful lead generation campaign—your pipeline is now filled to the brim with a list of potential customers. Yay!

But when it’s time to convert, you find out most of them are tire kickers, and meeting your quarterly sales goals is starting to look like a pipe dream.

What gives?

Before you start pointing fingers, did you make sure your lead management process is rock solid? If it’s not, that’s your best place to start making improvements.

Lead management is the process of acquiring and nurturing leads through the sales process. It's a catch-all term for a collection of methods, processes, and software that help companies acquire leads and manage leads until they convert.

Use this guide as your go-to resource for steps and systems that make up a powerhouse lead management process—one that turns all those leads into happy customers.

6 Steps Every Effective Lead Management Process Includes

These six steps will maximize your chances of finding qualified, warm leads and converting them into paying customers (with ease rather than struggle):

1. Lead Generation: Get New People in the Door

Lead generation is the process of finding people or companies that might be interested in your product or service with one ultimate goal: getting their contact information.

It’s the starting point for every single customer relationship you’ll build.

Both you and your marketing team can capture leads from various sources, including: :

  • Landing pages for a valuable resource, like a free tool or a downloadable ebook
  • Social media content like scheduled or live videos, custom graphics, or customer testimonials
  • Marketing campaigns like trade shows, billboards, or paid ads
  • Hosted webinars and virtual conferences
  • Cold outreach to potential customers over email or phone

2. Lead Qualification: Find Out if You’re a Match

Not all leads are created equal, and not every person that hands over their email address or phone number are a match for what you sell. That’s why lead qualification is important.

At this stage, you’re collecting lead information—their needs, demographics, decision-making process, budget, and more.

To learn if a lead is a strong match, you can:

3. Lead Scoring: Put Your Best Leads First

What if you end up with dozens or even hundreds of qualified leads? (Champagne problems, am I right? 🍾) Where should your efforts go first?

That’s where lead scoring comes in. It’s a system that uses different lead attributes and data points to assign points to each lead—and a final score—to determine their likelihood to buy from you.

This way, you can prioritize the right leads and increase your close rate.

Here are some examples of attributes of quality leads you can use in your scoring:

  • Company size, revenue, and industry; for example, your product may better fit enterprises than small businesses
  • Behavior, like signing up for a free trial or watching a webinar
  • Social media engagement, like interacting with a specific campaign or clicking on a product-focused link

4. Lead Distribution: Assign Qualified Leads to Your Sales Team

You’ve found the best leads. Which team member will work on which lead?

Lead distribution is the next step of your lead management strategy. It’s a manual or automated process of assigning the right leads to the right sales reps.

For example, you can base your lead routing on:

  • The source a lead came from, like a web form, a social media platform, or an outreach campaign
  • Specific products, tiers, or features a rep specializes in
  • Lead specifics, like venture-backed vs. bootstrapped startups

5. Lead Nurturing: Use Regular Follow-Ups to Keep the Interest Alive

In an ideal world, you’d find and qualify the right leads… And they’d just buy.

But most of them don’t. They aren’t sales-ready. To jump from a lead to a customer, they need to trust you and feel informed about their choice.

And to get them there, it’s up to you to create value, engagement, and opportunity by sharing helpful content. That’s lead nurturing.

Here are some ways you can nurture leads:

  • Free resources like expert guides and worksheets
  • Newsletters like roundups, announcements, and hands-on tips
  • Automated email marketing workflows that deliver case studies, special offers, and product demos based on past behavior 

6. Lead Tracking: Follow Each Step Through the Sales Process

The final step of managing your leads is tracking how each of them progresses through your sales pipeline.

What are your best-performing lead sources? Which touchpoints convert leads the best? How long is your lead lifecycle?

