Lead nurturing is a critical skill for any company that hopes to sell its product to new buyers. It’s a tricky business that’s part art and part science, requiring both the human touch and hard data crunching.

What’s worse, lead nurturing requires completely different strategies for inbound and outbound leads, and a poorly executed strategy can be disastrous for the bottom line. To have any chance at successful lead nurturing, your sales and marketing teams need to be on the same page.

But how exactly do they get there, and what’s the most crucial piece of lead nurturing advice that you should be giving your sales team?

Having the Talk

Lead nurturing requires your sales and marketing teams to interact and interact constantly. It’s not enough to simply agree that marketing will pass leads to sales when the time comes. Both sales and marketing need to figure out exactly what a lead looks like, and what the best practices for nurturing leads are.

It’s also important to coordinate so that wires don’t get crossed.

If your sales representatives are working on their outbound leads just when marketing is launching a new email campaign, you might end up blasting the leads with the wrong message.

Bringing Sales and Marketing Together

Lead nurturing is also valuable because it helps to get the sales-marketing relationship off on the right foot.

When you have a string of failures with your leads, sales and marketing can end up in an unproductive standoff, where sales is disappointed in the quality of the leads and marketing suggests that the sales representatives have to capitalize better on the opportunities.

Talk to your sales representatives and ask them about their ideal prospective leads. Once you’ve gotten a clearer picture of what this looks like, you can use your marketing database to start targeting specific people or groups that resemble these criteria, rather than using a vague, one-size-fits-all approach.

When you talk with sales representatives, remind them that sometimes at the beginning they’ll get leads that are bad or that need more work than others. However, as you learn how to have the right conversations with the right people, you’re going to get leads that are really good sales opportunities.

Marketing, on the other hand, needs to put effort into nurturing sales qualified leads to the point where they’re ready for sales, and also needs to remind the sales team that not every lead will pan out. Have your sales representatives send feedback to marketing after they’re done pursuing a lead so that the two teams can learn from each other and get better at what they do.

It’s All About Expectations

The best piece of advice for lead nurturing that you can follow is to establish realistic expectations early on in the process. Let people know that this is a team effort and that there’s not going to be an immediate windfall of sales opportunities at the beginning.

If you promise a constant supply of great leads to your sales representatives, they’re going to be seeing dollar signs right away, and they’ll inevitably be disappointed when things don’t pan out quite as they envisioned. Lead nurturing needs to start from square one and it needs time to evolve and develop.

Set your expectations at a realistic level and have clear definitions for lead nurturing and sales qualified leads for the best chances at success.