To nurture or not…

The biggest prospecting/lead generation mistake I see made is failure to nurture new leads. Typically what happens is a company acquires a new lead through one of the usual routes such as a trade show or perhaps cold calling.

The new lead is interested and has spent some time and effort to learn about the solution, but they are not ready to buy now.

Typically what happens is that these leads are qualified to the point of determining that they are not ready to buy now, and then dropped from active management. This is understandable because everyone is focused on making the quarterly number.

Although it’s understandable, it’s also a huge waste and very short sighted. It’s a waste because even a casual review of completed sales cycles quickly reveals that the vast majority of sales take quarters’ to develop and close. If you drop them after the initial contact you effectively retard the process of getting them to know, like and trust you – an absolute prerequisite to them buying anything from you.

Initial contact leads get effectively dropped because there is no plan for them. People assume the sales person will file the lead away and recontact them periodically. Doubtful, for a variety of reasons. Also, 99.9% of all CRMs are not helpful in this regard.
Failing to manage initial contact leads that don’t qualify well is short sighted because sales cycles are long and you (the company) have already spend a bunch of money getting them to raise their hand and declare themselves an early stage lead.

The solution? A simple lead nurturing program. As simple as “touching” all leads coded as nurture status until they mature or die. Once per month you provide them with some relevant, helpful space related information. White papers, cases studies and the like. Better yet, invite them to a Webinar. No selling and no product specific information, unless they ask for it.

If you do it right, he’s what will happen.

month 1: initial contact lead produced (interested but not ready to buy)

month 2: touch

month 3: touch

month 4: touch

month 5: touch

month 6: They call you – sale on – convert and hand-off to field sales.

Yes, it’s an oversimplification. The point is that you need a way to stay with them until they are ready to buy. You need a way to help them cross the know, like and trust hurdle with you. You need to do this in a way that is not the old call from a sale person who says, some version of, “wanna buy my product now.” This only lowers your credibility with prospects.

In summary, feed them high quality, value added information about how to solve the problem you are focused on helping them solve with your solution (but no product information), until they are ready to engage in the sales process. Then kick it over to sales and let them do their stuff.

Tip: The hardest part of this equation is the value added content. Most companies have product information, but not much else, and that’s not helpful.

Tip: If you want to learn how to do the content thing well, read everything Kristin Zhivago has ever written, starting with this.

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