Lead Nurturing Strategies for Executive Salespeople | Executive Coaching

Lead Nurturing – Why Not Outsource?

As part of my LinkedIn outreach project, I recently connected with Craig Harrell, Founder and President of Rainmaker Marketing OSA (Outsourced Sales Assistant). Craig was one of those contacts who I had no idea if or when we had ever met, and I was so impressed with his company and what he was doing that I decided to do a full on profile on Rainmaker. With all the talk and hype surrounding ‘inbound marketing’, ‘lead nurturing’ and ‘relationship marketing,’ Craig has been doing this stuff on an outsource basis for 11 years! That’s right, Rainmaker Marketing was doing this way before it was even cool.

The concept is pretty simple: Sales is about timing. As I discussed in a previous post, qualification based on budget and immediate need severely limits your pool of clients. Qualification based on objective criteria allows you to nurture those relationships until a need arises and even help that need develop in most cases. In this world of latent need selling, once you have identified and introduced yourself to a prospect that meets your ideal client profile, there is often not much to do except stay connected.

Many companies seem to believe that newsletters (‘hey look at me!’) and special offers represent a meaningful nurturing effort. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead of orienting communications around US, effective nurturing requires we reach out to prospects with content and information that THEY care about – even if these communications do not directly serve our interests.

Back when I pitched large call center hardware and software (and submitted sales pipeline reports on stone tablets), I frequently came across CIO’s who were working their way through first generation Enterprise Resource Procurement (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementations. On several occasions, an initial sales call revealed that the prospect was trying to roll out SAP over the next six to nine months. Instead of pushing my solution, I sent them a steady stream of articles and whitepapers I had sourced on best practices for whatever initiative THEY were engaged in for my lead nurturing. Additionally, I had a large collection of business books and Harvard Business Review articles I mixed into my ‘nurture campaign.’ Most of this content was delivered by snail mail…imagine that! Not surprisingly, when the CRM implementation was completed and the call center upgrade moved up in priority position, the CIO often called me. Amazing right?

My point is that the concept of nurture marketing and lead nurturing is not new. That said, it does require a focus on long-term reward rather than simply making your number this quarter. It also requires a genuine interest in the prospect’s world and helping them succeed. Lastly, it requires a good amount of forethought, as well as ongoing effort to execute.

This is where Rainmaker comes in.

As a company that is in the business of starting conversations, Rainmaker develops a strategic plan with its clients to leverage direct mail and “old school” methodologies to position sales executives as trusted advisors rather than hard core salespeople. In addition to customized, strategic plans to stay in front of prospects, Rainmaker also offers list sourcing and cleansing, which is essential for sales reps to be able to put to use that stack of business cards that are wrapped in a rubber band and collecting dust in a drawer. Rainmaker will output that information to the client’s CRM, call each one to validate that the person is still with the company, and make sure they have the most current information to send out communications on the client’s behalf.

Craig learned the skills he employs at Rainmaker as a result of working in direct sales for a number of years. He used these lead nurturing methods to stay in front of his prospects, but he quickly realized that most salespeople don’t have the time to do this for themselves if they want to do it well. The things he offers sound simple, but in today’s electronic age, they are rare, to say the least, and recipients greatly appreciate the extra “personalized” effort that is inherent in hand-written communications, customized messages on postcards, handwritten faxes and cards, and voicemails. Most people today try to use email to get in front of their prospects, but that has limited success. Studies have shown that only 10-18% of B2B emails are even opened, which means that 82-90% of prospects are slipping through the cracks.

Not only do they know how to get something in front of a prospect, they know how to provide value to that person. A lot of content that is sent out these days is easy to ignore because you can tell you’re on a list, but Rainmaker makes every communication look like it is a one-off communication coming directly from the salesperson rather than a marketing automation program or a mass marketing campaign . 60-80% of content they send out is 3rd party, objective and credible information that doesn’t necessarily talk directly about the salesperson’s service, but rather includes meaningful and helpful information which helps the prospect make a smart and educated decision when evaluating products and services about the industry.  We can all say that something is true, but if someone else says it’s true it suddenly becomes easier to believe.

The cost of the service is as customized as the service itself. Their rule of thumb for setting goals are that while of course some will be lower and some higher, generally the “10-30 rule” applies. That is, of 100 prospects 10% will express some interest, and of those 10% the salesperson should be able to close 30%, totaling 3 out of 100 prospects. This will then be reviewed on an annual basis as they have a customized database that houses all the results, metrics and stats, which they then share with their clients. API’s, automation, and workflow have certainly been integral to their success.

Once the terms have been established and work has begun, Rainmaker measures their effectiveness by the number of conversations they start, which they are able to track using various built in mechanisms. Most conversations are started by an email message from the prospect and Rainmaker gets copies of these responses, which, because they do not come through a form or a website are sent direct to the salesperson. They also set up a unique phone number thatwill ring the salesperson’s cell or office number.  When the salesperson receives a call from a prospect the salesperson will hear a brief 3 second announcement letting them know it’s a lead from one of the Rainmaker communications.

Rainmaker likes to work with any B2B sales organization where the salespeople have more than 100 companies they need to be in front of with multiple touch points within a company. The organization usually sells some sort of capital equipment, software, insurance, services, healthcare, etc., possibly over a large geographical area, where the sale is north of $25k as they have long, complex sales cycles. The company has worked with companies such as the Spencer James Group, GE Healthcare, Philips Healthcare, Cardinal Health, IBM, and Xerox.

So, where can you find them in five years? On top of the world doing the same thing they’re doing now but with expanded services, integration with CRM systems, and even more clients.

By Townsend Wardlaw

photo credit: davedehetre via photopin cc