Interview: Tibor Shanto Reveals How to Use Lead Nurturing to Prevent Sales Funnel Leakage

In today’s b2b environment, connecting with buyers over the phone and in one-on-one meetings is becoming increasingly difficult. Sellers may only want a small amount of time, but today's crazy-busy buyers are stingy with it, which is why salespeople need content to support their message and convey their value proposition. Marketers can provide this by developing lead nurturing programs to support the buying process after prospects have begun to interact with salespeople.

In our newly released Lead Nurturing Cookbook, we offer a recipe on creating an effective sales-driven lead nurturing program designed for late-phase buyers who have been passed to a sales rep. Tibor Shanto, Principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. and author of award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers, participated as an “Expert Chef” on this recipe offering marketers insight – from a sales perspective – into how to make the recipe even more impactful. I caught up with Tibor recently and asked him to answer a few more questions on how Marketing can support the sales process and help drive revenue.

EM: How does having an automated nurturing process in place after a lead has engaged with Sales help prevent sales funnel leakage?

TS: It helps in a number of tangible ways. First, as more and more buying decisions are made by multiple people in an organization, automation allows you to gauge engagement by others in the company and the decision-making process.  Based on their role, you can initiate different nurturing tracks specific to their individual needs. Once engaged, Sales can also help determine the appropriate approach by working with Marketing and comparing online behavior and real-world actions observed by the salespeople.

Also, by making deal reviews a regular part of the sales process – this should involve both Marketing and Sales – specific nurturing tracks can be developed based on experience. This allows you to anticipate events, and incorporate those into your nurturing strategy. For example if you see a trend that a slow down or disengagement occurs at a specific point in the sales cycle, you can identify what specific concerns or issues might be causing it and take action to provide information at the right time to address  the concern before it appears and prevent sales funnel leakage.

EM: How should a sales-driven nurturing process for Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) differ from a lead nurturing process targeting non-sales-ready leads?

TS: Principally in content and frequency only, it may unfold in a different way, but in both cases it is nurturing a lead—just a different lead, not necessarily a different process. The underlying purpose and function of the nurturing exercise is the same, which is to engage the potential buyer in ways that lead to and facilitate an interaction, a conversation, ultimately an ongoing commerce-based relationship that delivers tangible value to both the buyer and the seller.

EM: Your company specializes in training sales people how use a certain selling style called Zone Selling. Can you explain what Zone Selling is and how an automated nurturing program can support it?

TS: Simply stated, Zones describe specific subsets or stages of the sale. Each Zone has a specific function, with unique attributes requiring action, measurement and review (go/no-go).  The review is to ensure that we have completed and solidified the objective of the Zone before moving on to the next; this is a regular challenge we see, sales people want to rush through a Zone, either because they are unable to properly execute all the called for actions, or they want to get to the next Zone.  Not fully completing the Zone weakens the foundation of the sale, this most often forces the sales person to have to back track and do what they did not do to begin with, which not only makes the cycle longer, but increases the risk of the buyer considering alternatives.

Generically we look at the following Zones:

Lead Zone

Engage Zone

Discovery Zone

Impact  Zone

Value Zone

Within the Lead Zone, potential buyers can be placed in sub-Zones based on their readiness to engage.  There is the Status Quo Zone, not ready; The Opportunity Zone, is ready but not actively engaged with sellers or the market; the Decision Zone, ready and engaged.  Each of these Zones, above or in the pipeline, would benefit directly from support provided by an automated nurturing program.

EM: In your Expert Tip section, you mention the importance of timing for a sales-driven nurturing recipe. Can you expand on that tip? How do you determine when is the right time to communicate with your SAL?

TS: Buyers move at their own pace, and rarely at the pace the seller would like, this is one of the reasons that the seller's sales process is out of sync with the buyer's buying process. Since the buyer writes the check at the end, it is important that we align with their processes. When you don't, is when you hear things like pushy, aggressive, all labels sales people do not like to wear, and rightfully so. Having said that, it is the sales person's job to manage and choreograph the sale. One way to do that is by delivering the right messages at crucial times in the sales cycle--a role well suited to an automated nurturing program, based on guidance and input the sales person. Coordination and communication between the sales person and Marketing can enhance timing as they execute their sales process.

EM: In your book, and the Cookbook, you talk about trigger events and the importance of getting the timing right with prospects to maximize your effectiveness. Can you expand on this concept and provide us with some examples of trigger events?

TS: A trigger is something that causes a reaction or set of actions to unfold. Heavy rainfall will trigger flash floods, a rise in interest rates causes a slowdown in home sales, etc. A trigger event in sales, is a fairly basic concept, it is an event that causes a change on the part of the buyer, either in their view of their current situation or their propensity to change. If there is a predictable response to an event, or an event causes certain things to happen, a seller can plan for, track, and then leverage the event to engage and sell to a buyer.

An automated nurturing program can be helpful because it is often a set of small events that cause change rather than one big event. As a seller identifies one of these smaller events, they can begin a nurture campaign that takes into account a series or sequence of events that lead to action.

About Tibor Shanto: Tibor – Principal of Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. - is a recognized speaker, author of award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers, and sought after trainer. Called a brilliant sales tactician, Tibor helps organizations execute their strategy by using the EDGE Sales Process to create the perfect combination of strategy, tactics, skills to ensure execution.  Tibor can be reached at, or + 1 416 822-7781. You can read our blog, The Pipeline with new material three times a week, and follow Tibor on Twitter @Renbor.