Successful sales departments develop leads on a weekly—if not daily—basis.
Sure, lead generation is a must—but few companies actually put thought into their lead generation strategies. Hastily collecting leads that are far from the profile of their target customers is something that’s not unusual.
Where does this bring sales teams? They’re desperately closing deals that are really unripe. They spend time and effort forcing sales because there are no other leads lined up in their sales funnel.
When you keep your funnel full with quality leads, none of these would be issues. To have a winning sales strategy, sales funnels should be regularly filled.
Growing your sales funnel
Lead generation is a vital component of all sales processes. If the lead tank goes empty, all subsequent processes suffer.
There are several ways to approach lead generation to keep your list fresh and replenished. Here are some of them:
Expand your network
Networking is a cost-effective and efficient way to broaden your reach and generate new business. You should know who your targets are, so go to events where they could be found.
For some, networking could be overwhelming. Especially with a lot of businesses being transacted purely online, going to events and meeting people face to face might be a whole different animal.
Here are some tips to be more networking-savvy:
Research before going to events. Just like you wouldn’t make a cold call without looking up some information about the prospect, don’t make the mistake of going to networking events unprepared. Events often make the list of attendees available (at least, their respective companies)—so use this resource, then trim it down to a shorter list of people you will target to connect with during the event. Make it a very short list, say 3 to 5 companies, make a thorough profile about them, and leverage that knowledge when you get some airtime with them.
Go to events to build relationships, not close sales. Don’t make the rookie mistake of asking for a sale too soon. You are at a networking event—people come to these functions to meet people who will add value to their companies, but they are prospecting and not looking to make any big commitments at a function. Use your time wisely by introducing yourself and your company to people. Warm up contacts by leaving a good impression. You may get solid leads or even referrals when you socialize like another professional and not like a pushy salesperson.
Make your presence felt. During an event, you have limited time. Refine your elevator pitch and customize it to fit the needs of your shortlisted targets.
Practice active listening. Even when you’ve already done research on your targets, there are things that you can only know by speaking with your prospect. Uncover their concerns and needs. You have your elevator pitch ready, sure. But remember that it is something you should use subtly and only when you’ve identified good timing within your conversation with your prospect. Listen.
Ask for referrals
Referrals are a powerful tool for any company. If you have satisfied clients or people who can vouch for your quality work, most of them would be glad to refer you to other businesses that can use your solution.
Not only are referrals a good way to fill your sales funnel, the quality of leads you’ll get are likely going to be stellar. Besides, your client (or whoever gave the referral) have “qualified” the contact already, just by saying that this contact would probably benefit from your solution.
Contacts made through referrals also bring you warm leads. The initial contact would likely be easier than reaching out to a cold prospect. A positive endorsement from someone they’ve already dealt with or someone they know well puts you in a great position.
Although referrals are very valuable in the world of sales, it is something that’s often neglected. Sales professionals are not pursuing them as much as they should. It’s not unusual for a sales team not to have referrals in any part of their lead generation strategy.
Dale Carnegie: 91% of customers say they’d happily give referrals, but only 11% of salespeople actually ask for them.
Here are some tips for getting referrals from Jeff Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible:
- Deliver memorable service. Make sure your solution’s performance matches your pitches.
- Be available. Have you or anyone from your company available 24/7.
- Be a consistent value provider. Deliver valuable content to your customer through social media, emails, and other content vehicles available to you.
- Give a referral to the customer. Keep your customers in mind all the time, and refer customers to their business when possible.
- Get them one LinkedIn contact they can benefit from. Connect them with a person on LinkedIn they could possibly have a fruitful professional relationship with.
- Develop the relationship slowly over time. Nurture your customers. Provide value in the long-term.
- Don’t ask for a referral if you don’t deserve one.
It takes a shift in mindset
Think of sales and business as an interconnected network of relationships. Every one of yours could be valuable to another. There are people who could use your help, could benefit from your solution but they will remain out of reach unless you act on it. They might not even know that a solution like yours exists, or that they have a problem that’s been affecting their growth and productivity. It’s your task to reach out to these contacts and help them realize that a relationship with you is beneficial to them.
Don’t be shy or feel sheepish about asking for referrals. It’s a normal business activity, it’s not being pushy or stepping on boundaries. People have the choice to give you a referral or not. They won’t give one to you unless you deserve them.
High-conversion lead magnets
So, before protesting that this is more of a marketing concern, inbound marketing’s thrust is to get more leads into your sales funnel. Providing quality content through the internet is a recent development that has spurred a lot of growth for sales and marketing departments across industries.
Lead magnets are a form of free incentive you provide for people for joining your contact/email list. Sometimes called sign-up incentives, sign-up offers, ethical bribes, content upgrades and several other terms, lead magnets are placed on a tactical position on your website or through an ad. It is placed behind a gate, often a form that asks for an email and some other details which visitors have to fill-up before getting to your content.
Coordinate with your marketing team regarding your inbound marketing strategy and suggest the creation of a high-quality lead magnet. Don’t limit yourself to one lead magnet. You would notice this on the websites of more successful businesses. They provide a lot of high-value content for free, often in exchange of your email. It doesn’t all have to be in the form of written content, there are a lot of forms a lead magnet can take. It can even be access to a relevant event!
Lead magnets have to be relatable for your target audience. It should provide value and be really practically useful to your future prospects.
Here are ten lead magnet ideas that can spark your brainstorming sessions:
- A full video course
- Free one-hour group consultation with your in-house expert
- Tickets to a special event
- Tickets to your own event
- Access to a recorded webinar
- Subscription to a podcast
- Industry market research
- A high-detail infographic with content gathered from different reputable sources
- Classic how-to ebook
- Your service catalog
Depending on the industry you’re working from, these formats can be customized to meet the interest of your prospects.
Remember, though, that the effectiveness of this approach to lead generation still lies in the quality of your content. Helpful, compelling content plays a huge role in how your prospects perceive you. This initial impression will figure in throughout all your correspondences until you (hopefully) close.
Year over year, the number of companies adopting a more content-centric approach to lead generation is growing. It’s your key to establishing your company as the go-to resource leader in your field.
Your forms and ads may be high-converting, but if you don’t deliver with the promised level of quality of your content, it will do you more harm than good.
Tried and tested techniques
Pick up your phone. It still works. Calling prospects to ask direct questions about your solution still works. It might not always work, but there’s a reason why people are still doing it. They may be busy and emails may be “less” intrusive than calling, but there are also advantages to having them respond in real-time.
Use cold-calling as part of a campaign. Don’t make the mistake of calling a frozen lead—someone whom you don’t know anything about. You should have already made one or two touches, either on social media or email before you pick up that phone. This gives you better chances since they already know who you are and you have prospected them even if they’re not fully qualified yet.
It is work and you will face rejection, but it’s still a viable approach.
Keeping your sales funnel populated is crucial in running a successful sales campaign, and of course, meeting your quota. Enjoin your team in pursuing a healthy sales pipeline.
Try some of these ideas above by customizing them according to your needs, industry and situation.
What has worked for you in the past? Can you improve it? Which of these approaches have you tried? Let us know in the comments below.