Dozens of our sales experts give their advice on the best SMART sales goals to employ with your teams to see more results, and better pipeline performance.
Sales | Mar 31
Elise Dopson on August 20, 2019 (last modified on August 21, 2019) • 23 minute read
A report recently found that 74% of companies say converting leads into customers is their top priority.
…Yet the majority (65%) aren’t nurturing them towards a sale.
It’s uncommon for leads to flow through the sales funnel on their own accord. They’ll need to be in urgent need for your product–which the majority of leads are unlikely to be.
You’ll need to gently guide them through that process, connecting with them along the way.
Because so little companies are nurturing their leads, we asked 42 experts to share their process. Their tips included:
Before we dive in, let’s quickly cover what lead nurturing is, and why it’s important to connect with your leads.
Lead nurturing simply means connecting with your leads at various points in their sales journey. It could mean anything from engaging with them on social media after they visit your website right through to an email after they purchase to encourage repeat sales.
The ongoing dialogue is critical–especially in B2B where the buying process can take longer–and your approach could be the deciding factor that closes the deal.
Why? Because you can push them through the sales funnel quicker. Research has found that nurtured leads have a 23% shorter sales cycle, meaning your sales team could free-up time to spend converting other leads.
The same research paper also found that nurtured leads are more likely to spend more; a 9% higher average deal size was reported in leads that were in regular contact with the sales rep.
(There’s a reason why companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost.)
Now we’re clear on its importance, here are our experts’ opinions on how you can nurture your leads throughout various stages of the funnel.
Just like any sales activity, it’s important to have an official process on how you nurture your leads. Failure to do so might mean you’re contacting leads at the wrong time–which won’t do any favors when it comes to closing the deal.
For that reason, Recapped.io‘s Mark Fershyten thinks that “after every call make sure to set a clear next step who owns the next step, and a specific target date for that step. You have to manage the follow-up process like a project.”
“At its most basic, sales is still about personal human connections. Finding common ground. Being relatable to each other. Establishing a genuine rapport,” writes Venntive‘s Lydia Sugarman.
“Only then, can someone who’s a lead/prospect really believe you are working in tandem to solve a problem that frustrates them on a regular basis.”
Sean Dudayev of Frootful Marketing explains how this approach to lead nurturing works: “When you’re helping your friend make a decision, you’re not thinking about a specific outcome (closing the deal), instead, your focus is on listening to your friend’s problem and walking them through a solution to that problem.”
“You’re most likely 100% transparent about the pros and cons of the solution and address their concerns honestly, rather than with a goal to direct them to a certain outcome.”
Dudayev summarizes: “You end up giving them advice based on what works best for them. This sales approach allows you to build rapport and be genuine in your dealings. Customers these days are much more educated before jumping on a sales call and can sense “sales tricks” from a mile away.”
“Marketers should be creating and targeting leads with persona specific content,” says Anne Fairfield-Sonn of CiBO Technologies.
“When a lead comes through, figure out what piece of content resonated with them and make sure to move them into that sales funnel. Understanding the content that appeals to your ideal audience is critical to helping your sales team to close the deal more quickly.”
Shane Barker thinks this is the magic trick to close any type of sales deal: “Focus on the prospective customer’s needs, rather than selling your product.”
“Ask them about what they want. Try to understand their requirements. People love to talk about themselves, so let them speak more and you jump in when you can provide a useful solution to their problem. This way, it would not even look like you’re trying to make a sale,” Barker says.
Omniscient Digital‘s Alex Birkett adds: “I find if you’re starting cold and you don’t have any previous relationship or touchpoints, the best way to get someone’s attention is to show them some value.”
“For example, I’ve had CRO agencies reach out to me with quick site audits and ideas for optimization, custom demos, etc. It probably doesn’t take an overwhelming amount of time together, it feels massively personalized, and I can see if the person knows what they’re talking about.”
Birkett continues: “We usually give sample content roadmaps and content gap analyses. They take a few minutes to put together and go beyond the basics to show we care.”
