The old saying goes… “In selling, timing is everything,” and in the B2B CMS world of Web 2.0, where the website has become an extension of sales, “…it’s always the right time to capture sales leads.” This post will focus on timing and the first three stages of the Lead-to-Sales process: Lead Identification, Lead Generation, and Qualifying Prospects.

In B2B sales, it all starts with the Website. We can say this with confidence because research shows that 75 percent of B2B buyers begin their search online; further, the advent of Web 2.0 moved websites beyond static pages and changed the way developers and users engage online in a more universal, standards based (non-centralized) way. This brings employees, customers and suppliers into a collaborative environment where information is shared, and organized using Web 2.0 technology.

The simple translation: The website is the “sales machine” whether your organization is using it that way or not.

Given this, best practices dictate that the B2B website be designed to accommodate the sales process. In short, that includes continuously capturing lead information, profiling visitors to better direct future follow-up, creating online resource centers (i.e. whitepapers and webinars) to engage and educate prospects, and finally invite visitors to engage in social media extensions both with the company and with key individual employees.

Fortunately the process to transform the website into a sales tool is not as daunting as it seems, and it all begins with the right tools that dictate how, what and when to communicate your message to advance the web visitor through the process of the sales cycle.

Not all website visitors will become customers, and fortunately, the effort to move them through the sales process has automated components that help generate responses leading to specific web landing pages. These responses are created using Email, Blogs, Links from other sites (via PPC or paid per click Ads and other links) plus moving visitors through the process while on the corporate site.

The trick is to integrate these efforts with your existing CRM technology. And as good as the CRM provider may be at customer relations management, marketing is another beast entirely, that requires a sales driven approach taking into account these automated components (above) created to drive visitors back to the landing page and through the sales process. A system designed to Capture, Score and Rout leads into the Sales (and CRM) process. This approach circumvents the convoluted workflow of the CRM system designed for an entirely different purpose, that provides the sales organization the competitive advantage of actionable leads that gets them engaged at the right time to move the prospect to the next stage in the selling process.

And while CRM technologies and their related web analytics are perfect for Webmasters and system analysts, they do not generate the Actionable lead data, at the critical time that a sales driven tool set can provide. Industry best practice today now dictates using data from high-level lead generation tools that map to CRM–rather than the reverse.

High-level lead capture automation includes a variety of lead capture vehicles including targeted landing pages, event registration, surveys, customized online forms, lead profiling and social publishing tools. All are working in concert to move the prospect through the process to qualified lead.

Advanced Lead Scoring improves the quality and flow of leads from marketing to the sales team. This is done using automated lead scoring modules that grade and then route leads based on not just simple demographics, but specific visitor behaviors (both overt and implied) build into a scoring model. The best automated modules can be customized for both web and CRM systems, and integrate directly with CRM by triggering events and rout leads back to marketing based on pre-set rules.

Lead generated responses ultimately provide web statistics, with sales analytics that not only track visitors and, monitor behavior, but ultimately identify what stage a visitor is in the sales process. More importantly, unlike traditional web CRM tools, these sales driven analytics determine the best time to engage the customer, and make the hand-off to the sales professional.

It’s critical to understand this is not analytics created for Webmasters, not a tool to sit back and look at the “pretty graphs.” These are Sales Tools created for the Sales Management and Staff, that ultimately gets them engaged with qualified leads using automation and analytics that fully optimize the sales professional’s time and bring results. When executed effectively, it creates a proven competitive advantage for the sales organization.