Contrary to what some think, sales leads don’t really bloom when you close the deal. In fact, closing the deal is really some place between watering the seed and making sure the plant sees the light of day.

That’s why when you’re generating these leads, it’s best to start early.

Exactly how early do you need to get the most out of every lead? The first thing you need to do is start thinking long term. It’s like in old-fashioned, medieval romance. Long term sustainability was still a really strong factor back in the day. Marrying somebody in those days meant such a big investment because the husband need not only be fit to care for his wife but also for the children that would follow. (Extra pressure if you were royalty for their heirs were mandatory.)

Why else did you think marriages were arranged even before hitting puberty? It’s because these people saw the importance of planning early.

What exactly do you do though that constitutes as planning early in the context of B2B marketing and sales? Well, there are many things you can do.

Being early could mean being at the start of a prospect’s career

This one is a particularly ambitious undertaking but it makes perfect sense if you want your B2B relationships to last the years. Each time you meet a prospect, how confident do you feel about the appointment? The stronger it is, the more likely you need to reach out even when they’re still that rookie millennial manager who just got promoted. (And in fairness, even consumer brands recognize the long-term value of millennials.)

Being early could mean at the very start of the buying process

This is arguably more common but at the same time, so many salespeople still overlook the importance of the first call. So what if they asked you to call some other time or want a ballpark figure first? You think that’s the start of the buying process? Think again. They could’ve scoured through your website before sending their reply. They could also be interested (because really, you should never pass up on a follow-up opportunity).

Being early could mean the start of a particular time of year

These can be the start of a holiday season, a quarter on their financial calendar, or even the start of the entire year. If you’re the kind of business that requires that much time to really implement and integrate your products for clients, then obviously you have a lot less time to just sit there hoping for more sales leads to come through. Outsource some of your smaller marketing tasks! Have strong, meaningful sales meetings with prospects and use data from your marketers to really learn everything to not just close the sale but make sure things run smoothly on the project side.

Marketers and sales reps shouldn’t just leave it to the CEO to come up with long-term strategies. If anything, they could use some help in doing all the thinking. Star early if you really want your sales leads to bloom.