Selling Has Always Been Like Dating

Sales people have perpetually related the sales process to dating. It begins with a longing or need for “something more.” That longing leads to a search to fulfill the hole. Where there’s no need, there’s no search.

On the first date, the couple checks each other out. They either “feel” a connection, or they don’t. When this emotional connection exists, logic has little to do with a decision to go on a second date. Unless…

If one person comes on too strong during the first date – talking just about himself or pushing hard for “some action” – it’s going to be a total turn-off. Most people are repelled by this kind of behavior.

And, yet, this is exactly what most companies do with their Marketing Automation campaigns.

They offer a white paper. The prospect downloads the white paper. And, right out of the gate the company bombards the unsuspecting person with sales literature and emails that proclaim their greatness and superiority.

That, dear reader, is NOT what we mean by Lead Nurturing.

Quality Nurturing Leads to 70% More Sales

Quality nurture will lead to a sale roughly 70% more often than no nurture. Quality nurture does this by:

  1. Building familiarity.
  2. Proving your organization to be truly expert at what they do.
  3. Showing that you can successfully solve the prospect’s problem.
  4. Providing proof that you can be relied upon to deliver results.
  5. Educating people to see and understand the issues more like an expert than an amateur.
  6. Showing that you are credible and worthy of trust.
  7. Assuring that you and your offer is top of mind and will be recalled when the time to buy is right.

When You Start Lead Nurturing

Lead nurture is what happens between the time a prospect signals “tell me more” and the time sales takes over from marketing and actively follows-up on the now “sales-ready” lead.

In the B2B market place where complex sales occur, the buying process usually involves more than one type of decision maker. These decision makers go through a buying process to go from “not interested” to buying.

Most sales organizations would prefer to get handed leads who are already at step 6 – “Manage Risk” of the buying process. This makes their job exceedingly easy, makes them into big stars, and makes you as the marketing team their heroes. The question every salesperson asks is “Is this the best use of my time to achieve quota and earn a commission”?

Nurture is what speeds a prospect along through the buying process from stage 1 to stage 7 and beyond. Sales people who only deal with leads at stage 6 & 7 will contribute far more revenue typically than those who engage at stage 1 & 2. Many and maybe most good salespeople barely know what to do with a stage 1-4 prospect.

Studies by Marketing Sherpa and Hubspot have shown that up to 80% of marketing expenditures on lead generation and content go to waste simply because the leads are handed off to the sales team too early. When sales don’t engage at the right point they struggle to close the lead. Soon they avoid everything marketing produces thinking the lead quality is bad when in fact the lead just hasn’t been nurtured far enough down the buying process.

Lead Nurturing is All About the Conversation

Lead nurturing is all about having a conversation with ideal prospects regardless of their timing to buy. It’s about giving every member of the buying committee what they need to move them along in the buying process in a way that builds familiarity, credibility, trust and confirms fit.

Other benefits are:

  • Less price pressure
  • Higher profits
  • Less competition
  • Shorter selling cycles
  • More referrals
  • Marketing and sales has a much higher ROI

Closing the Disconnect Between Sales and Marketing

“More leads” doesn’t necessarily equate to “more sales.” In fact, many unqualified, off-target leads can rapidly turn into a threat because they don’t turn into revenue quickly, and when they do they are often not particularly profitable. These volume leads can take too much sales resource to turn into revenue and can drive turnover in the sales team as sales people migrate to organization who’ll supply them with better leads.

A case in point: decades of research indicate longer-term leads, often ignored by salespeople, represent 70 – 80% of potential sales. Usually about 50% of all leads buy within a year while as few as 10% typically buy within 90 days of identifying themselves as prospects.

Seller Beware. If you currently are just passing leads to your sales people, reps, dealers or distributors for follow-up without adequate nurture, you are probably leaving as much as 75% of your revenue opportunity to your competitors.

Consider what goes through the mind of each member of a buying committee’s mind in a complex high value buying process:

  1. Status Quo: Is the status quo good enough or is there really hope that we can either do much better or get rid of this nagging business pain?
  2. Deciding to Decide: Just what is really possible; is this worth taking a risk?
  3. Finding Options: So it’s worth the risk, what are my options, who are the providers?
  4. Studying Options: How do I best gather facts and study all of these options?
  5. Evaluating Options: How do I best evaluate and select a worthwhile option?
  6. Manage Risk: How do I manage my risk of making a mistake?
  7. Decision: What tools are available to make a good, defensible decision?
  8. Consumption: How do we get the most out of what we have bought?

Lead nurturing allows you to both answer these questions and answer them on your prospects timeline. Nurture also allows you to educate the prospect and help them make a case to buy from you.

Keys to How it Works

Effective nurture usually is a series of content relevant to each stage in the buying process. Each piece of content is designed to help the prospect keep moving through the buying process by overcoming sticking points. Examples are:

White Papers Calculators Case Studies Special Reports
Videos Podcasts Webinars Workshops
Third party articles Emails Checklists Testimonials
Success Stories References< Third party analyst reports Personal Demonstration or Sample

Mediums can be almost anything that will effectively get the content into the prospect’s hands at the right time.

For example:

Direct Mail Email Phone call Fax
FedEx Package Postcard Video DVD

Timing is everything. Too fast and the prospect feels pushed. Too slow and you lose sufficient top of mind awareness to be called when the decision day arrives. The other big timing question is when to bring in the salesperson and at what stage in the buying process. Finally, how many steps are most appropriate in your nurture plan; some require just three steps while others have dozens.

You Win With Quality Nurturing

  • More leads – sometimes as much as 3X.
  • Higher close ratio – often double the old rate.
  • More revenue in the sales pipeline.
  • Shorter sales cycles.
  • Larger sales
  • Fewer losses to the most powerful competitor in any industry “No Decision, Inc.”
  • Far better word-of-mouth.

Almost any thoughtful nurture is better than none. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and see what you and by contrast your competitors offer to help the prospect work through the buying process. How easy is it to get and how effective is it. You may be surprised.