Successfully generating, nurturing, and converting leads is both an art and a science. While the process demands creative problem-solving and off-the-cuff decision-making, it also requires using the right strategies at the exact right time.
In other words, when it comes to converting leads into customers, timing is everything.
Let’s take a closer look at business-to-business (B2B) leads, from the types of leads in sales to the strategies your sales team can use to approach, engage, and convert them into loyal customers that generate revenue for your company.
What Are Sales Leads?
Sales leads are people who have the potential to become a customer. They have expressed interest in your brand, products, or services or fit your ideal customer profile (ICP). For B2B companies, leads represent other companies instead of individual interests, so several stakeholders and decision-makers may be involved with the account.
As leads move through the sales funnel, they are engaged and nurtured by your marketing and sales teams. Ideally, when they reach the point of purchase in the bow tie funnel, they will convert into a customer.
Types of Leads in B2B Sales
Not all leads are the same—nor should they be approached the same way by your sales staff.
Leads are often categorized by how close to making a purchase they are (cold, warm, hot) or whether they meet certain engagement criteria (information qualified leads, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, sales ready leads). Based on the type of lead, your marketing and sales teams can determine the best way to target—and hopefully, convert—a prospective customer.
Cold leads are at the very top of the sales funnel. They fit your ICP, but they have never engaged with your B2B company and may not even be aware of your brand. These are the most difficult leads to convert because they do not have an active interest in your products or services.
Warm leads know who you are and what types of products or services you offer. They have expressed interest in your brand, like visiting your website or following you on social media, but don’t yet have an active interest in buying from you. These leads will require nurturing in order to move through the sales funnel.
Hot leads are at the bottom of the sales funnel. They are explicitly interested in your brand, products, or services and have indicated that they are considering a purchase, for example by talking with a sales representative or signing up for a free trial. These leads have not yet committed to a purchase but are well on their way to becoming a customer.
Information Qualified Leads (IQLs)
Information qualified leads (IQLs) are at the beginning of their problem-solving journey. They are looking for an answer to their questions or a solution that addresses their pain points. These leads can be targeted with informative content like blogs, webinars, and videos.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) have engaged with your marketing campaigns, are familiar with your brand, and are likely to make a purchase—but not yet. These leads require additional nurturing with tailored content marketing efforts to see if they are ready to move onto the next stage of the sales funnel.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
Sales qualified leads (SQLs) are active, bottom-of-funnel leads that have actively expressed interest in your products or services by engaging with your sales team in some capacity. These leads are a top priority and should be fast-tracked through the sales funnel when possible.
Sales Ready Leads (SRLs)
Sales ready leads (SRLs) have relevant needs, have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their business, and have the budget to make a purchase—they are the ideal customer. These leads have the highest level of interest in making a purchase and are ready to receive a direct sales pitch.
How to Close B2B Sales Leads: 5 Strategies to Follow
1. Lead Qualification
Lead qualification is the process of analyzing if a lead matches your ICP and has the potential to become a customer. By qualifying leads, your marketing and sales team can identify leads that have a higher likelihood of converting.
Criteria for Qualifying Leads
Each B2B company will have its own criteria for qualifying leads. Establish the factors that constitute a qualified lead, such as a certain budget, decision-making authority, or urgent need, and base qualification decisions on those criteria.
Through lead scoring, your marketing and sales team will assign a score (usually from 1 to 100) based on qualification criteria to determine how likely a lead is to make a purchase. The higher the lead score, the higher their buying intention.
Lead segmentation, or grouping leads into segments based on certain characteristics, makes it easy to tailor marketing messages and sales engagement strategies to each category and deliver personalized content.
2. Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing refers to the process of developing relationships and building trust with leads by addressing their needs at every stage of the buyer’s journey with tailored content and solutions. Nurturing is instrumental in converting leads into customers.
Developing and maintaining relationships with leads is vitally important. When you engage with potential customers and personalize communications, they are more likely to trust your brand and be willing to convert.
