Lead Nurturing

12/23/21

Check out our guide on lead nurturing, which gives you an entire overview of nurturing and closing. At the bottom, you'll also find a complete list of our lead nurturing articles.

Lead nurturing represents the middle of your sales process where sales and marketers engage qualified prospects to increase their comfort and desire with a purchase. There are many lead nurturing activities that warm a prospect, including sales presentations, demos, calls, emails, and more. The best lead nurturers identify key activities to create a repeatable lead nurturing process that moves quality leads through the sales pipeline to deal close.

Rather than taking the full reader journey through the entire topic, you can jump to our complete list of niche-specific articles for any nurturing or closing situation: See them below. Otherwise, continue reading for an A-Z overview, beginning with how lead nurturing works:

How Lead Nurturing Works

After prospects are qualified, salespeople follow a process to nurture leads until they’re ready to receive a sales pitch. To map your own process, examine the required actions and activities necessary to get leads in the buying mindset so you can deliver your pitch and overcome objections in an effort to close. Then, translate these activities into specific stages in your sales pipeline, including benchmarks leads must hit and actions necessary to move them from stage to stage. 

Common stages within a lead nurturing process, including required salesperson activities and lead benchmarks, are below:

  • Sales Email: Research the lead and send an introductory email to schedule a call. Leads who respond favorably can move to the next stage of the lead nurturing process.
  • Sales Call: Further research the lead, write a script, and hold an initial sales call. Leads interested in a more in-depth call move to the next lead nurturing stage.
  • Live Product Demo: Personalize the demo flow, set up the tech aspects, and deliver the demo. Those responding favorably move to the next stage.
  • Sales Presentation: Write a script, personalize your slides, and give the presentation. Prospects who are interested in a full proposal move to the next nurturing stage.
  • Business Proposal: Choose a template, personalize the proposal, send the proposal, and hold a proposal review meeting. From here, overcome objections and ask for the sale.
  • Deal Close: Draft a contract, work to get the agreement signed, and either record the deal as closed/won and onboard the customer or mark it as closed/lost and move on to the next lead.

As you complete the activities in each stage, the benchmarks your lead hits will help you know when to move them to the next stage. Typically, these benchmarks are actions your lead must take, like accepting a presentation. Once they take the action or reach the threshold, you can move them into the next stage and start executing the activities involved in the new stage. The marketing team can also nurture the lead via email nurturing, content delivery, and other efforts.

CRMs play a significant role in lead nurturing. With a CRM, you can create tangible pipelines that reflect your nurturing phase’s stages. You can also manually move leads through the pipeline stages to track progress on deals and use CRM metrics to analyze your nurturing process, easily spotting weak points to improve. Now, let's take a closer look at the common stages and associated activities:

Common Lead Nurturing Stages

It’s important to divide your lead nurturing process into sequential stages, each with specific benchmarks for entry and actions a sales rep should take to push the lead to the next stage. Below we’ve given some common lead nurturing stages and their associated nurturing activities. Feel free to switch the order or add your own stages to tailor it to your lead nurturing process. 

Sales Email

After a salesperson has received or generated a sales qualified lead, they’ll reach out through emails to make an introduction and convince the lead to take a phone call to learn more about the offer. Typically, the benchmark required for entry into this stage is an expression of interest in the product or service and their level of fit. A seller will likely send 2–4 emails in an attempt to get a response. The emails usually focus on how they can help resolve the lead’s pain points. 

Here are some nurturing activities a seller might use to get leads through this email stage: 

  • Research the Lead: Learn about the lead and try to find a pain point they likely have and that your product or service solves. 
  • Send the First Introductory Email: Send an email introducing you and your company and explaining how you can help them solve the pain point and the benefits of fixing it. Also, include a call-to-action. 
  • Send a Follow-up Email: Email the lead a short reminder about your last email and mention another value proposition they might find intriguing. 
  • Send an Email With a Piece of Content: Try again to get their attention and warm them up by sharing a useful article or video they might enjoy along with another call-to-action.

