Lead Management System vs CRM: the Big Six

Lead Management Software vs CRM: What’s the Difference?

To be honest from the start, CRM and lead management software often overlap. We’ve been looking into it in one of our previous articles on this topic. To quickly recap, both manage prospective customers and track historical interactions, but not all CRMs are lead management systems. CRM also include features allowing you to manage your current customers. Often mixed together, solutions specializing in lead management focus more directly on the business at hand, on sales activities and the sales pipeline. Most CRMs don’t offer the same sales process automation and high-level visibility that top lead management software solutions can.

This strong focus allows salespeople to quickly see the value of lead management solutions rather than all the complexity and the tediousness associated with CRMs. Managers must find new ways to get their sales team to actually use a CRM.

Certainly, filling out contact details remains a key component, but salespeople are provided with a series of features to quickly do it so they can focus on what matters to them to close deals.

All this means that sales solutions vary in complexity. While there are some independent lead management tools, many of them are part of more comprehensive CRMs or other sales processing automation solutions, some even belong to ERPs. We went into more details regarding the different solutions of lead management software in this article.

The single most important differentiating factor between a CRM solution and a true lead management system?

Pipeline Management— A Key Feature of Lead Management Software

Closely related to the sales workflow, there are lead management software that include visual pipelines. It makes life easier for sales teams and provide them with a clear overview over their funnel. They can manage their leads without having to switch to a different software. This saves valuable time for small businesses as they can manage the entire process in a single tool. Larger organizations might also benefit if they have the habit of training sales employees by moving them from one position to another, say qualification vs product demo, they will be already familiar with the tool and be able to jump into their new role with ease.

A pipeline specifies the steps needed to turn a lead into a customer. Pipelines can be simple, reminding you what the next step should be and enabling you to tick off each step along the way.

As such, a good lead management product will also keep salespeople and other users on track. It lets them know who has been called, who is due for a follow-up, and where each potential customer is in the funnel. At the very least, it should remind you of sales activities and appointments that you have set for each lead and ensure that you’re aware if your sales reps missed contacting a solid lead.

At the start of the visual pipeline are the new leads. These have been acquired through a variety of methods: call lists, web forms, business cards from events, social networking, etc. All of those contacts need to be sifted through. Your sales team must contact them to find out if they are legitimate leads and engage with them in an effort to turn them from prospects into business opportunities. At each stage, prospects are discarded because they may have filled incorrect data, don’t respond to emails or phone or simply aren’t interested. As a result, the sales workflow narrows dramatically until you reach the other end of the sales pipeline where you’re left with paying customers.

Dealing with leads when they are still at the top of the sales funnel can be a tedious task, especially for smaller businesses. A lead that shows interest and then is neglected can be an opportunity lost. A prospect might be checking out different products or services at the same time. Thus, time is of the essence to reach out to them before they make their decision.

For a single salesperson dealing with dozens or even hundreds of leads, it is impossible to track and follow up on them without some kind of help. That’s where a lead management solution comes in. It helps them track what to do and when, so not to miss any potential customer.

Shaping your Sales Funnel

Start from your own business.

To choose an appropriate set of lead management tools, you need to first evaluate how complex your current sales process is. A small business with one or two sales reps and a balanced workload of leads will not need the same kind of tool as a large enterprise that generates its leads in bulk, across multiple countries or with multiple product or service chains does.

You also need to assess your team’s abilities and needs. Some of the simpler tools are ready to use out of the box and are more appropriate for startups and smaller companies. While others offer many more features and much more flexibility. Such possibilities need to be balanced with the process of integrating with your current software stack and training your sales team on how to use them.  

At this point, the difference between simple and more complex lead management tools is clearer. Some packages work with a single list of contacts or organizations that can then be tagged according to their place in the sales process. If you anticipate that your company is going to be gathering a large number of potential sales, then you should look for a product that separates prospects from qualified leads. Prospects are contacts from organizations that have only just been reached out to for the first time, whereas qualified leads have gone through a vetting process or have at least answered the phone when called and have given a buying intent. Other packages offer two separate lists that allow leads be moved to qualified leads when marked.

One last thing, there are multiple ways to gather leads. Some lead management tools can pull names from different sources such as social network platforms (Facebook and Twitter), Google Ads or emails, for instance.

