In the B2B selling world, the higher the price the longer the sales cycle. Higher priced solutions typically require more research and more people involved in the decision. Elite B2B salespeople are adept at nurturing leads through the long sales cycle. This article describes 3 ways to nurture a qualified lead from initial contact through closing the deal.
Cherish your qualified prospects
Significant time and money are usually invested to identify qualified B2B sales leads. If the lead is truly qualified, that prospect may not be ready to buy right now but will probably be ready at some point in the next 2-3 years. Don’t discount or ignore that prospect just because the timing isn’t right. Put that prospect in your lead nurturing system (described below) to strengthen your connection until the time is better to make a sale
Elite B2B salespeople are disciplined about building and managing a database of qualified leads. Whether you use a CRM (customer relationship management) system like ACT or Salesforce, or use a less sophisticated method like an Excel spreadsheet and file folders, document qualified leads and create a system for nurturing those leads through the buying funnel.
Create a library of VBR’s (Valid Business Reasons)
Between voicemail and caller ID, it’s hard to make connections with prospects by phone. Additionally, no one wants to be pestered by “are you ready to buy yet” phone calls. Salespeople who do this become annoying and make themselves like every other pushy salesperson. To separate yourself from the competition and position yourself as a credible expert, you need to create an inventory of VBR’s (Valid Business Reasons) to connect with your prospects.
What VBR’s should you have? That depends on the needs of your prospects. The first thing to do is identify the problems your prospects have when they are seeking someone like you. If your firm is selling marketing services, the initial problem might be “what marketing should I be doing to increase sales?” If your firm is selling inventory management systems, the initial problem might be “how to I reduce inventory obsolescence?” Once you identify the main problems your prospects have, develop a library of reports, demos, articles, etc. that provide some guidance about how to solve that problem. This helps to address the first phase in the buying funnel – Awareness.
The next phase in the buying funnel is Consideration/Evaluation. What VBR’s should you have in this phase? Perhaps some industry reports about how firms have solved the problem using similar solutions that your firm provides. Also, case studies about how your firm has solved the problems are ideal. After all, once you’ve acknowledged the prospect’s problem and demonstrated industry knowledge and expertise, now you want the prospect to understand how to solve the problem and how your firm can be the ideal solutions provider.
A lead nurturing system
You’ve got your list of qualified prospects who will be ready to buy at some point in the near future. You also have a library of VBR’s that you can use to connect with your prospects throughout the buying funnel. Now you just need to have a system that delivers the VBR’s at the right time to the right prospects.
With a good CRM, you can set up and manage how frequently you nurture your prospects and how. Another emerging method growing in popularity is “marketing automation”. According to recent reports, about 90% of Fortune 500 companies use marketing automation for lead nurturing, but only about 30% of small-to-midsized firms.
Marketing automation can be thought of as simply a highly targeted email marketing program. Essentially you are distributing specific content (VBR’s) to specific prospects at a critical time in their buying process. In a recent study about marketing automation, some case studies reported the following
- PaperStyle.com used marketing automation to follow each bride through the various stages of wedding planning and offer relevant products to match their needs. They achieved a 330% increase in revenue per mailing.
- Online registration service Acteva began using marketing automation in order to improve the targeting behind its campaigns and gain a better ROI. They achieved $2 million in incremental revenue, a 350% marketing ROI and 100% annual growth in areas where marketing automation was implemented.
- McAfee increased lead conversion rate by 4 times. Marketing automation enabled McAfee to implement a lead scoring system and create a segmented nurturing program that gave prospects the right information at the right time in the buying process.
Whether you use a CRM tool or implement more sophisticated marketing automation technology, having a system that utilizes your library of VBR’s to connect to your qualified prospects with the right frequency at the right time, will make you stand out as an industry expert and put you in front of the line when your prospect is ready to buy.
Patience and a good lead nurturing system are critical to achieving great B2B sales results. This success depends on three important ingredients; 1) understanding your prospects’ typical problems, 2) building a library of VBR’s that educate your buyer through the various stages of the buying funnel, and 3) using a system to deliver the VBR’s at the right time to the right people.