Lead Nurturing: How to Make Your Sales Team Love You

In Marketo’s recent survey, “State of Marketing Automation Trends”, we see that 91% of respondents were evaluating marketing automation for the first time and their top reason was to “nurture leads”. But what the heck is lead nurturing and why does anyone need it?

Have you ever experienced this scenario as a marketer? You came back from a tradeshow and happily shared the long spreadsheet of leads with sales. A few weeks later you asked sales how the leads were, and sales said, “No one was ready to buy! Those were a waste of time!”

So what do you do? Trash those names that didn’t respond to sales? If you were proactive, you picked that list back up, at least segmented it into “non-responders” and “interested” and tried some other offers, maybe a new whitepaper or case study offer. Ultimately you got some more interested raised hands that you gave back to sales and some of those tradeshow leads turned became qualified prospects. In a worst case scenario, those hard won tradeshow leads were just tossed on the floor and forgotten. Since in reality, most leads don’t arrive ready to buy, what you (hopefully) did, manually, was what’s called “Lead Nurturing”.

Here’s a simple definition of Lead Nurturing from Forrester’s Andre Pino in 2011: Lead nurturing is a process by which leads are tracked and developed into sales-qualified leads. Meaning that they are ready and worthy of a salesperson’s time.

Today there are a number of marketing automation tools that can help remove the manual (and subjective) process of scoring and nurturing with subsequent, iterative campaigns and offers. The scoring process evaluates the profile characteristics (title, role, industry, revenue, etc.) along with the level of engagement that is considered sales-readiness (how many whitepapers they read, visits to the website, social engagement, etc.).

Do make sure you involve sales in the discussions so you mutually agree on the definition of “sales-qualified leads” — how much engagement is the right threshold for passing on to sales. You want to avoid the old “throwing it over the wall”. It may take some tweaking to get that just right, but with an automation tool, making those adjustments are fast and simple, and your sales team will thank you.