Lead management definition: turning anonymous prospects into customers

Lead management definition: turning anonymous prospects into customers

Lead management is an approach to customer acquisition. Potential buyers are systematically identified, informed and contacted: they are accompanied along the customer journey. Read a coherent definition in this blog post and learn which phases a lead management process consists of.  

Definition of lead management: leading contacts sensibly and systematically

Lead management is used to collect and manage personal data in order to generate sales. It includes all measures that turn anonymous prospects into actual customers as well as measures that increase cross- and up-selling potential.

Leads generate a record when interacting with modern marketing. The technology used provides information about and the behavior of users. Lead management accompanies digital prospects over a long path – the customer journey.  The decisive aspect is the legally compliant collection of personal data, on the basis of which marketing provides a lead with further information. This is usually done via email, blog post, white paper or video. Leads are guided step by step through the customer journey to the point of purchase or conclusion of contract.

An ideal lead management tries not to leave prospects alone with any of their steps. The term therefore includes inbound marketing, content marketing and marketing automation.

A lead management process in the background of the customer experience usually consists of six phases. 

Phase Zero: Goal and target group definition

In ideal lead management models there is a preparation for optimized lead management. Here, one’s own goals are specified and the best approach for new prospects is questioned. Anyone who considers this preparation only optional overlooks the benefits of tools such as buyer personas .

These profiles for target groups and decision-makers serve as a template for the preferences of new customers and for optimizing your own marketing. 

Phase 1: Lead generation – data exchange makes contacts accessible

The customer journey begins with the first contact. This means: An unknown member of your target group encounters your company for the first time.

This first-time visitor should be converted into a returning visitor and contact person. This is the goal of lead generation: the company’s website and media offerings should interest the contact to such an extent that a lead reveals who you or he is by exchanging qualitative content. 

This happens, for example, when a reader visits your website and is interested in one of your offers, an e-book or webinar, and fills out a form. Or when she or he leaves a comment on your blog article.

Ultimately, leads can be generated on all channels, both digital and analogue. The decisive factor is the exchange of contact data: In this first phase, the data records of potential new customers are generated for the first time .

Phase 2: Lead recording – a data pool is growing

If a contact has expressed interest by voluntarily passing on their data, this data is systematically recorded for structured processing. 

At all online touchpoints, the data record is already digital. All analogue ways of making contact must be converted into digital data. This creates a data pool for all contacts. These interested parties are the basis of a CRM system.

Leads are therefore recorded in data records. These contain information about the contact, the interaction channel and the potentially existing customer relationship and are added to the log for each further contact.

Phase 3: Lead qualification – potential buyers are filtered out and provided with relevant content

With the first contact and the correct data collection, the qualification – i.e. the closer examination of a prospective customer – has only just begun. In order to get to know him or her better, to sound out his or her interests as precisely as possible and to accompany him or her during the customer journey, leads are therefore provided with more and more information in marketing. 

Every lead in the sales process goes through the qualification process, in which their personal issues and their prospects for a possible purchase are precisely recorded.

If a company offers meaningful content for the desired customer, the need is aroused to talk specifically to sales about the company’s services. 

This is where the use of the flywheel (as the successor to the marketing funnel) helps . Leads are accompanied by information in the customer journey process in such a way that potential customers are filtered out of the total number of interested parties. 

Leads should be differentiated at this stage, as Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) or Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): 

  • MQLs represent prospects willing to learn more. 
  • SQLs stand for prospects who are about to make a decision – i.e. a potential purchase.

Phase 4: Lead scoring – the leads are evaluated and further supported

The fourth phase in lead management classifies all of the company’s potential customers using a scale. The result: the assessment of the willingness to buy of individual potential customers for the company. 

The value determined in this way determines the priority with which a potential customer is processed. Marketing automation tools are helpful here, which provide wonderful support for marketing and sales teams, for example with e-mail marketing, data maintenance or reporting.

Phase 5: Lead Routing – handing over valuable leads from marketing to sales

The last phase completes the lead management process. In this, the leads with high sales opportunities are forwarded to the appropriate sales departments. 

These forwarded data sets have gone through the entire qualification process. They have a high value for the company that is already supported by investments.  

In order to avoid part of these financial and time investments, some companies now use professional lead generation software. This can be used to uncover companies that have previously visited your website undetected. 

You can read more about this in this blog article:


Lead management is a strategy for acquiring, qualifying and converting potential customers. It is used in all digital forms of marketing and is traditionally divided into five phases (six including preparation). 

Certain considerations add two additional phases to the lead management process:

  • Lead reporting uses artificial intelligence and statistics to additionally classify leads – parallel to the phases in the process described above  .
  • The lead analysis wants to find out what exactly motivates leads to their behavior. Search behavior and click behavior as well as their triggers in the content and design of the websites are examined in detail here. 

Both additions need digital tools.

Once a lead has gone through the lead management process in marketing, it reaches the interface between the marketing and sales processes. This is a qualified sales opportunity for the company. This core goal in lead management can be refined and optimized from start to finish – from lead generation to lead transfer – using suitable software.

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