In sales, a ‘lead‘ is a prospect who can buy a product or service. A qualified lead is a prospect company that has
- An identified need,
- A budget,
- A clear timeline
to buy the product or service.
Leads can come from various sources such as response to advertisements, cold calling, events, website search, lead generation services, references, consultant’s recommendations and so on. What is important is how leads are maintained and moved into the sales funnel.
Some companies enter lead details into a spreadsheet and the sales person use them to follow-up. A Spreadsheet is an excellent tool for tabular data formation and manipulation, calculations, number crunching and ‘what if’ analysis. Can Lead Management be done using a spreadsheet effectively? The answer is No.
Why you need a Lead Management Solution
- Database Creation: Spreadsheets are person dependent. Sales people control these spreadsheets. So leads never become part of a database. For any company leads are their most valuable asset which needs to be protected from the competition. Access to database can be managed easily which cannnot be done with spreadsheets.
- Maintaining Lead Details: Lead related data is unstructured and does not have a specific format. It includes company’s background information, contact person’s information, departments, reporting hierarchy, specific opportunity details, and communication details. Spreadsheets force a certain format on the data and in the bargain one can miss essential details specific to the lead and opportunity.
- Changing Stages of Lead: Each lead goes through different stages in the sales life cycle. Each stage calls for a different set of actions, e.g. you may need to email a product catalog to one prospect, organize a demonstration for another, put someone in a drip email campaign and pay a visit to the one who is willing to confirm the order. These actions have to be recorded and tracked for their effectiveness. A Spreadsheet will not do this.
- Finding the Latest Status: It is impossible to find out the latest version of the spreadsheet and therefore the latest status of the lead. Spreadsheets have to be correctly named with the version number or dates to find the latest status. This is an external control so prone to errors. There is always a chance of dropping a lead or missing an entire tab in the spreadsheet.
- Historical Information: In following up with leads, a history of prior contacts made is most important. Communication can be in the form of a phone call recording, email exchanges, notes and comments. Entering different types of data in spreadsheet is tedious. Searching and extracting this data is almost impossible.
- Marketing Analytics: Only a Lead Management solution can help in analytics and provide insights into the leads data that helps in decision making. Companies can invest their resources based on their findings about best selling products, most effective lead generating sources, top performing sales persons, highest revenue generating regions and so on. Such type of analysis will be cumbersome to generate using spreadsheets.
- No Collaboration : Lead Management is a task where different functions need to work together. Bringing in the lead, suggesting a possible solution, technical discussions, proposal making, checking commercial feasibility, demonstrations and communication involves persons from different functions. A spreadsheet is not an ideal tool for collaboration. Hash tagging, sharing, commenting, emailing cannot be done in spreadsheets.
- Advanced Features and Integration: Lead Management solutions provide additional functionality like scanning and attaching visiting cards, integration with audio/ video calls, GPRS tracking of the sales persons. They can even evolve into a full-fledged CRM solution. Lead
Management solutions can be integrated with other CRM solutions, which is not possible with spreadsheets!
Companies who use spreadsheets for Lead Management, run the risk of dropping leads, missing out on new business, getting stuck with old technologies and not be ready for the future!