When a potential new customer expresses interest in your business, it's a reason to celebrate. Your marketing efforts and your sales outreach have earned someone's attention. You have a lead – someone who raised their hand and showed an interest in your business. However, rarely does an interested potential buyer convert on the spot. Instead, you must keep in touch with your lead through a process known as lead nurturing.
What is lead nurturing?
Lead nurturing is a process to engage people who have inquired about your business but aren't ready to buy. Nurturing a lead means asking qualifying questions, establishing a connection and keeping the conversation going with content and valuable information. Keeping your company top of mind means that when the lead is ready to buy, they will be comfortable going to you because you took the time to build trust and a relationship.
Why do you need a lead nurturing strategy?
In addition to creating a trusting relationship with your prospect, there are many additional reasons why you need a lead nurturing strategy. Nurturing leads can give you an edge over the competition because many sales reps give up on leads after just one attempted contact. You'll stand out from the crowd if you keep in touch with your leads over a series of emails and phone calls. Leads that are nurtured generate more business – a 20% increase in sales opportunities according to Salesforce. Finally, by nurturing leads you will learn the sales cycle of your business, or how long it takes a lead to become business for you, which will help you predict revenue and future sales.
There are many lead nurturing tactics that work, but which tactics work best? The following tactics are worth embracing.
1. Follow up fast.
While not all leads convert into a sale, research shows that a quick response to an inquiry dramatically increases your chance of closing new business. According to research by the Harvard Business Review, a salesperson who reaches out within the hour is seven times more likely to qualify a lead than a salesperson who waits longer than one hour. Even more compelling, a salesperson who reaches out within the hour is more than 60 times more likely to qualify a lead than a salesperson who waits 24 hours or longer.
Examine your current tools and process and collect data on how quickly you are following up with leads. Once you have a benchmark, make improvements such as starting email notifications upon receiving a lead, setting reminders on your calendar to contact leads, or dedicating staff to follow up on leads as soon as they call, email or inquire.
Only 26% of leads get a response within five minutes, and the average response time for leads is 42 hours. So, getting in touch quickly really gives you an edge over the competition.
2. Nail the message.
The most important things in sales are finding and closing the right customers. Once you have the right lead, you'll need to communicate the right message to earn trust, educate the lead about what you do, and create a preference for your product or service. In fact, the right message and a positive buying experience will get and keep the attention of your potential customer.
It's essential that you introduce yourself and your company when you connect with a lead, but you also want to tell the lead why they will want to work with you and what’s different about your company. It's helpful to keep your buyer in mind when you go through this information – think about what problems are keeping this lead up at night, what motivated them to inquire about your business and their timeline and process for purchasing. Crafting your message to meet the prospects' needs and to solve their pain points will help you strategically sell.
Additionally, you may want to offer proof points and share customer references and testimonials – then it's not just your word, it's your customers communicating the value of your product or service. What has your product or service done for past customers? Highlight these positive customer experiences and you will nail the message for future buyers.
Finally, it's easy to get attached to a clever email title or a creatively worded pitch. But be aware of attachment, as in sales, you can always improve. A/B testing, or comparing two messages side by side, can help you determine which value statement does a better job at keeping prospects on the phone, which subject lines get the best open rates, and which connection request message get you the most connections on LinkedIn. Determine an "A message" and a "B message," and an outcome, and keep track of results in an excel document or on a whiteboard. It's amazing what minor tweaks in wording can do to results – imagine a 50% improvement just by changing a few words around.
3. Be patient but persistent.
Lead nurturing is a process requiring many touchpoints across phone, email, social media, text message and other channels. Before you ever connect with a lead it may take several phone call attempts. Less than 5% of voicemails get returned, so it's critical to keep calling. Additionally, according to the 2019 Sales Development Benchmark Report, it can take 2-4 weeks before a prospect connects with you.
Taking advantage of social channels can boost the effectiveness of your persistent email and phone communications. Four in 10 sales professionals say they've added 2-5 touches via LinkedIn communication. Statistics suggest adding social channels increases effectiveness with a 28% higher rate of qualification than those who rely on phone and email alone.
4. Maintain empathy for your lead and respect their buyer's journey.
The best way to maintain empathy for your lead is to ask several questions along the buying process, such as these:
- What prompted you to get in touch?
- What's keeping you up at night?
- What's getting in the way of you achieving your objectives?
- What is your budget to handle this problem?
- What happens if you don’t solve this problem?
- What does success look like to you?
Understanding these thoughts, feelings and plans will help you relate to your prospective buyer. If you are writing an email to a lead instead of connecting with them on a call, keep these questions in mind: Why should they care? What's in it for them? So what? A well-timed, well-crafted email between phone calls can help you communicate with your prospect and honors the fact that people want to be communicated within different ways, with some buyers preferring information over email.
There are a few items to keep in mind as you architect the buyer journey. While persistence pays off, be respectful if someone declines your request to connect or gives you a revised timeline. Show integrity and do what you say you are going to do. For example, if you are going to follow up with information, send it. If you say you are going to bring your product specialist on a call, do it. Focus on building the relationship. Leave a positive comment on your prospect's blog post add value to your lead and it will come back around as people do business with those they know, like and trust.
In conclusion, when you nurture a lead, you are moving the process forward, without force. The tactics in this article will help guide your buyer as you wait for the right time to close the deal and add value to your prospective customer.