How To Improve the Lead Flow of Your Business

Nowhere is more business lost than by ignoring lead flow.

It’s the same old problem — the marketing people only care about top-of-the-funnel activities, like getting more traffic.

Meanwhile, the sales people fixate on bottom-of-the-funnel activities, like making more sales calls.

But what about in between?

You must guide leads through your funnel, so they feel taken care of at every step of the way.

Read on to learn more about lead flow, how your business benefits from it, and which tactics will improve conversion.

What is Lead Flow?

Lead flow is the process of passing leads smoothly through your funnel, without any hiccups. The smoother this journey, the more leads you will convert into paying customers.

Put differently, lead flow answers the question, “What should happen to a lead once it becomes a lead?” It is also referred to as lead management.

In reality, many leads will drop off along their journey, at one touchpoint or another. The problem is that no one in your organization feels responsible for that “middle part” of the funnel.

The goal of lead flow is to minimize such leaks. You want to be guiding your leads every step of the way until they become customers.

Lead flow is vital to any business with a marketing/sales funnel. The more leads you convert, the more revenue you get. To do this successfully, you will need a lead flow strategy.

Fortunately, there are various digital tools to help with lead flow management. CRMs like HubSpot or Salesforce are among the most popular.

The Problem With Lead Flow

There are three common problems with lead flow:

  1. Collaboration issues, i.e., people not working together
  2. Organizational issues, i.e., bad processes
  3. Technical issues, i.e., system glitches

Of the three, collaboration is by far the most pressing concern.

Specifically, the marketing department will focus on top-of-funnel activities like content and SEO to attract more visitors. Meanwhile, the sales department will be fixated on bottom-of-the-funnel activities like closing.

But it is the bridge between these two that makes all the difference. If you don’t cover the middle ground, both marketing and sales efforts will fall short.

And the key to that — before processes and tools — is talking to each other.

An Example From the Trenches

Let’s look at a typical example of a lead flow gone wrong. A chemical B2B company — we’ll call them Next Gen Chemicals — decides to build an online marketing / sales funnel.


The marketing people at Next Gen Chemicals start with typical top-of-the-funnel activities. They research low-competition keywords for their blog, come up with a content plan, and hire a team of freelance writers.

Every week, they put out two really well-researched long-form articles. After about a year, traffic increases significantly. First they hit 10,000, then 20,000 monthly visitors.

To convert these visitors into email subscribers, the marketing team creates several attractive download offers. These are well received — a respectable five percent of all visitors each month end up on the list.

Everybody in the marketing department is very happy with the progress. The whole project is considered a success.


Each month now, the sales people receive a considerable list of new leads from the marketing department. The sales reps are at first enthusiastic about that.

But when the sales reps start reaching out to these contacts, they keep getting the same negative reactions:

  • Some of the leads do not know where to place the sales rep, as it has been several weeks since they signed up for the list.
  • Some of the leads are not at all familiar with the products and services of Next Gen Chemicals. The sales reps have to start at zero with them.
  • Yet another segment is clearly not a good fit for the company. They are either in a different industry or too small to be worthwhile.

The Communication Breakdown

Of course, the sales people will complain to the marketing people, “You are not sending us good leads.”

Vice versa, the marketing people will regard the sales people as ungrateful. After all, they are getting way more leads than they used to.

And so internal battle lines are drawn, while the funnel keeps leaking.

This is a typical example for why you need an efficient lead flow process. If you don’t connect the top with the bottom, you will lose out massively.

But for that, people need to stop pointing the finger and start talking about the “middle.”

Lead Flow in Numbers

Moving leads along is vital.

Studies have shown that customers are more likely to go with the first business that responds to them.

Also, the odds are 21 times greater for your lead to enter into the sales process if they’re contacted within the first 5 minutes than if it takes 30.

But in reality, it takes companies around 61 hours to respond to a lead.

And worse yet — 47 percent of a company’s leads get lost along the way and never receive a response.


If you optimize your lead flow, you will experience several benefits.

Improve Your Conversion Rate

By having a proper lead flow process, you will convert more leads into paying customers. This way, you are getting more out of your lead pool than if you were just winging it.

Don’t Lose Leads

Also, an effective lead flow process makes sure that not a single lead falls through the cracks. Every lead gets passed on.

Make Decisions Based on Data

A well-defined lead flow will provide you with important data:

  • How many visitors are we converting into leads?
  • How qualified are these leads?
  • How many of these leads are we converting into customers?
  • What are common questions and problems?

