Proper lead management plays a fundamental role in the success of your revenue operation. Done well, lead management puts the most qualified leads in front of sales right away, while filtering out those that don’t meet your ICP or are otherwise not viable. Key to this success is using the right lead status values in your CRM.
Why using the right CRM lead status values is important to Sales and Marketing.
Lead status values are a way to organize and prioritize leads, but they are also a way to communicate internally about the lead funnel in a consistent way. When growth teams can accurately track and measure lead flow, outreach, and conversion, Marketing can better target, capture, and filter leads so that Sales can more easily prioritize leads and efficiently plan outreach. Having too many, too few, or unclear lead status values can muddy this process and increase busywork for Sales—which always gets in the way of growth.
CRM lead status values for B2B companies.
Most B2B companies use a CRM lead status (or contact status) field to trigger Sales to call a contact and track and measure funnel performance. Our high-growth clients often ask me for a list of lead status values they should consider and why. Below are the lead status values we provided. Note that this assumes a single product company (AKA a simplistic scenario) that has an inside sales team. Multi-product companies will have similar lead status values, but of course the lead management process, specifically as it relates to MQL and recycling, must be adjusted.
- Pre-inquiry. An individual that is in the CRM, but has not taken any marketing activities (i.e. a contact from purchased list with no activity). Frequently these are contacts from data list purchases.
- Inquiry. An individual that has taken one or more marketing activities, but has not achieved the lead scoring threshold or route around criteria.
- MQL. An individual that’s deemed important enough for inside sales to engage. This is the result of a contact achieving the lead scoring threshold or route around or fast-tracking criteria and as such is viewed to be a marketing qualified lead (MQL). In doing so, the type of MQL (scoring, route around, fast track) should be defined.
- Rejected. A MQL that was rejected by inside sales prior to engagement. When a lead is listed as rejected, a conditional field should be used to capture the rejection reason. Reasons for a lead to be rejected include: no contact information, competitor, misrouted, etc. Leads that are rejected should be reviewed by marketing and/or sales operations to improve the organization’s system programs and MQL definitions. When a lead is rejected it is not eligible to become an MQL until it moves to long term nurture.
- Engaged. The lead is actively engaged by an inside sales resource, but the rep has not yet had a live conversation or exchange via phone, in-person, or email with the lead.
- Connected. The lead is actively engaged by an inside sales resource and the rep has had one or more live conversations or exchanges with the lead.
- Disqualified. A lead that inside sales or direct sales engaged or connected with, but which the sales team has determined to be non-viable. When a lead is listed as disqualified, a conditional field should be used to capture the disqualification reason. Disqualification reasons include: unable to reach, no interest, not ready to buy (in the timeframe defined by company), went cold (aka stopped responding), etc. When a lead is disqualified it is not eligible to become an MQL until it moves to long term nurture.
- Long term nurture. The lead is primarily being engaged through long-term nurture and there is no active engagement from sales. This pick list value is not available for sales or marketing resources to select. Leads are placed in this status by an automation rule after a specified timeframe after rejection or disqualification (typically six months or half of the average buyer’s journey for the product in question). This status value exists because rejection or disqualification once doesn’t mean a lead is never going to be viable. When a lead achieves this status, it is again eligible to become an MQL.
- N/A. This is the lead status value that all individuals from client and partner accounts receive and it indicates that they are not viable candidates for sales to engage. When a contact is placed in this status the status value stays persistent as long as the contact’s company remains a customer. If the company does not renew all contacts with the lead status of N/A, then they move back to the lead status of pre-inquiry (if no activities) or inquiry.
- Potential deal. This is what inside sales sends to a direct rep. When a lead is entered into this status we recommend that a zero dollar, no timeline opportunity is created in the CRM to represent the opportunity that is being passed to the direct rep.
- Pipeline opportunity. This is a potential deal that the direct-rep qualified and is actively working.
Most common questions about CRM lead status values.
These are the questions we hear the most about lead status values.
- What about “accepted” stages? At Iron Horse we don’t recommend explicitly having status values for accepted stages (e.g. sales accepted, tele accepted, etc.). Forcing a rep to manually select a status value before engaging a lead wastes a rep’s time. If you want to report on accepted leads, take the total number of leads sent over and subtract those that were rejected.
- What about call cadence (e.g. touch-1, touch-2, etc.)? At Iron Horse we don’t recommend tracking outreach attempts using lead status values. We recommend using tasks/activities as they allow the capture of disposition (e.g. spoke with admin, left voice mail, sent email, etc.).
- What if I don’t have an inside sales or tele team? You should have these teams as they drive higher conversion rates at a lower price point. But, if you don’t, just replace that team with the lead-receiving function that will get the lead (e.g. direct sales rep).
- Can a lead stay in one of those lead stages forever? Outside of pre-inquiry, N/A, and some rejection reasons (e.g. competitor) the answer is absolutely not, as it will very much screw up your funnel reporting. Timelines (typically outlined in a service level agreement [SLA]) that specify the maximum amount of time a lead can stay in any one of these stages (before automatic termination) absolutely need to be defined.
- What about channel or direct sales generated leads? We’d expect a channel generated opportunity to be entered as a potential deal and coded as being managed via the channel. For sales generated leads, ideally there should be a way to identify if the direct rep is engaging the lead directly or in tandem with an inside-sales rep. The key with reps is that they enter and track their activities and opportunities in the CRM and in this way you can map their activity and opportunity activities to funnel stages.
- Do I really have to have inside sales and direct reps use lead status values? Many do, but at Iron Horse we recommend having lead status values automated and driven by automation rules and triggers that fire based upon actions and timelines you’ve specified in your CRM and marketing automation platform. It takes a little more time on the front end when setting up your lead management process, but it decreases human error and also decreases the amount of time it takes to process leads that enter your funnel moving forward.