Sometimes, the timing just isn’t right for prospects who show meaningful interest in your product. They’re still weeks or months away from being ready to sign any sort of contract. So what does your sales rep do with that lead in the meantime?

She nurtures or “incubates” it. Lead nurturing is a way of keeping in touch with potential customers by way of an informal dialogue. The goal, of course, is to be the first solution on their mind when buying conditions are right.

According to a study by CSO Insight, 42.3% of companies nurture leads by handing them off to Marketing, who then warms them up with lead nurturing campaigns until they’re ready to buy. (If you use, you can do this by adding “Assigned to Marketing” as a custom drop-down label under the “Stage” field). The study found that most marketing teams don’t have a formal process for nurturing these leads.

As part of their study, CSO investigated whether there was a “best approach” for which team should own lead nurturing. They found that when both the sales and marketing teams shared responsibility for lead nurturing, companies experienced a significant increase in ultimate conversion rates.

So, if blended ownership is the way to get maximize conversion rates, how do you re-organize and divide up responsibilities to your sales and marketing teams?

The Sales Team’s Responsibilities

Any future contact your sales team has with the lead should come exclusively from the rep that first contacted the lead. This way, your contacts won’t feel like they’re being passed off from one sales rep to the next. Instead, a relationship is being built – and solid relationships are more likely to convert to deals.

When a lead goes into incubation, the original sales contact for that lead should check in with them every so often by phone to see how they’re doing and whether their buyer status is progressing at the predicted rate. How often, you might ask? It depends on the original conversations you had with that lead. Generally, if you spot some leads in that status that haven’t been called in more than 60 days, it might be time to check in with them.

(If you use, have your reps use the “Idle – Timing” option to remind you when to call them next. The “idle” label reminds them that the lead aren’t goners – that they should be revisited at some point. They can also use the “Next Attempt Date” field on their leads rather than setting a task, which can get confusing and tends to be forgotten. That way, the lead will pop back into their lead view the day they’re supposed to call that lead back.)

Don’t let leads from your best lead sources go uncalled. When you reach out to these leads, prioritize the ones that first touched marketing campaigns with the highest historical conversion rates. That way, you’ll find your very best leads that are aging – and have your reps reach out to those leads first.

The marketing team shouldn’t be the only ones sending content to these incubating leads, either.  It will really set your company apart from the norm if your reps periodically send personalized content directly to their leads. Let’s say the Marketing team just put out a new eBook or blog post that is relevant to an incubating lead’s specific pain point. Your sales rep can send the contact on that lead a quick email with the piece of content and a note asking how they’re doing and whether they have any questions.

Your sales reps know better than Marketing what each lead’s goals and pain points are – have them go beyond their standard sales script when nurturing a lead. Sales emails and calls should be catered specifically to each lead.

The Marketing Team’s Responsibilities

Marketing’s lead nurturing efforts enhance the work your sales team did in the early stages of each sales relationship.

Their goal is to keep leads warm by providing them with valuable, educational content via automated emails. Lead nurturing emails get 4-10 times the response rate of standalone email blasts according to HubSpot. And because the emails are automated, you have the possibility of yielding a high return for a low investment.

It is really important to match content to each lead’s needs and stage in the buying cycle. After all, prospects won’t read or like your content if it isn’t relevant to their pain points. As Marketing sends leads helpful, relevant content that the leads can choose to read and engage with on their own time, they deepen the relationship and strengthen brand recognition. Your company hopes to become a source of thought leadership and trusted information through this content.


How do your sales and marketing teams share lead nurturing efforts? What works and what doesn’t work? We’d love to hear in the comments below!

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