Leads are our business – and if you’re anything like us, the B2B marketplace is central to your company and leads probably mean a great deal to you too.
The traditional plan with a lead is to strike while the iron is hot, so as a salesperson, when you get hold of a hot lead you give the prospect a call, hit them with your best pitch and bingo – a sale.
At least that’s the idea – but of course as we all know it doesn’t always go that way – not every lead turns into a big sale – some are just inevitable dead ends. At least you tried though, right?
So what do you do now? Screw up that post-it note with the customer details and resign it to the recycling bin of course. What’s the worry about wasting a post-it? But what about the time and money you spent generating that lead? Is that so easy to toss away?
‘But there’s nothing I can do’ you say ‘not everyone wants to buy!‘ In reality however this just isn’t accurate. The fact is that not everyone wants to buy straight away.
The vast majority of leads are buyers, and if they’re not buying from you, that sale is going go to a competitor. Maybe not today, or in a month even, but eventually the customer you just discarded is going to be ready to buy.
But that lead, and the money and time spent acquiring it doesn’t have to go to waste. By adopting a lead nurturing process and principles, you can learn to convert more inquiries into qualified leads and qualified leads into sales.
‘Hey,’ you say, ‘I’m already doing this, I call people back a month or so later and try again.’
However there is more to lead nurturing than simply calling up a prospect every couple of months to see if they’re ready to buy yet. The aim of lead nurturing is to create a meaningful dialogue with prospects irrelevant of their position in the buying cycle.
Basically this is about building relationships, building trust and getting to the point where your prospective clients know you and your company and what you do.
This will take time and above all you need to realise that the extra effort it may take is an advantage and an opportunity. It may be tough to look at it that way in a target driven business where sales people have an immediate need to meet numbers and quotas. But you can use this as an opportunity to build trust , show that you are an expert in your field and demonstrate your understanding of the client’s needs. Do this and it will show dividends.
This is where leads nurturing crosses over between sales and marketing. So these two departments are usually a little more distinct and your salespeople may find themselves a little out of their comfort zone with brand building and the like but ultimately, with a little effort and a slight adjustment in work methods, they will be able to see results.
OK, so what’s the best way to go about it?
Don’t just pitch to the customer, over and over
During this period, or ‘buying cycle’, offer insights and solutions and consider what might be going through the customer’s mind and what their concerns may be. They’ll want to know how you can help. Especially if they feel that their business is doing OK at the moment whatever it is you have to offer may seem a risk they don’t feel the need to take.
Highlight the advantages of your product
Maybe their initial enquiry was made because they want to learn more about your product, but are not yet confident enough in their knowledge to make a definitive buying decision. Well then this is chance to educate them. You have the expert knowledge they need and distilling this to them at their pace is what they want.
Know your prices and competition
You need to know your marketplace and your competition. What is it they do and why are you better? Honesty is central to the above points, as with all relationships. You know that your competition has certain advantages but also disadvantages and you know the costs involved with your product and the realistic returns it can offer. Being upfront about all these will build trust and your customer wants above all to buy from someone they trust, someone they can rely on and someone who can help if there are problems.
Get permission to stay in touch
An effective lead nurturing process may take 3 – 4 months but if you focus on providing content and data of value to the customer you will keep them engaged and you can build a strong brand relationship long before they are ready to buy.
The first step in the process is to get permission to stay in touch and may even mean softening the initial pitch so that you can contact them again in a few weeks. Gradually you will be able to educate them over a period of time whilst watching out for signs of the buying cycle.
Make use of your existing marketing material but make it personal
Take a look at your existing marketing content and re-work it so it’s relevant to your customer if necessary. Lead nurturing is a really content focused approach to sales and marketing. So if your company engages in any of the following activities, don’t be afraid to use them!
If your company produces a regular newsletter, send it through to them or encourage them to sign up to your mailing list. Let them know when the blog gets updated, especially if you feel the information is going to be relevant to them. Perhaps one of your other customers (in a similar line of work) has had a particularly good month you’d like to share!
And most of all remember to keep everything personalised -mass mailings at the wrong time can undo all the hard worked you’ve put in to develop trust.
Keep the campaign structured and pace it well
Unfortunately there’s no exact time-scale or programme for nurturing leads – you’ll have to experiment and gauge your customer’s responses, after all not everyone is the same -accepting this is fundamental to the nurturing process.
You might not end up with the same roadmap for each customer but as long as you keep track of their development each roadmap and campaign will feed into others. Keeping track of them will help you learn and manage the process more efficiently in the future.
If people are responsive – you can move faster -if not, then slow down! Buyers want to engage at their own pace and allowing them to do so, pressure free, will assist with the growth of the relationship.
Take heart that there’s even some evidence that nurturing leads results in happier, more informed customers who are willing to spend more cash!
Inspire the lead to buy! Failing to do so will not stop them buying, but it may stop them buying from you.