Alongside sending sales emails, a salesperson might also partake in social selling or other methods of outreach. And marketing might be sending them automated emails of their own. Typically, once a lead accepts the CTA for a sales call in the email, they are moved to the sales call stage.

To learn more about how to move leads through this stage, check out our article on how to write a sales email, where we give you a step-by-step process and a customizable email template. 

Sales Call

After a lead has agreed to a call, a salesperson will hold a phone or video call where they give their first full sales pitch to the lead. The pitch will include a diagnosis of their problem, an introduction to the solution (the product or service), and the benefits of fixing the problem. It will also have a unique selling proposition (USP) explaining why this is the best option for the buyer. 

Below are a few sales activities a seller might do in the sales call stage: 

  • Conduct Pre-Call Research: Learn about the lead’s interests, responsibilities, company, job title, and needs in order to personalize a sales script.   
  • Write a Sales Call Script: Craft a script that outlines the talking points you’ll hit during the sales call. 
  • Deliver the Sales Call: Hold the call and give an elevator pitch for your product or service. Be sure to ask for them to take next steps with you at the end of the call. 

The actual sales call will last anywhere from 5–20 minutes, and the seller will attempt to both build a relationship with the lead through two-way conversation and convince them to take the benchmark-hitting action — typically accepting a longer demo or presentation of the solution. 

For more on how to hold sales calls effectively, read our article on how to make a sales call, where we describe the essential components of the call and also share a script template. 

Live Product Demo

After a sales call, the next stage for businesses that sell products is often a 30-minute live product demo over screen-sharing software where the seller shows the lead the software or physical product in action, focusing on 2–3 features that relate specifically to the lead’s pain points. The seller’s speaking points will revolve around the benefits that each feature will bring to the lead.

Below are some other demo-stage nurturing tactics a seller might employ:

  • Prepare a Personalized Demo Flow: Choose the features you want to show the lead and write out the order in which you’ll do so, along with the verbiage you’ll say.
  • Set up the Technical Aspects of the Demo: Get the demo environment ready, ensuring the data, workflows, and integrations are relevant to the lead.
  • Deliver the Product Demo: Open by holding introductions and reminding the lead of why they’re attending. Then give a high-level overview of the product, give the personalized demo, and secure next steps.

In this stage, marketers might also send white papers and product videos and invite leads to attend webinars or events. Usually, the goal of a live product demo stage is to get the lead to attend a more in-depth technical demo or sales presentation. In the B2B space, it might also be to get a meeting with another decision maker.

To learn more, check out our article on how to craft and give a great product demo, where we list the step-by-step process for delivering a powerful live demo that wins over prospects.

Sales Presentation

The sales presentation stage could either come after a demo or a sales call stage. For service businesses, it will likely come immediately after the sales call. During this presentation, the salesperson verbally explains the value of the product or service to one or multiple buyers, typically with the backdrop of a sales deck (aka slideshow). The goal is to get a verbal expression of interest, either during or after the presentation, in buying the solution.

In the presentation stage, sellers will commonly do the below stage-appropriate activities:

  • Write a Sales Presentation Outline and Script: Figure out what you’re going to say to the lead and the order you’ll do it in. This usually includes an intro, an assessment of their main problem, its costs, the benefits of solving it, and your solution.
  • Prepare a Personalized Slide Deck: Create a slideshow that relates to your presentation’s outline.
  • Deliver the Presentation: Build rapport, set the agenda, and begin presenting your slides. Finish with a strong close and recommended next steps.

The sales presentation is usually one of the final stages of the lead nurturing process, and it’s a vitally important one. After it, the lead should have a clear understanding of the value you offer. At this point, a lead might even be ready for you to ask them for the sale and initiate the closing phase.

If you’d like to master the art of presenting, read our guide on how to create and deliver a sales presentation, where you’ll find the step-by-step process and a free customizable presentation template.

