January 4

Lead Nurturing as trusted advisors with the Human Touch

Lead Nurturing

15  comments

In today’s commoditized business climate I think what sets companies apart with a complex sale is how well they build and cultivate relationships.

Over the years, I’ve observed a truth; and this truth will requires many sales people to reconsider how they think selling should be done.

The truth is, average sales people think they are most effective when they talk with someone WHEN they are ready to buy, but top performers seek to build relationships with the right people in the right companies BEFORE they’re ready to buy.

This is where marketing can have a profound impact by helping their sales team go beyond the lead.

Today’s prospects have a general lack of trust and they simply don’t want to be sold. They are weary of pitches, hype, pushy sales people and manipulative marketing tactics. They are time constrained and too busy to think or strategize. So what do they do with most sales and marketing messages? They simply ignore them.

For this reason, I think it’s critical to contact and have initial conversations with our future customers that are devoid of sales pitches.  Quite literally when we begin a conversation with them, their attitudes and beliefs are being shaped, primed by the information they have already soaked up through various sources. 

Be a resource to them regardless of their timing to buy. Otherwise, they are likely to get information from the internet or uninformed colleagues, trade publications or heaven forbid your competitors. In other words, we need to move from lead generation campaigns to conversations.

Sellers can make the biggest impact early on in the buying process, or before it happens by developing relationships with potential clients and becoming a trusted advisor. The best way to do this is by starting with what we call the “human touch.” A personal phone call to the right person that is free of sales hype is the best way to build relationships that lead to positive sales results.

Relationship building with prospects is part of the overall lead nurturing process.

The goal of lead nurturing is to maintain a relevant and consistent dialog with viable leads – regardless of their timing to buy – until they are sales ready. A key aspect of lead nurturing is the ability to provide valuable education and information to prospects up front. In this way you will be able to position yourself as a trusted advisor and perhaps even a thought leader.

I was honored to speak at the Jill Konrath’s Sales Shebang. Jill posted a summary of what I shared on the Selling to Big Companies blog. It includes specific tips on how you can leverage thought leadership to win more sales with lead nurturing.

Read: Leverage Thought Leadership to Win More Sales (with Nurturing)

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing. He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Great post on lead nurturing. For mature or developed markets, or even products that require a high level of time/energy expense for success, your points ring true. The emerging sector or new industries that pop up could heed your advice in a slightly different way.

    As I mentioned in my post on Coaching Sales Champions
    (http://karlgoldfield.blogspot.com/2008/01/training-part-3-lead-generation.html), the initial connect when developing leads should never involve a pitch. It should involve helping a prospect learn something, and in reverse learning something about your prospect. In line with what you have suggested it helps you develop a relationship that is more likely to return future dividends.

  2. Happy New Year Brian!
    Totally agree about engaging BEFORE clients are ready to buy. The challenge for so many companies is getting appropriate measurements in place so that the investments associated with the nurturing (which may take 18 months to come to fruition) are not seen as wasted costs. I’ve tended to focus on the ratios of responses to sales ready leads, and from sales-ready leads to wins, but it’s a constant challenge given the short term focus of quarterly/monthly sales quotas. Any tips?

  3. Happy New year!

    Great post. Your point on relationships and the building of those with prospects could not come at a better time. For those of us that find ourselves managing both the marketing and the sales departments it has become as much an issue of managing the sales teams and their process of engagement with prospects as it has the marketing teams and their methods of generating and nurturing leads.

    Your top performers will (or should) absolutely get the relationship aspect of their sales process and understand that they have responsibility for nurturing leads just as the marketing department does. One of the challenges many companies face is identifying a way to track each interaction and build processes to engage those leads BOTH with marketing communications and with their sales resources. To optimize this you should strive to have a culture within your company of “team work” between the sales and the marketing teams. You may also want to entertain the idea of identifying a marketing technology to assist your company in tracking and analyzing of each interaction.

    With an economic downturn and potential recession all but eminent it’s important to get the most from BOTH your marketing and sales resources. One thing that I advocate is to really begin to look at your customers and prospects behavior, whom is involved, their role in the buying process (make sure you have a solid understanding of what this is!), and how best to communicate with them. Make sure you know how your best and most recent customers went from lead to closed deal! This speaks to the kind of content you leverage throughout the buying process and tailoring that content to fit the individual you are communicating with (don’t send a technical whitepaper offer to someone that is not technical, or use a proof point piece early in the buying process).

    We all probably use many of the same marketing tactics but its the timing and integration of those tactics and content, how you use information on your prospects profile AND behavior, and the synergy between sales and marketing communications that can make a world of difference.

