In a perfect world, every lead in the sales pipeline would be ready to buy and eager to attend a sales appointment. While a lead can agree to a sales appointment after the first point of contact, this is rarely ever the case.
Since we don’t live in a perfect world, there needs to be a process in place for sales reps to continuously build relationships with leads in the sales pipeline until they’re at the end of the sales cycle. This process is known as lead nurturing.
We have a lot of ground to cover throughout this blog. If you’re already aware of what lead nurturing is and why it’s important, feel free to skip to the good stuff—such as how to nurture leads and the best practices for nurturing leads in the sales pipeline.
We’ve made it easy for you. Click on the section below that aligns best with your interests:
What Is Lead Nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the process of building and sustaining relationships with leads in the sales pipeline. Since leads rarely agree to a sales appointment after the first point of contact, this lead generation tactic is essential for catching the right leads at the right time.
Benefits of Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing is a crucial component of building and sustaining a sales pipeline. Lead nurturing benefits include:
- Qualifying a sales prospect: As SDRs nurture leads in the sales pipeline, they have the opportunity to learn more about a prospect and their current B2B product or service solution. This allows them to further qualify the lead and provide value by encouraging them to set up a sales appointment with a member of your internal sales team.
- Providing top-of-mind awareness: Lead nurturing supports top-of-mind awareness. Even if an SDR hasn’t reached out to a lead for a while, implementing them into a lead nurturing email marketing campaign encourages them to check out your website, marketing collateral, or other relevant sales enablement assets.
- Prioritizing leads that are ready to buy: Every lead in the sales pipeline is in a different stage of the buyer’s journey. Lead nurturing allows your SDRs to reach out to the right leads at the right time. This ensures that they’re not following up with leads too frequently, or they’re not leaving hot leads in the dark.
You can’t have a successful lead nurturing program without an efficient prospecting strategy. Download our digital blueprint to creating an effective prospecting plan today!
Why Is a B2B Lead Nurturing Strategy Important?
A B2B lead nurturing strategy is an incredibly effective way to help leads reach the end of the buyer’s journey. However, very few companies know how to nurture leads in the sales pipeline.
According to Marketo, companies that nurture leads effectively generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. With a sustainable lead nurturing strategy in place, your SDRs have the opportunity to follow up with the right leads at the right time and boost the likelihood of your company closing a high-quality business deal.
Let’s set the scene. Let’s suggest that you’re an MSP looking for your next big client. If your sales rep cold calls or emails a prospect in the sales pipeline that is interested in ongoing IT services but their current contract isn’t up until Q4, would you rather have the SDR shoo them out of the sales pipeline or have them follow up when the timing makes more sense? We hope you would have them follow up and set the appointment when they’re closer to making a purchasing decision, right?
With lead nurturing, your SDR has the opportunity to continuously provide awareness and ensure that the lead doesn’t forget about your company in the meantime. While they may not be ready to schedule a sales appointment quite yet, your SDRs can implement them into an email marketing automation campaign so they can routinely receive relevant sales enablement assets about your company and IT service offerings.
In addition to email marketing campaigns, SDRs can nurture leads by making follow-up phone calls when they’re closer to the end of their sales cycle. When an SDR makes follow-up sales phone calls, they can ask the key decision-maker (KDM) qualifying questions, including:
- How many workspaces they have
- Where they see pain points with their current provider
- Why they are considering other options
- And more
During this time, the SDR can also learn about the lead’s decision-making process. This ensures they can set a sales appointment with an individual who has buying power (or is at least involved in the decision-making process).
To sum it up, since your SDRs practice lead nurturing, your internal sales team has the opportunity to not only attend a sales appointment but to attend a meeting with value. Since your SDRs took the time to provide excellent customer service for the lead (without them even being a customer yet), they have a great experience with your company from the get-go. This increases the likelihood of eventually converting them from a lead into a long-term customer.
How To Nurture Leads in the Sales Pipeline
Now that we have the full scope of what B2B lead nurturing is and why it’s important, how do SDRs nurture leads in the sales pipeline? To nurture leads in the sales pipeline, your SDRs must:
Send Timely and Relevant Emails
Have you ever wondered if 2 a.m. was the best time to send out that email blast? We’ll cut to the chase—more than likely, it wasn’t.
When you create and distribute email blasts, they must be timely and relevant to the recipients. If email blasts provide little to no value to the receiver, they’ll click the unsubscribe button faster than you can read the rest of this sentence.
As you craft your email marketing campaigns, you must reflect the buyer personas for your target market. This includes sending emails at times that match with when they frequently check their inboxes. As a general best practice, research shows that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to send email marketing materials. However, this varies from industry to industry, so it’s essential that you routinely analyze your email marketing efforts to see when your emails have the highest open and engagement rates.
