Where do sales leads come from?

Sales leads are so important that they occupy the topmost position in the sales funnel. They take center stage in the New Opportunity layer. Sales without leads is like flying without a plane – it’s possible, but it sure makes the journey much more of a challenge.

New Opportunity Layer

As I was writing this post and the accompanying article, it quickly became apparent that I could fill an entire book on this subject alone. I needed to pare it down to something digestible and understandable. I ended up breaking up the process of generating the leads into two groups. Group one contains methods where you go out to gather the leads, and group two contains methods to lure leads to you. I’ve tried to limit it to one sentence for each bullet point. The accompanying article to this post is nine pages long and chocked full of practical advice on how to put each of these prospecting methods to use.

Prospecting on your own

These methods are where boys become men and girls become women. This is the nitty gritty of uncovering new business opportunities, chasing them down and converting them into sales. For those of us that love the thrill of the hunt, this can be very exciting and rewarding.

  • Contacting article authors
    An absolute favorite technique of mine is to track article authorship in subject areas that I’m interested in. Authors are almost always eager and proud to discuss their work with anyone.
  • Contacting press release sources
    In addition to technical articles, you should also feverishly track press releases of your competitors, customers, and prospects.
  • Internet networking sites
    Sites such as www.LinkedIn.com and www.Jigsaw.com contain a tremendous amount of useful contacts.
  • Trade show exhibits
    Books and more books have been written about how to exploit trade shows to get the most benefit so I don’t want to get too into it here – perhaps I should create an article just on trade shows.
  • Conference talks
    I talk a lot about becoming an expert in your niche area and there’s no better way to display this expertise than by giving technical talks at relevant industry conferences.
  • Author papers
    Writing papers takes time and expertise, but if you can get an article published in a peer-reviewed journal, you will gain instant credibility that you can leverage into initial meetings.
  • Issue press releases and newsletters
    I’m a firm believer in the power of press releases and newsletters. The key here is to not make it sound salesy. It should be informative, lighthearted, and possibly highlight case studies if you customer will allow it.If you’d like to see an example press release and newsletter, please email me at Eric[dot]Bono[at]EngineersCanSell[dot]com and ask for a free sample – I’d be more than happy to send you one over.
  • Attend industry conferences
    Attending these conferences has three benefits. First, you can catch talks and keep up with the state of the art technology for your industry. You can also typically check out talks by your competition or cruise by their booths and see their new offerings. Finally, you can catch up with old friends and make new contacts.
  • Join relevant industry associations
    I’ve seen mixed results with this strategy, but some folks swear by it. It all depends on what field you’re in.
  • Leverage your educational network
    If you graduated from a school that has an online alumni directory, that can be a superb source of leads.
  • Get referrals from current customers
    If you’ve performed well for your customers, don’t be afraid to ask them for a referral. Just be sure to give them an out so that they don’t feel like they are disappointing you if they don’t cough up a name.
  • Bulk email list
    Depending on what you’re selling, bulk email lists are for rent for just about anything you can imagine.
  • Cold calling based on industrial classifications
    You can run to the local library and look up SIC and NAICS codes for businesses that you typically sell to and then generate a list of similar companies.

Letting the leads come to you

As you might have already guessed, the way to get leads to come knocking at your door is through marketing – online and offline.

  • Online marketing
    For our purposes here, there are two main types of online marketing; search engines and ad placement. Search engine marketing can be further broken down into organic (i.e. free) search engine placement and paid search engine placement (e.g. Google Adwords).
  • Offline marketing
    Here is where most people go by default when they think of marketing their products or services. This includes advertisements in journals and magazines, listing in directories like Thomas Register (although they’re strictly online now), sponsorships, signage, and media advertising to name a few.

Don’t let the fact that there are far fewer suggestions in getting leads to come to you shade your view toward these strategies. Millions have been made through simple search engine optimization strategies. If you have a product or service, you can bet the house that someone somewhere is searching for it right now. We just need to make sure that they can find you.

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