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“I just can’t understand it, the meeting went great, they had a need, and we could help. Why have they already signed with someone else they told me six months?”

Does this sound familiar?  If the prospect is going cold on you or your company it might be time to look at how you’re nurturing your prospective clients. According to research by (Marketing Wizdom) only 1 in 50 deals close at the first meeting. The effort and cost of gaining the first appointment are probably the most expensive and difficult part of the sales process. Yet after that first surge of activity things start to slow for most sale professionals. There are usually a couple of reasons for this and it all revolves around nurturing your prospects. When I say nurture I don’t just mean the occasional email that says hi.

There is another bigger issue tangled up in this. According to everyone from the late great (Chet Holmes) to (Zig Ziglar), it takes 5 attempts to close the sale in 60% of selling opportunities. This means when you have waited months to get in touch with a prospect and another supplier contacts them, you have done some of the work for them by shortening the selling process for them. Why? I hear you ask. Simple the prospect is not thinking about your company or your competitor’s company. They are thinking about what the product or service will do for them and what is best for them. After a couple of weeks or months, they forget about you but not about the problem your product or service will solve. So the only way to combat this is to stay in the mind of the prospect and build trust, value and nurture the prospect.

So how do we start to do this and nurture a prospect? We use the four C’s,

  • Commitment
  • Contingency
  • Collateral
  • Close
  • Commitment

Commitment is the most important part of sales and marketing. It is part of every facet of selling, but for the purpose of this post we are going to cover what we mean by commitment when nurturing a prospect.

Commitment: Sales Managers & Directors.

If you are a sales manager or director who has a sales and marketing team, commitment can be to commit to supporting your team. You can do this by providing contingency plans, collateral, training, the right technology and giving clear expectations of what you expect from each member of your team. According to the book (The one minute manager), one of the biggest mistakes managers and directors make is to assume their staff knows what they expect from them and what their job entails. Ask your staff what their job entails and you will probably receive various answers. Clear directions provide clear results. According to (Dustin Ruge author of The Successful Sales Manager), sales manager spend 37% of their time forecasting sales and pipeline trying to predict the future rather than helping to improve the team’s performance.  When it comes to managing salespeople, commitment to take responsibility to support your team should be paramount. Giving your team the right instructions and tools provide a strong, positive and happy team with fewer performance issues.

So what does that have to do with nurturing prospects? Everything. According to many studies and experts, it’s suggested around 46% of salespeople ask for the sale and then give up; 24% ask twice; 14% three times; 12% four times and only 2% five or more. Now your reaction to this will probably be, “I will just make sure all my sales staff close five times”. So let me ask a few questions.

How can they do that if they don’t have a CONTINGENCY PLAN of next steps to follow when they get a no or a maybe?

How do you or your staff build a contingency plan without COLLATERAL to support it, with multiple points of contact to nurture, stay interesting and stay in the prospects world?

How do your sales staff CLOSE at the correct time and multiple times without the training, support and product knowledge to nurture a prospect?

We will go through these a bit further in this, but the quick answer to these questions is with great difficulty.

Commitment: Sales Professionals.

If you are a sales professional you probably read the section above titled Commitment: Sales Managers & Directors. If you have not I suggest you give it a quick run through, don’t worry I can wait.

Now at this point, some of you might be thinking that I am right you do need a contingency plan, collateral, training and some support might be nice also. Well, I am afraid I have some bad news for you. It is your job to sell, that means you have to have the COMMITMENT to do what it ethically takes to nurture a prospect to a CLOSE. If you are not given the tools to do this and you are serious about sales for a living you have to build it all yourself. For some sales pros, they have it good, a supportive manager, the technology, the tools and the material they need to have a smooth selling and nurturing process. If you don’t have that and don’t commit to creating a process to nurture your prospects you will lose more to your completion and own company’s top performers. If you only take one thing from this, take a commitment to build a step-by-step contingency plan for no’s and maybe’s.