In addition to the time you send your emails, you need to make sure you only send leads content that’s relevant to them and their product and service interests. For instance, let’s refer back to the MSP scenario from earlier. If a lead says they’re interested in ongoing IT services, you wouldn’t want to send them content about cloud migration because it’s not relevant to them. For an accelerated customer experience, it’s essential that you create segmented email lists through your CRM platform so each email sent has user-focused intent.
Share Relevant Marketing Collateral
If lead nurturing is all about delivering value, marketing collateral is the perfect vehicle. With marketing collateral materials, you have the opportunity to showcase your company’s impact in a way that catches a lead’s creative eye.
Here are some sales enablement assets to include in your lead nurturing strategy:
- Infographics: Infographics are designed to present data in a way that’s easy for your target market to digest. These are great pieces of marketing collateral to showcase your industry’s impact.
- Sell sheets (AKA “white papers”): Sell sheets expand on a single product, service, or concept. These sales enablement assets are ideal for explaining how a process works and why it’s impactful for businesses or their employees.
- Case studies: Case studies are crafted to help leads in the sales pipeline envision themselves as your customer. This marketing collateral is often presented in a video format for easy viewership and increased engagement.
Establish Brand Credibility
How can you expect potential buyers to close business with your company if they know nothing about the impact you’ve made on businesses similar to theirs? Practicing B2B lead nurturing enables you to establish brand credibility with prospective businesses in your target market.
To gain trust from leads in the sales pipeline, your company must be positioned as a leader in the industry. B2B companies can establish brand credibility by sharing client case studies and company reviews. As social beings, people love hearing from others outside the brand because it creates social proof. If a business positively impacts a company similar to the lead, who’s to say they can’t do the same for them?
Practice Targeted Social Media Ads
Since social media plays such a significant role in business growth efforts today, it makes sense why it should also be used for nurturing leads down the sales funnel. With targeted social media ads, you can get your brand in front of potential buyers.
When small to medium-sized companies think of social media for B2B appointment setting and lead generation, they often associate it with posting organic social media content. While this type of content is great for developing company awareness and engaging with customers, it’s not as effective for nurturing leads in the sales pipeline.
Research shows that 59% of marketers believe that paid social is more effective than organic content. This is because paid social ads target specific individuals based on their location, gender, job title, interests, and other demographics. Promoting targeted social media ads to leads in the nurturing stage of the sales pipeline increases awareness; when they’re ready to make a change, your company will be the first alternative they look at.
When you implement paid social media targeting into your lead nurturing strategy, it’s essential that you routinely track and manage your campaign. Analyzing your paid social media efforts allows your sales and marketing teams to see where leads are converting into sales appointments and how they navigate through the sales funnel.
Actively Reach Out to Qualified Prospects
The only way to nurture a lead in the sales pipeline is to actively reach out and continue to build a relationship over time. When an outbound prospect says they’re not currently interested in your company’s product or service offerings, it’s vital that your SDRs keep them in the sales pipeline (if they’re qualified) in case things change or if there’s a new KDM for them to pitch.
When practicing inbound lead generation, it’s crucial your SDRs follow up as soon as the lead gives them their contact information. For instance, let’s suggest that you’re a marketing agency that offers an exclusive guide for the best marketing practices of 2022. To obtain this guide, a person must input their information to access the gated content.
From here, SDRs can reach out to the individual via email or phone call and ask what encouraged them to download the guide. This gives the SDR more insight to the lead to understand where they may need help growing their business and how your marketing agency could help them maximize their business growth strategy.
Best Practices for an Optimized Lead Nurturing Strategy
While B2B lead nurturing tactics are essential, so is the way your sales and marketing teams approach these tactics. Consider implementing these best practices for an optimized lead nurturing strategy:
What your business offers other companies is important, so showcase that in your lead nurturing efforts. When your SDRs stress urgency in their lead nurturing efforts, the decision-makers feel like investing in your company’s product or service is something they need to act on as soon as possible. They should feel like they are missing something big if they don’t collaborate with your business.
There are many ways sales and marketing teams can stress urgency in their lead nurturing materials, from the vocabulary they use to the emphasis they put on a particular product, service, or concept. For instance, think of the last time you went online shopping. When you looked at your product options, did you see anything that said “only X number of items left” or “limited supply”? This presents urgency to the buyer because if they don’t buy it now, they may miss out on something huge.