Andrew McLoughlin of Colibri Digital Marketing agrees: “A free consultation, quote, product demo, trial period, and so on are a foot in the door that will get the other party talking, and listening, and it adds a depth to your pitch or offer that you won’t get from something static, like a newsletter or sales sheet.”
Another pro using this technique is Lauren Pope, who says: “At G2, we’re always looking for the value-add. How can we show our customers the value in partnering with us and getting involved in what we do?”
“One recent touchpoint we created was printing off real user reviews from our website, framing them, and mailing them to potential clients.”
Pope continues: “This was a great strategy because it was cost-effective, personalized, and showed the value in what G2 does.”
“By showing these companies what real users are saying about them on our website, we open the door to more conversations and show the value without making a hard sell,” Pope adds.
But for StoryTeller Media + Communications, this value comes in the form of feedback, as Britt Laeger explains: “When connecting with a lead that has converted or engaged on your website, we find it’s helpful to give them one or two extremely relevant pieces of advice or feedback.”
“We check out what they are currently doing and on their site, marketing, social, etc. and provide an actionable tip to pique their interest before we connect.”
As we mentioned earlier, it’s crucial to have a single workflow for this–like Anna Kaine’s team at ESM Inbound: “When a prospect downloads a piece of our content or returns to our website, we have workflows set up which allow us to reach out to the contact promptly.”
“We’ll send them a diary invitation to get a Connect Call on the cards as quickly as possible: once the interaction becomes human, you’ve got a much better chance of understanding the lead’s pain points, helping them and ultimately closing a deal.”
Kaine adds that “if a lead isn’t available for a call, we might send a video explainer instead: from prospecting to customer management, we find videos work really well and have received comments about how appreciated they are – again, it’s another way to offer a face and voice, rather than just firing over an email.”
“One of the best ways to connect with potential leads is to learn about their intent, before initiating a conversation,” writes Dhwani Shah of Acquire.io. “Intent driven customer engagement can lead to better conversion.”
“Customer intentions can be anticipated with customer behavioral insights. According to McKinsey research, organizations that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and more than 25 percent in gross margin.”
Shah continues: “As the customer moves from research phase to consideration phase and ultimately to transaction phase, they are venture across different touchpoints, this is where they leave intent signals and that can help you anticipate their needs and what step they are likely to take.”
“This data insight into their behavior can help you map customers’ intent, know where consumers are in the decision-making journey,” Shah says.
Emily Vale of The Lead Agency also adds that “while your customers likely have shared interests and characteristics, it’s important to understand that they aren’t all the exact same.”
“At each stage of the consumer journey, personalization exposes individuals to targeted content that offers them unique value. Such a strategy is, however, most effective near the end of the customer buying process, helping to further differentiate your brand from competitors.”
Vale continues: “This approach can include everything from personal messages and ads that draw on consumer data, to direct communication with prospects on social media platforms.”
The digital world is taking over. The Internet of Things (IoT) is controlling a huge chunk of our daily lives, but our experts don’t think it’s the greatest way to nurture your leads.
In fact,Mavens & Moguls‘ Paige Arnof-Fern thinks you should “disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships.”
What does that look like? “Meeting for coffee or lunch can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams.”
Arnof-Fern continues: “Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.”
Danny Peavey of One Week Website also uses this approach: “We’re pro phone call and virtual meeting. Any chance you can talk in a real way, is a real benefit in the lead nurture process.”
“Someone may respond to an email initially, but the best follow-up is with a phone call or even text. When you make real-person contact in some way, you are essentially creating a natural bond instantly,” Peavey says.
It’s important to know about the people you’re trying to convert.
Why? Because according to IntentData‘s Yvonne Haendel, “instead of talking about hypothetical benefits for most users, you can use scripts, templates and paid social creative that speaks directly to their stage in buying journey and other details of their research effort.”
Haendel adds that “it’s this kind of nuanced outbound sales that drives the 50% close rates and 82% reduction in sell cycle that we’ve seen.”
A1 Future Technologies‘ Srish Agrawal thinks that “remarketing to soft leads through social media is working extremely well.”
(Data supports this: Website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are more likely to convert by 70%.)
