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As your sales funnels grow wider and longer, keeping leads within your grasp has become even more challenging. In fact, lead leakage is one of the most costly sales and marketing issues. Plugging the holes in your sales funnel to stop such loss is critical to successful lead management.

Research shows that nearly 80% of leads that Marketing generates are never worked on by Sales, let alone turned into sales opportunities. Do you ever wonder what happens to those untouched leads? Did they have potential at some point to become opportunities, or were they all just unqualified leads?

As many of us would agree, a good percentage of those leads are likely to be qualified but are just not ready to buy. So, what happens in your organization when a lead that looks ready to buy doesn't become a sales opportunity? Does the lead just sit in your customer relationship management (CRM) system and become a competitor's opportunity a few months down the road?

The answer to that question is probably "yes," unless you are renurturing that lead until the timing is right. When that doesn't happen, however, the lead is lost.

A leaky funnel, then, is one that receives leads at the top but those leads just leak out—never to be heard from again—when they don't become immediate sales opportunities.

Studies suggest that upward of 60% of the leads coming into your funnel will buy from someone—your organization or a competitor's—over the subsequent 24 months.

Leaked leads are usually one of two types:

  1. Cold leads (really, just inquiries or suspects) that are passed to Sales and that never work because they're cold and presumed by Sales to be not ready for a call
  2. Warmer leads and opportunities that have been worked by Sales but for whatever reason do not move down the pipeline

Current nurturing programs in legacy marketing and sales processes rarely take into account "colder" leads, which is why they are also highly ineffective.

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Lisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of an on-demand lead-management solution.