  4. One sure way to ensure you don’t ‘sell’ too early in the communication cycle is to lead with one or more purely educational or helpful emails that contain links, that aren’t even to your content. Seeding an outbound email with one more such links (it could be a link to this blog for example), is a great way to offer value AND with the help of these cool marketing automation, cookie dropping tools that are available you can be alerted when your prospects are engaging with you, what they are interested in, and what they are most concerned with.

    It’s something a lot of us do every day but baking this concept into marketing automation would help even the most over zealous sales person carry a ‘soft sell, customer centric’ appearance. Make a list of valuable third-party links that your prospects would appreciate and then integrate them into your outbound emails. It’s fun and is a great way to build relationships.

    Keep up the great content Brian!

  5. Your comment about being a resource to the buyer regardless of their timing to buy is exactly why I started a Blog for my Real Estate website. I use a lot of your methods for the Complex Sale in Real Estate as buying a home is in fact a complex sale and almost every single point you make can be directly applied to real estate. I would highly recommend that you create a real estate version of your Lead Generation book. There is a huge market for it. It’s already mandatory reading for my Realtors. Thank you! -Josh Harley

  6. I could not agree with you more Brian. So many companies do not have the customers in mind when trying to build rapport with them. They wait until the customer is face to face (or on the phone) and they try to sell, sell, sell. Conversing with the customer BEFORE they are ready to buy shows the customer you are not only there for the money. This is useful information, I am sure you submit a lot of articles. I have found that Artemis Pro is helpful when I need to submit my articles. Check it out. Thanks for your enlightening information.

  7. Hi

    Great post. Lots of really good info that really makes sense to me, but I have to say that as a relatively new marketer, I’m feeling confused too.

    I often read another blog by a very successful internet marketer, James Brausch. He often suggests that it is wiser to not waste time on people who haven’t spent any money with you yet and to focus on those who have. Prospects haven’t had any positive input into your company, so any time on them is a drain. He also stated recently that his stats from his business indicate that it is 12x easier (in his business) to sell to current customers than non-customers.

    I can see his point too.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  8. Brian

    I enjoyed reading your post and the bits that stick out for me are…

    ‘Today’s prospects have a general lack of trust and they simply don’t want to be sold. They are weary of pitches, hype, pushy sales people and manipulative marketing tactics.’

    ‘Sellers can make the biggest impact early on in the buying process, or before it happens by developing relationships with potential clients and becoming a trusted advisor.’

    I really do believe sales people whose only talent is to pitch their product / service have had their day. They are walking talking brochures and add no value. Therefore, I also believe that sellers have to help the customer to buy… they have to help the customer to sell internally… not the product or service, but the reason why the customer needs the product or service. I call this the Business Imperative and sellers can develop fantastic relationships by helping their customer formulate their business imperative. I see this happening towards the end of the Lead Nurturing Process and definitely before they buy. It helps turn the lead into an opportunity.

    Get your sellers to work on the Business Imperative and you start turning them from the walking talking brochure into trusted advisors… and they start enjoying selling again!

  9. what about the idea of just being completely honest with the prospect, “hey, I’m ABC. This is a sales call, did I catch you at a bad time? Yes, ok, could I call you later today or later this week? …we have XYZ that does 123…do you have issues with that? “

  10. Brian,

    You are SO right on the money about “prospects have a general lack of trust and they simply don’t want to be sold”. Whether more widespread Internet adoption has made people more cynical or it’s the fallout from corporate earnings scandals, bubble bursting, real estate market downturn, etc., selling today is quite different than 10 years ago.

    It’s important to build relationships with prospects VERY early on in the sales cycle to plant the seeds for later top-of-mindshare. This is really a great post you’ve put together on the value of B2B lead nurturing.

    I wish more people understood that selling is a process, not an event. And the sooner you bond with your prospects, the easier and more effective that process is.

  11. Great Post. I really agree with your comments on lead nuture. I’ve found that creating email programs to automatically follow-up on leads can be a great way to nuture them along. Some of these programs are as simple as a timed series of emails to everyone who registered for an offer. Some of them are more complex with multiple emails for each market segment and offers that try to move them through the buying cycle. Either way, the goal is to continue to touch the prospect with valuable content until they are ready to buy. And since you’re using email, the costs can be very low.

  12. and still, e-mail nurturing works 😉 my opening and response rates are high, but the thing is to be as personal as possible.

  13. Excellent point & topic. Pre-need advisory dialog is key to nurturing a trusted relationship with any prospect and will work wonders toward the ultimate capture of new business. Keep up this great blog!

  14. Very nice post, selling was quite difficult but your book made it easier a lot. thanks.

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