As a sales professionals, this is the trade-off for having the freedom to increase our wage based on our own actions. Having to take the responsibility and the commitment to stop and change for the better. 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this. (Marketing Sherpa). So what are your going to do to change that?

Commitment: Marketing Professionals.

In my world, the job of a marketing pro is to build collateral and material to generate leads, inquiries and ultimately sales through various mediums. To an extent most do it well. But few take the commitment to build collateral to support their sales team’s processes and contingency plans.

“How can you say this?” I hear your cry.

Let’s look a part of a sales process and I will explain what I mean. For some companies, the salesperson has to produce an appointment by using the telephone for example. If they are good they will sell the appointment, not the product or service. Let me say that again it’s important. THEY SELL THE APPOINTMENT AND NOT THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE. But most marketing material supports buying the product or service and is full of information about the product or service. This has three fundamental flaws when supporting different parts of a sales process. The first, it is all about your company and not about them. Now you’re thinking content marketing, aren’t you? It is great but normally provides no call to action, a topic I will discuss later. The second, the prospect can make a prejudged decision about your company and product or service without a trained professional to help. And the third, it will not fit with some parts of the sales process.

The marketing most companies do must continue because it does work. However if you take a commitment to spend some time to build specific material tailored to support each step of your company’s sales process sales process. Salespeople can continue down different paths with relevant material and collateral to fit that particular part of the plan. A quick example of this could be some marketing material that sells the benefits of an appointment with your one of your sales professionals after a prospect has asked for more information. This is a different tack to the usual PDF of the company brochure.  Why commit to this? Because 80% of all sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact and it can take up to 12 attempts to get an appointment (Chet Holmes and J Abraham).

Both departments taking the commitment to work together to nurture prospects will almost certainly have a positive impact to a company’s bottom line.


If you have been in sales or marketing for more than a few months you probably heard some variation of the 80/20 rule. If you have not it states the in sales 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your sales staff (Alan Rigg, How to beat the 80/20 rule in sales team performance). But what makes these people different is they are impeccable in following up (Inc.com). In simple terms, they have a contingency plan to follow up and they do not get phased when the prospect says no. They take the time to continue to nurture prospects over time. To a top performer a no or a maybe is just the first step in a process of nurture that can be 12 or more levels deep.

So what will building a contingency plan to continue to nurture do for your company?

Improve measurable results by allowing you standardise best practice for following up and nurturing prospects that other staff can follow.

Allows the training of staff to be specific to parts of the sales and nurturing process.

Help’s sales manager to manage by giving a process to manage. This can allow them to identify training needs and staff excellence. Giving them the tools to improve pipelines rather than trying to predict the future based on what sales staff tell them.

It can improve marketing results and sales support by utilising a marketing team’s expertise not just to produce leads, but to play an active role in each step of the sales process.

It will give your sales staff a standard step-by-step plan to focus on making a maybe and a no just one of the next steps in the sales process rather than a rejection. (Stephan Schiffman) One of the world top sales trainers and business book authors states the number one rule of sales is to get to the next step. Focusing on the sale means you will miss steps and get poor results.

Improvement of sales by mirroring what the top performers do instinctively when it comes to nurturing contacts. Remember 84% of sales professionals give up at the wrong time (Dr. Herb True, Notre dame university).

The list could go on and on however a sales and marketing plan is only going to be as good at the collateral that supports it.


When I say collateral I don’t just mean a glossy colour brochure that talks about how great your company is. So what do I mean when I say collateral?

  • Marketing Collateral.
  • Sales Collateral.
  • Technological Collateral.

If you don’t have the above in play and your competition does, who do your think will come on top?

Marketing Collateral

In the day and age we live in the marketing opportunities available are unparalleled. We have everything from social media to good old post. Yet with all the contact methods available sales and marketing are still at war with each other. In the solution development phase, Marketing can produce organized templates and help with customising guides so salespeople can develop solutions for customers without constantly having to start from the bottom rung of the ladder with every prospect. When prospects are moving through the nurturing process marketing can provide case studies, educational material, and success stories to support each step the sales team process. According to (Harvard Business Review) there’s a strong case for splitting Marketing into two sects. One sect to develop advertising and promotion campaigns, collateral material, case studies, and sales tools. They work with sale teams develop and qualify leads down each part of the sales process. The second sect use and build market research and feedback from sales teams to help sell existing products in new market segments, to create new messages, and to design better sales tools.