For this, you’ll likely want a powerful (yet easy-to-use) sales lead tracker that would help you track:

  • Relevant customer data
  • Conversion rates at each stage of the sales process
  • All sales activities, including their impact on close rates
  • Dates of every call, email, and interaction

Lead Management Systems: Top Tools Based on Your Goals

Managing leads can seem like a tough job, but only if you’re relying on your own brain, or cluttered email inbox, or pile of sticky notes (believe me, we’ve seen it all), to stay on track of your leads. Without a reliable lead management system in place, you’ve got a recipe for letting potential customers slip through the cracks. .

Luckily, there are exceptional tools that will automate much of the hard work for you so you can focus on the actual selling.

These are types of lead management systems for you to consider:

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platform for Complete Lead Management

Lead management is relationship management. It’s about looking after the needs, questions, pain points, and concerns of a person or company that you know would benefit from your product or service.

And if hundreds of leads pass through your hands, you need customer relationship management—aka CRM software—to achieve exactly that. A CRM is a tool that tracks and visualizes your complete sales funnel, starting with your first interaction with a lead through to their purchase and beyond. 

A CRM is a go-to place for salespeople to automatically track emails, calls, and notes—no more stacks of papers, sticky notes, calendar reminders, and digital docs to try and keep an eye on a lead.

It’s lead management for busy, ambitious sales teams at its finest.

Here are your best CRM options:

1. Close, an all-in-one CRM and lead management software. You get to sync your emails, calendar, calls, SMS messages, and tasks, as well as streamline and automate follow-ups and other manual tasks.

See your pipeline at all times, prioritize your top priority leads, and maximize every sales opportunity—and do so wherever you are thanks to the Close mobile app. Close also comes with a ton of integrations for the other tools in your tech stack.

What makes Close unique for a CRM is that it was designed specifically for the needs of sales teams, with an uncluttered UI that keeps you laser-focused on selling. Read the 1,000+ customer reviews on G2 to see what real sales users have to say about it. 

The best part? You can test-drive Close for free, right here.

2. HubSpot CRM, a lead management tool made for enterprise. It’s one part of HubSpot’s ecosystem of marketing automation, sales automation, and customer service solutions.

It makes lead management easy by recording customer calls and pulling them together in a single customer record. That way, every team member who speaks to that lead can provide a consistent customer experience.

Use it to integrate your content marketing with lead generation and management. Large companies will usually benefit the most from HubSpot as they have the personnel to use the entire suite of resources it offers.

3. Zoho CRM, a lead management and CRM system. Companies that already use other Zoho products will easily integrate its CRM into their toolkit. 

Zoho lets you build forms to capture leads and send them straight into your CRM. You can then score them and act quickly based on the top-scored leads, including through social media platforms and live chat.

It’s a lead management tool made for medium and large companies.

Simple Spreadsheets for a Fast and Free Lead Management Solution

What if you don’t need all the bells and whistles for lead management?

Rather than thousands of new leads each year, you handle about 100 over a 12-month period. You’re a small business working with local customers and clients, offering face-to-face services, or otherwise have no need to or plan to scale.

In other words: you don’t look for a lead management solution with lead scoring, call transcriptions, and follow-up automations. All you need is a way to stay organized and on top of your leads.

If that’s you, all you need is a spreadsheet-based CRM like SalesTable, our free spreadsheet CRM template. It’s extremely simple to use, but robust enough to let you track metrics like new leads, open opportunities, number of leads converted to customers, and your revenue.

Marketing Automation Programs for Managing MQLs

Leads come into your funnel, but some of them run cold.

Some turn into customers, only to churn months down the line.

Others tend to take their sweet time to move to a later stage of your sales cycle.

The list goes on. If your company is extra focused on generating leads through marketing and self-service tools like free trial or resource downloads, the chance is you’ll see lots of leads come in over a week, month, or quarter.

Pro Tip: Learn more about the differences between SQLs and MQLs when generating leads for your business.


Interacting with every one of them in a way that’s relevant to their specific need and scenario in real-time is, well, impossible. That’s where marketing automation tools come in. They make marketing-driven leads way easier to qualify, score, and nurture.

