How to organize sales leads into a well-structured system
Brian is a recognized professional with 15 years of experience in relationship-based sales and management.
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If your morning starts with getting through chaotic lead lists, you might lose precious opportunities while searching for the necessary information instead of responding to your leads.
The good news is that you’re not alone: Around 41% of companies struggle to follow up with leads while they are still interested. Another 29% from the same research note that filtering and funneling leads is the biggest challenge impacting conversion to sales.
At one point, our contact lists at Belkins were a pure mess as well. Yet, we found a way out by developing our own systematization approach that makes it a breeze to prioritize our efforts and focus on the most promising opportunities.
So today we’re sharing how to organize sales leads to help you quickly find the information you need and follow up without missing a beat.
When it comes to organizing sales leads, there are two ways to go: spreadsheets (e.g., Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel) and software for sales management (CRM systems). Ultimately, the best choice depends on the scale of your business and specific needs. Let’s briefly view the pros and cons of each.
Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel
A popular way to organize leads is to arrange them in a spreadsheet — especially when you don’t have a CRM system. Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel both have a bunch of built-in options like functions, filters, drop-downs, etc. that allow you to improve lead management.
What I like most about spreadsheets is that you can automate manual operations, like checking a document for duplicates. With the help of formulas, you can do things that used to take an hour or so in two minutes. Unfortunately, when you keep large arrays of data in one document, it starts to lag over time, making you create new documents. Also, some extensions used by researchers conflict with Google Docs, and the latter may simply fail to load.
Here’s an example of how our lead researchers and salespeople systematize potential clients in B2B lead lists:
Pros and cons of organizing sales leads in spreadsheets
Let’s review the benefits and drawbacks of using the spreadsheet method for storing your lead lists.
Save time by automating routine operations with the help of formulas.
Limited functionality compared to the CRM system, which makes spreadsheets only a temporary solution.
Keep lead lists neat and tidy by using such features and functions as ‘Data cleanup,’ ‘Checkboxes,’ ‘Dropdowns,’ and others.
Working with huge databases in Google Sheets is nearly impossible as it requires longer processing and loading times. Excel can only handle larger amounts of information offline.
Easily sort and filter data alphabetically, by color, condition, or custom values.
Enhance formatting and lead management through extensions and add-ons.
Work in a single space, thanks to a shared access in Google Sheets, which empowers different employees to view, comment on, and edit lists.
Enjoy free and easy start.
If you decide to proceed with Google Sheets or Excel, consider these practical tips from our researchers on how to create and manage a lead list.
Tips to keep your lead list organized in spreadsheets
Once you’ve created a new document, here are the next steps:
Identify basic data points. These may include company size, location, lead’s name, job title, and other information relevant to your ICP criteria. You can either create your own template or use a predesigned template and then add custom parameters.
Always double-check for duplicates. Add a column to check for repeated entries or matches with your “do not contact” list. Automate the searches using the VLOOKUP function.
Use additional formulas. Depending on your requirements, you may need to use other functions to manipulate or analyze your lead data. For instance, our lead researchers use the following formulas: CONCATENATE, COUNT, COUNTIF, AVERAGE, AVERAGEIF, and others to calculate metrics, filter and sort data, perform conditional formatting, and generate reports.
Seize the power of add-ons and extensions. They are beneficial both in terms of formatting (like ChangeCase) and automation (like Email Verification).
Add drop-downs for status tracking. To gain visibility of what is going on with your prospects, assign custom statuses to each of them. This way you can filter through those you need to qualify, follow up with, or send an agreement to.
Establish formatting guidelines. This will help you keep the look and feel of all your lead lists consistent and will save you a lot of time when searching for specifics.
Use inbuilt data cleanup. Options such as ‘Trim whitespaces’ may be extremely useful before sending emails to your leads, as it removes extra spaces from the selected cells or range.
Belkins tip: If you work in Excel, remember to save your spreadsheet regularly. For Google Sheets, make backups to prevent data loss and review permissions from time to time to prevent unauthorized access and downloads.
Though spreadsheets might be a good option initially, scaling is much easier with a CRM system. In Belkins’ case, we switched to HubSpot, which streamlined our sales processes and helped us figure out how to organize sales activities, including lead management.
We have a very systematized follow-up process that keeps our pipeline organized. The biggest standard we have is ensuring that every single active deal in our pipeline has a task set for a future follow-up. So based on the information the sales executive (SE) learns in the sales discovery regarding the prospect’s timeline, we can be sure that we are following up promptly and that no deals slip through the cracks. This allows us to stay in touch with the prospects and keep the deals progressing through our sales stages.
