The Leads Must Flow — But How Can It Be Improved?

As a sales leader, one of your ongoing goals is continually optimizing the sales cycle in your manufacturing organization. Understanding your current lead management process flow is paramount to success and requires consistent review of active deals, past deals, lost opportunities, sales team activity, and more.

Understandably, this is quite an undertaking. And depending on your organization and role, you may have sales goals of your own to hit on top of managing a sales team. It’s a lot of responsibility, and when things aren’t going smoothly (as is often the case for busy teams), finding the time to do this analysis can be challenging.

Here, we’re going to break down a few key sections of a complete sales cycle and highlight important considerations that may just reveal opportunities for improvement. These are grouped as follows: front, middle, and end.

An important note: Every organization is different — yours may further break down the sales cycle based on your business model or process. The process below also assumes that you have an ongoing successful marketing program actively generating leads that enter this lead management process flow. 

The Front: Informing and Nurturing

What it is: Leads in this stage have expressed interest in your capabilities but may or may not have a formal request. The sales team is actively reaching out to assess the opportunity and nurture the prospect to move them forward.

Example deal stages: Requested Information, Requested Quote, Customer Contacted, Customer Not Ready, Call Scheduled, and similar

Keys to success:

  • A division of labor concept that allocates tasks to a dedicated front-end sales team
  • Core sales provides support but should not be actively working on opportunities
  • Prospects must be qualified to determine readiness and fit with capabilities
  • Marketing should highlight capabilities, differentiators, and value-adds

The Middle: Active Opportunities

What it is: In this stage, it’s known what customers are looking for, and your team should be actively working on a quote or gathering more information. You may be coordinating with other suppliers or conducting some research into the client or the request.

Example deal stages: Quoting, Quote in Progress, Reviewing Request, Gathering Information, Supplier/Material Quote, Estimating, and similar

Keys to success:

  • Consistent follow-up with prospects is essential to moving the deal forward
  • Your sales team should be assessing the opportunity and preparing the quote
  • The front-end sales team should be providing whatever support is needed
  • Marketing activity should keep you top of mind and push prospects forward
  • Marketing should also be inquiring about any decisions, hold-ups, or questions

The End: Close, Assess, Repeat

What it is: Your sales team, supported by the front-end team as needed, should deliver the quote and secure the win. Once closed, the deal can move into production.

Example deal stages: Awaiting Decision, Updating Quote, Closed Won, Closed Lost, Revisit, and similar

Keys to success:

  • The core sales team should be having 1:1 conversations with prospects
  • Any marketing automation should be paused so sales is the only voice heard
  • Front-end sales can provide support as needed
  • Teams review what went well and what could be improved for all deals
  • Learnings should inform future marketing activity
  • Lost prospects should be added to a nurture campaign for future opportunities
  • Understanding why you won or lost a customer and using that information

Where Does Your Business Stand in This Lead Management Process Flow?

Hopefully the above example shined some light on not only structuring an efficient pipeline but also how your sales team itself should be structured and what marketing activity will help move the needle. Of course, we understand that not every leader or team has the resources or time to build out something like what we’ve outlined here. And that’s where we come in.

At Athena, we support manufacturers with complex sales cycles across a variety of industries with a proven front-end sales solution that allows core sales teams to focus on higher-priority revenue generation tasks while our team focuses on building your pipeline and filling it with qualified opportunities. We also combine outbound and inbound marketing strategies into a holistic approach that keeps your business front and center whenever and wherever prospects are looking for solutions.

Want to see how our process works for your industry? Schedule a private overview of our process model now.