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Why Sales Leaders Should Love Lead Nurturing

June 04, 2014 | By Jay Gaines

How an effective nurturing strategy can increase sales productivity

“While marketing is playing around coddling and nurturing prospects, my sales team still needs to close deals and hit quota. We don’t have time for these games and distractions.”

Ouch! Those were the first words out of the mouth of a very competent, experienced and successful chief sales officer (CSO) in a recent meeting I attended on the topic of lead nurturing.

Thankfully, the meeting ended better than it started with the CSO stating that she now believes “Lead nurturing is among the biggest levers I have to increase sales productivity.”

So, what happened in the span of one hour to completely change a seasoned CSO’s view of nurture? Three things:

  • We clarified that nurturing is not about coddling prospects; it’s about increasing sales productivity. Properly executed, lead nurturing provides a mechanism for managing timing in lead qualification and lead management processes. The fact is, at any given time, a relatively small portion of prospects who are being marketed to are ready to move forward and engage with a sales rep, and sales shouldn’t be burdened with the need to focus on prospects who aren’t ready.Presenting Marketing Value Through nurture, marketing can weed out passive responders and information gatherers from actively engaged prospective buyers.
  • We demonstrated the importance of lead nurturing in the qualification of new prospects. To do this, we showed – through data and examples – that the poorest-performing marketing functions are those that touch a prospect as little as once before sending the lead to a receiving function (e.g. teleprospecting, inside sales). Very quickly, teleprospecting becomes choked with unqualified leads, causing lead waste, dramatically increasing the time required to process output, and driving a wedge between one function that judges itself by quantity and another that judges itself by quality. Thus, marketers must work with sales to “gate” leads that are not ready for sales attention, and nurture these leads until they are ready.
  • We introduced the most valuable type of nurture – recycled lead nurturing, which included rerouting disqualified prospects back to teleprospecting, inside sales or marketing for inclusion in programs designed to periodically touch and potentially re-engage these prospects. Salespeople disqualify leads all the time, and while a number of these disqualifications are legitimate, many others (e.g. tried calling a few times, got no response and gave up) are not. The question is, what happens next? In many organizations, the answer is nothing, which means that incorrect disqualification will almost never be exposed, causing good leads to fall through the cracks. It also means that if a prospect simply wasn’t ready to buy in the salesperson’s timeframe, nascent opportunities are lost when they could have been nurtured and resubmitted at a later time.

Conventional wisdom says that it’s much more profitable to sell to current customers than new ones. We strongly believe that the same wisdom applies when interacting with prospects who have shown interest. By building specific processes designed simply to lose fewer leads than normal, organizations can spend less at the top of the waterfall and more at the middle and bottom where much greater leverage can be gained. In any economy, that’s a strategy that should be embraced by both marketing and sales.

Jay Gaines

Jay Gaines is Chief Marketing Officer and Research Fellow at SiriusDecisions. His experience includes team building and leadership, marketing strategy and planning, marketing budget and operations management, demand creation, sales and marketing alignment, business development, product development and management, interactive marketing/advertising, inbound marketing and social media. Follow Jay on Twitter @izjay.

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