You’ve attracted visitors to your website and converted them into leads. In the Close stage of the inbound marketing methodology, you’ll transform those leads into customers using automated workflows and advanced pipeline management techniques.
If you’ve read our previous posts about the inbound marketing methodology, you should know how to generate and identify leads. Now it’s time to follow up on your best leads so you can close them and turn them into customers. If you have separate marketing and sales teams, this is where marketing hands off leads to sales.
But even if some of your leads may not be ready to buy right now, they could still buy in the future. Nurture these leads through email workflows and maintain contact with them. The third step of the inbound marketing methodology is a way of optimizing your lead flow so you can get the most customers possible.
Again, the inbound marketing methodology is about creating value for your leads and customers. Offering educational and relevant content and keeping your leads informed about your product or industry will keep them interested in your information, your website, and your products or services.
That being said, the Close stage is usually when you find out who among your leads are ready to commit and how are not. Inevitably, only a percentage of your leads will close, and it can take many interactions with a lead before they convert to a customer. 35% of salespeople say closing deals is getting harder and 79% of marketing leads will never convert to sales.
Luckily, the inbound marketing methodology provides some useful methods for closing. Here are four sales tools you should use during this crucial stage:
Use Pipeline Management Software
Pipeline management is a primary factor in your closing sales success. Your sales pipeline is the key to evaluating, managing, and improving your sales process so you can close more deals.
Pipeline management is best accomplished with a Customer Relationship Management system, or CRM. Your CRM is your leads database, but it’s also a pipeline management tool. Both marketers and salespeople can use it to score leads, leave important notes about leads, and track how leads interact with your website.
Context is key during the Close stage. Even though someone has filled out a form on your site, that doesn’t they are ready to talk about pricing and close. Which form they filled out, what information they provided and why are all important. Maybe they just downloaded an informational eBook or a useful template? Are they qualified to look at pricing information?
A qualified lead is someone who is more likely to become a customer than others. They may demonstrate an immediate need by filling out a direct “contact us” form or by viewing information about your products or services.
If you have the right fields in your forms, you can also determine if they have purchasing and decision-making power. Your CRM allows you to determine which leads require sales messaging, which require marketing messaging, and which are more likely to close and require more attention from a salesperson.
You can decide on which leads to focus on by the types of content they read or download, the type of industry they are in, their company size, and what offers they have considered. If you are a B2C business keep in mind that your customers will generally have shorter buying cycles. The good news is, you can usually do all of this automatically with the right CRM.
Build Automated Email Workflows
It’s widely known these days: Nobody likes marketing emails. But you’d be surprised at how effective they are. According to eMarketer, 73% of in-house marketing teams worldwide said email marketing provided a good ROI in 2017. So, how does email fit into the Close stage?
Follow-up emails are powerful tools for engaging your leads. Emails containing useful, informative content can build trust and convert a lead to the Close stage. However, the messaging for closing emails should be something other than a newsletter or a how-to guide. At the Close stage, your leads are usually ready to talk about a solution to their problems, such as your product or service.
To ensure only sales-ready leads see this information, you can set up automated email workflows. If you do have a reliable CRM, like HubSpot, automated email workflows tools should be built in and relatively easy to use.
Automated email workflows typically depend on “IF,” “AND,” and “THEN” logic. For example, IF a lead looks at pricing information on your website AND downloads a product comparison white paper, THEN they should automatically receive an email you’ve built containing a special discount offer. Workflows can be simple or complex, but they are always based on context. You can build workflows for each of your buyer personas.
Automated emails are effective for three reasons:
- Leads will always get a follow up.
- You’ll always be sending your leads information that is relevant to them.
- You’ll save A LOT of time.
Email automation is a cost-efficient way of converting and closing your leads. You can even personalize your automated emails based on data you’ve collected about your leads through forms. Personalized emails generally have higher open and click-through rates, but make sure you don’t get too personal. A lead named Harry might like an email that says, “Hi, Harry!” But he will probably be uncomfortable with an email that says, “I see your company only made $X last quarter, maybe we can help!”
Nurture Your Leads
As any salesperson will tell you, not all of your leads will close. In fact, most of them probably won’t. But that doesn’t mean they should be abandoned and cast into your the dustbin of your database.
According to HubSpot, “Lead nurturing is the purposeful process of engaging a defined target group by providing relevant information at each stage of the buyer's journey.” It can position your company as the best choice to enable them to achieve their objectives. However, each lead should be nurtured according to their interests and stage of inbound methodology.
If a lead deletes every sales email you send, it’s safe to assume they aren’t ready to talk about a purchase. But if they don’t unsubscribe from your marketing communications, what kinds of emails do you send?
Create a lead nurturing workflow for sales-ready leads that didn’t close. Tailor your messaging specifically to them. Offer them exclusive information designed to lead them back to a buying decision. You can design multiple lead nurturing workflows for all of your buyer personas. Again, this can be accomplished through IF, AND, and THEN logic.
For example, IF a lead deleted your last three sales emails without reading them AND they are one of your “Software Solution Sam” personas, they can be automatically included into your “Software Solution Sam Lead Nurturing” workflow. They will then get marketing emails with content tailored specifically to them. If they continue to convert, send another sales email automatically at the end of the workflow.
If this all sounds complicated, don’t worry. Building lead nurturing workflows takes time. You can start by building one and seeing if it gives you any results.
Adopt Lead Scoring Techniques
Lead scoring is a great way to handle growth at your company. As you generate more leads, you'll need to identify which leads are most likely to close. You want to make sure sales is prioritizing their time based on the most qualified leads.
Traditional lead scoring is a methodology in which salespeople manually score leads based on a predetermined scale using lead data and intelligence. Based on this information, they then decide whether or each lead could benefit from further contact, manual or otherwise. While useful, this method can be time-consuming for businesses that have a lot of activity on their sites.
There are two types of data that influence lead scoring: explicit data and implicit data.
This is data that a contact tells you outright, usually by filling out fields in one of your contact forms. This may include their position in that company, a self-descriptor of who they are, or their name and email address.
This is data that you’ve gleaned by monitoring how a contact behaves, usually on your website. This may include which pages they’ve viewed, which assets they’ve converted on, which emails they’ve opened and read, or which buttons they’ve clicked.
Predictive lead scoring relates to predictive modeling. This statistical technique determines an individual’s future behavior within a specific context. A predictive model analyzes current and historical data to determine behavior algorithmically. As more data becomes available, the prediction changes as well.
Predictive lead scoring uses predictive modeling by pulling information from your CRM and your analytical tools to score leads based on their most likely future behavior. This is done automatically, which saves your staff the time they’d normally spend doing manual lead scoring.
Obviously, this is an advanced technique. Although 86% of marketers used lead scoring in 2016, not everyone is using predictive lead scoring. However, you may be able to take advantage of this technique if you have a CRM that supports it. If you expect to have an increased number of leads in the future, predictive lead scoring may be something worth looking into.
The Close stage tends to be the defining moment for most businesses. It can also be an indicator of whether or not your marketing and sales efforts have paid off.
If you find that too many of your leads unsubscribe or become disinterested at this stage, it could be an indication that your marketing efforts are bringing in the wrong types of people. If too many of your qualified leads are falling through the cracks, you may need to put more effort into automated email workflows and lead scoring techniques.
But when all these things are in alignment, you should have a strong flow of leads coming to your salespeople and closing.
Now that you understand the Close stage of the inbound marketing methodology, you’re ready to learn how to delight your new customers so you can turn them into promoters.