Leads are Bananas (and not all are ripe)


In a B2B environment, leads can be obtained in a number of ways. Whether through a marketing automation software, a database such as Data.com, or from references, leads are waiting to be picked by marketing professionals. These leads generally arrive at the company in a variety of stages, ranging from the fresh to the overripe. Therefore, it may be difficult to determine whether leads need more nurturing or are ready to move down the sales cycle.

How to Handle a Crate Load of Leads

The best way to think of leads is to imagine buying a whole crate load of bananas. The hundreds of bananas in your crates will all be in various stages of “ripeness”. Some are green, waiting to be ripened, while others are brown, likely to be thrown away. However, it is up to the individual to determine which bananas need more time and which are ready to be consumed.

Once a list of leads is acquired, it is up to the salesperson to determine whether these leads need additional nurturing. In a perfect world, all leads would be ideally ripe, ready for consumption. However, most leads require time and energy before they are ready to pass to sales.

With every batch of leads, there are bound to be a fair amount of both green and ripe leads. How can the salesperson determine between the two? There are several distinctive indicators of a green lead. One quality of a green lead is if they are demonstrating early interest. Perhaps the lead has shown signs of attention towards a product, or has recently entered the target audience. Another sign is if the lead has recently visited a website, or has opted into a company’s email marketing efforts. By gauging the lead’s interest level, the salesperson can determine whether the green lead is ready to spend more time in the sun.

Another way to determine if a lead is green is through lead scoring. If a company possesses a marketing automation software, such as Marketo, they can implement lead scoring practices that serve as a qualitative standard of the potential of a lead. If a lead has recently entered a database and possesses a neutral score, this can indicate the relative “freshness” of the lead.

How to Ripen your Leads

Every crate is likely to possess a significant number of green bananas, which need a fair amount of time before they are ready to eat. However, there are several ways to quickly ripen green leads into sales-ready leads. Use email marketing campaigns in order to keep your leads interested, and inform them of new products, events, or seminars. Educate them through white papers, data sheets, and webinars. Finally, show that the company is an authority in the industry through well-crafted, timely content.

It is also important to note that different leads will require different types of efforts. The methods used to nurture a C-level executive will be different from piquing interest in a technical team member. It is important to devise various nurturing efforts, tailored specifically for the lead. Green bananas are waiting to be consumed; the salesperson simply needs to invest time to ripen and eventually convert the lead.

How to Utilize your Brown Leads

Certain leads may be too overripe, way past its prime. Therefore, you may be tempted to throw out these seemingly useless leads. But think of brown bananas – they may be too soft and mushy to eat, but through a variety of methods, can be turned into a tasty dish. Similar to overripe bananas, old leads can also be recycled in a variety of ways. With an effective drip nurturing campaign in place, old leads can be sent back through the sales cycle. Providing leads with resources, useful information and invitations, can demonstrate the company’s interest without appearing too pushy. If successful, old leads can possess a higher conversion rate than that of your fresh, green leads.

Consider this view from Mari Anne Vanella, CEO of the Vanella Group, Inc., a lead generation firm for enterprise tech companies: “Many times leads can be recycled to bring the overall campaign return to a much higher conversion rate. If you captured the details you should have the first time around, triggers in the marketplace make it easy to pull well-qualified leads in the future. For example, through your prospecting activity you may have discovered a number of firms running a competitive solution—no-go at the time. What happens when that competitor makes an announcement that causes their user base to start looking at other platforms, or a new application is made available their existing platforms don’t support and you do. Whatever the case, by utilizing sales intelligence you already have you can easily pull a target account list. A minimal effort to capture important data points pays off big when changes in the marketplace happen that are to your advantage.”


Think of your leads like bananas – there are various stages of ripeness, some which require additional time and others ready to be eaten. Knowing the difference between your green, ripe, and brown leads can improve your lead performance and the effectiveness of your overall sales cycle.