7 Steps to Mastering Lead Nurturing
Until recently, salespeople could generate sales leads on their own, lead and even control their prospects through the entire sales process. Salespeople were involved early in the customers research and diagnosis process because the salesperson possessed one thing the customer needed but didn’t have, information. The salesperson could use that information as leverage with the customer to influence the whole sales process. Unfortunately times have changed.
Today’s buyer is ultra informed, ultra educated and ultra empowered. Your buyers can better self-diagnose their problems and symptoms through the web, and access online demos, proof points, opinions, and case studies to help evaluate solutions and guide their buying and decision-making process. Today’s empowered buyer acquires information about you, your company (and your competitors) online through their friends, peers and colleagues from your web site, Twitter, Facebook & Linkedin page. As for understanding the services you offer, they can get all of that information right off of your web site. There is no need for you to educate today’s empowered buyer on your company, what you do and your service offerings. But most IT staffing sales professionals have failed to recognize this and as a result there is a major disconnect between how salespeople engage and nurture their prospects and how prospects want and expect to be engaged (by salespeople).
To acquire new customers and open new accounts in today’s competitive marketplace you must have a strong lead nurturing and account acquisition campaign. Lead nurturing is the process of engaging your prospects with highly valuable and information relevant to the buyers persona and the stage of the buyer’s journey while positioning you and your company as the authoritative leader and smartest and safest choice for them to achieve their goals. Your lead nurturing campaign is much more than simply sending an email blast or doing a monthly newsletter. When executed properly, lead nurturing is done with specific intent and follows a clearly defined process with the goal of advancing each sales lead or prospect down the funnel and converting them to a paying customer. Research conducted by Forrester has shown that companies see on average a 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads vs non-nurtured sales leads. Furthermore, the research also reveals that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost.
7 Steps to Mastering Lead Nurturing
The Focus of You Lead Nurturing Campaign
Rule number one with lead nurturing, Do NOT make the goal or focus of your campaign getting a meeting or getting a job order. If you make your own personal, self-serving agenda the goal and focus of your lead nurturing campaign your prospects will see right through it from a mile away and tune you out. Second, leave out all of your company marketing collateral except for your customer case studies and value propositions. Promoting your company and service offerings to today’s empowered buyers is not going to convert them paying customers.
Top performers deploy a lead nurturing strategy that delivers content that helps their prospects progress through the buyer’s journey by addressing common questions and concerns. Examine the illustration below to understand how to align your messaging and content with the buyer’s journey.
Position Yourself as an Authoritative (Thought) Leader
A study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board shows show that buyers are now at least 57% of the way through their research and buying process before they ever even engage a salesperson. What this means for IT staffing sales professionals is you have to position yourself as an authoritative thought leader so that your prospects seek you out. You need to create demand for yourself and your offering so that your prospects will seek you out BEFORE they have the actual need. To avoid being perceived as a trivial, commodity supplier and position yourself as an authoritative expert you will need to take the following steps.
Educate & Teach Your Prospects, Don’t Pitch
People love to buy but they despise being pitched to or feeling like they’re being sold something. It is imperative that you make your prospect the focal point of your lead nurturing campaign and not you or your service offerings. This means no pitching or bombarding prospects with unsolicited candidate resumes, company brochures or company swag such as T-shirts, pens and coffee cups. Instead, focus on educating your prospects with information that is of high relevance and value. You accomplish this by sharing relevant blog posts, eBooks, white papers, industry or analyst reports. You can also invite them to workshops, seminars, webinars and other relevant events. By making your prospect the focal point of your lead nurturing campaign and educating them on topics that will help them achieve their goals you position yourself as an authoritative leader and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Incorporate Trigger Events into Your Lead Nurturing Campaign
Like a lot of things in life, sales is about timing. If you called a prospect right after they signed a deal with one of your competitors do you think they would have much appetite for your offerings? Probably not. One of the most common challenges salespeople face with lead nurturing is knowing what to talk about with their prospects when conducting lead nurturing follow up calls and sending emails. Referencing trigger events provides an easy way for you to bring and discuss topics that are of high value and relevance to your prospects. Just as importantly they give you something to discuss with your prospects without feeling like you have to pitch them or talk about your service offerings.
For example, you might say (or reference in an email), “Mr. customer I recently read in the Boston Globe that you are relocating your IT department to Boston. We’ve assisted other clients with transitions like this. What are you finding most challenging about making this transition?”
Learn to Speak Like a Thought Leader
To get started with speaking like a thought leader consider the statements below and how you might go about completing each statement. Not sure how to finish each statement? That is your next training activity. Go figure it out because if you don’t your competition will which means they’re now better than you:
- “Mr prospect, one of the trends we’re seeing in the/your market is <insert trend>”
- “Ms. prospect, many of our customers are sharing with us <state what your other like-minded customers sharing with you that your prospect would find of interest>”
- “Ms. prospect, what we have found when working with our customers on <insert technology/project type> is…”
- “Mr. prospect, one of the trends and best practices we see gaining traction in the market is <insert best practice or trend>”
You will need to learn to incorporate this level of messaging into both your verbal and your non verbal communications such as email, voice mail, text messaging, etc.
Multi-Touch Lead Nurturing
Research shows that 80% of sales don’t happen until between the 7th and 12 interaction between the salesperson and the prospect yet only 10% of salespeople contact a prospect more than three times before giving up. Research from the Marketing Lead Management Report indicates that on average, prospects receive ten marketing touches from the time they enter the top of funnel until they’re a closed won customer. Interestingly, another research study from Demand Gen shows that 49% of marketers only include five touches or less in their lead nurturing programs. The takeaway here is your lead nurturing campaign should include at least twelve touches. If your lead nurturing campaign only calls for a few touches per prospect than it is probably time to revamp your lead nurturing efforts.
How to Improve Your Lead Nurturing Effectiveness
Sounds like a lot of work huh? It is but if you take the time to assemble the content, practice writing your lead nurturing emails and role play what it is you will say to speak like a thought leader including the ideas and insights you will share, you will no longer feel the anxiety or pressure that you currently feel when executing a lead nurturing activity. Why? Because you will know that you have put in the proper time and preparation which will boost your confidence. You will know that are ready and prepared for any conversation.
You can learn more about our methodology and training approach here but what is your lead nurturing strategy? What steps or training are you participating in to improve your lead nurturing effectiveness?
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.