Lead Development: 6 Tips for Building Lead Workflow

Marketing strategy at any startup is critical, and it must involve creativity, agility, and be meaningful for your prospects and customers. But the best strategy and execution in the world means nothing if you don’t build in the proper workflow for lead development. Fortunately startups have tools at their disposal that can help in this quest, but you should also be aware how to implement these so that they are useful for marketing and sales, as well as be implemented with future growth in mind. Below is a post I recently wrote on my own blog and it is based on my very recent experiences having taken the VP of Marketing role at 21CT, where we provide solutions for data analytics and┬ávisualization. I hope to make this a series of post going through the tenants of lead capture, development, and nurturing.

Lead development is an art wrapped in science, wrapped in modern art, wrapped in prosciutto. It can help a company grow significantly, only if you put in place the workflow, conventions, methodology, and discipline that must happen in order for it to succeed. These for founding principles of lead development will be looked at over the next few days, and it is important for us to start at the very beginning, lead workflow.

Marketing gets the leads, scores the leads, and picks them up like produce at the farmer’s market to be sure that it is supple and fresh, worthy of being deposited into Salesforce.com. Sound familar? There isn’t really that much to proper lead workflow from marketing to sales, all it takes is some sensible planning and understanding of the way your company works today, and the way you hope it will work tomorrow.

Marketing-to-Sales Lead Workflow Best Practices

1) Listen To Sales

Sales can be stubborn, since their livelihood literally depends on the deals closing. Marketing can be stubborn, since our livelighood is based on implementing ‘best practices’. The two often conflict, but typically not as much as you think at first. This is where it becomes important to get sales input before making any suggestions to lead workflow. Listen to their nomenclature about lead source, versus campaigns, versus opportunity stage. The actual words they use will be important, you must harness those in the proposed workflow you put together in order to create a level of comfort and buy-in so that your processes are actually followed.

2) Go Through The Process

In most companies, particularly start-ups, the sales process can differ wildly from opportunity to opportunity. Walk through as many different instances as you can with the sales team, you’ll find out a ton about how the “typical” process works, helping you to build your opportunity stages and associate them with decent forecasting percentages.

3) Involve Others

Sales and marketing must be the four legs in the three-legged race (wait, what?) but there are others to consider, and I mean besides the CEO and CFO who are dying for those forecasting dashboards to be accurate. Think about the product delivery team who may get a lot out of this data including priority scheduling and forecasting of their own. Think about services/support, product management, and even development. All of these groups touch the sales cycle in some way, their thoughts won’t necessarily guide your workflow process, but it will have an influence.

4) Present Clear Gateways

Trouble arises when the workflow does not have clear and defined gateways, for example what exactly happens to a web lead? Does it go into the marketing automation system first? When does it become Marketing Qualified, and why? When it goes into Salesforce.com does it auto-assign to sales, how? When does a lead become a contact? These are all legit questions and can be addressed with a clear ‘gateway map’ that actually shows the workflow scenarios that you’ve discovered above.

5) Provide Benefit Examples

In a company that has not implemented lead workflow in the past there will be a lot of ‘why’ questions, and the best way to answer those is to provide the benefit that will come from implementing it in that manner. The reason you are building out opportunity stages in that way is so that sales can more accurately forecast revenue and prioritize responsibilities. The reason you are shifting campaigns is to accuartely measure the impact of marketing activity. You get the picture.

6) Future-Proof the Workflow

The company has a short-term growth plan, work that into how you are building this lead workflow. For example, you may build in a few more lead sources that currently you aren’t using, like “Partner Referral”. Or have an opportunity stage development that has a bit more granularity than you have in the current sales process, because you know you’ll need it one day. Once this thing gets cooking you will hate yourself for not looking into that crystal ball, at least a bit.

Lead development workflow is not easy, but it starts with buidling a proper illustration of what you want to see, how it will work, and why it is important for everyone.


About Kyle Flaherty

Kyle is the Vice President of Marketing at 21CT.


  1. Kyle,

    Great article and a very important aspect of successful startups that is often overlooked.

  2. Thanks Kenny, appreciate the comment.