To learn more about structuring your sales workflow, read our article on Aircall‘s blog ‘How to Structure a Sales Workflow that Closes Deals Faster’.

To identify the best, we used the most important criteria, which includes lead scoring, pricing, ease-of-use and organizational functionality.

How We Evaluated Lead Management Software Options

Lead management software helps sales managers and their teams organize, manage, prioritize and track hundreds, even thousands of leads in one place. When considering software options that are right for small businesses, we listed lead management solutions that were easy to set up and us. They’re affordably priced and  save time to make it easier to build strong relationships with your prospects.

Here are the criteria we used to identify the top six lead management software options:

  • Affordability: we compared the pricing of the software to similar options on the market.
  • Ease-of-use: we looked at the basic plans suitable for small business and how easy the software is to set-up, integrate and maintain.
  • Lead organization & sorting: We evaluated the software’s organizational features such as lead filtering and sorting. We also looked at the tool’s ability to prioritize and assign leads to multiple territories or area of expertise.
  • Automation tools: we included automation because of the precious time it saves your sales team when they can automate redundant actions.
  • Lead capturing & qualification tools: We looked at how the built-in tools in each software helped salespeople and business owners capture and qualify leads.
  • Mobile app: we consider a mobile app as important. Many sales reps or business owners perform their jobs on the road; being able to access your leads from a mobile device was an important part of our criteria.
  • Contact history: we also looked at whether or not the tool allowed for notes and communications like emails and offers to be tracked in the contact history throughout the sales cycle.
  • Activity management & tracking: we looked at each software’s ability to help you manage and track lead activities. There are many activities in the sales process, and tracking the actions your sales team takes with your leads is important.
  • Reporting tools: we also looked at the metrics and reporting capabilities; as business owners or sales managers, it helps to run reports to find out which activities are working and which ones aren’t; it also helps to know things like which sales rep closes the most deals or has the highest conversion rate.
  • App integrations: It can save you and your sales team time when lead management software integrates with other productivity tools you use; our criteria included whether or not the software integrated with commonly used tools like Google apps, Microsoft Office or other app products that compliment lead management such as invoicing solutions or VoIP software.

Best Lead Management Software List

This list is ordered alphabetically

  1. Bitrix a full featured CRM system that offers lead capture, qualification, kanban user interface, scoring and sales automation tools.You can choose between separate leads listing or going direct to contact. Bitrix24 CRM has a wide variety of lead management features along with some handy automation features.
  2. Freshsales was born out of a response to Freshdesk’s own necessity to handle multiple aspects of the sales process, and eliminate the need for its users to wander around between software. It offers a vast panel of reportings tools for sales managers and businesses engaged in territory-based sales and support territory-based lead assignment.
  3. Insightly is a CRM with lead management and robust project management features as well as Power BI integration for reporting. It also includes helpful automation features along with granular sharing settings. This platform adds on some features you may not be used to seeing in other CRMs, including the previously mentioned data gathering and project management features.
  4. Monday is a lead management tool focused on collaboration. It syncs all information in a single, accessible hub, and empowers customer agents and team members to make important decisions together. What is often considered to be Monday’s most distinctive advantage compared to similar systems is the advanced scheduling capability, which applies both to task and project management.
  5. noCRM lead management tool designed for salespeople. Based on the premise that a standard CRM tends to reduce the productivity of salespeople. As they are loaded with noncritical paperwork preventing them from focusing on converting more customers, noCRM offers all the features a sales team needs: a practical user interface, a visual pipeline and sales activities, and a clear separation between prospects and qualified leads. It’s the go-to solution if you want a tool dedicated to your sales team to follow up on leads.
  6. Pipedrive lead management software for small businesses that want an affordably priced visual snapshot of their lead stages and activities. Simple, intuitive interface. Pipedrive drops feature depth in favor of ease of use in an effort to attract small businesses. If you are happy with fairly basic functionality and ease of implementation is an important point, then this might be the lead management software for you.

Summary: Lead Management System vs CRM

Before making your final decision, keep in mind the people who are going to be using the service the most: your sales team. All of these products include a 15-day to a one-month free trial, along with online help desks and training videos. Nowadays, most solutions include an onboarding process via webinars or one-to-one sessions. It’s worth while to take advantage of these resources during the buying process but also afterwards, when you have to train your sales reps on the new tool. Include them as early as possible as they know best what tools they will need to turn leads into customers.