Not involving Sales in lead nurturing workflows? Is it really a good idea?
During a recent conversation, the marketing manager of a software company related his personal experience in becoming a qualified prospect himself for a marketing technology firm. He had contacted the firm because he thought its solutions could be useful for promoting his software among his own clients and prospects. So he talked to a salesperson to obtain pricing information.
A little while later, he realized he was no longer receiving marketing e-mails from the firm (he had been "scratched from the nurturing program"). He immediately sent an e-mail to the salesperson asking to continue receiving the various marketing content that had fueled his interest in marketing technology issues. From that moment on, he began receiving a monthly phone call from the salesperson, who left the same voice message each time, "I was wondering whether you had any needs right now we could help you with." And the e-mails were now personalized with, each time, the salesperson introducing himself to ask for a telephone meeting to discuss his needs.
He concluded that this type of automation was the worst possible way to use a sales rep’s precious time: "Making phone calls to leads that used to be qualified, in hopes that, due to an improbable coincidence, they might have another new need, is an absolutely useless approach."
This story shows how much this type of automation can become unproductive. We should always pay careful attention to our experiences and project ourselves onto the buyer. That is where Marketing must stay vigilant and use insight by including the sales department in the lead nurturing workflow.
In our experience, the most useful lead nurturing programs always use several methods, across multiple communication channels, and involve both content-based communication (which is usually on Marketing’s initiative) and person-to-person communication (which is on the initiative of Sales).
In fact, recent research confirms the importance of including personal actions in the lead nurturing process. In its 2015 B-to-B Buying Study, SiriusDecisions observed that salespeople from the highest performing companies were involved in each step of the buying process and that interaction between Sales and potential buyers is particularly important from the very first steps of the buying cycle, especially the Consideration phase. Similarly, the IBM research study by the IBM Institute for Business Value shows that B2B buyers, even Milleniums, prefer having direct contact with sales reps during the Search for Solutions phase of their buying process.
There is no doubt that marketing content plays a determinant role in lead nurturing, but only as long as it promotes good old direct conversation. When you have a personal conversation with a buyer, you create an opportunity for dialogue that will anchor the arguments you establish through your content. In fact, a personal conversation offers three key advantages over content communication:
- It helps the salesperson establish a personal “connection” with the potential buyer that will be necessary to finalize the sale.
- It helps you even more precisely refine a potential buyer’s interest in your product or service and determine where the buyer is in the decision path.
- It helps you discover and explore the questions or issues that would not have been addressed by your content, and identify decisive points that will help speed the person’s progression in their buying process.
So, for a lead nurturing strategy to be effective, salespeople need to remember that conversations with a prospect are not all "closing conversations " but also conversations whose purpose is to sensitize and educate prospects on their strategic issues and thereby reinforce the favorable conditions for any sales collaboration: legitimacy and trust.