Hearing a prospective customer say “no” is often disappointing, but in B2B sales, just because a prospect says “no” today doesn’t mean they’re going to say “no” forever. One of the most important lessons of B2B sales is that you have to keep working with your long-term sales leads in your sales pipeline. Companies with effective pipeline management grow 15 percent faster than companies without it, and they enjoy 28 percent more revenue growth.
Here are a few ideas to get better results from managing your pipeline of long-term sales leads:
Establish a lead nurturing program
What happens if you hear a prospect say “No” or “Not interested?” Understand that “No” is not always forever. Many companies make the mistake of only chasing the short-term leads and closing immediate sales opportunities; however, if a prospect seems unready to buy or requires additional time, these long-term leads tend to fall through the cracks.
You need to have a consistent process in place to keep following up with sales leads for the long-term–even if it’s just an occasional phone call or email, or offering to send a newsletter or share a presentation.
According to stats from Marketing Sherpa, 65 percent of B2B marketers do not have an established lead nurturing process in place. So if you just set up a formal process to follow up with leads, you’ll be getting ahead of the competition.
To set up your lead nurturing program, create a few formal “steps” to track the way new business leads come into your organization. For example, the first step could be: “First phone call from prospect” or “Got email from prospect” or “Received business card from prospect at trade show.” Then the second step could be: “Initial call to prospect–ask prospect to agree to online product demo,” and the third step could be: “Online demo–ask prospect to agree to hear an ROI calculation to show product’s benefits.”
Each step of the conversation needs to involve directly asking the prospect to agree to a next step. Keep track of how many new leads come into the organization each month, and then track your progress by measuring the conversion ratios at each new step of the sales process. For example, maybe you get 100 new leads each month, but only 50 percent of them actually agree to talk with you at step two, and 25 percent of those agree to attend an online demo. Your lead nurturing program will help you set benchmarks over time to make sure you’re doing the right things to close more deals.
Don’t give up on “lost” sales
Most of the time, after going through an RFP or a sales process and then losing the sale to a competitor, most companies will give up. But don’t assume that a sale is ever totally lost, even if your prospect has signed on with another vendor; things with other vendors don’t always work out.
Even if you lose a sale to another vendor, maybe it will turn out that the client’s company doesn’t like the new vendor’s implementation process, and they decide to go in a different direction. This is where effective lead nurturing helps the most. Your established relationship with the prospect will put you ahead of the competition if the client decides they are unhappy with the vendor.
Unless the prospect has asked you to stop contacting them (“Do not call me again,” etc.), it’s worth doing at least a simple, quick follow-up after three-to-six months to check in and ask, “How are things going with your new solution/new vendor?” In addition to this simple check-in style of follow-up, you can reengage with “lost” sales in a more customized way based on previous conversations you had with the prospect.
For example, if the prospect voiced concerns about certain aspects of the solution they’re buying your competitor that you know are strengths of your product, you can hone in on those aspects of the new purchase. “How are things working out so far with the (NAME OF FEATURE) of that new system you bought? I know you had expressed concerns about the productivity estimates–are you hitting your new numbers, or is the new solution falling short?” You might be able to turn one of these follow-up conversations into the start of a whole new sales opportunity.
Lead nurturing is all about playing the long game—recognizing that even if someone says “no” to your offer today, that doesn’t mean they’ll always say “no.” By building relationships and following up with prospects for the long term, you’ll be better able to spot opportunities, be ready to respond when prospects need a new vendor, and create a more sustainable long-term pipeline of sales opportunities.