Marketing and Sales Alignment

Lead management: best practices to prepare sales and marketing for Q1

There’s no better time like the new year to kick off your sales and marketing endeavors on a clean slate. When it comes to generating new leads and retaining customers already in the pipeline, naturally, sales and marketing will always carry the burden, but that expectation is particularly amplified in Q1. 

Whether your focus is on lead generation, customer retention or a combination of the two, every new year needs a revitalized sales and marketing plan to map out how your teams will stay on track to achieve those goals. The challenge is, it’s common for management to set high too high ambitions early-on and come Q4, it’s also common to see those expectations left unmet. 

Creating the right lead management roadmap for your team requires defined expectations and goals that are data-driven, measurable and attainable. Here are a few best practices on how to get started in the new year.

Audit your CRM & contact lists

Our contact lists can always use a little housekeeping. One bad habit that becomes too easy for many companies to fall into is this: cleaning contact databases and CRM systems seldomly, or only when it’s time to change existing systems. Data is always in continuous transition and can quickly become outdated. 

Key decision makers at your various target accounts may leave their roles or change job titles, new hires are onboarded, companies undergo restructure and so on. These changes can completely uproot how and who you approach when it comes to engaging with your leads. 

Account-based marketing efforts for example, are dependent on how you adapt to an organizations’ workflows, points of contact(s) and ways of communication, which will require you to keep this data updated on a consistent basis to be successful.

Take some time to audit, update and clean up your CRM system and contact records. Remove old contacts that are no longer relevant or pose any potential opportunity in the future, delete/merge duplicate records and set up a regular maintenance schedule.

Consider your existing contact properties and whether or not they continue to serve sales and marketing in the best way possible. Perhaps you’re in the midst of scaling up your sales team and it’s now relevant to track the contact's owner and attained revenue, or maybe you need to import offline lists into your CRM where assigning a Contact ID number might be helpful for traceability.    

Keeping your data consistently organized and up to date keeps sales and marketing away from the burden of sifting through irrelevant contacts and ensures that the data you have is helpful and trustworthy, while saving a substantial amount of space in your CRM system best left available for new opportunities. 

Re-engage old leads and retain existing customers

New year new leads, right? In Q1 your sales team is busy trying to generate new leads, and while this is the time to do so, it’s ALSO the time to check in with the ones already in the pipeline. 

Now that your contact lists are cleaned up, you should have a pretty good idea of who’s hot, warm and cold in your sales cycle. Evaluate who might still be a good lead to reach out to and who you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Set up a re-nurture campaign for those leads. Your offerings or their needs may have changed since the last time you've been in touch. Even if they’ve declined a past proposal, it’s never a bad idea to send a gentle reminder that you’re still invested if they need you. In these cases, study your leads well and use your best judgement when it comes to finding the right balance between reaching out without pestering or damaging the relationship. 

And for that matter, continue building the good relationships you currently have. Set up a meeting with your existing clients. What do their plans for the new year look like? Take the opportunity to learn about their business plan and their long-term and short-term goals for the upcoming year. Are there areas where you could be doing more for them? Are there new silos and gaps that need to be solved? New challenges and needs are constantly evolving, meaning your offerings and solutions for your clients should be too. 

Define new SLAs and set goals with your team 

Review your sales outcomes from the previous year and host an internal workshop with sales and marketing.

Here are some questions that will probably need an answer:

On average, did sales and marketing consistently hit last year’s SLAs? 

How many total conversions were achieved? What was the conversion rate? 

What were some of the best and under-performing moments you’ve had based on sales and marketing activities, and why? 

Once a good moment of reflection has been taken, it’s time to set some new milestones for the year. When setting new short-term and long-term goals, keep them data-driven, easily measurable and attainable. There’s no worse feeling than reaching Q4 without having met a single goal because they were too far-reaching, and what’s worse is reporting that to upper management and investors. 

Draft a new service-level agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing. How many leads does marketing need to hand over to sales every month to achieve a good average of lead-to-customer close, and how many of those marketing-generated leads do sales reps need to follow up with every month to achieve the total sales revenue goal? 

Staying realistic and reasonable in your annual scale up plan leaves room for improvement rather than disappointment, and with the right data backing it up, you’ll be able to meet those expectations when the time comes. 

Try something new

Once you’ve defined your short-term and long-term goals for your annual sales and marketing plan, try factoring in a few new lead generation strategies into that plan.

Will you try your hand at hosting webinars or leverage new social media channels and paid acquisition? Generating new leads means developing and expanding your reach in both current and new ways of capturing demand, but remember, limit your efforts to a few new channels at a time so that you can easily track your new strategies with cause and effect, and avoid overwhelming your teams with a workload too heavy to effectively execute. 

For most companies, when it comes to lead management, managing new leads and maintaining an existing customer base is not a matter of luck or chance. It takes a lot of analysis, reflection and data to make informed and conversion-driven decisions. There’s always lots to be done when it comes to establishing an annual sales and marketing plan, but with a few best practices in lead management, you’ll be well on your way to equipping both teams with the right tools for the coming year. 

Learn more about how your organization can develop an attainable annual sales and marketing plan to achieve growth and leverage conversion-driven solutions in lead management:

Learn More about our lead management solutions

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