Nurture Your Leads for Successful Outcomes

All sales professionals want an impressive amount of leads in their pipeline. Why? Because more leads in your pipeline means more sales, correct? Not necessarily.

While building up a sales pipeline is a common goal among sales professionals, it's not always the most effective way to sell. The focus must be on quality rather than quantity, which extends past the quality of the leads in one's pipeline to the quality of the interactions one has with those leads.

Using expertise to interact with leads

To establish leads that are willing to buy a product or service, sales managers and representatives must follow certain prospecting activities that make the process easier.

Prior to assuming he has identified the ideal potential customer, a sales professional must have a clear definition of who that person or organization is. To find the right prospects, research is the number one priority. If a sales meeting or call is executed without knowledge of the business, its industry, possible pain points, and the reason help is needed, it will be extremely unsuccessful and most likely lead to a lost prospect. With that said, here are a few best practices to keep in mind when managing and interacting with leads.

Understand expectations. Not all leads will be a proper fit. For example, not everyone who visits your Web site is a potential customer. To your advantage, you may have a general idea about the kind of people who eventually end up buying based on your interactions with past or current customers. Someone who engages with content on your Web site, perhaps by downloading a whitepaper or signing up for your newsletter, is more likely to buy than a visitor who skims through it once. Thus, an online presence allows you to track specific parameters and seek leads that exhibit a genuine interest and need for your product.

It is especially important to note if the contact is from a company that has a use for the product being sold. Also, it is telling if the contact serves as a decision maker within an organization. These hot buttons help illustrate whether or not a sale should be pursued.

Segment leads for targeted marketing. Based on the data gathered, leads can be grouped into different segments surrounding purchase behavior or perceived requirements. Some may be in a hurry to close, while others are more cautious and in need of ample follow-up information. Segmenting leads allows you to appropriately tailor marketing messages to contacts to show how their needs can be met.

Add a human touch. Even when the right leads have been identified, many might still be hesitant to buy. Conversations must continue to nurture prospects toward readiness. By staying in tune with an organization's needs along the way, a fitting and flexible approach can be adapted accordingly to offer prospects a personalized experience.

Track to attain. Sales professionals may not realize it, but the most important step in prospecting is tracking. It's essential to track everything from the most minuscule detail about a lead to their real preferences and big problems. The better leads are understood, the higher the likelihood of converting them into paying customers. Each time sales representatives interact with a lead, something new is learned. By tracking these items of note, one can carry the discussion forward with ease while avoiding duplicated efforts.

Remember maintenance. Once appropriate leads have been identified, segmented, and nurtured, with the complete process tracked, the prospecting process is nearly complete. To ensure these leads do not go away, one must employ consistent follow-ups to keep them engaged and interested in the product or service at hand. While it is easy to think the bulk of the work has been done, this remains the most integral stage of the prospecting process.

Without quality lead nurturing, companies risk stagnant sales and potential failure. While finding the right prospects is essential, sales professionals must also know how to efficiently and effectively maintain and convert the leads they acquire.

Bill Johnson is president and CEO of Salesvue, a provider of prospecting automation software since 2006.

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