Topic overview

Getting customers

Customers queueing up in a café

New sales leads are the lifeblood of many businesses. To successfully generate them, you'll need to actively prospect for leads - then follow up the hottest prospects.

Acquiring business leads

There are many ways to acquire new customers, from cold calling to word-of-mouth referrals. Some methods work better for some businesses than others. The key is to find the best approach for your business and use it consistently to keep a steady stream of new customers coming in. Whether you work as a freelancer or run a small firms, it’s important to search for new business regularly to avoid periods without work.

Networking and encouraging your customers to provide word-of-mouth referrals can be powerful ways of generating sales leads. Referrals don't just provide you with the names of potential leads, they come with an endorsement. Referral websites for trade businesses and freelancers can be useful vehicles for finding new customers. Winning back old customers can also be an effective way to bring in business.

Alternatively, you can reach out directly to new prospects using email, direct mail or social media. Cold calling is another option; while it doesn’t work for many businesses, it still has a role to play in the business-to-business sector. Advertising, PR and promotion can also raise awareness and entice new customers through the door - especially for those businesses that rely on regular footfall such as shops and hospitality firms.

Qualifying sales leads

If you sell products and services to other businesses, you’ll need to focus on the quality of the leads you attract, not just the quantity. Any business that has to spend valuable time persuading customers to buy must be able to identify the hottest prospects.

The key to success is getting qualified leads - people you have a good chance of selling to. The faster you can discard unpromising leads, the less time and money you waste on them and the more you can focus on better prospects. You should try to qualify leads before you start selling to them:

  • Does the potential customer need what you are offering?
  • Are they likely to buy soon, or should you approach them again at a later date?
  • Do they have the money to buy your product?
  • Have you identified a decision-maker with the authority to buy?
  • Do you have a reasonable chance of making a sale?

Not every lead will meet your criteria. Focusing on a small number of qualified leads can be far more effective than trying to sell to too many prospects.

Sales lead management

Sales tools like customer relationship management software can help you track contacts and follow up on leads at the right time. Systems like these can also help you monitor lead generation numbers and sales conversion rates, so you can identify what is and isn't working.

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