Wouldn’t it be great if all the prospects you reached out to just said yes? It would probably also be easier if some of them just said no. But the reality is never that black or white and for the majority of B2B sales you will have to deal with grey answers such as “well maybe, but I’d like more information” or “not at the moment”.
So how do you deal with these grey answers without wasting your time?
Sales or Marketing
Different organisations do lead nurturing differently according to what stage a lead enters the sales funnel. For example, a fresh new lead may need further nurturing before sales even get their hands on it. In this case, it is up to marketing to provide best-fit marketing material to further engage the lead.
However, this is not the case for those leads that have already been passed over from marketing to sales and who have been contacted by the sales team. In this case, the kind of nurturing required is different to say throwing a few emails at the lead. This is because, by speaking to the prospect either directly over the phone, in person or over email you have begun a relationship with the lead that will need to be maintained.
At this point you need to be honest with yourself; is the lead really worth your time and effort or have they just said "not at the moment" to get you off the phone? There is no point nurturing leads that will never convert, they need to be qualified out and feedback passed back to marketing.
Contacting the lead
In order to build and maintain the relationship between you and the lead, you will need to pick your communication channel carefully, blasting out messages via Twitter will not cut it with most leads.
There are four key channels to consider:
Phone: Use this to impart the human touch at the start of the relationship and to introduce yourself and your business. Use sparingly after that initial contact to follow up emails or other interactions. For purely catch up purposes aim for one phone conversation every 3 months.
Emails: Sending an email can come over to some people as impersonal and is over used by many companies. Emails are, however, good for keeping leads informed and trying to tempt them with offers.
Direct Mail: Direct mail has made something of a comeback in the last year as a way of delivering something to a prospect, lead or client, a bit special and eye-catching. Ideal for using at special times of the year, such as summer or Christmas for sending personalised gifts.
Social Media Direct Messages: Whether you connect with your clients via LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter all have the option of using personal messages. Sending one of these once a month asking after their business and particular projects (and not directly selling) works well as an informal method of contact.
One touch, two touch…
But how often should you contact the leads you want to nurture? It will all depend on the length of your sales cycles and whether you know where a lead is within that cycle. For example, emailing someone every week when they are not looking to renew a contract for 6 months is more likely to put someone off.
However, that is not to say that keeping them informed about offers and products on a monthly or bi-weekly basis is not a good idea providing it is done subtly.
Keeping in regular contact every month via social media or a personal email will keep you at the front of their mind and allow you to pick up on any buying noises. If there has been no other contact, a phone call every 3 months will let them know you are still there and interested in their business.
Remember that on average it takes between 5 – 12 touches with a lead to make a sale.
The break up
There comes a point in some relationships where you know you have to end it and it is the same with some leads. If you are getting no response after 5 -12 attempts it is best to call it a day, however, leave the door open and let them know what you are doing.
Often, the best way of doing so is to send an email explaining that you have tried to contact them with regards to your business and theirs working together however, things have just not worked out and then include a way of them contacting you in the future.
Nurturing sales leads is different from nurturing marketing leads and requires that human touch. How you do it will depend a lot on your sales cycles, your industry and how your clients typically communicate. However, planning it in advance will allow you to have the right materials in place, so that you can make it as easy as possible.
For more detail on how to maximise the effect of your sales pipeline, read our guide here: