My whole family knows the story.
When my grandfather was just a 28-year-old stud, back from his tour in the military, he met a lovely young woman and began to court her. After a few dates, my grandfather called the young woman’s apartment and was greeted by the voice of her roommate. No, the young woman was not at home at the moment, but sure, the roommate would be happy to meet him for a soda.
“I just figured he wanted to talk about [the young woman he was dating],” my grandmother recalls.
(You’re a clever reader, so you can guess what was really happening. Seinfeld would later call this scenario “the switch” and claim it was impossible to pull off. But then, Larry David never met Bill Farmer.)
As my grandfather and grandmother parted ways after spending their first day together, my grandfather matter-of-factly stated, “Well, I have to work next weekend. But we can get married the next.” And so began a 50-year relationship that led to, among many other things, the person writing this blog post and the advice you’re about to receive:
You are not Bill Farmer.
Lead nurturing, unlike my grandparents’ relationship, is a romance that takes time to bloom. If you “propose” to your prospects on the first date, you’re going to come across as pushy and socially clueless.
If a prospect has done nothing more than fill out a form to download an eBook, it’s too soon for your sales team to call them and try to close a deal. On the other hand, if a prospect has been on your email list for six months and you’ve never reached out with a personal message, you might be slow-playing it a little too much.
A better approach is to act like you would (you, not my grandfather) in a romantic relationship:
1. Ask Them about Themselves
Make sure your lead generation forms include a question about why the prospect is interested in the content they’re downloading, how soon they’ll be seeking services like yours, or another qualifying factor.
2. Go on a Few Dates
Add qualified prospects to a lead nurturing list and regularly send them content that answers questions they might have about your industry or your company, or offers best practices and advice that can help them do their own jobs better. Always offer, but don’t push, ways for prospects to engage more deeply with your company when they’re ready.
3. Know When to Get Real
As you go through this process, some of your leads will begin to self-select by either asking to be removed from your list (it happens), reaching out to discuss your offering, or purchasing your product or service. For those who haven’t taken any of these paths after a handful of marketing emails, it’s now appropriate for the sales team to call or email and find out where you stand.
Is the prospect looking for services like yours, and if so, in what time frame? Do they have any questions? Would they like a demo?
When you approach lead nurturing (and relationships) this way, it becomes less about “sales” and more about determining whether you’re a fit for each other. That’s a much better use of time for everyone involved.
And wasting time on the wrong people bothers most of us. It definitely bothered my grandmother’s roommate. When she found out about the happy new couple’s impending nuptials, she packed her things and left. My grandmother came home to a kitchen counter covered in heaps of flour, sugar, and salt (my grandmother had bought the baking supplies, but the canisters belonged to her roommate).
Somehow, Papaw pulled it off. But you can’t. You won’t. So take it slow, be mindful of your prospects’ needs, and always read the signals your audience is sending before swooping in to make the big ask.