“Start with the collection of an email address, then build an additional sales funnel and remarketing campaign to hit their users through the main social networking platforms,” Agrawal says.
A superb way to retarget your leads is through Facebook Messenger ads.
“Once you have the lead, retarget them with Facebook Messenger ads in their Facebook newsfeed. Why? Because no one these days likes to pick up the phone and call a business, especially if it’s outside of their working hours,” explains AdEspresso‘s Paul Fairbrother.
“With messenger conversations, most people prefer them to phone calls and they can initiate them while on their couch watching TV.”
Plus, Fairbrother adds that “Messenger ads are also a way to set yourself apart from the other 99% of marketers who are going down the traditional call route.”
Jacqueline Phillips’ team at amoCRM think “connecting on messengers is proving to be one of the best ways to close more deals.”
“Today’s buyers want to communicate on-demand and lightning fast. Say you’re on the fence about a certain feature – why wait for a scheduled Zoom call when a salesperson can send you a quick video over chat?”
Phillips summarizes: “Chat gives the ability to bring the humanity back to communication – at scale!”
*Editor’s note: Keep track of your retargeting campaigns–and calculate how many of those leads you’re converting–with our Facebook Ads Purchase and Leads Breakdown template:
“Email marketing is not simply a way to spam unknown users with click bait and other information that they may not have requested,” writes Mailcharts‘ Tom Buchok.
“In fact, email is the preferred mode of communication for most business leaders, meaning that this the perfect way to reach out to leads and provide them with more information to really seal the deal.”
It’s true; our survey found that email is the most effective channel for nurturing leads by far:
Andrea Loubier of Mailbird also thinks “newsletters are an excellent way to let your potential customers know about what’s happening within your company.”
“When you have a business or an individual on the fence about a product or a service, receiving a newsletter offering a 20% off discount, for example, can be just the push that they need to close the deal.”
Loubier continues: “Most newsletters can be created in minutes, especially if you have a pre-existing template. It’s a fast, cost-effective way to reach out to several prospects at a time, and still deliver information that is personable.”
Eric Melillo shares the process used at COFORGE: “I typically make a warm outreach to an inbound lead that’s show some initial interest in the early mornings. Before placing the call, I research the prospect on LinkedIn, get a sense for their role to identify common challenges, review the content offer they converted on and position a way where I can add value or help.”
“While on call, I use the “Give and Get” technique where I give the prospect a tip for improving something on their website that can be done themselves and has a significant impact. From there, I transition to asking the prospect if they’d like to explore ways where we can help achieve their goals and set up a second “planned” call,” Mellilo says.
Growth Hackers‘ Jonathan Aufray adds: “Once you converted your traffic/prospects into leads, sending personalized, automated email sequences is the most cost-effective way to stay in touch with them.”
“This is why email marketing is recognized as the digital marketing strategy with the highest ROI.”
Concluding, James Pollard of The Advisor Coach says: “Since email can be automated with an autoresponder sequence, it frees up my time to focus on high-value tasks such as spending time with qualified prospects.”
You’ve drafted your email, but you want to send a little something extra to grab their attention–more so than a plain wall of text.
According to Casey Hill, Bonjoro “uses personalized video messaging via email [because] a critical step to closing a deal is rapport, and building an authentic connection with your prospect.”
Hill recommends “to test it out, take a small pool of say 30 contacts you need to reach out, and try a tool like Bonjoro, where you record a personalized video to send to the prospect, and then compare the open and engagement rates of those video messages with 30 standard follow-up emails.”
Michael Thebeau of HIVE Digital Strategy adds: “If you’re like most companies and your sales team is still sending out lengthy text-based emails, the unfortunate truth is they likely aren’t being read in full.”
For that reason, Thebeau recommends “creating quick and customized videos that are easily digested by your ideal prospect to be added into your email outreach is the perfect way to combat this fast-paced life we all live.”
“By incorporating videos into my sales outreach and even using them in my sales automation campaigns I have seen more than a 25% higher click and response rate. Video creates a unique experience that has made me stand out against competition, and has proven to boost prospect engagement,” Thebeau says.
