Andrea Johnson

Lead Nurturing: Build trust, win more deals by helping prospects – not selling them

Imagine this:

Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl out.

On their first date, boy asks, “Will you marry me?” Girl says no.

Boy promptly sends her phone number to the bottom of his list. Six months later, boy calls again.

“Want to marry me yet?” he asks. Girl rolls her eyes, hangs up and blocks his number.

I fully realize this is a silly scenario, but it’s really not unlike what sales professionals do when they call prospects every few months to “touch base” and ask “whether they’re ready to buy yet.”

That time between the first “not yet” or “maybe” and the next phone call is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to prospects — through appropriate contact on a regular basis — the value you can bring to their organizations.

This is what lead nurturing is all about. It’s absolutely essential in the complex sale, where the time from first contact to closing is typically many months. However, appropriate contact means providing customers information they want — not trying to sell them something.


Here’s the lead-nurturing litmus test: Can prospects benefit from the information you provide regardless of whether they buy from you? To help pass this test, here are three tips:


Tip #1. Know whom you’re talking to

Analyze your database and identify audiences with common demographics, such as titles and industries, and common behaviors, such as how they first engaged with you and why. This will help you target the right information to the right people; it will help you identify what information is most relevant to them and how they want to consume it.

Tip #2. Find out where it hurts

Talk directly to each of your audiences to identify what they want to know more about. Ask questions like:

  • What sorts of issues keep you up at night?
  • What resources help you respond to those challenges? (Do they attend events, read whitepapers, forums, instructional videos, etc.?)
  • What kind of knowledge/service would make your life easier?
  • What sort of information informs your buying decisions?


Tip #3. Help ease the pain

Identify and/or create content that will help them with these issues. (Remember, no selling!) Email this information to them at regular intervals, every three to six weeks.

Over time, prospects are going to think, “You know, this company has really helped me out. They’ve given me information I can use. They really seem to know what they’re talking about.”



The Payoff:  Next time your salesperson calls, they don’t have to make small talk until they conclude with some lame line about the customer’s readiness to buy. They can conduct a meaningful conversation about the latest whitepaper (or article, or blog post, or instructional video) that was sent as part of your lead-nurturing program.


Another Payoff: B2B marketers who nurture leads have a nearly 30% higher return on investment than those who don’t, according to the MarketingSherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. Even better, nurturing leads will give you a competitive edge considering a whopping 65% of B2B organizations don’t have any kind of lead-nurturing program.

Want to learn more about lead nurturing? Sign up for this free webcast scheduled for March 6, when Brian Carroll, Executive Director of Revenue Optimization at MECLABS, will present The One-Two Punch of Effective Lead Engagement: Accurate Lists and Powerful Content.


Related Resources:

No Budget and Less Time? Lead Nurturing in Five Simple Steps

BNET Interviews Brian Carroll: Focus on Helping Not Closing

The ingredients of lead nurturing and how they work together

Have a minute? Find out why lead nurturing is more critical than ever

What’s the best lead generation tactic? All of them.

Email Marketing: The importance of lead nurturing in the complex sale

Lead Nurturing: How much content is enough?

Webinar Replay: 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report Reveals How Marketers can Transform Mounting Pressure, Challenges into Revenue

To Call or Email: That is the Question

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Lead Nurturing



  1. March 5th, 2012 at 12:01 | #1

    Good insights. In the world of “getting leads” no one should forget about “nurturing leads”.

  2. March 5th, 2012 at 18:12 | #2

    Andrea, I think your analogy is perfect. The lead-nurturing litmus test, “Can prospects benefit from the information you provide regardless of whether they buy from you?” is very helpful. I think “touching base” just to see if the prospect is ready to buy yet becomes acceptable sales behavior when your lead quality is suffering. If the sales person’s attention is divided among many leads, most of which aren’t a good fit regardless, the sales process becomes increasingly impersonal and transaction-oriented. For sales professionals that have fallen into this pattern, even Tip #1 becomes an impossible time-consuming task (“Know whom you’re talking to”). Analyzing behaviors and uncovering each individual lead’s responsibilities in order to tailor your message so that it’s most relevant to them is something that should be done early on in the sales process. This way the sales team isn’t wasting time sifting through junk leads in order to find the prospects that would most benefit from their message.

  3. March 6th, 2012 at 09:26 | #3

    Simple but effective, thanks.

  4. Andrea Johnson
    Andrea Johnson
    March 6th, 2012 at 15:38 | #4

    Marta, Nicole and Dave, thanks so much for the good words and for your feedback.

    Nicole, this article may be of special interest to you, it argues that lead generation should be a marketing, not a sales function – it is very much aligned with your thoughts:
    http://b2bleadblog.com/2011/07/four-steps-to-convince-ceos-that-demand-generation-should-be-a-marketing-not-a-sales-function.html.

  5. March 7th, 2012 at 12:24 | #5

    Good tips and original story, Thanks very much Andrea.

    Good luck.

  6. Andrea Johnson
    Andrea Johnson
    March 8th, 2012 at 16:31 | #6

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, Nicolas, and thank you for the kind words.

  7. March 9th, 2012 at 18:18 | #7

    It’s all about solving pain. Features and benefits don’t much matter unless they are focused like a laser beam on pain.

  8. March 10th, 2012 at 11:16 | #8

    Leads nurturing is very important if you really want to generate sales. You are right apart from selling things to the prospects we should try to provide them some useful information too. It would help in creating a good reputation of your company.

  9. March 13th, 2012 at 15:53 | #9

    Thanks for this well organized and easy read. I am a strong believer in the idea of helping clients and building relationships rather than just “selling”. We are in the process of writing another e-book to help small businesses with their blog management, as part of our helping-hand attitude.

  10. Andrea Johnson
    Andrea Johnson
    March 13th, 2012 at 19:47 | #10

    BMurray – Absolutely. It takes pain to motivate people.

    John – You are right – reputation matters. It’s the foundation of trust.

    Jacqueline – Thanks so much for your kind words and good luck with your e-book!

  11. May 16th, 2012 at 05:50 | #11

    That’s a good analogy Andrea. Comparing lead nurturing to courtship. But yeah, I agree that everything worth having for is worth waiting for. Sales and marketing is about building relationships, hence the comparison in romance. Nice.

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