Lead Nurturing and the Inside Sales / Telesales Role

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We are working with several clients to help them improve their lead nurturing program to deliver a higher volume and quality of sales ready leads to the outside sales team.

We have found a tendency on the part of Inside Sales to conduct their work from what I would term a traditional mindset. In many cases they are actively prospecting for new leads from an unqualified list. They may be qualifying, using a BANT process, opportunities that have been created through marketing programs — something one of my partners refers to as “waterboarding to BANT.” Or, they are actively trying to set appointments for sales reps.

Telemarketing Study Results

Telesales manThis assessment was verified in a recent article about a study of the top objectives and budget areas for telemarketing organizations.

“The most popular objective for telemarketing, according to the research, is ‘generating new leads’, selected by 76 per cent of respondents, followed closely by ‘booking sales appointments’, selected by 72 per cent. ‘Lead qualification’ was third most popular, cited by 67 per cent. These findings confirm that the primary role of telemarketing is in the so-called demand generation arena.”

Maybe it’s assumed that nurturing is part of “lead qualification.” But I’ve found that clear language distinctions are critical in setting the right mindset and expectations for any operations role. We call this the “come from.”

The “come from” for lead qualification (and certainly appointment setting) is primarily a vendor perspective — when will you be ready to talk with a sales rep? I think the “come from” for lead nurturing is very different. It takes the buyer’s perspective, based upon what is interesting to them.

I posted this question in the Focus Sales website:

“What are the key elements for a lead nurturing function with an inside sales organization?”

I received an excellent, thoughtful response from Craig Rosenberg who makes several excellent observations, especially about the limitation of an automated only process for lead nurturing.

Focus website screencap

“There are a couple ways to think about Inside Sales in the lead nurturing process. The most important factor everyone must know is that you cannot downplay the critical function that inside sales plays in the lead management process. So when you ask for specific elements that inside sales provides in the lead nurturing process, the lead qualification function is the most important thing. It just is. The inside lead qualification function is the last mile of lead nurturing. They ensure that all your lead nurturing efforts are a fit for sales and queue them up so sales is more likely to follow up on them. Your lead management plan will not reach it’s full potential if the plan is to use automation to nurture, score leads, and then flip them to quota-carrying reps. Inside sales, the age-old lead qualification function, is still the bridge between marketing efforts and sales.”

He then goes on to suggest how important the phone is as a nurturing and cultivation channel, a way to score leads with greater accuracy and refinement, and a way to deliver more relevant content.

In our work with customers, we’re seeing generally weak nurturing due mainly to a poor “come from” and lack of a good supporting program. We are NOT a telesales operations or consulting company. We’re just trying to improve the handling of leads we help generate and nurture with automated methods. We also want inside sales to do a better job using the content we create, to nurture.

Telesales Nurturing Program

To correct this, we have recommended and implemented the following practices which we organize in the following categories:

  • Stage definitions
  • Objectives for each stage
  • Come from
  • Approach
  • Specific techniques
  • Next steps

We have documented our program far beyond what I have space and time for here. To receive the full program to support telesales nurturing click here (small registration required).

Stage Definitions

Three stages of the buyer and the relationship with the inside sales professional” — and primary objectives by stage

  • Engage to establish a trusted relationship
  • Educate and Nurture to create and accelerate opportunities
  • Learn, Qualify and Document the details of the opportunity pre-sales

Examples below are for Stage One — Engage

Come-from

The “come from” is changed from a traditional, sales oriented “I’m calling to see where you are as a potential buyer and what I have to do to get you to speak with one of my sales reps” to a buyer relevant “I’m here to serve and help you personally and professionally by providing valuable information, saving time, sharing insights, to make you successful.”

Approach

Approach is the tact the professional takes that creates a visceral feeling on the part of the buyer relative to the intent. Something like, be curious to be helpful, think from the buyer’s perspective in your conversations with them and, ask “Buying Facilitation (R)” questions (nod to Sharon Drew Morgen).

Specific Techniques

Specific techniques for the Engage stage include:

  • Using tools we provide from our Content Frameworks that guide purpose and messaging in customer conversations
  • Ask open ended, thought-provoking questions
  • Ask “buying facilitation” questions
  • Listen for … (problem symptoms, triggger points, pain, confusion, possible opportunity,)
  • Use and share content

Next Steps

Next steps include:

  • Gain commitment
  • Send content
  • Setup next conversation

Effective lead nurturing won’t happen naturally. It requires a program that creates the right expectations, structure, tools, mindset, reviews, measures, training and support.

I completely agree with Craig, the effectiveness of the personal touch of a phone conversation goes far beyond automated lead nurturing. Without an effective lead nurturing function, along with lead generation and qualification, an organization risks missing key opportunities, handing over premature opportunities, or even being late in turning over important leads to sales.

What do you think, is lead nurturing an important distinction from lead qualifying that makes a difference, or does it happen automatically? What have been your experiences?