One of the most frustrating aspects of B2B sales is long lead times that stretch from several months to more than a year. For decades, B2B marketers and sales teams have been trying to devise ways to shorten the lead cycle with limited success – until recently. The Online Marketing Institute has found that lead nurturing shortens the B2B lead cycle by providing the following benefits:
- 45% lift in lead generation ROI
- 20% increase in sales opportunities
- 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads
- 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost
If your company is struggling with long lead times and low ROI, it’s time to start nurturing your leads. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Lead Nurturing and Why is it Necessary?
In a nutshell, lead nurturing is the process of communicating with your leads through every stage of the sales funnel. Many B2B companies communicate with their leads until potential customers say they aren’t ready to buy. After this, they’re simply tossed out of the sales cycle and forgotten about. This is a huge mistake, and one that many businesses failed to see until recently.
Since most companies have several potential suppliers to chose from for any one product, they often take their sweet time getting to know about you, the market, and your competition, before they buy. This often includes trialing several products and getting peer input. With competing demands on their time, this could take several months and often, being tossed aside as a lead, with no further contact, causes them to lose interest altogether. By nurturing them as a lead, B2B sales agents can answer any queries they may have, supply them with relevant information and be there when they’re ready to close.
How to Nurture Your B2B Leads
Lead nurturing starts out with electronic communication. However, unlike the past tradition of “spamming” (sending loads of unwanted emails), lead nurturing follows a very specific strategy. Instead of sending prospects information that they may not want, you match the lead’s needs with useful content.
Marketing experts at Eloqua, outline the steps of lead nurturing as follows:
- Obtain permission to remain in contact with the lead. (This way they won’t be defensive about receiving correspondence from your company.)
- Use your content to establish key ideas, thoughts or comparison points. (Educating your leads makes them more likely to find your organization trustworthy.)
A Forbes article on the 12 Steps of Lead Nurturing explains that this process needn’t be costly, but it will require active and constant management.
An initial email is sent out when promised and follow-up emails are sent at regular intervals. The content in these emails will vary, but will almost always contain valuable educational information such as e-books, whitepapers or invites to webinars.
To keep communication open between the lead and the company, each email contains a CTA (call to action) form or button. This allows the lead to contact the company within a matter of seconds. Automation programs and cloud computing systems allow agents to receive the response immediately and contact the lead quickly while they are hot. Since many B2B sales teams take their work off-premise, cloud computing tools offer the flexibility they need in order to secure the sale from their smart devices. The lead nurturing process and quick response times, work perfectly to win over the client and secure the deal.
A Boost For Small Businesses
Sometimes, as a small business it just isn’t possible to send out emails, create the content needed for them or even respond to buyer queries as quickly as you’d like. If this is the case, hiring a virtual sales assistant may be just what you need. Skilled virtual assistants from companies like Worldwide101 can help with every part of the lead nurturing process and help you both shorten the lead cycle and keep more potential customers in the sales funnel.