Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why Sales Leaders Should Love Lead Nurturing

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:
  1. We clarified that nurturing is not about coddling prospects, it’s about increasing sales productivity. Ultimately, properly executed lead nurturing provides a mechanism for managing timing in lead qualification and lead management processes. The fact is that 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 these prospects. It is through nurture that marketing can weed out passive responders and information gatherers from actively engaged prospective buyers.
  2. We demonstrated the importance of lead nurturing in the qualification of new prospects. To do this we showed - through data and case examples - that the poorest performing marketing functions are those that touch a prospect as little as one time before sending it onto a receiving function (teleprospecting or inside sales tends to be the most common home). Very quickly, teleprospecting becomes choked with unqualified leads, causing lead waste, dramatically increasing the time required to process output and driving a fundamental wedge in between one function that is judging itself by quantity, the other 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.
  3. We introduced the most valuable type of nurture - recycled lead nurturing – which is the rerouting of disqualified prospects either 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 of the time, and while a number of these disqualifications are legitimate, many others aren’t (e.g. tried calling a few times, got no response and gave up). The question is what happens next? In many organizations, the answer is nothing, meaning 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 time frame, nascent opportunities will also be 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 it is new ones; we are strong believers that the same wisdom applies when interacting with prospects who have shown interest rather than always trying to find new ears to bend. By building specific processes 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.