Pros and cons of using HubSpot for lead management
Compared to spreadsheets, CRM systems are easier to use and scale. Let’s take a look at the HubSpot features you might benefit from for organizing your business leads.
Gain high pipeline visibility with a clear, no-frills board view. You can see each open opportunity within your pipeline depending on the stage they are on.
The learning curve might be longer than in the case of Google Sheets, as HubSpot has multiple features to get acquainted with.
Engage with leads on time thanks to tasks and reminders.
Free version only has a limited number of available filters.
Easily sort by categories and values, like stages, priority, date, activity, form submissions, behavioral events, page views, and other criteria.
Create message templates and add your contacts to email sequences.
Cover each lead in your pipeline by setting up automatic workflows.
Monitor advanced analytics with custom reports and dashboards.
Build forecasts, based on previous activity logs.
And now let’s proceed to some practical tips from our sales executives on how to organize leads in HubSpot.
Tips on how to systematize sales leads in HubSpot CRM
To help you gain full control over your pipeline in HubSpot, here are a few life hacks from our salespeople:
Systematize your leads by a predefined set of criteria. To take the guesswork out of your lead management, use the same parameters to identify them. Knowing those criteria, you’ll be able to find the necessary information much faster.
Seize the power of active lists. These lead lists update automatically when the leads meet specified criteria or earn a certain HubSpot score.
Create custom filters. Save them to speed up future search queries.
Launch automated workflows. This is one of our sales team’s most loved features as it helps to execute certain tasks without their direct engagement. For example, you can set up triggers to activate follow-up sequences depending on predetermined events, behavior, dates, and so on.
Sort leads by priority and deal stage. Such an approach helps you understand the quality of your opportunities at each stage and allocate your efforts accordingly.
Brian Hicks highlights that categorizing leads by priority not only improves sales team focus but also aligns them with a BDR team:
We use the ‘priority’ category as well as specific deal stages that tell us the quality of the deals. If the conversation goes extremely well, the prospect is a great fit, they have a defined timeline, you are speaking to the decision maker, and their budget is aligned, then you can mark this deal as high priority. So when you look at your pipeline you can see the prioritization in a glance so you know the level for every opportunity.
This also helps your BDRs know the potential of each appointment they are booking with the sales team. You can track all deals to see correlations between priority and closed won deals to ensure alignment.”
Belkins tip: Update records after each point of contact and always set a task and reminder for the next step.
How to categorize sales leads
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach or best way to organize sales leads, as it depends on each company’s processes. You can use multiple parameters to systematize and categorize your contacts and keep track of all interactions with them. Here are some general criteria you can customize according to your specific business needs.
To speed up lead qualification and empower personal touch in future communication, gather basic contact details:
Business email address
Optionally, you can also collect their phone number if you’re going to call them.
To effectively lead your prospects down the funnel, you need to know where they are at any given time — MQL, SQL, or opportunity. It’ll also help you forecast your sales by knowing the average conversion between stages and adjusting your activities if there is any decrease. Check out some average conversion rates in different industries:
To identify leads that have higher conversion probability and may require more attention, review each of them and assign them a score based on your qualification parameters. There are multiple lead-scoring approaches to inspire you, but we suggest you begin with the minimum:
Finally, you can sort and organize your leads by interaction history, like the date of first contact, current status, the next follow-up, and so on.
Belkins tip: Ensure that the contact information you store complies with relevant data-protection regulations and policies.
To sum it up
Choosing how to organize your sales leads is a matter of budget, convenience, and taste. To summarize, here are a few takeaways for your consideration:
Spreadsheets are free, the easiest to start with but hard to scale. CRM systems offer free plans for lead management but with limited functionality.
There’s no silver bullet: You need to figure out what lead management parameters you need.
Create criteria templates to use for all future lead lists.
Always update records after each interaction so as not to miss a single opportunity.
Want a regular flow of opportunities in your pipeline? Contact our team to get a well-structured lead management system that drives revenue.
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Senior Marketing Copywriter at Belkins
Yevheniia has been a professional copywriter since 2014. Her vast experience in writing for marketing, e-commerce, fin-tech, and pharmaceutical businesses in B2B and B2C enables her to craft resonating content of any complexity.
VP of Sales at Belkins
Brian is a recognized professional with 15 years of experience in relationship-based sales and management. He built teams and implemented sales processes in startups and Fortune 500 companies across numerous industries.
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