Lead nurturing is the lifeblood of B2B companies, particularly of those involved in complex solution selling. Here lead generation alone does not result in sales, but an underlying process of lead nurturing wherein enquiries are converted into qualified leads and put the qualified leads on the trajectory to capture sales, is equally if not more critical to sustained success.
Lead Generation for the Complex Sale by Brian J. Carroll is a no-nonsense, practical guide that tackles perhaps the single biggest issue for enterprise marketing today – B2B lead generation. It covers the entire gamut of considerations from fundamentals of lead generation, lead generation tactics and lead development. While a more formal review of the book may follow later, we felt the chapter on lead nurturing merited a post of its own, considering how so many companies we are associated with are strongly focusing their efforts in this arena. Here’s what we learnt.
“Touch base” is not lead nurturing
Lead nurturing is about “keeping conversations going over time, building relationships and allowing the creation of interest in products and/or services while bringing the leads to sales-ready status”. In other words, it’s about cultivating and maintaining mind share, building and sustaining interest in what you have to offer, and “developing trusted relationships” with those who could do you the most good (the next sale being a good example!). This is where nurturing differs from lead generation, where you are more focused on finding opportunities that are relatively imminent. In nurturing, your aim is to “keep in touch with the proper people at an appropriate level and on a regular basis”. Clearly this is miles apart from calling every now and then to “touch base” and ask “are you ready to buy yet?”
Why is lead nurturing particularly apt for complex sales?
Patience and time are key facets of the complex sale and lead nurturing can help prospects truly understand your value proposition. Lead nurturing is “exceptionally effective in articulating your value proposition to maintain, in a subtle and consistent manner, a stream of relevant information that is important for the audience to know.”
By staying in touch and continually conveying your message in anticipation of the day when the prospect is ready to buy, you are well positioned above the rest to make the sale.
Maintaining this kind of contact and quality communication with a customer or prospect will “win that customer’s loyalty for life.”
What is lead nurturing worth?
As it turns out, quite a lot. Research indicates as many as 80% of leads are lost, ignored or discarded. And between 15-65% of these would have actually bought the product/service, intended to buy soon or sometime in the near future. It warrants therefore that such leads, though not “sales-ready” today can be nurtured sufficiently well enough to become so. Why would you want to lose them to your competitor?
Lead nurturing “stops viable leads from leaking out of your marketing funnel…widens your reach and recaptures opportunities that would have otherwise been missed.
And how well these leads are nurtured could decide the fate of companies involved in complex sales.
Lead nurturing as a trust-building exercise
When you pay special attention to understanding their needs and wants during the courting and buying process, it sets the tone for how customers can expect to be dealt with going forward.
Buyers inevitably make decisions based on emotion and then backfill with logic. Successful lead nurturing identifies the prospects’ needs and provides them with relevant, ongoing information that meets those needs with lead nurturing processes that build an emotional connection throughout the entire sale.
Lead nurturing can therefore cement the salesperson as a “trusted advisor” – and this in the B2B market can make it 69% more likely to end up in a sale, simply because complex sales demand from salespeople and the company:
And when you become this trusted advisor, you are likely to no longer compete on price or spend a lot of time selling, instead you would be winning more business on a sole-source basis, with more referrals coming your way.
Anticipating the “urmmms…”
Lead nurturing can help anticipate the fear, uncertainty and doubt that your customers typically face when making buying decisions on complex solutions. This can be expressed in questions like:
Responding to these and other questions in a timely manner can serve “as further reminder of how beneficial it would be to work with you.” It “inspires awareness that you are creating value by providing useful information.”
How to go about lead nurturing
The right lead nurturing program will have a defined process that incorporates multimodal tactics designed to move prospects from “awareness to interest to trial to action.” To reiterate, it’s not a single campaign with dates, times, targets and tactics. It’s a series of steps and communication tactics. The craft (i.e., the tactics employed) are fairly typical – events, e-mail, direct mail, online and phone calls. But the art lies in the mix, selection, timing, frequency and relevance – base this on what’s being sold and the specific market and prospect typical channel for acquiring information.
If a prospect, for example, is in the early stages of the buying process, it may be more receptive to information-rich tactics like how-to guides, white papers, brochures or newsletters…further along the buying process, a webinar, demonstration, or checklist may be more appropriate…ready to buy, there will be greater interest in meetings, needs assessments or proposals.
Now that you have sown well, it’s time to reap the efforts. A centralized leads database is crucial for “tracking each touch point and personal interaction in order to determine when leads are ready to be harvested.” It is equally important to have a staff person assigned the responsibility of ensuring prompt and effective administration of the hand-off process.
Be prepared for outstanding results
Where lead nurturing really shines is in its disciplined approach to “staying in touch with prospects while providing them with the “right” information as they move through the evaluation and buying process.” And when it works, the results can be stupendous!
Proper lead nurturing programs open and strengthen sales pipelines and shorten sales cycle…yield anywhere from 15 to 200 percent in additional qualified leads, and sales close gains are even higher.” One company calculated that nurtured prospects…bought 100-250 percent more than those that were not nurtured but still bought.
How do you run your lead nurturing programs? What results have they brought in? Chime in below!