If your goal is to truly excel in sales – be the best salesperson that you can be or put together the most effective sales team – you have to get to the heart of the craft. What drives sales? Why would people buy from you, and not from your competition? Why do they stay despite available alternatives?
The answer strips the science and art of sales down to its core: relationships.
A purchase is the start of a relationship. You woo leads and prospects into considering you, over your rivals. And, like most love affairs, a long-lasting, mutually beneficial business relationship relies on trust.
“The trust that a customer has in your company and in you strongly outweighs the techniques you use to sell. Establishing trust is better than any sales technique.” – Mike Puglia, Vice President of Marketing at TimeTrade, an American software company.
Trust goes a long way in sales. And, the best way to establish trust is through lead nurturing.
What Is Lead Nurturing?
Lead nurturing refers to developing relationships with your customer base, at all stages of the sales funnel. It is your handheld out, ready to assist, at any time that your lead or potential buyer requires help or more information. It is done through conscious communications and marketing efforts that speak to leads at different stages of the sales process. You provide answers when needed – verbally or in the form of content – as well as open venues for conversation.
According to Marketo, a provider of automated marketing services, 50% of leads are not yet ready to buy. Add to that, a study by MarketingSherpa found that around 80% of new leads don’t convert to sales. What can make a huge difference? Lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing is your way of being present in your prospect’s mind, without the negatives that have been associated with sales (pestering, unsolicited calls, etc).
Consider the numbers. Marketo found that companies that are able to effectively implement lead nurturing enjoy 50% more sales at around 33% less cost. Likewise, demand generation services company The Annuitas Group observed that nurtured leads are likely to make 47% larger purchases.
If you are not implementing any lead nurturing efforts yet, you should. The market is buyer-driven. Your sales and marketing strategies have to focus on developing and sustaining relationships with your buyers.
Why Should You Implement Lead Nurturing?
If the probability of increasing your sales revenue is not enough to convince you to implement lead nurturing, consider these other advantages:
Becoming a Thought Leader: Lead nurturing relies on establishing trust, and a great way to do this is to build up your reputation. Available content is not just there to answer your target market’s questions. It is also there to establish you as a thought leader. Helpful and relevant content communicates your expertise to your audience. When it’s time to buy, people will always turn to the experts that they trust.
Bridging Communication Gaps: A study by InsideSales.com says that 35% to 50% of sales are closed by those who respond fastest to customer queries. This is where lead nurturing content comes in. Once you have identified the common pain points and interests of your target audience, you can craft content that is responsive to these common concerns.
Being Consistent In Your Customer Communication and Engagement: According to a study by Genius.com, 66% of buyers are influenced by consistent communication and relevant engagements. Presence makes a world of difference in moving prospects down faster through your sales funnel, closing deals and maintaining business relationships. This could be through follow-ups or available content. What you end up doing through these is you nurture relationships at different stages of the funnel by simply being present.
Finding New Sales and Referral Opportunities: Nurturing your leads implies that your customers get to know you more. They become more knowledgeable about the range of your products and services. They also begin to trust you as an expert in these products and services.
This can open up up-sell and cross-sell opportunities for you. Likewise, your leads can decide to refer you to friends who may be more ready to buy.
How To Choose Leads For Lead Nurturing
If you’ve implemented a reliable lead generation process, then perhaps many of your leads are qualified. But, remember that not all leads are the same. They come in as leads at different stages of your sales funnel and at varying levels of readiness to buy.
How do you know which leads to focus on? Lead nurturing takes time and some investment in content marketing and sales automation. For it to be effective, you have to know your audience. Know exactly which leads are the best fit leads, and devote more of your time nurturing these.
The best way to get to your best leads is to develop a data-backed lead scoring strategy. In lead scoring, you rank leads according to their perceived value, based on their information, interests and actions.
Here are some points to consider:
Lead Fit: For lead fit, you look at perceptible characteristics of your prospects and see if they fit your ideal client profile.
The data you need here are easily accessible, such as demographics (job title, company, experience, etc.), firmographics (size, revenue, location, etc.), and BANT (budget, authority, need and time). Many of these can be searched online. Or, you can implement simple subscription forms for access to your gated online content.
Lead Interest: You can assess lead interest by the user’s actions online (and offline, if possible). For instance, time on your website or engaging with you through your social media communicate interest. Make a list of these actions, and assign a score for each.
Lead Behavior: Lead behavior takes interest to the next level. Your lead may be clicking on your blog links and reading your posts. Or, they may have accessed or downloaded gated content, such as product guides. Maybe they clicked on the link you sent via email or actually replied back to you with questions. As in lead interest, assign a score for each behavior.
Buying Stage: Your lead’s online behavior and actions can also tell you where they are in the sales funnel. For instance, reading blog posts puts them on top, at the early stages of the funnel. Signing up for demos or requesting for quotes places them closer towards the bottom. Assign higher lead scores for actions that indicate readiness to purchase.
Of course, this does not mean you should neglect the rest of your leads. A good lead nurturing system requires you to have content and follow-ups that move your prospects through the funnel and minimize leakage.
About the Author
Brooke Harper is a seasoned writer and sales consultant and has written hundreds of articles and white papers covering all aspects of B2B sales, phone marketing, and advanced sales strategy. Brooke is one of the top writers on Quora in B2B and her answers get over 100K views a month and growing.