The sales pipeline at any organization generally follows a typical, linear route of leads and calls, meetings and discovery sessions, opportunity analysis and proposals, and finally closed sales. While organizations may feel their pipelines are unique to their business, they all tend to follow this general model of linear progression through the pipeline, fuelled by your team’s sales skills and process. However, when most sales managers are interviewed on the effectiveness of the process to increase sales, many often complain about less than stellar conversion rates and an overtaxed, underperforming sales team. They simply don’t have enough resources or enough time to get everything done, and sales results suffer. When analyzed further, most lack one critical component that would augment success - automated lead nurturing.
What Is Automated Lead Nurturing?
Automated lead nurturing is a process or series of pre-planned activities that are triggered by specified data/events to provide engaging experiences to prospective customers at the exact moment they are most appropriate, without the need for human intervention or action. In other words, and this is a key advantage—helping to support leads through the sales pipeline without taking any additional time or effort from sales team in order to increase sales effectiveness.
The concept of automated lead nurturing is very simple—providing the right piece of content or interaction for each prospective prospect based on insightful data. But getting it setup can be an arduous process for many sales teams—especially those that haven’t spent much time setting up sales processes to standardize the capture of meaningful customer insights as usable data.
How Sales Teams Can Setup Automated Lead Nurturing
The amount of time required to setup a lead nurturing system will vary based on the size and scope of the company’s product or service offerings. The first step is to create buyer personas, or in other words, the types of prospects that are likely to engage with the company. Buyer personas may be able to be picked out of historical customer data and profiles, or they can be created from scratch.
These buyer personas should then be tracked against the sales pipeline and markers should be indicated at every sales touch point. These will include the research phase, discovery phase, review and analysis phase and proposal/quote phase. A buyer's needs change based on where they are in the funnel—and their particular questions and concerns will as well. Automating the delivery of information and matching it to the exact point in the buyer funnel is a key component of driving sales—and it requires almost no additional effort on the part of the sales team.
The greatest effort required in setting up automated lead nurturing comes from developing content pieces for each process. This may include any combination of emails, guides, webinars, videos or infographics. The important part is the content be totally focused and aligned to the recipient’s needs. As a result, understanding, defining and tracking prospective customer needs is paramount to successful automated lead nurturing.
Connecting Lead Nurturing and Prospective Customer Data
A CRM is necessary to trigger the automated delivery of lead nurturing content based on factors indicated by the sales team. The quality of the factors indicated by the sales team will mean the difference between fuelling your sales productivity and potentially spamming and turning off prospective customers. Sales teams must be aligned with proper tools to gather insights and information directly into the customer’s CRM record. For example, if a recent sales interaction indicated the prospect had a bad experience with a competitor, an automated lead nurturing step might be a customer service review or client testimonial showing how well your company provides service. Key indicators in the data should be selected to trigger the campaign—doing a lot of the work for the sales team automatically.
Setting up automated lead nurturing to support sales team efforts isn’t rocket science—it simply requires time and effort to plan and put in place in the beginning. As automations are created, sales team managers can gather more data to gauge the effectiveness of different pieces and touch points, and adjust where needed. The most important part is really connecting the data gleaned from sales interactions and connecting it to CRM data and automations to make sure the right content is delivered to the right person when it is most relevant.