With a standardized process, all of these questions can be easily answered, especially if you use tools like HubSpot. In one central dashboard, you’ll see what’s working and what’s not.

More One-on-One Time

Managing leads takes time. When you automate the lead flow process, you have more time for talking to qualified leads in person.

Build Long-lasting Relationships

Managing your lead flow means that every lead in your pipeline gets the attention it needs. This will create a great first impression with future customers. They will be much more likely to become return customers.

Experiment With New Methods

With an automated lead flow in place, you are free to test out new approaches, like marketing in the metaverse. This will give you a significant edge over your competitors in years to come.

How To Implement a Lead Flow Strategy

To implement an effective lead flow strategy, pay attention to these 11 proven tactics.

1. Create Awareness

Problems with lead flow are not so much of a technical nature, as they are more about people.

Team members will be hesitant to implement lead flow for three reasons:

  • Narrow-mindedness. Team members don’t want to look beyond what they are currently doing (building traffic, making sales calls).
  • Complexity. Managing lead flow introduces more complexity into your workflow. Therefore, some team members won’t touch lead flow.
  • Laziness. A new, unfamiliar framework like lead flow means more work initially. Many team members will shy away from that.

Therefore, if you want to succeed with lead flow, you must first create awareness.

Demonstrate how much effectiveness is lost by ignoring lead flow. Make this as simple as possible. Communicate clearly. Use visuals. People need to “get it,” in order to come on board.

Teach the lead flow process before you introduce it. In fact, overteach it. When you start getting tired of your own voice, most of your team members will be just starting to get it.

Provide incentives to overcome inertia. One way to do that is profit-sharing. If certain people excel at passing on leads, reward them based on their performance.

Also, regularly praise your early adopters. Let them know what a good job they are doing. The late adopters will start to emulate them.

2. Look For Leaks

Investigate your buyers’ journeys. Be on the lookout for poorly managed parts of the funnel, what I call “leaks.” Where are people dropping off? Why?

Also, spot low-hanging fruits. If you can convert 20 percent more leads overnight by sending out a short, automated follow-up-email, set that up today.

Check for technical glitches. Specifically, check if the number of leads sent from your marketing system matches the number of leads within your sales system. If they don’t, there is a problem with system integration.

In HubSpot, you can use workflow filters to achieve that. In Salesforce, lead assignment rules serve a similar function. This way, no leads fall through the cracks.

3. Define Lifecycle Stages

There are six customer lifecycle stages:

  1. Stranger. This person does not know about your brand yet. You need to get on their radar, e.g., through content marketing / SEO or paid ads.
  2. Onlooker. They know about your brand by having visited your blog or your socials. But you can’t contact them yet.
  3. Acquaintance. These leads have subscribed to your list and can be contacted. Now we have a two-way street.
  4. Tentative Prospect. This lead has already expressed an interest in your product or services. But further nurturing is needed.
  5. Eager Prospect. These leads are highly engaged and likely to become customers. For example, they might have requested a detailed quote.
  6. Customer. A customer is someone who has already purchased from you. The goal now becomes to sell to them again.

Both your marketing and your sales team need to be on the same page about:

  • What defines each stage
  • What the goal is for each stage
  • How we nurture the leads at each stage
  • How we place our call-to-action

Write this down. Create a handbook. It must be crystal-clear to everybody what is going to happen to the lead at each stage.

Assign roles. Who is doing what? Assign names to it. It’s no good if you have a well-defined lead flow, but nobody feels responsible.

Clarify the points of intersection. Describe when leads are handed off, by whom, and what that process looks like. Define when leads might be passed back to a previous stage to further nurture them.

Finally, adjust your CRM to reflect this process. The more your system mirrors your ideal process, the less friction you will experience.

4. Develop A Lead Scoring System

Let’s say your marketing team is doing a good job and is bringing in hundreds of leads per week.

There is no way you are going to be able to contact all of these leads right away. So you must prioritize those which are most valuable to your business. Quality over quantity.

That’s why you need a lead scoring system.

A lead scoring system assigns a certain number to each lead. The higher the number, the earlier the lead gets processed.

How do you assign these values?

There are two criteria here:

  1. How well do they match your ideal customer persona?
  2. How eager are they to move along the funnel?

Compare each lead against your ideal customer persona. If you haven’t created your marketing personas yet, now is the time. The better they match, the more preferential treatment they get.

With matching, pay attention to:

  • industry
  • company size
  • annual revenue
  • job title
  • years of experience
  • budget
  • location

The other factor to look at is eagerness. Some leads are much more ready to buy than others. It can make sense to get these leads out of the way quickly, even if they don’t match your ideal customer persona completely.