For example, you can run an email campaign specifically built for leads that signed up for a free trial and would benefit from a daily email with pro tips and easy wins.

In another example, you could let new leads self-segment by selecting one of the options in your signup form (like their company size or their goal) and using that segmentation to send them relevant emails.

If this is the right option for you, you’ll love tools like:

  • Close, our all-in-one CRM that lets you set up triggers that kick off different email sequences, text messages, and calls. For example, you can target new leads based on a custom field from a form they’ve filled out.

  • Salesforce, a lead management software that can automate lead scoring and routing. It also tracks your marketing activities across different channels, so you can see the impact of marketing activities on your pipeline and act accordingly.
  • ActiveCampaign, a marketing automation tool that covers the entire customer lifecycle. You can use tags and custom fields with info from offline and online channels to send the right message at the right time.

Final Thoughts: How to Build (and Maintain) Your Own Lead Management Process

Your lead management process affects two big functions of your business:

  • Your complete sales process and activities, including team performance 
  • Your customer journey, aka the experience your paying customers go through as far as months before they buy from you

Here are some final tips to manage your leads in a way that makes your sales a smooth experience for everyone involved.

Document Your Current Sales Process

A sales process is your strategy that moves leads down your sales funnel. It mirrors your lead management process by defining your sales activities at each step—those necessary to encourage leads to take that next action.

You need a documented sales process because it’s the only way to understand how you currently sell and how each activity impacts the end result. It also gives your entire sales team a consistent approach and a solid plan for every scenario, problem, and objection.

When documenting it, you’ll want to include things like:

  1. Lead generation and prospecting
  2. Lead qualification
  3. Connection
  4. Presentation, pitch, and demo
  5. Objection handling
  6. Closing
  7. Delivering the product
  8. Follow-up and referrals

Build Out Clear Criteria for Qualification

Let’s say your product is perfect for large restaurant chains, but many of your new leads are small, family-owned coffee shops.

Sure, you could try to sell to everyone that comes through your virtual door. By doing this, you’d spend lots of time running in circles, only to realize that many of them wouldn’t buy from you no matter what you did.

The better way? Having distinct, crisp criteria for what makes a great lead—one that has the budget, authority, need, and willingness to buy your product or service.

You’ll find this qualification criteria by combing through previous sales conversations, as well as the attributes of your most successful customers. Look for things like company priorities, obstacles, previous spending on other solutions, and their decision making process.

Keep Your Lead Data Clean

You can have the fanciest lead management system in place, but the data inside it is messy, it won’t mean a thing—and especially when you choose to automate lead management activities like email campaigns.

For example, you might use custom fields in your CRM to nurture different company sizes with different content. But if half of your leads don’t have a specified company size, and another quarter doesn’t have it specific enough, your lead nurture campaign will go to waste.

‎Set up systems, rules, and forms that will ensure tidy lead information throughout your CRM and the funnel it supports.

Choose Your Best Lead Management Tools

There are tons of lead management tools you can choose from. Luckily, you don’t need all of them—just one that fits perfectly into your workflow.

Here are some parameters for you to consider when choosing yours:

  • Industry fit: Some tools are made for a specific industry, while others are restricted due to industry specifics like regulations. Make sure your tool of choice works for your industry.
  • Affordability: Which pricing tiers and structures can your budget handle? Consider this for the long run too, not just for your financials right now.
  • Ease of use: Make sure your team can quickly and easily adopt your tool of choice.
  • Scalability: Double-check a tool can handle your needs even as you expand and your needs grow and change.

Use Data to Improve Your Efforts Over Time

The more you sell and the more data you collect, the better you’ll get at lead management.

Track KPIs and metrics like customer acquisition cost (CAC), total sales, conversion rates, time to close, churn rate, average deal size, and customer lifetime value (CLV) to learn, analyze, and improve how you manage your potential customers.

Lead management isn’t rocket science—but you do need the right process and system to nail it. Close was made for efficient lead management that makes selling easy. Try it for free for 14 days, no credit card required.

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