If you work in a sales or marketing team, you'll be all too familiar with the persistent conflict between the two. And nothing fans the flames of that particular fire quite like when a new lead enters the business.

It's the catalyst for a tug-of-war around lead nurture.

Most companies treat the lead acquisition as their marketing team's primary (and sometimes only) role. Once marketers have driven demand generation, they pass the leads to Sales, which funnels them through the sales pipeline.

But is it Sales' job to nurture a lead?

Surely, Sales should be focused simply on closing the sale?

This article explores the roles of Marketing and Sales in demand generation.

Demand generation is the holy grail of sales and marketing goals. So, naturally, you need a stream of leads to sell your service or product.

Forrester research suggests that less than 1% of B2B leads become customers. That's a lot of people falling through the gaps. And it's why nurturing leads is crucial in creating a successful and profitable business.

However, the challenge is that the sales and marketing departments often think it's the other's responsibility to nurture generated leads.

So who does lead nurturing come down to? Sales or Marketing...?

Let's get into why it's the job of Sales to nurture, and what Marketing can do to aid the nurture sequence.

What Is Lead Nurturing?

Of course, demand generation is crucial, but you need to be able to turn generated leads into sales if you are serious about driving revenue. If, as Forrester research suggests, only 1% of those leads become customers—that's a lot of money being left on the table.

Lead nurturing is the process you use to turn leads into sales.

Lead nurturing is the process of fostering leads that are not yet ready to buy. It's done by anticipating buyers' needs based on where they are in the buying process and helping them along the journey.

Essentially, it's all about building trust with buyers, at every stage of the buyer's journey, by providing them with the solution to their problems.

Why should you nurture?

Because companies that nurture leads generate 50% more Sales-qualified leads, at 33% less cost, and have an order value 47% higher than those that don't.

But whose responsibility is it to take leads and nurture them, building on trust to turn them into paying customers?

Many companies think it is the sales team's responsibility after the marketing team has generated the demand.

But is that thinking correct?

What Do Businesses Get Wrong About Lead Nurturing?

Imagine this...

You're in the early stages of looking for a new CRM software for your business. You watch a recorded demo video to get a feel for the problems it could help you solve. It's a gated demo, so you're required to input your business details, including your email and phone number.

An hour later, you get a call... it's the CRM sales team.

Do you want to talk to them?

True, you are interested in implementing this software. But the problem—as with 70% of leads generated—is that you aren't ready to buy yet.

So it's still far too early for the sales team to get involved. In fact, on average, B2B sales prospects are already 67% through the purchasing journey before engaging with a sales team member.

In most companies, the marketing department drives demand generation and then passes Marketing-qualified leads (MQL) on to the sales team. The sales team then has the responsibility of nurturing those leads. And, as we've discovered, the challenge with that approach is that most people aren't yet ready to buy when they first become a lead.

That flawed process fuels the age-old conflict between sales and marketing departments. The sales teams think marketers are ineffective because they pass along unqualified leads. Meanwhile, Marketing feels underappreciated by the sales team, which gets all the glory and commissions.

Ultimately, both Sales and Marketing have the same goal—driving revenue. However, their roles in the pursuit of that goal differ:

  • The sales team's role is to present the offer and close the sale.
  • But successful lead nurturing is a vital role of the marketing department.

If done well, nurturing can move leads through the buying cycle, creating a Sales-qualified lead (SQL).

So how do you nurture leads well?

The Role of Behavioral Progressive Profiling in Lead Nurturing

Fully 63% of leads who inquire about your business won't convert for at least three months.

Let's relate that finding to the intrusive sales call scenario we discussed earlier: It reinforces the idea that contact was too early, too eager—and that before passing leads along to Sales, Marketing needs to nurture them and determine when they are Sales-ready because they are displaying sales intent.

And to determine Sales-readiness, you need to understand what sales intent behavior looks like and how to get your prospects to that point.

Sales intent = a customer's intention to purchase a product or service. Sales intent behavior is the specific behavior people display when making a purchase decision.

Sales intent behavior lets you know that leads are ready to be passed over to the sales team. That behavior includes...

  • Visiting the contact page
  • Inquiring about price
  • Requesting a demo/free trial
  • Multiple people from the same organization engaging with your content

The best way to accurately track leads' sales intent behavior is to employ behavioral progressive profiling. It allows you to progressively collect relevant information and deliver the right content at the right time to your leads.

It also lets you inform Sales when the leads are ready to speak to them and buy.

Most leads need to be nurtured to get to that state of readiness. That nurture process often involves reverse-engineering lead magnets and entry points to move leads from Marketing-qualified to Sales-qualified.

How to Use Marketing Automation in Lead Nurturing

The marketing department's job is still not done once leads are Sales-ready. It needs to provide those leads with bottom-of-the-funnel content that educates, handles objections, and empowers leads to have conversations with the sales team.

Marketing automation can be designed to deliver that bottom-of-the-funnel content.

Businesses that use marketing automation software to nurture leads increase the number of qualified leads up to 451%, according to Fronetics. Using software to nurture at scale and move leads seamlessly through the buyer's journey is essential.

A Sales Motivational Series (let's use SMS for short here) allows you to continually nurture leads even after they are Sales-qualified.

A sales motivational series is an automated email sequence using targeted content for the bottom of the funnel to address objections, comparisons, and pricing.

This approach is essential for businesses with a long sales cycle, where the purchase is a big commitment. It helps support lead qualification over a long period while keeping leads engaged and warming them up to close the sale.

SMS includes targeting bottom-of-funnel activities and concerns such as...

  • Pricing
  • FAQs
  • Objection-busting
  • Case studies

It helps to boost conversions while seamlessly pushing leads through the buyer's journey. Of course, the sales team is still necessary, but it's a helping hand alongside building the relationship and rapport.

Getting the Right Team to Nurture Leads

Even though there can be conflict between sales and marketing teams, they have the same goal because they are both revenue-generating departments (or they should be).

Therefore, it's essential for Sales and Marketing to work closely together. Doing so ensures the messaging sent to prospects is powerful, accurate, and full of insights only the sales team can provide. Conversely, Marketing needs to utilize its skills to bolster the sales team's chances of closing the sale. The two teams are two sides of the same coin, working together to drive revenue.

Specifically, in addition to its traditional "creative" and lead-generating role, it should play a significant role in lead nurturing. Its job does not stop post-demand generation: To support Sales, marketers need to cultivate leads and nurture them through the buying process—empowering leads to have conversations with the sales and revenue team.

To that end, to support the sales team's revenue goals, marketers should be implementing marketing automation via nurture sequences and sales motivational series.

If you need help with your marketing automation systems and sequences, get in touch with MarketingProfs. We can help!

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Why It's Not Your Sales Team's Job to Nurture Leads

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image of Kenda Macdonald

Kenda Macdonald is a forensic psychology major, the Demand Generation Consulting Practice Lead at MarketingProfs, and the founder of Automation Ninjas, the UK's leading behavioral automation agency. She's an international public speaker, a multi-award-winning businesswoman, a doting cat mom, and the author of the best-selling Hack the Buyer Brain.