Opinion

Why your sales team need to know more about lead nurturing

The more your sales team know about the nurturing process, the more likely they are to convert the leads you handover to them, says Richard Hadler.

The year 2017 was one to remember. Trump took office. Theresa May signed Article 50. My own contribution was less historic but still memorable: I realised why salespeople need to understand the marketing nurturing process.

It was February, and I was in a barren sales period. Competition was getting tough, disruptive trends such as personalisation were on the rise, and GDPR was putting the whole sales and marketing funnel under pressure.

After having numerous conversations with marketing about needing a campaign that worked “right now” and them pushing back and saying if we do that “you won’t have anything that works 6 months from now” I decided to grit my teeth and work with our marketing team to understand more about our audience, our messaging, and how our target audience were nurtured down the funnel.

Suddenly, my eyes were open.

I saw the intricacies of what’s involved with marketing. Most importantly, the nurturing process; lead grading, lead scoring and personalisation. If I’d known this earlier, I wouldn’t have been so generic in my outreach, and I wouldn’t have been scampering around, searching for relevant pieces of collateral. And I definitely wouldn’t have wasted so many opportunities.

I’m not alone. At one of our B2B marketing round tables earlier this year one marketer reported a dramatically improved rate for closing deals by making lead scoring much simpler and showing the sales team exactly what actions a prospect had taken.

“We made the whole process more transparent and engaging… and the sales team have flown,” he said.

As a salesperson, how can knowledge of nurturing help you close more deals?

You can tailor your approach

Take the knowledge of the customer’s previous interaction, add in a creative, personalised approach (which I wrote about a few weeks ago), and closure rates will go up. I promise.

You can keep the tone of voice consistent

We know that in B2B sales the sales process can often be 60 per cent complete by the time the first salesperson gets involved. During that time, the prospect has been having a dialogue with your brand without your knowledge. The first contact with a salesperson should feel like a continuation of that dialogue, not a cold call.

You can fine‐tune lead grading and scoring

If you’re getting leads through the funnel that aren’t quite right or aren’t quite ready, you need to adjust your lead grading and lead scoring, and quickly. Sales teams: don’t grumble in the pub. Call a meeting. And when you turn up to the meeting have a load of data in hand so it can be a constructive discussion instead of a moan. 

Equally, marketers should not sit in the pub complaining that sales aren’t doing their job correctly. If their data shows inconsistent or deteriorating closure rates — and if they’ve set up their systems right, it should be able to give these insights — they need to show it to the head of sales so they can work out what’s going wrong (or maybe *who* is going wrong).

Once both teams have understood how each other works, a good way of cementing this co‐operation in place is with a service level agreement. This will specify both strategy and tactics for marketing, and the sales activities that will convert them. It should also clarify points of contact and actions if the plan starts going off track. 

HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018 dug deep into SLAs, and — pat yourself on the back — found they were more used in Europe than in other regions — although they were still used in only 30% of firms. They led to higher ROI, better leads, growing budgets… pretty much heaven for both sales and marketers.

And when is the best time to set up an SLA? January 1, of course. That gives you about two months to give sales the all‐important insight into nurturing and get the SLA drawn up. Do this, and you can make 2020 memorable for the right reasons.

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