Business Proposal

This stage is popular in complex B2B sales. You create and send a business proposal outlining your product or service, why it’s a good fit for them, and the terms and pricing of the agreement. This proposal is tailored to their internal processes, current technology stack, and other factors that will affect how you implement your solution. It’s more personalized than any previous sales actions since you’ve had so much time to accumulate details about the lead.

Here are some common sales activities you’d find in the proposal stage:

  • Choose a Business Proposal Template: Many businesses use proposal templates to make the proposal creation process faster.
  • Write the Personalized Proposal: Tailor the proposal to the needs of the prospect and be sure to end with a call-to-action.
  • Send the Proposal: Email or mail the proposal and a business proposal cover letter to the decision makers.
    Hold a Meeting to Review the Proposal: Go over questions and concerns of the recipient and overcome them.

If included, this will usually be the final stage of the nurturing process. It’s followed by the closing step, where you’ll try to turn a verbal agreement to buy into a written one.

To learn about business proposals and how they can help you push leads past the finish line of your nurturing phase, read our guide on how to write a business proposal. There, you’ll see how to craft an effective proposal from start to finish, and you’ll also receive a free template.

Closed/Won or Closed/Lost

Although not a lead nurturing stage, it’s important to keep the closing phase in mind since it’s your destination and the final of the three overarching stages of sales (lead generation, nurturing, and closing). Here you’ll attempt to get a written agreement to purchase your solution, typically in the form of a contract. If you do, mark the deal as closed/won and start onboarding the client. If you fail to close, mark it as closed/lost, pick your head up, and start nurturing the next deal.

To learn how to turn those you’ve nurtured into paying customers, read our article on how to close the sale. In it, you’ll find the steps of the closing process as well as some effective closing techniques.

How to Create Your Lead Nurturing Process

Your lead nurturing process tells your team what they need to do to get qualified leads into a buyer mentality. There are steps you can take to create a nurturing process that fits your needs, sales process, and business model. Keep in mind that the same business might have multiple nurturing processes — one for each unique product or service.

Here are the steps for creating a lead nurturing process:

  1. Outline Your Overall Sales Process: Before mapping the specifics of your lead nurturing process, sketch out your overall sales process, which includes your lead generation and deal-closing efforts. This will help with nurturing because you'll know where leads are coming from and where you want them to end up.
  2. Map Your Lead Nurturing Process: With your overall sales process loosely defined, further refine your lead nurturing portion by defining the 3–5 milestones necessary to get a lead in the buying mentality on their journey from qualified to closing. Look over the journeys of past closed/won customers and jot down the most common sales interactions.
  3. Translate Your Nurturing Process Into Pipeline Stages: Turn each milestone of the nurturing process into a specific stage in a sales pipeline, which we recommend hosting in a CRM. Learn how to do this in our article on how to build a sales pipeline.
  4. Determine Each Stage’s Required Benchmark: Select the criteria a lead must hit to move through each stage of your lead nurturing process. These criteria are often an action a lead must take or demonstrate, such as accepting a sales call or saying yes to a live demo.
  5. Identify Sales Activities for Each Stage: Pick the impactful actions your salespeople must take during each stage to move a lead into the following stage. The goal of the activities is to inspire the lead to take the action that qualifies them for the next stage.
  6. Start Nurturing Leads Through the Pipeline: Place your current leads in the correct stage in your pipeline and begin doing each stage’s associated sales activities. In your CRM, you can move leads through the pipeline when they hit the benchmark for entry.
  7. Measure and Optimize Your Process: Measure key CRM metrics to assess the performance of your nurturing process and to find weak spots, like certain stages where many leads drop out.

You should always strive to improve your lead nurturing process through testing new strategies like adding more touchpoints, diversifying your communication channels, or using new lead nurturing strategies, which you can learn about below.

Top 6 Lead Nurturing Strategies

Throughout your different lead nurturing stages, you’ll use strategies to help the lead feel comfortable with and desirous of buying your offering. Below, we’ll describe some powerful lead nurturing strategies that will help you in this endeavor, such as being available to answer questions, running email nurturing campaigns, using social media, and more. You can try all six strategies or pick and choose the ones that work best with your lead nurturing process.

