Nurturing Leads & Prospects, whose job is it?

At any given point there are prospects that want to purchase your products or services. The challenge is timing. Being in the right place, with the right offer, at just the right time.  Unless you have incredible timing or are just plain lucky, chances are its going to take some time and multiple touches to take a lead/suspect/prospect from interest through to close. In fact, according to most statistics, it actually takes 7 – 21 touches before a B2B sales in made.

So if it takes an average of 15 touches, how do you build and nurture relationships with “prospects” who aren’t yet ready to buy? Whose job is it? Better yet, who should be responsible? Are marketing resources or sales reps the right resources to do nurturing in the B2B complex sale?

Its a common issue that many, if not most companies face.  Some say it’s Marketing’s job. Other will say it the job of sales. Generally speaking, it’s marketing’s job to generate opportunities and it’s sales job sell them. Or is it?

Marketing departments generate “leads” based on a variety of factors. In most cases, Marketing will pass on unfiltered  “leads” to sales from a variety of sources including client’s database (via specific data mining), list purchases, marketing and advertising efforts, and through Web sites visits.  The problem being, no one really evaluates the effectiveness of the lead sources. According to research from MarketingSherpa, 73% of all B2B leads are not sales-ready, 79% of marketing leads never convert to sales, and 50% of leads are never called twice.

“Leads” from Marketing are only part of the equation. Sales is also responsible for generating “leads” via their prospecting efforts. Most sales people utilize a variety of their own methods for generating “leads”, suspects, and prospects. Cold calls (face-to-face and phone calls), mail campaigns (email and direct mail), social media (aka Sales 2.0), and referrals are the majority of the prospecting avenues. In most cases, success rates adhere to the 10/30 rule; meaning out of 100 prospect calls, 10 will express interest with 3 (30%) eventually buying. Right Place, Right Time, Right Solution!

So what happens to the remaining 97 suspect/prospects you contacted? What happens if you are a prospecting machine and you contact 400 prospects? If you are a typical sales rep, you will call them again next quarter. Same result, not yet ready to buy. Next move on.

Not so fast cowboy! Are you into one night stands or courtships? Do you want to be positioned as a value added resource and trusted advisor? Are you a Sales Rock Star or just the lead singer in a garage sale band?

If you are in a high end, long decision process selling environment, and you want to be Sales Rock Star, your goal should be to keep those prospects engaged and informed until such time as they are ready to buy. Staying in touch with these “not ready” to buy  folks requires a systematic, consistent, and logical process. Moving them gently along the path to becoming a client is the secret of most Sales Rock Stars!

So how do they (you) go about it?

First of all they gain buy-in from the folks they contact to agree that it’s ok to stay in touch. Remember the average of 15 touches. Effective nurturing and “staying in touch” requires incorporating different content at different intervals. True Sales Rock Stars utilize a person touch, meaning personal notes, hand written and hand addressed. Because different people respond to different approaches it is important to vary the kinds and types of communications. Relevant industry and or other interesting articles, pertinent letters, an occasional email, postcards, handwritten notes, and yes, follow up phone calls. Its important to make sure that these communications are value add and not just some slick and fancy marketing piece that looks like a generic campaign. Above all, make sure to keep it simple. Short and consistent communication will keep you top of mind. When the time is right, these suspects/prospects will think of you and invite you to the conversation.

Bottom line, don’t rely in Marketing or anyone else to nurture your opportunities. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. They are buying from YOU! So it is your responsibility to cultivate, nurture, and establish the relationships. Use a nurturing process to distinguish YOU as a provider of value and YOU will create the relationships that result in increased sales over time.

Are YOU a Sales Rock Star? Do YOU nurture your leads and prospects? What’s YOUR process?

Please share your thought and comments.


Categories: Sales

2 replies

  1. Great post, Bruce, but I must disagree with your ulitmate recommendation. Lead nurturing is critical for companies with long, complex sales cycles, and the best lead nurturing programs involve both marketing and sales. However, I contend that marketing should be primarily responsible for lead nurturing. With the right technology tools, much of the lead nurturing process can be automated. That enables sales reps to spend most of their time with late-stage prospects who are ready to have a meaningful sales conversaion. Marketing should never pass “unfiltered” leads to sales. That creates the problems you described, and others. The goal of marketing should be to deliver sales-ready leads, and most leads will require nurturing before they become sales ready.

    • David, thanks for taking the time to share your comments and perspectives. I appreciate all input on this subject. Marketing automation software can and should take the lead for nurturing but sometimes in some organizations it become incumbent upon the sales folks to make it happen. I will be doing a post in the near future on Marketing Automation tools. If you would like to add any input or ideas please feel free to email me so that I can include them. Thank you again for your comments.

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