By Henry Schuck, CEO and Co-FoundeR, DiscoverOrg

Or maybe first comes Awareness? Because that is really where all relationships begin, right? You see someone across a crowded room, or you’re told about them by friends. The same is the case with lead generation, the first touch is generally not when your leads fall for you – you’ve got to put more effort in than that. So what are the stages do you through in between lead generation and purchase? In an ideal world we get leads – and close them. But love doesn’t come first. So here are some ways you can keep your prospects “in a relationship” with you while you court them all the way to making it official:

1. Prepare for your “first date”:
Sales is quite like dating, and like first dates – you don’t want to go in blind so you would do a little background research, right? Similar to how social media might give you some insight into your date’s interests, your sales intelligence solution allows you to be prepared to impress. Make sure you are using a sales intelligence solution that covers the industry and area that you’re interested in.

2. Get to Like:
The first touches in a nurture program are parallel to getting someone to “Like” you back. They know of your existence, but you want more: you want them to actually like you. To achieve this, your inbound programs need to be designed to deliver relevant content that will help you stand out as well as capture their interest that you may be able to provide them with a solution that is good fit for their needs. You want to provide informational content that will provide them with the momentum to seek more.

3. Understand goals:
Just as it is important to understand what you want from a relationship, lead nurture programs need to be designed to obtain information that will help you to understand your prospect’s goals. This way, each communication can have more impact as it speaks more clearly to their needs and gives them a clearer view of how you can satisfy them. To understand what they are thinking about, subscribe to buying triggers about your prospect organizations in your sales intelligence platform. These will provide crucial details about ongoing initiatives, implementations, executive changes and will enable you to target communications that are meaningful and show that you understand them without having to ask the awkward “what are you looking for?”

4. Show them your best side:
So you want to seal the deal without seeming too pushy or desperate. Focus on them. These contacts are considering entering a relationship with you – put your best self forward: provide them with educational content, invite them to webinars. Use your interactions to show them how amazing you are and what a great partner you would be. Share customer successes and online accolades with them. But don’t overwhelm them. Make them want you…

5. Impress the inner circle:
Whether a date’s friends like you is almost as critical to success as the first date. Getting to know them and understanding what they want you to deliver is essential. Examine the organizational chart for your prospect to identify and contact team members who would be relevant in the conversation. This enables you to employ the multi-stakeholder approach to selling and not only eliminates the single point of failure but enables you to bring other decision makers into the discussion early so that the sale moves more smoothly and everyone is on-board.

6. May I have this dance?
Rhythm, cadence and tone count. Nurturing programs are designed to provide prospects with deeper understanding about your services and how your company will serve their needs. As this happens, they naturally dance closer. The prospect is coming to trust you. Don’t pester them, don’t ignore them. Use marketing automation integrations to ensure that your communications are regular and personalized. Present them with appealing and interesting messaging using your voice and letting your personality show. Most buyers interact with between 4 and 10 pieces of content without furthering the engagement with a prospect.

7. Prepare for ‘yes’:
Once your prospect gives a buying signal, timing is everything. Sales percentages drop significantly with any delay in follow-through. So the process must be ready in advance. The prospect relationship needs to be well documented and shared across your marketing and sales automation platforms. When the prospect is ready, there is no time to waste. If the sales rep decides that they are not currently a qualified lead, make sure that you have a process to continue the relationship, so that they are a warm and friendly opportunity if things change and they are ready to make the commitment.

Understand your successes, and your limits. If you used the same pick-up line over and over regardless of a terrible success rate, you would never achieve your goal, right? The same is true in prospect relationships. If you send out an email message that no prospects click through, you should take the time to understand why. Track what works and which tactics are most successful. Before you know it, you will be “in a relationship” with yo