The options of what supporting collateral and contact methods a marketing team working hand in hand with a sales team can produce to support and nurture prospects are almost endless.

Sales Collateral

Building sales collateral to nurture your prospects is all about supporting sales professionals and prospects with taking the next step. For example, when a sales professional attends the first meet with a prospect he should already have had training on your product and service. A presentation should be built that is engaging and interesting. That presentation and pitch should have been rehearsed and role-played before the meeting. Research should be carried out on the company. Educational material backing up what the sales professional is saying should be provided. Providing no proof to back up stamens makes them opinions not facts and they are treated as such.

Sales managers or directors can give the sales professional’s time targets to complete each next step related to them in the nurturing process. This gives clear expectations of what is expected of the sales professionals. The days of a sales professional spending hours building a powerpoint or other non-productive tasks should be gone. Over time, the capacity to see what is happening in the sales process could allow for more accurate predictions of pipelines. In essence removing the sale professional from predicting their own pipeline giving more focus on the nurturing process.

Tracking and reporting are also collateral, it ties everything together and provides the information for improvement and innovation. Even a small company can use tracking and reporting on various levels of sales and nurturing processes. But without the technology, the work can be time-consuming.

Technological Collateral

It is a cold hard fact that on average, customers are 69 percent of the way through the purchase process before ever contacting a supplier (Microsoft). As technology changes prospects habits change, companies that don’t adapt can quickly be left behind. Twenty years ago few sales professional had a mobile phone and even fewer had email. Today almost everyone has both. Technological change is unavoidable.

When it comes to sales and marketing CRM is king. The companies who do not adopt one or continue not to change and adapt their current CRM systems simply won’t be on a level playing field with a competitor who has embraced the change. CRM’s like Microsoft Dynamics can automate and manage the nurturing process in multiple channels to such a degree now there should never be an excuse for missing a prospect when the time is right.

Your sales and marketing teams need the right tools to do the right job. CRM, smart phones, computer and office productivity suites are a must. For a sales manager or director having analytical dashboards can give them the power to predict and react to market changes. The ability to quickly adapt nurturing processes, improving staff performance and spotting trends can go a long way to positive growth. Importantly it will help with nurturing prospects to win business.


In the book (Close More Sales!: Persuasion Skills that Boost Your Selling Power By Mike Stewart) a study was conducted and sales professionals were asked if they close after a sales meeting, 90% said yes. When the prospects were asked 70% said no.

So what is a close most sales and marketing professionals think it’s asking for the business, but that is just one close. A close is a call to action or commitment from the prospect or customer. Now thinking in terms of a call to take action that changes everything, because if you don’t ask them to do what you are hoping for them to do how can they know. It does not have to be their business you are asking for, it might not be the right time.

Here is an example of a close when the time is not right for asking for business.

Sales Pro-     “Mr. Prospect thanks, I will get everything together in a report for you and your board. Does that sound ok?

Prospect-    “Yes I look forward to seeing it”

Sales Pro-    “Great if you have your diary to hand I can arrange a time to stop by and go through some of the unique areas that will help with the issues you discussed”

Here is an example of what 70% of sales professionals do.

Sales Pro-     “Mr. Prospect thanks, I will get everything together in a report for you and your board. Does that sound ok?

Prospect-    “Yes I look forward to seeing it”

They forget a vital part of a nurturing process. They part when you close and ask for a commitment or desired action.

TV advertisers are the masters of the subtle close with messages like go to our store today, don’t wait, have you got your blah bla? If not get it now. The next time you watch an advert look for the close or call to action.

The point I am putting across is no matter how subtle it is each part of your nurturing process should have a close or call to action in there.