Introducing Deal Nurturing: The Next Big Idea in B2B Nurturing

Ten years ago, Marketing would generate an inquiry and pass it to Sales. But sales would rightly only want to work on accounts that would close soon, and many leads fell between the cracks.

Enter lead nurturing…

Lead nurturing was introduced to attempt to bridge the gap between Marketing and Sales. It sends a series of automated messages to the individual, and done properly it can work great to help top-of-funnel leads keep the company in mind as she goes through the early stages of her buying journey.

Lead nurturing is powered by marketing automation, which by definition, provides scalability by removing the human touch from the equation. Unfortunately, automation can result in accidents as well — every sales rep has a horror story of Marketing sending a promotional, generic discount email to a large deal they are about to close. Oops.

Given the risk of an impersonal touch hurting the deal, it’s no wonder Sales tells Marketing to “keep your hands off my opportunities!”  Simply put, Sales often asks Marketing to turn off all marketing once the opportunity is created. They simply don’t need Marketing sending risky automated messages to their active deals.

A new Sales and Marketing gap

Things get sticky when deals don’t move smoothly down the sales funnel — and we’ve all seen deals that get stuck in the early stages of the process. Research from Altify (formerly the TAS Group) revealed that it takes 150% longer to lose a deal than it does to win one, as many deals get “stuck” in the sales process funnel. In fact, at many companies as many as 70% of all opportunities never even get to a Proposal stage.

Of course sales reps are compensated for driving revenue this month or quarter, so they rightly spend the majority of their time with later stage deals. The problem occurs because the early stage opportunities are not being properly worked by Sales — and at the same time, Marketing has been turned off. This means as many 70% of your opportunities are not being worked by Sales or Marketing! These opportunities are hard to create, so the gap between opportunity creation and sales engagement is incredibly costly and expensive.

Introducing Deal Nurturing

Fortunately, there is a better way – Deal Nurturing. Like lead nurturing, Deal Nurturing maintains the relationship with potential buyers and helps them to move down the funnel. But there are three key differences:

  • While lead nurturing is about leads (people), deal nurturing is about accounts – which makes it a perfect strategy for companies getting into Account Based Marketing (ABM).
  • While lead nurturing is powered by Marketing Automation, deal nurturing is powered by Marketing Orchestration.
  • While lead nurturing is totally automated, deal nurturing combines the scalability of automation with the personalization benefits of the human touch.

Here is my definition of Deal Nurturing:

Deal nurturing is the process of identifying stalled opportunities and orchestrating relevant interactions between Marketing and Sales to accelerate deals and improve win rates.

In Deal Nurturing, Marketing defines and coordinates the process, including personalized emails, direct mail touches, advertising, social, event invitations, and so on. These interactions may go to the champion that Sales has already interacted with, but they can also touch other influencers and decision makers in the buying center (this is ABM, after all).

The key concept which makes all this work is that it’s powered by Marketing Orchestration. This lets Sales maintain complete control of the account; nothing is sent to an account before a salesperson reviews and approves it.  After all, they are the only ones with full visibility into the state of the deal. Fortunately, this isn’t hard to do; here is a recent photo of me approving deal nurturing messages on a beach:

The Benefits

Using Deal Nurturing works for a few different reasons:

  • It keeps Sales in charge of the relationship (trust me, salespeople like this)
  • It fosters human engagement instead of generic email (plays could include personalized 1:1 email, direct mail, a LinkedIn message, or more)
  • It creates more educated buyers as Marketing queues up relevant content
  • It keeps fewer deals from falling out of the funnel
  • It speeds up the sales cycle and increases win rates by engaging once-abandoned opportunities

It’s time for Deal Nurturing

Eleven years ago I helped to launch the rise of lead nurturing as a basic process every B2B marketing department should follow. Now it’s time to bring the same revolution to the post-opportunity part of the funnel. Stalled deals have always been a problem in B2B organizations with complex sales processes, and Deal Nurturing affords us a new opportunity to fix a history of mistrust with Sales brought about by generic marketing automation.

It brings the process automation and the scale of traditional lead nurturing to an account-based, customized level that is appropriate for each and every account. Fewer deals waste away in that limbo between opportunity create and close, sales cycles are sped up, and Marketing helps Sales maintain momentum in an often-abandoned portion of the pipeline.

Deal nurturing is a new thing, and initially only the most forward thinking companies will embrace it. But the economics are too compelling to ignore. Is your company ready to be on the forefront of this bold new idea?

Jon Miller
Jon Miller
Jon Miller is CEO and founder of Engagio. Previously, Jon was the VP Marketing and Co-Founder of Marketo. He is a speaker and writer about marketing best practices, and is the author of multiple Definitive Guides including Marketing Automation, Engaging Email Marketing, and Marketing Metrics & Analytics. Jon has a passion for helping marketers everywhere, and is on the Board of Scripted and is an advisor to Optimizely and Newscred. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

3 Responses to “Introducing Deal Nurturing: The Next Big Idea in B2B Nurturing”

September 19, 2017 at 3:33 am, Christine Boyd said:

I’d love to hear more specifics around what activities marketing can do at this stage that can scale.


September 21, 2017 at 12:38 am, Brandon Redlinger said:

Hi Christine – good question. For us at Engagio, our Marketing team is heavily involved with the Deal Nurture plays. Just as with most ABM plays, Marketing is the coach who draws up the play with the approved messaging. I drew up our Deal Nurture Plays at Engagio.

In this case, since Sales is the quarterback who calls the play (e.g., “let’s run the Deal Nurture play at ACME, Inc.), they will also sign off on its design after Marketing draws it up and before it’s launched. Then, once the plays is launched, each player will still go in and manually approve the email or task before it goes out, which gives them a chance to add a personalized snippet.

In our Deal Nurture Plays, our CMO steps in and is responsible for one of the touches – so that’s another place Marketing is involved.

And, of course, Marketing will also look at the metrics and see how all of the programs and campaigns are performing, so they can be tweaked, refined and optimized.

I hope that helps!


September 13, 2018 at 10:06 am, Jason Jones said:

There are various types of nurturing workflows based on who you are targeting and the length of each workflow (both in terms of numbers of emails and total days in between sends). Regardless of who you are targeting or the length of your workflow. Lead nurturing is one of those things that’s easy to talk about but hard to do.


MarketJoy, Inc


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