The prospective campaign was cancelled, so Howard e-mailed the salesperson, gave her the news, and told her that he would keep her company in mind for the future. From then on, Howard received a monthly phone call from the salesperson, who would leave a voicemail saying something like, "I was just wondering if you have any needs currently where we could help."
In his post, Howard argues that these kinds of calls "are the worst possible use of a sales rep's time." He goes on to write, "Placing calls to leads that were once qualified, in the hope, by some accident of timing, that the prospect may yet have a need again, is destined to be a fruitless and thoroughly unproductive endeavor." Howard closes his post with the emphatic statement: "Get your salespeople out of the lead nurturing business."
Howard Sewell is one of the B2B marketing thought leaders that I pay close attention to, and I always find his views insightful. In this case, I agree with Howard that the tactic used by the salesperson was essentially worthless. However, I don't agree that sales reps should stay out of lead nurturing.
In my experience, the most effective lead nurturing programs utilize several methods and channels of communication and involve both content-based communications (which are typically handled by marketing) and person-to-person communications (which are typically handled by business development reps or salespeople).
Recent research has confirmed the importance of including person-to-person communications in the lead nurturing process. For example, it its 2015 B-to-B Buying Study, SiriusDecisions found that sales reps from winning vendors were involved at every stage of the buying process, and that sales rep interactions with potential buyers are particularly significant during the early stages of the buying cycle. And research by the IBM Institute for Business Value found that even millennial B2B buyers prefer to have direct contact with vendor representatives during the research phase of their buying process.
There's no doubt that content-based communications will continue to play the dominant role in lead nurturing, but there's no real substitute for person-to-person communications. When you have a personal conversation with a buyer, you have the potential for a richer exchange of information. A personal conversation provides three distinct advantages over content-based communications:
- It enables you to more accurately assess how interested a potential buyer is in your product or service and where he or she is in the buying process.
- It allows you to discover and then explore issues or topics that arise unexpectedly, and these unanticipated discussions can provide insights that may enable you to help the potential buyer move forward in the buying process in a more expedited fashion.
- It enables the seller's representative to establish the personal "connection" with the potential buyer that will be needed to ultimately produce a sale.
To be effective at lead nurturing, sales reps must remember that lead nurturing conversations are not "sales calls." But that's a topic for another blog post.
Image courtesy of Flazingo Photos via Flickr CC.