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6 Ways Marketing Can Help Generate Early Leads for Sales

A marketer posed a perplexing question to me recently. “What does sales want more,” he asked, “qualified leads or early leads?”

My answer: Both.

It’s a fair question. Research indicates that sales cycles are 22% longer over the past 5 years but 49% of companies are saying that their buying cycles are shorter. Clearly, buyers are far more educated and sales is excluded from much of the conversation. In fact CEB Sales Practice research says that on average prospects are 57% of the way through making a purchase before they ever talk to sales. Getting to prospects is paramount, but so is focusing on the most qualified leads.

Here are 6 ways that marketing can help make that possible.

1. Make Sales Aware of Unknown Website Visitors
When sales people in the field known about how individual prospects are behaving, they get a head start on determining if now is the right time to start talking. And the earlier they get there, the more they can help guide the decision process.

2. Institute Human Touches Earlier in the Sales Cycle
Sales should make a soft introduction call positioning themselves as a trusted advisor. Showing up early in the sales cycle with compelling and relevant information can go along ways in being seen as more than “order taker.” 70% of prospects who raise their hands will purchase in 12 to 18 months. Establish yourself as a trusted source early and you can help accelerate that timeframe.

3. Give Prospects What They Want – Now
Marketers need to include a capabilities matrix, competitive matrix and an FAQ document as early in the lead nurturing process as possible.  This way sales can focus on selling the purpose and objectives rather than features and functions.  With tools like batch email signatures, marketing can help introduce individual sales reps as the trusted adviser when all of the nurturing appearing to come from sales.

4. Teach your Sales People to Communicate like their Audience
Like a public speaking coach, marketing should discipline sales to approach prospects with their perspective in mind. It’s important that sales is familiar with key business terminology, standard operating procedures and have insight into the strategic, tactical and operational challenges of their target audiences.

5. Don’t Stop Nurturing Too Early
Almost all B2B decisions are made by consensus. Marketing’s lead nurturing campaigns should not only map to the buying cycle but also to each contact that is likely a part of that decision-making team. Identifying the entire team based on their roles, challenges and the value of your solution will lead to greater overall consensus. Marketing should continue to use progressive profiling and surveys throughout the nurturing process in an effort to gain additional insights about buyers and influencers.

6. Schedule Calls for Sales Throughout the Lead Nurturing Process
With lead scoring marketing can trigger subsequent calls beyond when a prospect reaches the status of MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads), triggering sales to respond to prospect behavior. For example, marketing automation gives you the ability to push out specific campaigns when a prospect clicks on your FAQ or Pricing page. These are signals that can be programmed to schedule a contact from the territory sales rep.  You can even program automatic alerts to sales people on their mobile devices as an SMS or schedule them as follow-up tasks within your CRM system.

Sound off. What could marketing do to help your sales team win more deals?

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