Nurturing Isn’t Just for Marketers Anymore; It’s for B2B Sales, Too

Today’s buyers don’t become customers overnight. They need to self-educate and build trust with a company and its employees over time.

With the birth of marketing automation software, marketers filled in the temporal gap between when leads first show interest in a company and when they are ready to purchase. Through email and remarketing, marketers have tried to build relationships and trust with their potential customers.

But the times, they are a changin’. And it’s time to rethink lead nurturing strategies. To be more effective and improve conversion rates, marketers need to enlist the sales team to deliver nurturing messages. Here’s why…

Personalized vs. Personal: The Problem with Current Lead Nurturing Tactics

Marketing’s lead nurturing efforts have been quite effective. According to the Annuitas Group, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchase than non-nurtured leads. But to build a powerful nurturing program, marketers must acknowledge the limits of their efforts. Most notably, they must recognize that their lead nurturing efforts are personalized, but they aren’t personal. Here’s what I mean by that.

B2B buyers are savvy. They recognize automation when they see it. They know that many of the nurture tactics – especially emails – are being sent to large swaths of people. Sure, buyers can see some signs of personalization (e.g. you got my name right in the email; you saw that I downloaded another ebook), but buyers can tell that the message is not personal. It was not written specifically for them – and them alone.

Ultimately, that’s what modern buyers crave. They want personal messages more than they want personalized messages. In a world where it’s easy to send messages en masse, buyers have grown tired of bulk marketing messages. To really stand out from the crowd, companies need to get personal and enable their employees to develop human-to-human relationships with their buyers.

Getting Buyers to the Finish Line

The need for personal relationships is particularly strong for buyers who are self-educating. When you are learning, you need to have conversations to process information, and a series of automated messages will not lead your buyer to the purchasing table. That’s where your sales team comes in.

Think of the buyer’s journey like going on a tour of a historical site. Some tours give you a headset, tell you to press “Play,” and take you on an automated tour of the site. Your interactions with other humans are minimal, and if you have a question, you have to seek someone who can provide an answer.

That’s akin to automated lead nurturing.

But there’s another way. Other tours provide expert guides. These guides have personalities and make jokes. They get to know you, your friends, and your family during the tour. They make small talk. They ask you questions. If you don’t understand something, they can help you get unstuck.

This type of tour is like using your sales team for nurturing.

Right now, many companies are not using the second form of nurturing. They are not providing expert guides to their customers. Instead, they are guiding buyers through their journeys by pressing the “play” button. They create a set of rules and automated nurture campaigns. They cross their fingers and hope that their one-size-fits-many approach works.

Unfortunately, more often than not, their automated campaigns don’t work. 99% of a company’s leads never close, and that’s, in part, because buying committees are getting stuck. Specifically, buyers are getting stuck when they are trying to decide how to solve their business problems, irrespective of vendor selection.

To get beyond the hump in the chart above, buyers need a human tour guide who can help them build consensus and move towards vendor selection. They need an expert who will listen to them, discuss ideas with them, and suggest next steps for them along their journey.

Only a human being can provide that level of expertise and personal interactions. And your sales team can do that at scale.

Nurturing vs. “Staying Top of Mind”

Make no mistake. Teaching your sales team to engage in nurturing and relationship building will take time because sales reps need to change their mindset.

B2B sales reps like to “stay top of mind” with their buyers. This is a great instinct to have, but there’s only one small problem. Sales reps often go about it the wrong way. They typically send an email that says, “Just wanted to check in! Have you solved your data management problem?”

All buyers know what that means. It means, “I’m checking in to see if you are you ready to buy.” Always needing something – that’s no way to build a relationship, and ultimately, lead nurturing is about building a relationship. It’s about adding value throughout the entire buyer journey – not just when the potential customer is ready to purchase a product.

That is the fundamental mindset change that sales reps need to make. Constant reminders to buy won’t work. But constant conversations centered on engaging content will.

Increasing Win Rates

In the end, this mindset change will be worth it. With access to more information than ever before, buyers often take more time to explore their options and educate themselves before reaching a decision. As a result, it’s important for sales teams to engage buyers sooner so that they can influence a buyer’s mindset and purchasing criteria.

When sales reps position themselves as visible, helpful tour guides, buyers are more likely to engage with those sales reps – long before they normally would. As a result, sales teams are far more likely to hit their quota. Sales reps who engage earlier in the sales cycle are 56% more likely to hit their numbers.

Additional Resources

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