How Loud Can You Be? Finding the Right Number of Prospects to Nurture
Just how loud—or quiet—are you? What’s the “volume” you’re selling at, and is that volume effective for your target audience? Finding the right volume, and by that we mean determining how frequently to reach out to prospects at all stages of the buyer’s journey, is critical for effective sales.
But how do you determine that volume? By paying attention: Matching the sales process to the buyer’s journey and continually tweaking it will lead to the appropriate volume level. The advice below should help.
The sales process as a series of milestones
Whatever you’re selling, a refined sales process ideally creates a series of milestones in the buyer’s journey: from target to prospect, prospect to opportunity, opportunity to client, and client to brand advocate.
At each milestone, you will likely have fewer people than you did in the one before. For example you’re going to have fewer leads than you had targets, and fewer opportunities than you had leads, etc. (We would love to tell you there’s a way to take every target all the way to the point of closing and opportunity, but no one has figured out that magic formula yet!). Knowing the numbers drop off this way, you are better off talking to more prospects at the top of the process to drive better results at each phase.
However, it’s not just about the numbers. The key is proper execution at each milestone, and this includes knowing how many prospects you can effectively nurture, in other words, your volume. Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. When a sales strategy is executed properly, large numbers going into the funnel produce large numbers coming out. You are better off talking to more customers at the top of the process to drive better results at each phase.
With that in mind, what is the appropriate volume? How many times can a sales rep reach out before it gets to be too much and too overwhelming for the prospect? How many prospects can you reach out to without sacrificing quality and personalization? Where’s the sweet spot between the two?
Focus your funnel
Use a sales funnel to organize your sales process with prospects into each stage to track progress across the team. Do this based on common definitions with the goal of driving accurate forecasts for future closed business. You also need a consistent understanding of how customers go through the buying process. Though the journey has general stages, each individual buyer takes unique specifics into account. It all goes back to tailoring your outreach to match your buyers’ needs and wants. 9% of B2B organizations touch leads with lead nurturing on a daily basis, 22% do so weekly, and 34% do so monthly, according to MarketingSherpa.
To start, you can focus your sales funnel on the most common buyer’s journey for your industry. Then later, once you have your own data and understanding of your industry, you can set yours up as you see fit for your business. Remember, however, that your funnel is not made of stone. Be flexible and reinterpret the funnel based on the uniqueness of each buyer. According to MarketingSherpa, 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel. This step can be a huge advantage!
Create a repeatable sales process
Your goal here is not to continually re-invent the wheel, but to create a repeatable sales process that’s mapped to the buyer’s journey. To do so, first, lay out each step of the process, with a branch for inbound vs. outbound leads. To begin, ask yourself some questions:
- During the initial contact
- What are your most predictable and effective forms of lead generation – networking, cold calling, inbound leads from marketing or referrals?
- Do you use the same qualification process each time?
- What questions work best in that very first conversation with a prospect?
- Do you foresee the same buying process for each new prospect?
- During the follow up
- What type of follow up do you send after that conversation (e.g., an email, a hand-written note, a white paper or piece of collateral) that garners results, and do you have a proven template for it?
Next, create scripts, templates and tools to automate the process for your team. Make it easy for them to replicate the process and measure its efficiency. Communication should still be personalized for each particular prospect, however, so remind them of that.
Try it as outlined for a month—give or take depending on the length of your sales cycle—and document your conversion rate. The idea is to create consistency and measure how it works across the team.
Then tear it apart one little piece at a time to improve your conversion rate. Keep enhancing it and adding value for your prospect to ultimately increase his or her receptivity to your proposal in the second meeting and improve your close ratio.
Revamp a single step at a time and test your refined sales process. Isolating a single change at a time will allow you to accurately measure the impact of that change on your overall sales process.
Often, we hear that sales is a number game. For every 1000 accounts prospected in a given quarter, how many opportunities should an SDR group generate? According to Bridge Group Inc. 33 should be accepted into the funnel. That is something to keep in mind as you define your sales process.
Top sales influencers Jill Konrath and Jeb Blount have argued that it’s really an effectiveness game. We argue it’s both and that your prospecting volume plays a vital role in improving your targeting and effectiveness in closing more deals.
Make an objective assessment of the situation, goal, strategies and tactic you’ll employ. Creating a consistent process and continually tweaking it with knowledge of the buyer’s journey will enable you to reach a consistent volume and appropriate level of personalization.