Abandon Dead-End Thinking: Best Practices for Working Leads

Rachel Krug

Leads are the lifeblood of your business, yet, more often than not, leads fall outside the category of “sales ready” opportunities. As a result, reps often dismiss these as a dead end. But, as Orrin Woodward said, “There are no dead ends in life, only dead-end thinking.”

Rather than shelve these so-called “dead-end leads,” reps must commit themselves to find what may be hiding in plain sight. There is likely a subgroup of leads that are sales qualified. They may not have the budget yet, or require more research or reps may not even fully understand their options. However, they’re just the right size or their industry is an ideal fit for you. If so, one day these leads will become excellent clients for your business. They just need a little nurturing before the deal is closed. 

According to SalesForce, nurturing leads generates a 20% increase in sales opportunities and takes as little as 15 minutes per day. When faced with a dead-end lead, reps need to  take a step back. Ask some qualifying questions to better understand where the lead may be in their journey to discover which are high-potential leads, and align yourself with the lead’s timeline. Offering relevant and valuable content cannot only help keep the conversation going and your company top of mind, but position the rep as a trusted resource so when the lead is finally ready to buy, they will turn to that person first. 

Admittedly, nurturing a lead takes consistent time and energy to yield successful results. But in doing so, reps will gain an edge on the competition. A whopping 44% of sales reps give up after one failed follow-up, according to SalesForce. To support sales reps’ efforts, I’ve outlined best practices for successfully nurturing leads through the funnel and reap the benefits of dedication.

Speed Wins

While not all leads convert into a sale, quick response is critical. Research by the Harvard Business Review shows what happens when online leads get a response within the hour. The seller is seven times more likely to qualify the lead than those who waited an hour or more. Fast responders are 60 times more likely to qualify the lead as those who wait 24 hours or more.

Expect Many Touches

It can take multiple attempts over several weeks before connecting, so perfecting the message for first contact is critical. Successful sales executives always begin with the end in mind. Scripts and templates help reps create and polish their qualification questions, which are essential to establishing a connection and initiating the nurturing process.

Maintain Empathy and Respect Their Buyer’s Journey

Persistence is admirable, but not when a rep’s goals are out of sync with the prospect’s. If a prospect doesn’t have the budget, can’t begin the project yet, or hasn’t hired the seasonal help, repeated attempts to deliver a pitch is viewed as a waste of their time and adds unwanted pressure. Respect their journey. Don’t go overboard on touchpoints; focus on building the relationship. Reps need to add value to what the prospect is interested in now, and set the stage for the future. Remember people do business with people they know, like and trust.

Keep It Going After the Lead ‘Goes Dark’

If a sales-qualified lead isn’t ready to buy yet, having a library of timely, helpful content adds value in the interim. When firms deploy content marketing to generate leads and nurture prospects, they see six times higher conversion rates than firms that use other methods, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

When a prospect is ready to buy, they are doing their homework. Offering relevant content to help connect the dots, keeps your company at the top of the list. Content also gives purpose to the nurturing process because the prospect receives something in return. Collaborate with your marketing team to develop blogs, whitepapers, byline articles in industry publications and/or newsletters, and focus on the various problem/solution scenarios your leads may face to create thought-provoking content assets.

Let Your Customers Be Your Advocate

Encourage your customers to tout your value with online reviews, testimonials and case studies. Positive online reviews help boost your reputation and send a strong message to prospects. In fact, 92% of B2B respondents said they’re more likely to purchase after reading a review from a trusted (named) source.

While not every lead initiates contact with an intention to talk about closing a deal, sales reps must lose the dead-end thinking. Mastery of lead-nurturing techniques can help identify high-potential clients who may be hiding in plain sight. Understanding where they are in the buyer’s journey will ensure that reps deliver the right message at the right time. Just as important, taking the time to build a relationship and become a trusted resource is essential to the nurturing process, and can make a significant impact on the long-term success of your business.

Rachel Krug is director of Growth Operations at business.com.