The end of lead management


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I know this sounds crazy. And people who know me may even ask if this is a faked identity. No – it’s me. Here is what triggered me to this post:

Let’s be clear on leads:
Leads are basically inquires for information initiated by a prospect of any kind. Either inspired by advertising, direct mail or other means of attention creating measures – right? So far so good.

What is going on today?
If you are telling me that you are inundated by sales leads, don’t read further and be very thankful. For the rest of us, I guess it looks like this:

1) At first a prospects searches for things in the Internet [not yet a lead] at best an IP address in our weblog which we call “traffic”.

2) The search unearths a lot of information and that information is typically written or shown on blogs, in Youtube, in forums, groups, communities. Still no inquiry is coming in – unless you are active on all those places.

3) The prospect digests the information and tries to ask questions. The most asked question: “Does any body have experience with…” You find those questions in LinkedIn groups, Yahoo Groups, on Blogs etc.

4) With the answers coming in, the prospect is now exploring websites, compares products, experience, suggestions and price of course.

5) [still no leads] The prospect is now getting in touch with other users of said product or service and tries to get a clear picture. “Hey, I saw you do this and that. I’m thinking about… Do you mind telling me…”

6) Based on all the information the prospect is ready to make a decision and connects with the seller (company, reseller, agents… you name it)

Ahhhh – now this is a lead, actually a hot lead, actually a pre qualified opportunity, no no no it is a real opportunity…

Let’s try to match it with the way we all explore things we potentially buy. Ask yourself: When did you ask a company or reseller for information BEFORE you checked the internet and get a clear picture about what you are looking for?

The well informed customers get’s in touch with us and leaves the “lead qualification process” empty. So leads, as we know it, is simply history – end, over, gone. With the exception of our marketing departments buying ADDRESSES which are sold as leads.

But most companies have still “lead qualification, nurturing, initial contact, presentation….” in their sales process. Pretty interesting disconnect isn’t it.

Now – some companies nailed the “new normal”. I actually worked with several companies to develop new processes to deal with the new reality.

Whats necessary:

1) Openness to understand the world didn’t stand still in the last five years. (There is no go back to the good old days)

2) Openness to realign sales processes to the new reality. You may actually have invested hundreds of thousands in training and CRM systems. You don’t need to throw everything away – but be open to realignment.

3) Openness to EXPERIMENT with brand new tools that accommodate the new processes. You read correct: experiment. You can of course wait and see what others do and then simply follow. It’s a cheap way to avoid mistakes. Doesn’t get you to leadership but we can’t be all leaders anyway. In any case you can already safe time and resources if you overhaul individual process steps that are just no longer efficient.

Andi Rudin and I crafted a paper called “The Principal Of Social Selling” Happy to provide a copy if interested. Send me an email at [email protected]

(My Social Map)

P.S. Why aren’t your top notch sales trainer tell you?
Because they where in the trenches at times where we had leads from web forms, through the fax and even via mail – so many that we had to develop a lead management process. But that was 10+ years ago 😉

Axel Schultze
CEO of Society3. Our S3 Buzz technology is empowering business teams to create buzz campaigns and increase mentions and reach. S3 Buzz provides specific solutions for event buzz, products and brand buzz, partner buzz and talent acquisition buzz campaigns. We helped creating campaigns with up to 100 Million in reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, published author, frequent speaker, and winner of the 2008 SF Entrepreneur award. Former CEO of BlueRoads, Infinigate, Computer2000.


  1. Hi Axel

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, I completely agree. 23 years in telecoms and technology says I should know. Which is why I am now in marketing, helping businesses address this exact same problem.

    Great article.



  2. Axel, interesting and thought provoking article. I totally agree with the trend that potential buyers will first educate themselves on the Internet and via their social circle before they want to talk to a sales person.

    However, vendors are still a great source of information, and often this information is so valuable that buyers want to register for it. They are still not a lead, but at least it’s a suspect that can be nurtured with highly targeted campaigns: I call this the new lead management.

    This type of lead management is supported by Marketing Automation systems, which are in high demand today (see my list of Marketing Automation systems). They provide automated email campaigns for nurturing, and Lead Scoring for indicating the buyer’s sales-readiness.

    There is a big challenge however: these marketing automation systems have not yet integrated well with social media. This is coming, but there is still a lot of work to do (and experimentation).

  3. Jep, thanks for the comment. However I see a big contradiction between social media and automation. If we want to be SOCIAL we can’t really automate. If we want to AUTOMATE we can’t really be social. Maybe we have to way until iRobot get’s a reality 😉


  4. Axel,

    reading FROM YOU about “The end of lead management” is really crazy.

    I just checked the US Patent office in regards of an

    Automatic lead distribution and processing confirmation system and method

    which was filed in 2000 (when we had to deal with > 1000 inquiries a day to follow up) and was granted in 2006.


  5. Axel: great blog. Leads as inquiries for information is an often-accepted, and generally old-school perspective. Today, I think there’s room for the word in selling, but we need more precision. Just twenty years ago, I made many assumptions when Marketing FAXed me a one-page sheet titled “Hot Lead” (true story, but too long to tell right now).

    Does ‘lead’ mean interest? Awareness? Need? Knowledge? Understanding of product/solution? Understanding of problem? All of these? Some of these? What about none of them?

    In a social-selling world, could lead be redefined as a person who is talking about something that my company could solve? How might that definition (or whichever definition a company chooses to use) be used to create processes to capture leads? (Hint: it won’t just be a landing page to download a white paper!)

  6. Good point Andy. Maybe it is the time to redefine what a lead really is. How about “a situation that can be identified worth to explore a sales engagement”? Well this sounds a bit complicated but this maybe a good starting point for a new discussion with others. “What is a lead in 2010”?


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