Be Available to Answer Questions & Address Concerns

As leads move through your pipeline and become more invested in the evaluation of your solution, the questions and objections become more frequent and nuanced. As the lead’s guide, you should be available for a quick call the day you receive the email, text, or call from the lead. Your responsiveness proves your dedication to the lead, further growing their trust in you.

It’s therefore important to regularly check emails and other communication channels to see if your leads have asked anything. Examples could be a question about a product feature after your demo, or a hesitation regarding the implementation process that appeared in their minds as they were reading your proposal. Respond to them asking if they’d like to hop on a quick call to go over it.

Run Email Nurturing Campaigns

Email nurturing campaigns are a popular trust-building marketing tactic for automatically sending leads personalized content through pre-written emails as they move through your pipeline. Typically, the goal of email nurturing campaigns is to qualify leads as marketing-qualified before passing them to sales, so that sellers receive high-quality leads. But it can also go on in the background while sellers are enacting their nurturing process.

This is usually in the domain of marketing, but if you’d like to learn about this strategy, we’ve written an article on how to set up an email nurturing campaign.

Engage With Leads Over Social Media

Also a powerful lead generation tactic, interacting with leads over social platforms is a great way to nurture them through your pipeline. Every time you like, reply to, or engage with one of your lead’s posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, or other platforms, the lead becomes more familiar with you. And, as the classic sales book Influence says, familiarity often breeds liking.

Here are some ways to nurture leads over social media:

  • Tag the Lead on a Post They’d Like: If you read a post about an industry trend or something related to their role, especially on LinkedIn, comment their name in the reply section saying something like “Thought you’d find this useful based on our last chat.”
  • Post Insightful Content to the Newsfeed: Although indirect, leads you’re connected with can see your posts and gain value from them. They’ll also see you as an expert.
  • Invite Leads to Your Company’s Facebook Group: If you have a Facebook group, ask your leads to join so that you can share unique offers and content with them.
  • Reply to the Lead’s Posts: Have mini conversations with them by commenting on their posts and sharing your thoughts.

Consistency in social nurturing is key. Some sales reps dedicate 30 minutes a day to engaging with their leads on social media. A little bit of thoughtfulness can really make an impact on a lead’s perception of you.

Send Leads Targeted & Valuable Content

Email your leads content from your brand (e.g., blog posts, videos, case studies) that relate to their specific interests. You should learn their fancies by referring to your CRM, holding a discovery call, or at least making assumptions based on their job title and responsibilities. Sending them relevant content like an industry report or relevant article will increase their knowledge about your brand and solution and make them more ready for a purchase.

Keep in mind that the content should correspond to their current stage in the buyer journey. While a lead you just gave a live product demo to would value a white paper on a feature they expressed interest in, a newer lead would benefit more from an article describing a pain point they mentioned to your company, and the main ways to solve it.

Use Lead Nurturing Software

Lead nurturing software, typically a function of CRMs and marketing automation platforms, helps businesses qualify, manage, and nurture their leads. The software also usually automates many of the lead nurturing activities you might do, like creating and managing a sales pipeline, tracking lead communications and activity, and scoring and assigning leads.

Below are three of the best lead nurturing software available:

  • Zoho CRM: Best for multi-channel lead nurturing through email, social media, and your website (free starting price).
  • HubSpot CRM: Best for lead scoring via email, phone, live chat, and chatbots (free starting price).
  • Freshsales: Best for sales pipeline automation in the form of reminder, note, email, and call workflows (free starting price).

The best lead nurturing software will depend largely on your overall sales process. For example, if you generate leads mainly through sales prospecting, using a CRM that includes lead nurturing features will likely benefit you more than employing a marketing automation platform.

For more on the above platforms and other top tools, check out our guide on the best lead nurturing software. There you’ll find the pricing, use cases, and features of each platform to help you pick the best one for your business.

