More than half of all leads passed from marketing to sales never get called. It’s the eternal struggle – your marketing team works hard to provide leads for your sales team to call, while your sales team complains that the leads are not worth their time. Neither side is right or wrong – both are making valid points – but what is missing is alignment between your sales and marketing. This blog will tell how an experienced consultant or salesforce admin can tell if you have that alignment by looking at just one field on your lead record, and how utilising that field correctly can be the very foundation of building that good alignment.
A seemingly simple question
After one of my first client meetings as a consultant with Axenon I was having a debrief with a colleague about what we had learned. While talking about the client I mentioned what I thought was an obvious opportunity for improvement – the client was not utilising a nurturing stage in their lead process. My colleague shook his head. ‘Very few use that stage.’
I was dumbfounded. I pushed further on the subject. Why bother using a CRM if you’re not going to use it to nurture your prospective customers? Isn’t the whole point of a CRM to … manage customer relationships? What was going on?
Sometimes you ask a question where the answer seems so obvious you feel like you must be missing something, and in this case I was. I was viewing the world through my own personal lens, informed by my work as both a Pardot and a Salesforce administrator and owner at my previous employer. In that role I acted as an intermediary between sales and marketing – the very physical embodiment of alignment between those two teams – and this role (or the lack thereof, in this case) was the answer to my question.
Upon further discussion, my colleague clarified his statement slightly. ‘They don’t use that stage – because they don’t have a process for it.’ he explained. ‘Only some companies do.’ The common thread, he continued, that runs through those companies is not just a top notch marketing team, but one that is strongly – deeply – aligned with the sales team. These marketing teams live and breathe the sales process. They create marketing content and material not for, but with, the sales team. And one of the fundamentals of that content (and one of the best places to start) is lead nurturing.
A lead nurturing stage allows marketing to support your sales teams efforts – perhaps even automatically.
What is the lead nurturing stage?
The ‘classic’ explanation of the lead nurturing stage goes something like this.
“When your lead shows interest but is not ready to buy, place them in the nurturing stage to send them back to the marketing team to nurture them until they are.”
There are a few problems with this way of thinking. First, it encourages an ‘us and them’ mentality between sales and marketing by suggesting that the lead was not good enough – and asking marketing to ‘fix it’. Second, by defining nurturing as a place to put leads that are ‘duds’, it inevitably turns this stage into a kind of ‘lead storage unit’, where the leads are placed and then forgotten about – with little accountability or incentive to go back to them. And third, with this implied ‘back and forth’ lead handoff between sales and marketing, it’s easy to see how rather than take on the task of implementing yet another handoff process that seems to offer little benefit, you might just skip this stage entirely.
Here’s how I prefer to define the nurturing stage.
“When your lead shows interest but is not ready to buy, place them in the nurturing stage to indicate that you need help from the marketing team to move them further down the sales funnel.”
Does this make a little more sense? First, because there is no ‘hand-off’ back to the marketing team, there is no need for additional processes, and no confusion about lead ownership and accountability for lead conversion. Second, there is clarity about what is required for the sales process to move along – help from the marketing team in the form of lead nurturing materials – and less chance of leads being forgotten. Third, and perhaps most importantly, there is a clear need (and reason) for strong alignment between sales and marketing.
Nurturing campaigns – automated customer journeys that guide these colder leads towards a conversion – are the missing link, and the key to making the nurturing stage worth using.
An example nurturing campaign in Salesforce’s Pardot marketing automation platform.
Nurturing campaigns (such as those generated in Pardot’s engagement studio) all look a little different, but at their core, involve sending your leads targeted information to keep your business top of mind and to gently guide your leads further down the sales funnel. This targeted information can be generated automatically (based on existing fields or activities) or manually (based on which campaign the salesperson enrolls the lead in). Either way, the lead gets what they need (a little time and space), and the sales team gets what they want (to concentrate on more likely leads while leads in the nurturing stage get a little encouragement to move towards a close).
There’s a fundamental similarity between all successful nurturing campaigns. To understand what it is, ask yourself a simple question – who in your organisation is the best at selling to your customers? The answer – often ignored by marketing teams – is your sales team, of course. Successful nurturing campaigns may be led by marketing teams, but they never succeed without your sales team, who know better than anyone what your leads need to convert. Alignment, again, is key – but this road goes both ways.
You have to start somewhere
Here’s the beauty of nurturing campaigns. The very act of building them requires teamwork between your sales and marketing teams, and because both teams have clearly defined goals and incentives for success, successful nurturing campaigns are easier to create than you might think – and success (as it often does) breeds more success.
Imagine getting a call or email from a sales team member telling you that they just converted a lead thanks to a nurturing campaign that they had input on. Imagine the same team member suggesting ways to improve it, or asking for a new campaign based on a different product line or business unit? Not only have you created a successful lead nurturing process – but you’ve laid down the foundations of true alignment between sales and marketing – and enabled both to be more successful and to grow your business.
Nurturing campaigns are not for every business – they tend to work better in sales processes with longer buying cycles – and are almost entirely wasted if the content they provide is not correctly targeted to the customer. This content can be industry or product specific, or based on customer attributes such as size or location. As long as your content is relevant to the need of the customer you’ll find success with nurturing campaigns. And you’ll build valuable alignment between sales and marketing at the same time.
Have any questions about lead nurturing or aligning your sales and marketing teams? Interested in hearing how Axenon can help you sell better, smarter, and easier? Drop your contact details into the form below and I’ll be in touch!