In the HBO movie Clear History, the main character, Nathan Flomm, mistakes a beautiful woman’s friendliness for love. When Nathan (played by Larry David) kisses Rhonda (played by Kate Hudson), she pushes him away and screams, “Are you crazy!?” Nathan can’t believe it. He was sure she wanted him. How humiliating!

All of us who market small businesses have a little bit of Nathan Flomm inside of us. At one time or another, all of us misread the signals and try to close the deal too quickly with someone who is not yet qualified or interested.

I thought about Nathan Flomm and marketing recently when I heard sales consultant Allen Minster speak. In a great presentation entitled “How to Get Prospects to Call You…When They’re Ready to Buy,” Minster exposed our inner Nathan Flomm.

He noted that 73% of qualified leads are not sales ready when businesses acquire them. Among the 73%, you may find leads who are happy with their current provider and have no desire to change (just as Rhonda was happy with her husband). You might find leads who are unhappy with their current provider but not ready to switch. You might find leads who would love your products or services but are not authorized to make the purchase. You might find interested leads who don’t have the resources to buy.

There you stand with these leads who are not qualified or not interested (or neither). They may be friendly. They may have downloaded your e-book. They may have attended your webinar. They may have talked with you at a networking event and handed you a business card.

That does not mean that they are sales ready. Yet we persist in assuming that the friendly lead who stands before us has fallen for us. Then we wonder why we failed when we ask for the sale — when we lean in for that kiss — and get rebuffed. How humiliating!

Still, we dust ourselves off, move on, and call on the next lead who’s not sales ready. There’s an old saying that defines insanity as “repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” Maybe Nathan Fromm was crazy. Maybe we are, too.

What’s a poor, humiliated, insane sales person to do? Minster reminded us that we must commit to nurture our leads — with a consistent, persistent process. I frequently describe this as marketing to the maybes.

Communicate continuously with those maybes via a variety of channels, including email. Provide ongoing value. Demonstrate expertise. Build trust. Ask qualifying questions to identify those who have growing interest or have become more qualified. Track clicks on your emails to discern interest.

A sales ready prospect is one who is both qualified (has the authority and the means) and interested in your products and services. Those prospects will reveal themselves to you if you nurture them properly.

Minster shared some encouraging statistics: If you systematically nurture your leads, you will generate 50% more sales-ready prospects, according to Forrester Research. Nurtured leads spend 47% more than non-nurtured leads on their initial purchases, according to The Annuitas Group.

Those are numbers that could restore a person’s sanity!

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