If you're an inbound marketer, you know about lead nurturing. That's what you do to turn more raw leads into qualified sales leads, and ultimately into customers. In B2B, however, it's not that simple. Clever content marketing, drip email or personalization are rarely sufficient to close the deal. That's why we will always need a sales team to carry the ball across the goal line, but sales reps need to nurture their prospects, too. Here are a few tried-and-true ways.
Don't wait for a prospect to get back to you with meeting times or responses to your questions. Control the dialogue and the timing. When you get that first notification a lead is ready (by direct form request or marketing automation), call him right away. If he can't talk now, set up a meeting for later in the day or early tomorrow. You need to strike while the idea of contacting you is still fresh in his mind. During that first meeting, your mission is to build rapport and trust through conversation. That should help you to understand his needs and qualify him at the same time.
You have to assume your prospect will be talking to other sales reps, and she is likely to hear a similar story to yours. Don't use a stock story. Instead, listen for opportunities to add value. Tell her something she doesn't already know—some insight into one or more of her pain points you have encountered and solved. If you have some time before the first call, do some in-depth research on her company, personnel moves and opportunities for increasing revenue or market share. Suggest some new ways she could attack the market or improve productivity. Now you're on your way to becoming a valuable asset, not another contestant in a beauty contest.
As soon as you can, bring your leaders and experts into the conversation. Your prospects will appreciate the interest and commitment you are showing, and your experts can add even more value to the conversation by directly addressing their needs. It's always a good idea to provide a "test drive," showing your prospective customers what it will be like to work with you and the level of professionalism and collaboration they can expect. This step also shows the size and depth of your capabilities, which may be an important differentiator in the evaluation process.
The converse of leveraging your team is also true. You want to meet the people who will be involved in evaluating your sale and managing the project once the deal is consumated. This is important because you will ultimately have to convince them you provide the best solution for their needs. If you rely on a single point of contact, you may find he or she does a relatively poor job with internal sales and fails to convince the decision makers. Ask for a broader audience early in the sales process. If you wait for a final review, you may find that the decision has already been made behind closed doors without your participation.
You could just send your prospects a standard quote or statement of work, but is that enough? Why not go the extra mile and provide something more valuable? Take the time to prepare a customized report that addresses their specific needs in depth and provides examples of your work with current customers. Not just testimonials, but real use cases in which you provide insights into what worked well and lessons learned. Your prospects will appreciate the time and effort you put into the report and the details that answer not only scope and price questions but also the "how" and "why" behind your strategies and processes.
B2B sales cycles can be long, running months or even years due to the level of investment, competitive environment and due diligence required in the decision making process. It can be frustrating at times for the sales rep trying to meet quotas and justify the time and manpower required for sales nurturing. Stay in touch with your prospects, not with terse emails requesting an update, but with additional ideas and relevant content that add value to the ongoing conversation. Mix up your nurturing with calls, voicemails, email and personalized content on your website. Pay attention to their activity on your website using tools like HubSpot's Signals that notify you instantly when a lead is engaging. Timing is everything in sales, so if you see an uptick in activity, why not give them a quick call to see if you can help. It's a balancing act between being overly aggressive and not responsive enough, but you should be able to gauge how proactive you can be from previous conversations and actions you have taken.
Your sales process will evolve over time, but it's important to take note of the approaches that win and those that consistently fail. By constantly updating your process with winning strategies and tactics, you can close more deals and gain a reputation for success that will generate even more sales.
Photo Credit: thetaxhaven
With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Plus.
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