Sales Management | Sales Techniques

The Truth About Lead Generation

I want to give you not one, but three truths about lead generation:

First: it is possible for your technology and your marketing to generate more leads than you can handle.

Second: most sales professionals don’t like cold calling and it is much more profitable for them to be out selling than it is for them to be prospecting.  I know this sounds a bit radical but even if you do use cold calling, it’s feasible to train customer service people to do it rather than using the time of your well paid sales professionals.  With new methods to lining up qualified leads with technology and skilled “para-sales people” you can focus the attention of your well trained selling professionals on proper sales calls and winning the business?

Third: Prospects don’t like cold calls because there is no apparent value in the call, it is an interruption to an already hectic day.  To make matters worse, most people that cold call don’t do it very well.  The cold call should only last a minute or two, it should never get into any great detail about your products or services, it is far more about a key issue being faced by the customer.

Cold Calling Isn’t The Best Answer

No matter how good you are at cold calling isn’t it true that you would not call it fun and you’d gladly use another approach if you had one?

Let’s face it no ones likes cold calling and there are some logical reasons why it might not be the most effective way to win prospects and grow a business

  • Calls don’t get returned, you look desperate & you undermine your value
  • It’s a poor use of selling time
  • People buy from people they like – no-one likes cold callers!
  • Cold calling can annoy potential prospects
  • Cold calling communicates that you are there for your own benefit
  • It takes a whole day of cold calling to get just ONE qualified appointment (Baylor University, 2012)
  • Only 20% of decision makers will take a cold call (Bristritz)

Where Do You Get Customers If You Don’t Cold Call?

Cold Calling is out-bound or interruption lead generation.  Another common form of out-bound lead generation is broadcasting letters or emails.  With these out-bound approaches you might not know whether the content is relevant to the people who receive it. The missing ingredient is a relationship with the people you are trying to reach.  It puts you well behind the starting line.

So how do you build a relationship with someone if I don’t know them – isn’t that a catch 22 situation? Well not exactly.  We now have new and effective resources for drip feeding relationships, creating them gently and slowly and with complete relevance. It is called in-bound or attraction marketing. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by creating a well designed website and either paying for traffic to visit it or optimising it so that it can be found by search engines. I suggest you do both of these things.  And it matters what you put on your site. If you build a solid collection of well thought out content it will contribute to inbound lead generation.   A lot of people say “but I already have a website and I don’t think it brings me many customers”. This is a common experience but these websites are often unchanging, have thin or unfocused content or receive little traffic and there is no clear call to action. You would be astounded by how your presence on search engines will change if you spend just one hour per week creating and adding good quality relevant content to your site. Someone in your business needs to have the job of creating this content and they need to be clear what the key messages are and why the content will be relevant to the customers your business is targeting. You should be able to look at your website and quickly see a clear call to action and get a sense that this  is a place where someone might unearth really useful information.

Shifting From Outbound Thinking To Inbound Thinking

The great thing about shifting to inbound marketing and with it better lead generation is that it continues to build on itself. It is not like a cold call where you make the call and it either works, or as is often the case, it doesn’t. With inbound lead generation your efforts create momentum and something you did a year ago can be generating leads a year from now – especially if most of your content is timeless.  Think of the in-bound approach as a real investment of time and assets in your business. Even advertising doesn’t have the same durability as this type of activity.

What About Social Media?

When I say social media do you shudder slightly and think “I don’t want to hang around on Facebook all day“?   Well that’s social media gone wild. Social media comes in all shapes and sizes and is no longer an option, in fact it is a necessity for pain free lead generation. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or confusing.  Some of the best social media gurus actually don’t spent very much time rummaging around in “the social scene”.

One of the most powerful functions of social media is self marketing. The prominent people in your business have skills and stories which could set your business apart from the competition. Bring these people forward and include them in your web and social content. Your future customers are hungry to learn about the human faces that make a business tick. In fact people will be far more inclined to buy from you when they feel they know and trust you and the quickest way to achieve this is to be real and tell your story and express your personality and the personality of the business. This is radically different from the way our fathers ran their businesses, but it is here to stay. So when you are thinking about the content that goes on your website and the substance of your social media messages, think of content which brings forward the unique human personality of your business. I promise you this will attract leads. But don’t expect to be relevant to everyone. The businesses which are too scared to put a stake in the ground and express their real personality for fear of offending potential customers end up becoming too bland to appeal to anyone.

The Time Tested Technique – Referrals!

There is nothing more powerful than getting business through recommendation, this has always been the case and it will continue to be so. But you cant just sit around and expect your happy customers to tell their friends, colleagues and family about how overjoyed they are with your offerings – you’ve got to give them a shove. You have to have a referral process. This can be quite sophisticated or it can be as simple as mailing your existing customers and saying “hey we are looking for new clients – if you know someone who could benefit from our services just send them this coupon code and they’ll get 10% off their first order and you can use the same code to get 10% off your next order too!”   It’s not difficult but few businesses do it.

An Example Of Clever Lead Generation

Let’s say you are making 100 cold calls in a week. The research tells us that for someone who is motivated that could easily chew up a whole day. The majority of the calls wont get past first base either because you’ll get a message or a gatekeeper – either way it’s a “not interested” response.

Assume you are lucky and you get into a conversation with a quarter of the people you call. Of these short conversations a good strike rate might be one or two agreements to talk further.

You might turn a couple of the phone conversations into sales meetings and with some good selling skills eventually bag a sale or two, but it’s like pulling teeth!

Let’s compare that to an inbound approach where you start with a much smaller list of potential leads and spend time researching something which might be really meaningful to the prospect. Where do you get this information? Well it’s plastered all over the internet, in annual reports and all over social media. You just need to know where to go to mine the information and what tools to use. Actually this process often works better if you begin by mining for problems you can solve rather than specific individuals or businesses. You’d be amazed by how much you could increase your sales by helping people on the various social media platforms who are asking how they can find products and services which are like the ones you are currently selling.

So you start your prospecting with targeted research. Armed with potential problems that you can solve you dive into relevant social media platforms and softly begin building relationships by matching solutions to problems. It has to  be a soft process.  Avoid phrases like “we can solve that for you“.  Use language like “you might be able to fix that by...”.  It’s not all over in one conversation like it is with the cold call.  As you strike up conversations with potential leads keep thinking “good relationship and good relevance”.

You will easily generate at least 5 follow up conversations from 10 social media encounters if you are not too pushy.  Follow through with those 5 until you have their permission and enough information to enter them onto your database. There is now a very good chance that these five encounters can be nurtured into sales calls.  Assuming the same strike rate as before you now have the potential for at least twice as many sales – and it probably requires half of the prospecting effort.  But it gets better because once a lead is in your database they could be there for months or years receiving your no effort automatic content until they decide to buy from you. This is very very different from the cold call where the effort and relationship are lost forever.  There is no thread of possibility of future value from the energy you expend on the average cold call.  The cold call does not bank anything, especially when someone tells you they are not interested.  Dare I suggest that a cold call could actually be worse than nothing; a prospect might be left with a sense of irritation associated with you, your brand or your products!

Subscribe to my next webinar from the first page of this site.  I go into specifics about the tools you can use to increase your prospecting effectiveness and much more.

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