Invite Leads to Your Events

Whether a lead is in the first or last stage of your nurturing process, they’ll appreciate an invite to one of your company’s events. It could be something big like an industry conference or small like a webinar. But, it’s not just a feeling of camaraderie that’ll move them through the pipeline. At these events, they’ll learn more about your brand, their challenges, and your solutions to them, thereby becoming more comfortable with purchasing from your business.

3 Best Lead Nurturing Examples

Below are three examples of lead nurturing from different seller types: B2B or B2C services, B2B products, and B2C products. As a rule of thumb, the more complex or expensive the solution, the more touchpoints will be needed between the seller and the buyer because the buyer will need more understanding and trust to become comfortable enough to make the purchase.

B2B or B2C Service Lead Nurturing Process Example

B2B or B2C services, from event catering to financial advisory, will often speak with a lead, then give a virtual or in-person presentation, then follow that up with a written proposal to lay out and finalize the details. Here are the common stages:

  1. Sales Call Stage: Over a few calls, the seller learns more about the lead, asking them questions about their needs and business, and then gives a full sales pitch if it seems like a good fit.
  2. Sales Presentation Stage: The salesperson gives more in-depth information about the service and how it will solve the lead’s specific pain points with the help of a sales deck.
  3. Proposal Stage: In a sales proposal, the seller goes into greater detail about how the service will work for the customer and the specifics of the agreement such as deadline dates and pricing. B2B proposals tend to be more comprehensive.

If you’re selling writing, web development, consulting, accounting, or other service-based offerings, it’s crucial that you spend time forming a relationship with the buyer. Since they’ll be interacting with you routinely after purchase, they’ll want a partner who is both easy to work with and attentive to their needs.

B2B Product Lead Nurturing Process Example

B2B product companies, such as SaaS or equipment, usually have lead nurturing processes rich in live product demos and calls with various decision makers. Below is a common lead nurturing process these businesses will use:

  1. Sales Email Stage: The salesperson sends a few emails to the lead, explaining to them how they can help and attempting to book a consultation.
  2. Sales Call Stage: The sales rep will hold a call or two to both fully qualify and pitch the lead. These calls will also form the foundation of the relationship.
  3. Product Demo Stage: This will usually involve giving multiple live product demos to various decision makers within the company, as well as answering questions about the solution and providing supporting material to help them make their decision.

Whether you’re selling a SaaS product, a piece of machinery, electronics, or supplies, you’ll want to focus on demonstrating why your product is the best fit for your lead. Focus your conversations and demos on the lead’s specific pain points and spend time discussing the features that will address them.

B2C Product Lead Nurturing Process Example

B2C product businesses in industries like consumer electronics or automobiles use slightly different lead nurturing tactics than B2B or service industries. Their process relies more on the marketing team’s nurturing efforts, and, if the product is low-priced, might even forgo detailed lead qualification or involvement from a sales team. However, in the two-step example below, we include a sales rep:

  1. Email Nurturing Campaign Stage: After a lead downloads a lead magnet that signifies interest in a product, marketers send an automated email sequence offering a demo. Usually, the emails also deliver content that helps the lead solve a relevant problem.
  2. Product Demo Stage: When the lead agrees to a demo or schedules it on a meeting scheduler app, a salesperson conducts the product demo, either over video conference or in person (e.g., at a car dealership).

The lead nurturing for lower-priced products like a piece of jewelry or a T-shirt is often short. Sometimes businesses will get a purchase from a lead they just generated. For instance, a Facebook ad might send a lead to the ecommerce store where the lead buys something right away. Regardless, B2C product companies should still create a lead nurturing process for those less trigger-happy leads and to nurture buyers into customers for other products.

Bottom Line: Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is the process of consistently engaging with your leads to get them increasingly comfortable with your brand and desirous of your product or service. To do it well, you must personalize your nurturing to each new lead, sharing content that relates to their interests, and holding calls and meetings that give them the information they’re interested in. 

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