Plus, Nextiny‘s Gabriel Marguglio notes that “video is also very helpful in the final stages of the sales process when people are making a decision between you and your main competitor.”
“A video at this time can make a significant difference since you are able to introduce your team and showcase what you are going to do, or how you or your product are going to help them. More importantly, it personalizes a product or service which creates a more emotional connection when we are not dealing with clients face-to-face.”
The team at Showcase IDX use a tool called Dripeo do create these videos, as Kurt Uhlir explains: “I create a personalized message when sending my initial and follow up emails to leads, and I’m seeing 300% increase in my replies.”
“The video lets prospects see me as a person and not simply a company selling a product. Whether using this tool or doing it yourself with your phone, incorporating personalized videos will let you close more deals and close them faster.”
Vaetas is another company using this approach. In fact, V. Michael Santoro says: “Our stats consistently show a 38% increase in conversions for cold video emails, and a 98% conversion rate for warm follow up video emails and text messages.”
“From my experience, DEMO is what is the best way how to connect with leads and make them your customers,” says Matej Kukucka of Post Affiliate Pro.
These scheduled calls or demos are voted the most effective at closing leads:
Kukucka continues: “We tend to over-complicate things with our leads and we are trying a lot of fancy nurturing and targeting strategies, but in the end, direct communication with our lead is what works the best.”
When giving sales demos, Kukucka recommends “creating a special calendar with 30-60 minute slots, depending on the complexity of your solution, and make sure that your demo is visible across your communication channels.”
SEO, PPC, CRM–there are enough acronyms in the sales and marketing world to make your head spin.
A new one on the scene that you should be taking notice of is CXM, asWoodtex‘s Paul Farmer explains: “It stands for customer experience management (CXM) SaaS platforms.”
CXM platforms are something that Farmer’s team use themselves because “the customer journey is becoming increasingly complex, which overwhelms many marketers.”
“Evolving beyond CRMs, we now need to maintain consistently on-brand interactions with individuals through all stages of their customer journey. With the full power of multiple departments–or, at least a solopreneur switching hats multiple times–engagement with each individual can be transformed.”
Farmer continues: “Consistent engagement begins with the marketing team taking point at initial contact when the prospect is completely unaware of your USP. The marketing team guides the prospect (at polite intervals!) to landing impressions on content and ads, clicking through, and eventually filing a contact form. Then, the sales team offer a warm outreach to begin the sales cycle.”
“After which, it is crucial that the customer service team take up the torch, and never let that connection grow cold. LTV, churn, and CAC are all tied together, and the customer service is a direct player in how those hold steady, plummet, or ratchet upwards.”
“Assuming customer experience is high, the customer service team can then routinely pass off to the sales department active customer leads ripe for cross-selling, upselling, and loyalty program enrollment.”
Farmer concludes: “Having the customer service, sales, and marketing teams all on the same tab can only happen through a unified portal. If you haven’t yet begun investing in a CXM–both the time onboarding and subscription cost–my advice is to start your research today.”
For Messente Communications Ltd, Piia Sander says: “The most effective channel has been LinkedIn Sales Navigator. The filters help in finding the correct contact in the company to approach and keep in touch with.”
Plus, Sander adds that “LinkedIn is also a great tool to help build your own credibility since the new contacts can see your experience and referrals.”
“When I am trying to close a deal, I immediately begin to set up my company as a leader in the field,” writes Angela Ash of Flow SEO.
“Often, I find that the best and fastest way to do that is through content. I continuously write guest posts and create valuable pieces of content for our own blog, so that prospective clients can see exactly why we are the company to handle their SEO and content needs.”
Ash continues: “If you know that a company has a question, answer it in an authoritative blog post, diving deep into an explanation that can be beneficial to them, and help them to acknowledge how successful your strategies could be for their organization.”
However, Andrea Moxham of Horseshoe + co. notes that this thought leadership content doesn’t have to be a blog post: “Connect with them on social media and comment on their posts. Download their content offers. Reply to the newsletter they send out and share a tip that helps you establish thought leadership.”
