Director, Content Marketing
Lead nurturing isn't unlike gardening in that they both take a gentle approach, frequent check-ins and a knack for gauging conditions and adjusting accordingly. One difference: There’s a lot less dirt in selling.
Here’s everything you need to know about nurturing leads — plus the three Ps that’ll help you grow a budding lead into a blossoming customer.
What is lead nurturing?
Lead nurturing is a sequence of strategic communications intended to usher prospective customers through the sales funnel. Here are the typical sales funnel stages that many sales and marketing organizations follow:
Lead nurturing occurs at every point in the sales funnel. Even before a potential customer submits a form or schedules an informational call or demo, salespeople should be involved in attracting leads at the awareness and lead generation stages. For example, a salesperson’s expertise is invaluable in creating a website FAQ page and brainstorming blog ideas. Since they speak directly with prospects, sales reps have a laundry list of common queries people want to know more about. The right content at the right time is key to lead nurturing, and it’s a topic we’ll explore more in a bit.
Nurturing is crucial to the interest and evaluation and desire and actions stages too — especially when customers must engage with a sales team and sign contracts for long-term partnerships or large corporate purchases. Because so much is at stake, it’s important to treat every prospective customer with great care, patience and attention to ultimately earn their trust and build rapport.
Ok, now on to the three Ps!
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Ideal customer profiles (ICP), and the process of “profiling,” is helpful to lead nurturing because it better prepares salespeople to nail the first outreach. Knowing the lead’s general interest level and segmenting the lead into a buyer persona box allows salespeople to customize their messaging and start the relationship on the right foot.
Soon after receiving a new lead, sales teams can profile that lead through a process called lead scoring. Depending on how much the lead has interacted with your company so far, salespeople score the lead on a scale of one to 100, typically dividing them into at least two buckets — sales qualified leads (SQLs) and marketing qualified leads (MQLs). The higher the score, the more qualified the lead is. For instance, someone who signs up for your demo and spends 30 minutes scrolling through your company’s services pages is more likely to convert than someone who just subscribes to your newsletter.
While higher scored leads are most worth your time, don’t completely discount leads with lower scores — they aren’t necessarily dead ends. Especially if you’re grasping to meet your sales quota, unqualified leads could be the boost you need to hit your target. Oftentimes, lower scored leads just need a little more time and nurturing to get them to the purchase stage, so don't give up on them just yet. Try a nurture email sequence with informative content that helps educate them about your solution.
Throughout any sales relationship, it’s essential that you make your lead feel special and always give them the time of day. While paying specific attention to each lead may require logging some calls after business hours and juggling various time zones, availability is key. Make sure you’re easy to get in touch with and that you give everyone your undivided attention. But no matter how well you listen during calls and how dutifully you read their emails, there’s no way to store your entire relationship in your brain; sometimes it’s hard enough to remember what you had for dinner last night.
Which is why diligent sales notes are key to adding a personal touch to every conversation. Whether you’re conducting a sales meeting with a client in person, over video or over the phone via a business phone system, let them know ahead of time that you’ll be taking notes. That way if they see you looking down or hear you typing on the keyboard, they won’t think you’re responding to emails during the call. An important part of sales notes is storing them somewhere convenient where you can access them quickly and always know what to say next for scheduled or out-of-the-blue calls alike. A customer relationship management tool (CRM) goes a long way in organizing sales notes, creating action items, and allowing for speedy recall of past interactions.
Personalization also extends to the types of content you share with leads. According to one survey, 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from companies. When they don’t see personalized content, 76% of respondents said it causes frustration. And frustration isn’t a solid cornerstone upon which to build a productive relationship. Relationships should be built upon respect, trust, timeliness and helpfulness.
A CRM system can also help you automate certain tedious tasks and assist with sending the right materials at the right time. Just remember that not every lead is going to hit the same milestones, which is why segmentation is key.
For the best results, it’s important to approach the lead nurturing process with patience. Pressuring a lead to decide will only stress them out and make them think you’re too pushy. Remember that sales nurturing is a sequence of touchpoints intended to strengthen your relationship over time. Ninety-six percent of your website visitors aren’t even in the market to buy, and depending on your industry, it could take months or even years to close a deal.
Also, if a lead starts ghosting you, that doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. Give them a little time and space to mull over your prior conversations. Check back periodically with nurturing emails to show that you haven’t forgotten about them and help keep your brand top-of-mind.
And if a lead does wilt beyond saving, don’t take it personally. Simply move them over to the nurture bucket and try again later. In the meantime, with a solid lead generation process, there will be plenty more potential customers in the pipeline.
The pay off
Not every seed will sprout — it’s a fact all gardeners and salespeople must accept. And some seeds are late bloomers. Remember that both plants and people move at their own pace, so let them breathe and grow on their own time.
Lead nurturing best practices involve being persistent but not pushy, prompt but not presumptive, patient but not passive. The balance can be tough to strike, but you already know that — you didn’t become a salesperson because it’s easy.
In short, our best lead nurturing advice is to listen well and make personal connections with every lead. Where trust buds, a fruitful relationship will follow.