Lead Nurturing: Are you dropping out of the race too soon?
by M. H. (Mac) McIntosh
While salespeople race to close sales from the most promising and qualified short-term prospects that come from sales leads, nearly three-quarters of the leads that convert into sales are ignored. Why? Because salespeople are measured and paid for winning the race for short-term sales, usually causing them to focus on the easy sales opportunities while ignoring the longer-term leads. And because there is usually no process in place, the job of nurturing, managing and tracking those longer-term sales opportunities falls by the wayside.
This lack of a sales lead development process may be costing your organization big bucks in lost sales.
Whoa. Slow down. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?
Do you have the patience to move forward slowly and steadily for the sales in those longer-term leads?
Or have you, in essence, dropped out of the race to win these latter-day sales - turning away from the patient work that needs to be done to bring these leads to their selling points?
Industry experts estimate that only one-quarter of those who are going to buy do so in the first six months.
Yet, roughly another quarter buy within a 7-to-12-month period, another quarter buy within a 13-to-18-month period and the final quarter buy sometime after 18 months.
When all of the organization's concentration is on the immediate sales opportunities, those that will close within three months, you are leaving the remainder of those leads - three out of four sales opportunities - out there for your competition to win.
These valuable longer-term leads must be nurtured with a series of communication efforts designed to help move prospects along in their buying cycles. In other words, the philosophy for getting your share of those future sales is simple - stay in the race by staying in sight and in mind.
But the implementation of this philosophy requires sales or marketing to put this lead-nurturing responsibility into their job descriptions. Or it may require the development of a whole new department between sales and marketing - the lead development department - to get the job done. Either way, it's essential to your company's sales success.
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
When designing your lead-nurturing programs, these are the questions to ask:
- How do we best deliver messages to the people who will influence or make the final buying decisions?
- How do we stay with them as they move through their consideration and buying processes?
- How can we communicate in a way that addresses the prospects' issues and reduces the perceived risk of buying from your company?
- What can we offer that will cause the prospects to engage when they are ready to move forward with their buying processes?
- How can we automate this lead nurturing process so it continues to happen regardless of other priorities?
Here's how to engage prospects and start a sales-winning relationship with them.
Use a series of ongoing communications - by mail, email or phone - designed to keep pace with the prospects' information needs to make decisions about your kinds of products or services.
Be sure to include multiple offers that appeal to prospects at all stages of the buying process.
For example, if prospective customers are early in their buying processes, they will be more receptive to offers for free information in the form of how-to guides, white papers or email newsletters. As prospects move further along in their buying processes, appropriate offers may include those that require a higher level of interest or commitment on the part of the prospect. These include webinar invitations, demonstrations, checklists and other decision-making tools. As prospects approach being ready to buy, they will be more receptive to offers such as longer, in-depth seminars; needs assessments; or meeting with and getting a proposal or quotation from a salesperson.
Next, keep in touch with your prospects via a series of ongoing communications and offers throughout your prospective customers' consideration processes, until they are ready to engage with your salespeople.
I've found that, as an added benefit, sales revenue per customer is usually significantly higher for those who are included in the prospect relationship marketing program compared to those who are not.
Yes, we may have become bored with the notion of relationship marketing as just feel-good jargon. But the truth is, if you use well-crafted communications designed to keep in touch with and inform prospects as they move through their consideration and buying processes - not just focusing your company's efforts on the easy or short-term sales opportunities - you can pick up the three out of four sales that others are leaving on the table. And that makes you and your lead development programs winners.