With eagerness, pay attention to:

  • pages visited
  • content downloaded
  • emails opened
  • events attended
  • webinars joined

5. Catch Them at the Right Moment

From my experience, the trickiest phase in your lead flow is to turn Marketing Qualified Lead (leads you can contact) into Sales Qualified Lead (leads that display buying intention).

Ideally, you want to catch them when they are thinking about you.

You can use real-time alerts in HubSpot or Salesforce for that. If you shoot them an email while they are browsing your website, the chances of them replying go up significantly. Even better, call them (if you already have their number).

To make this work, you must have a certain surplus in manpower. If all of your sales people are constantly maxed out, they won’t have the flexibility to react to these alerts on the spot.

6. Assign the Right Person

Not every sales rep is right for every lead — you must find the right fit.

Here are some suggestions for breaking down your sales team into categories:

Industry-specific reps. If you have an IT lead, assign them a rep who knows the IT industry. If you have someone from the music industry, partner them with a showbiz insider. Your reps must speak the language of your leads.

Location-specific reps. This one is relevant to businesses with a local focus or for businesses that plan to expand to a certain area. If your sales rep knows the situation on the ground, your lead is more likely to convert.

Size-specific reps. Big businesses should be partnered with reps that have experience with large organizations. Vice versa, partner smaller businesses with reps that understand their specific challenges.

7. Move Those Stubborn Leads Along

Some leads won’t move forward because the lead has doubts. There is some concern you are not addressing yet.

The three common causes are:

  1. They don’t understand your product yet. You must explain the differences between similar products. Better yet, provide use cases which exemplify the unique advantage of each product.
  2. They are torn between you and a competitor. Leads are rarely just talking to one provider. Therefore, address the differences between you and your competitors. Highlight what makes you special.
  3. They don’t have the budget. The lead might really like you, but cannot afford your solution. If you want them anyway, consider offering them a discount or a starter package.

As a smaller company, I recommend you do this convincing during a one-on-one call. For a large organization with a huge volume of leads, that might not be feasible, though.

In this case, create automated email campaigns for each of these pain points, then send them out as needed. This allows you to nurture your stubborn leads without stretching your sales team thin.

8. Consider a Pre-Sales Team

If you get hundreds or thousands of leads per month, it might make sense to add another layer between marketing and sales — a pre-sales team.

These guys usually work at the junction between Marketing Qualified Leads (leads you can contact) and Sales Qualified Leads (leads with a buying wish).

The pre-sales team pre-qualifies these leads, i.e., which of these leads will provide the greatest ROI.

This way, you unburden your sales team. They can focus on what they do best — talking to people in person.

9. Have Regular Meetings

As I keep saying, lead flow is more of a people challenge than it is a technical challenge. People don’t talk enough.

To overcome that, have a weekly jour fixe for the marketing and the sales team. Consider including the web team as well.

Just regularly being in the same room will improve lead flow dramatically. Leaks are talked about, misunderstandings solved.

This is also a good time to discuss what a good lead looks like — the most common issue between marketing and sales.

10. Practice Accountability

One of the best ways to improve lead flow is for the marketing team and the sales team to hold each other accountable.

At regular intervals, the marketing team should check if sales is actually following up on the leads they sent them.

How many leads did we send over? How long ago? How many of these have already been processed? Using a CRM, it is very easy to get this information and then talk to sales about it.

Likewise, the sales people should give feedback to the marketing people.

Maybe they are not happy with the number of leads. Maybe the quality is lacking. Maybe it takes marketing too long to pass the leads on.

Whatever it is, make sure to be specific. General complaining will not improve things.

11. Revisit the Process

A lead-flow process is never finished — you must optimize it indefinitely.

Therefore, revisit your processes regularly, ideally every quarter. Make sure to note down learnings in the meantime.

Again, this is more about people than it is about organizational or technical issues.

Hence, get all your marketing and sales people together in one room. Then get the conversation going. Questions to ask include:

  • Which leads currently in our pipeline are not moving forward? Why?
  • Which leads were passed on to sales that were not ready yet?
  • Which leads closed almost effortlessly? And why?
  • Do we need to review our lead scoring process?
  • What open and response rates are we getting from our lead follow-ups?

Make sure to note down any insights. Then incorporate them into your lead flow handbook. Now send the updated version of the handbook out as an email to all attendees.

This is now the new definite guideline for your lead flow process — until the next update.

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