Create value for leads by sharing informative, engaging, personalized content that is tailored to their needs. This process strengthens the connection between a lead and a brand.
Generate high-quality, value-added, targeted, interactive content for leads that addresses their pain points, informs them of possible solutions, and reveals why your business is the best choice for solving their problems.
Marketing Automation Tools
Marketing automation tools will help streamline the lead nurturing process. Integrate marketing automation into your lead nurturing workflow to schedule, track, and adapt marketing initiatives to the unique needs of your leads.
3. Sales Funnel Management
The sales funnel is a visual representation of the process leads go through to become customers. The process is not straightforward; leads will move back and forth through the funnel until they make a purchasing decision. Managing the sales funnel provides opportunities for your sales and marketing teams to connect with leads at every stage.
Understanding the Sales Funnel
The sales funnel varies from industry to industry, but B2B companies generally have a long, complex sales cycle. Stages can include awareness, consideration, decision, and delight. Understand the typical sales funnel for your organization to learn how to best engage with leads throughout their purchasing journey.
Moving Leads Through the Funnel
Leads move from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel. At the start of their journey, they are more focused on finding a solution to their problem; at the middle, they are looking for the right supplier to address their pain points; near the end, they want to know if your company is the best fit. Monitor how leads navigate through the sales funnel and find ways to move them toward conversion.
Monitoring & Analytics
Numbers tell an important part of the sales funnel story. Use customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and other marketing and sales technology to monitor the sales funnel, collect relevant sales data, and analyze the results to guide decision-making about lead closing strategies.
Sales Funnel Optimization
Automate as much of the sales funnel as possible and ensure the process is as seamless as possible. The easier and quicker it is for leads to move through the sales funnel, the more revenue your B2B organization will generate from sales.
4. Effective Communication
Effective communication is key to customer satisfaction and the client relationship—especially in B2B relationships, where there are multiple stakeholders to communicate with and a longer purchasing process during which your sales representatives and marketers build relationships with leads.
By actively listening to leads, you not only gain a better understanding of their needs but also establish trust, ultimately driving better sales results. Focus on body language, set the tone, and pay close attention to what your prospects have to say.
An essential part of building relationships and communicating with leads is customizing messaging so they feel listened to and heard. Create meaningful connections with prospects by customizing messaging as much as possible.
Timely follow-ups show your B2B organization is reliable and trustworthy. Follow the agreed upon timeline and automate processes so no deadlines are missed.
Objections are a normal and expected part of prospect communication. Anticipate and prepare to handle objections so you can confidently respond and alleviate the concerns of your leads when the time arises.
5. Closing the Deal
Closing the deal—getting a lead to make a purchase or sign on the dotted line—is the pivotal moment. But it’s easier said than done, and there’s a process to regularly closing sales.
Encourage your sales representatives to practice common closing techniques and to use a mix of various techniques to achieve the desired result.
Negotiation strategies are an essential tool in a sales rep’s toolkit. In complex B2B scenarios, it’s more important than ever to follow best practices and negotiate a win-win scenario where both parties are satisfied.
Creating a Sense of Urgency
Establish a sense of urgency to encourage leads to move forward with making a purchase. Offering a time-limited discount or free onboarding will help prevent prospects from second-guessing their decision.
Overcoming Common Sales Challenges
Find ways to prevent common sales challenges. For those that can’t always be avoided, practice doing what it takes to overcome them.
A Growth Formula Framework for Sales Lead Conversion
Our growth formula framework is designed to optimize revenue and support your growth goals. By optimizing your marketing and sales strategy using this proven formula, your company will be prepared to grow sustainably, capture qualified leads, and succeed in the competitive B2B landscape.
At OneIMS, we have a history of working with companies in a variety of industries to maximize revenue, acquire new buyers, and retain existing customers, and we pride ourselves on producing measurable and sustainable results that lead to long-term growth.
Are you ready to find new revenue opportunities, optimize revenue streams, and grow your business? Schedule a consultation with us today to get started.