Making the complex B2B sales and marketing funnel simpler

Giving every lead individual and personalised attention is the best strategy for ultimately achieving a conversion. However, as databases increase and the buying process becomes more complex, ensuring leads are delivering the right information at the right time to move them down the sales funnel becomes increasingly challenging. 


In this piece, we explore the lead lifecycle management process and its related buzzwords – account-based marketing (ABM) and account scoring, and the role that Martech plays in maximising conversions

What is lead lifecycle management, and why is it important?

Lead lifecycle management describes the entire process of converting a lead, starting from when there is engagement with your website or online marketing content through to becoming a customer and beyond. This process involves both the marketing and sales teams, meaning that typically multiple people within your company will be responsible for the various touchpoints, leveraging a range of different tools and strategies to aid the conversion. 

Successful lead lifecycle management requires nurturing the lead with appropriately timed content to move them down the marketing and sales funnel. A lead’s position in the lifecycle is determined through scoring criteria based on the actions taken. Marketers and sales teams will have a predetermined number of touchpoints that activate the next designated contact with the lead, either automated or manual, to move them onto the subsequent stage.

A robust lead lifecycle also defines who is responsible for leads at each stage and controls the handover of leads to different people or teams through the stages. For example, it defines a good quality lead and openly acknowledges the handover of qualified leads from marketing to sales. Furthermore, it manages the recycling or rejection of leads back from the sales process. Depending on the outcome of sales conversations, the sales team can indicate if a lead is either not ready to purchase yet or if it should be completely disqualified from the process altogether.

Correct identification of the lifecycle position, the method of contact and the team responsible for action, will maximise chances of conversion. Conversely, any missed or incorrectly identified stages could result in a lead disappearing and lost business opportunities.

What are the stages of the lead lifecycle?

At WoolfHodson, our perspective to the lead lifecycle recognises its cyclical journey and the way in which leads can circle between the marketing and sales stages. 

There are six stages within this process:

The Prospect stage is assigned to a person at the point they enter the database – it is when they first become known to the company.

The Engaged stage is assigned to a person when they interact with marketing activities and their lead score increases to be greater than zero.

The Marketing Qualified stage is assigned to a person when they have reached the qualification threshold and is ready to be passed to the sales team for entry into the sales process.

The Sales Accepted stage is assigned to a person when the sales team has reviewed the lead and defined that they are good quality and should be moved to the next stage of the sales process. 

The Sales Qualified stage is assigned to a person when the sales team has decided that they have enough information about the lead to create an opportunity associated to the lead.

The Closed or Won stage is when a lead becomes a customer after an opportunity is won.

The diagram below illustrates how if a lead does not meet the criteria to become a sales qualified lead or customer, the person can feed back into the marketing process to continue to receive more top-end, awareness-style content before they are ready to progress forward again.

How does account-based marketing (ABM) differ?

ABM continues to be a buzzword in account management. In contrast to traditional marketing that uses a wide funnel to attract as many leads as possible, before narrowing down those relevant and likely to convert, ABM begins with a very targeted approach and requires close collaboration between marketing and sales.

Devised to be more efficient and systematic by not wasting time on low-quality leads, ABM’s targeted approach seeks out the biggest opportunities. It then looks to grow these accounts and build lasting relationships. 

Identifying these opportunities and targeting the companies that are most likely to convert is achieved through account scoring (another buzzword of the moment). This system allows for the prioritisation of accounts, improving efficiency in the account management process. 

ABM recognises that many people within a business will be involved in the decision-making process. By acknowledging each contact in the account that either sales or marketing departments could contact, it helps to ensure there is no duplication or inconsistency in communication.

ABM and traditional inbound marketing are seen as two contrasting strategies. Still, they can be used in conjunction, attracting and building awareness with a wide range of leads, then taking a more targeted approach to maximise opportunities.

The importance of Martech in managing the B2B sales & marketing funnel

The number of people and stages involved in converting a lead can make managing the B2B Sales & Marketing Funnel a complex process. Any misaligned or mistimed communication can result in its loss and a lot of time and effort wasted. This is where Martech plays a crucial role. Supporting ABM, more traditional lead lifecycle management or a combination of the two, Martech improves visibility, efficiency and ease.

Martech can automate a wide range of processes in the sales and marketing lead journey, including:

  • Identifying key target accounts and providing insights on contacts
  • Categorising lead behaviour, trigger and pain points, building account personas
  • Delivering content, performing tasks, such as content automation and content curation and customisation
  • Running targeted campaigns and managing interactions
  • Measuring and analysing performance

With every business having its own unique needs, there will be differences in how to leverage the best Martech stack. WoolfHodson can help navigate these options and design a solution that meets your exact business requirements.

To find out more, please contact our team.

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