The same idea goes along with lead nurturing. If you present urgency in your lead nurturing efforts, a lead will be more likely to close business and reduce their time in the sales cycle. Presenting urgency shows that your company sees the lead as a priority, which makes them feel important. Everyone likes feeling important, right? So why would you not want a lead to feel like the most important business opportunity out there?
To have a successful lead nurturing strategy, your sales and marketing experts must personalize each message they present to decision-makers—from each email sent to phone call made.
When your marketing specialists send content to leads via email, it’s essential that they use their name so they know that the email is intended for them. Additionally, it’s important that you only send them content that’s relevant to them and their needs. This ensures that everything sent to the lead is meaningful and aligns with their product or service interests.
Each lead nurturing phone call an SDR makes should remind the KDM of their conversation before this phone call, including topics discussed and what they said they were interested in learning more about. This refreshes the lead’s memory about the previous conversation and makes them feel heard by your company. Using a CRM platform for your lead generation efforts makes this easy and less reliant on your SDR’s memory because they can make notes on the lead’s account page about their product and service interests.
Prioritize Hot Leads
Not all people are created equal, and leads in the sales pipeline are no different. Top-of-the-funnel leads may be interested in learning more about what your company has to offer, but they aren’t ready to make a purchase quite yet. However, bottom-of-the-funnel leads have done their research, are considering their options, and are prepared to move to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
This is why lead scoring is an important component of lead generation. Lead scoring is when an SDR ranks a lead in the sales pipeline based on where they’re at in the buyer’s journey. If a lead is in the awareness stage, they’re ranked as a lower priority. However, if a lead is in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, then they’d be categorized as a higher priority. This is essential to ensure that each lead is followed up with at the right time.
When implementing B2B lead nurturing tactics, it’s essential that your SDRs meet leads where they are in the buyer’s journey. As you practice lead nurturing, prioritize hot-and-ready leads over leads that are just entering the sales funnel. When a lead is at the end of the sales cycle, they’re more likely to agree to a sales appointment than if they were at the beginning.
For instance, if a lead is at the top of the funnel, they should receive more general content. On the other hand, if a lead is closer to the end of their sales journey, it’s important that they receive more targeted content that helps them make purchasing decision, including relevant case studies, infographics, and other conversion-focused marketing collateral.
Contact Decision-Makers Through Various Platforms
For a lead nurturing strategy to be effective, SDRs must contact KDMs through various platforms. If your SDRs only make phone calls to leads in the sales pipeline, they may forget about your company or be irritated that they’re being called so frequently. However, if your SDRs only email leads, you risk having a poor sender reputation, increasing the risk of sales emails going straight to a KDM’s junk folder.
When you use a variety of avenues to connect with KDMs, you have better relationship-building opportunities. If a KDM is hard to reach via phone call, an email may be a better way to contact them. Additionally, taking advantage of professional social media channels (like LinkedIn) is another way SDRs can practice lead nurturing. Using LinkedIn InMail messaging capabilities, your SDRs can send leads relevant blog articles, sales enablement assets, and more.
Test and Analyze Your Strategy
Like any good sales or marketing strategy, lead nurturing must be tested, measured, and analyzed to see what content leads resonate with and where they may be turning away. There is a lot of big data your sales and marketing teams can gather and analyze to measure the effectiveness of your lead nurturing efforts, including (but not limited to):
- How many sales appointments come from lead nurturing
- How many warm emails or calls it takes to set a sales appointment
- What type of content often converts leads into sales appointments
- Percentage of prospects that first entered top of funnel vs directly to bottom of funnel
More often than not, lead nurturing requires trial and error to see what’s effective and where there may be gaps in the process. Testing and analyzing your lead nurturing strategy allows your business growth experts to change the strategy as it seems fit to maximize your overall lead generation strategy.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Not every lead in the sales pipeline will agree to a sales appointment after the first email or phone call, which is what makes a lead nurturing strategy such a crucial part of lead generation.
With the proper B2B lead nurturing strategy in place, you have the opportunity to build relationships with high-quality leads over time. Even if they’re not ready to schedule a sales appointment yet, your sales and marketing specialists can integrate them into a lead nurturing campaign so they can receive relevant sales enablement assets in the meantime.
While there are various ways SDRs and marketing specialists can nurture leads, it’s essential that they follow the best B2B lead nurturing tactics to get the most out of their business growth efforts. At Sapper Consulting, our email marketing specialists are trained to qualify sales prospects and nurture leads in the sales pipeline until they’re ready to buy.
We understand how hard it can be to find a lead nurturing strategy that works. Luckily, we’ve perfected our process to allow our clients to attend sales appointments that will likely convert from leads into closed business deals.
To learn how our email marketing experts find and nurture leads in the sales pipeline, contact us today!