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January 23, 2013

Lead Generation drives business; 8 effective ways to generate leads for a competitive advantage.

Regardless of your sales philosophy or sales processes… virtually no sale has ever taken place that didn’t start out as a ‘sales lead.’  Those leads are developed and nurtured… and with some perseverance and a little luck, they eventually become clients.  That truism means that Lead Generation should be one of the primary strategies for every firm’s business development program.

First, what is a ‘sales lead’?  For purposes of this discussion, let’s define a sales lead as any potential client that contacts you in some way.  The underlying assumption is that they are somewhat qualified to begin with… i.e. they work for the right kind of firm, have the right title, etc. – if not, they are not a lead.

But remember, just because they contact you doesn’t mean they ready to be sold to right now.  You might need to nurture them for a while before they are “sales ready.”  But the key is to capture their information for future opportunities.

So, what are you doing to generate leads?  Here are 8 tried-and-true ways to do it:

  1. Downloadable content: Make good content available on your website (eBooks, Case Studies, Webinar recordings, White Papers, Survey results, etc.) that requires potential readers to give up their contact information to download.
  2. Email marketing: Not only should you keep working your old database of contacts, but consider using the email feature inside of LinkedIn.  You might also to acquire an outside list and test emailing to it.
  3. Networking at a conference: Attend the conferences that your target market attends and work the room.  It requires just three things… an ample supply of business cards, a well-tuned elevator pitch and a little fortitude to keep at it.
  4. Exhibiting: Done right, exhibiting can be a great way to accelerate the buying/selling process with well-qualified prospects.  The key is follow-up.
  5. Social media: Don’t just create a simple presence on social media sites but engage the community.  Post content, participate in online conversations, and make sure you have a full and complete profile.
  6. PPC Advertising: Whether on Google or inside of LinkedIn or FaceBook, pay-per-click advertising is an easy and cost-efficient way to test advertising.  Always drive the click-thrus back to your website.
  7. Cold calling: The most difficult and least efficient way to build sales leads… it is nonetheless worth testing.  Have your sales people try it for an hour a week and see what happens.  Make sure they have something of benefit to say or of value to offer.
  8. Public Speaking: I have never spoken publicly (in person or virtually) when someone hasn’t approached me afterward and asked for a meeting (we call that a ‘hot’ lead!).  And if done online, you get access to the names & emails of those that attend.

So, as you look at how to grow your business this year, make sure you’re generating as many leads as possible… and then follow-up like crazy!  Do that and you build yourself a sustainable competitive advantage.

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