In sales, you operate with leads. They are your fuel and your raw material. Leads either show positive interest in your product or service, or at least a need for a solution like yours.’ Once you have a lead in your hands, it is up to you or your sales team to prove the benefits and convert interest into an actual sale. This takes a delicate balance of strategy and product awareness to ensure the sale is made. You will be using nurture cycles and sales cycles to convert the lead into a sale.
B2B Lead Generation
Prior to gaining the lead, you will likely have some sort of online lead generation system in place. In addition to your physical system – online pages dedicated to obtaining leads, and possibly supplemented by email, lead gen specialists, and other media – you should have offers in place to attract prospects. No one is going to hand over their information to you unless there is an attractive offer, some sort of hook.
Many businesses ask for the contact information of consumers each and every day. What makes you so special? Why should someone provide you with their email address, phone number, or even more subjective information? What are you giving them in return?
After you have a lead, you may need to nurture it. If so, it’s because the prospect is not ready to buy from you yet. Your company will need to maintain contact with the prospect for a while to ensure they don’t forget about you when they are ready to buy. The nurture period also gives you a superb opportunity to display your company’s subject matter expertise, position itself as a thought leader in the area, and position itself favorably against competitors. The nurture cycle is the stage at which superior content marketing strategy can set you apart from the competition.
In most B2B companies the marketing department implements a content marketing plan to nurture prospects with potential. Compile a set of content pieces designed to educate and inform prospects: 3 or 4 would be sufficient for a start. Promote them via email (most common), or your prospects’ channel of preference on a regular schedule. Very simply, as a prospect accesses more of this content, reacts to it, and perhaps even proactively engages your staff, he expresses greater evidence of sales-readiness.
In classic lead nurturing, the sales cycle starts when you deem a lead sales-ready, based on sales-readiness ground rules set between Marketing and Sales. At this point Sales takes over the relationship from Marketing, though Marketing may still contribute sharing content to the process. Sales will work to bring the prospect forward to closing the deal. Sales cycles can begin immediately, with hot prospects both willing and able to buy, or after the nurture cycle with other leads.
What’s the Difference?
For those leads not immediately ready & willing to buy, the nurture cycle comes before the sales cycle. All relevant leads in this category experience the nurture cycle. Only some move forward into the sales cycle, when they are deemed sales-ready leads.
If you undertake lead generation, you must first go through the process of creating a campaign strategy to determine how you will nurture leads and how you will promote future sales to your customers. Lead generation is important, but if you don’t know what to do with sales leads once you have them, much of your hard work will have been wasted.
Online lead generation is important in many industries. If you have solid offers, your business will generate more leads. You can then generate more sales by partaking in nurture cycles and sales cycles with those leads as warranted. Sales cycles are for sales-ready prospects; nurture cycles are for those who aren’t ready to buy right away. Both are critical, and you cannot rush either one. Be gentle with your customers and create a marketing strategy that considers both of these cycles on their separate merits, as opposed to being one and the same.