The best part about this? It works; targeting users with content relevant to their position along the buying process has been proven to result in 72% higher conversion rates.
According to Dot Com Infoway‘s Venkatesh C.R, “case studies act as the best marketing funnel to filter high-quality leads.”
That’s because “9 out of 10 people are looking at online product reviews before making a purchasing decision. Most customers believe that a little online research could help them to avoid the bad experience and poor investment in a product or service.”
“Case studies make your business easier to relate to the target audience. When your home page consists of “our service helps you achieve more ROI” then think about your case study page content like “our service helps you achieve 200% ROI by following the process X,Y, and Z.”
Ross Simmonds, who runs Foundation, says: “A lot of us view Slack as a channel for internal communication and collaboration. It’s a place where we connect with our colleagues, discuss projects, timelines and share GIFs when appropriate.”
“But what a lot of sales teams and brands don’t realize is that Slack can also be used as a way to nurture relationships with leads.”
Simmonds thinks “an underrated lead nurturing channel is the 1-1 interaction that can happen with prospects and potential customers in Slack communities.”
“If you can join communities where they’re spending time, you can monitor the channels for conversations that are relevant to your space and hop in with a conversation when appropriate.”
“Similarly, if you’re in a Slack channel with prospect – it’s easier to get their attention via DM than it is via an email. Because Slack is likely already open on their desktop for work or on their mobile device,” Simmonds says.
It’s not just Slack communities that can be beneficial, though.
Ben Sansom of Ever Increasing Circles Ltd adds: “We find that being a helpful and informative member of online communities such as Facebook groups for business owners has been a great way to generate new business.”
“Building relationships and finding common ground with your target market is key. Investing your time into people and helping them is a flawless way to gain trust and be a front runner when your services are required,” Sansom writes.
You’ve added a new lead to your CRM, and you’re waiting for the right time to contact them… But when is that?
“Not within 48 hours, 24 hours or even 1 hour,” says PriceMyCar‘s David Lye. “If someone makes an online inquiry and you call them within seconds of hitting submit, your conversion rate will skyrocket.”
Lye thinks this “is due to several distinct reasons:
We’ve already talked about email being an effective channel to contact your leads.
But with your lead’s inboxes often being a crowded place–the average worker receives 121 emails per day–what other techniques can you use to contact them?
“We’ve found calling leads at the time when they’ve previously engaged with emails significantly improves our connect/conversion rates,” writes Seventh Sense‘s Ivan LaBianca.
“This works especially well for those leads who express interest and are opening/clicking emails, but don’t respond or book a meeting.”
To do this, LaBianca’s team “use Seventh Sense to find the best times to call, but you can also simply look at their open history in your CRM.”
The average email has an open rate of 20%, compared to a massive 98% for text.
That’s probably why Brett Casey of HealthMarkets has “found that texting a prospective client is very effective.”
“These days, many people do not pick up an unknown number on their phone – myself included! So if you’re following up with a lead and you have their cell and leave a message, I have found that sending a text a few days later to follow up again has proven to be very effective.”
Lead scoring is a framework you can use to prioritize your best leads.
It’s usually on a sliding scale of 1-100, with things like “read an email” or “visited a pricing page” increasing their score. (The best quality leads scoring in the higher ranges.)
B2B Marketing Lab‘s Dillon Yong says: “Using the HubSpot system, you can monitor the lead’s action on your website and it provides a lead score.”
“Hence, for me, the most effective way is to gather this information and then send an email (detailing the lead’s interest) to request to have a connect call to discuss further. If you understand what they need, it’s easier to connect.”
Research has shown that just 25% of a company’s leads should be passed through to sales. Using a lead scoring system can filter them out.
*Editor’s note: Do you use HubSpot to manage your leads? Grab our HubSpot Marketing: Lead Generation template and track your entire sales funnel from start to finish–all in one place.
As you can see, connecting with your leads throughout their sales journey isn’t just a nice surprise for them–it’s a crucial way to close the deal.
Remember to retarget them on other platforms, prioritize your highest quality leads, and contact them as soon as possible.
Your sales pipeline will thank you for it.
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