New sales leads are the lifeblood of many businesses. To successfully generate them, you'll need to actively prospect for marketing leads - then quickly identify and follow up the hottest prospects.
Acquiring business leads
Networking and encouraging your customers to provide word-of-mouth referrals can be more powerful ways of generating sales leads, however. They don't just provide you with the names of potential leads, but also with useful introductions.
Alternatively, you can rely on repeat custom and responses to advertisements and other promotional activities. Enquiries can be seen as "hot" or at least "warm" leads, as these potential customers have already expressed an interest in what you offer. Be careful not to depend too much on this kind of passive lead generation, though, as it may blunt your ability to actively source prospects when you need to.
Qualifying sales leads
You may be tempted to focus your efforts on getting as many sales leads as possible. But the key to success is getting qualified leads - people you have a good chance of selling to. Remember, that the overall aim is to make sales, not just leads.
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?
Unlike selling, when you aim to overcome objections, you should accept that 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
For many businesses, the most important factor in successful sales lead generation is to commit resources to it. You can then decide whether it's more effective for lead generation to be part of a general sales role within your business, or carried out by dedicated researchers. Outsourcing to a lead generation service might also be an option.
Whoever is doing the prospecting needs to understand what they are trying to achieve and how to go about it. A typical approach is to qualify leads before requesting a meeting or following up with more information in a sales letter. There should be clear agreement on when a lead is handed to a salesperson.
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.