Saturday, October 13, 2012

8 Ways to Generate Leads for Your Selling System

Last month, we identified an ingredient essential to your business -- a selling system that delivers enough new and repeat revenue to meet your growth and income objectives.  As a reminder, an effective selling system includes:
  1. Lead generation -- A repeatable process for finding those who might need your product or service
  2. Opportunity development -- When prospects put their hands in the air, wanting to hear more
  3. Qualification -- Sorting out the "best few" prospects -- those who want and need exactly what you sell
  4. Proposal -- A specific selling proposition to which a prospect can say "yes"
  5. Closing -- Getting a prospect to say "yes", "no" or "not now"
  6. Farming -- Maintaining and renewing your company's visibility with the "not now's"
How does your own selling system compare? Can you describe how each part works in your company?  What part of your system is the bottleneck in your growth?

In most businesses, it starts right at the beginning -- with an inadequate or non-functional lead generation mechanism. How can you improve your lead generation machine?

First, recognize that lead generation strategies are not universal. For some companies, advertising really works. For others, it's useless. For local high-touch and service businesses, networking is the name of the game. For others, such as products distributed globally, it's simply impractical. Here are some lead-generation strategies you might consider adding to what's already working for you:

  1. Advertising -- Tried and true, and effective if you have a product or service with broad appeal. Best combined with a trackable special offer, coupon, 800 number or web landing page, perhaps embedded in a QR code.  Plan in advance to measure each ad's effectiveness. For some companies, advertising just doesn't work.  The narrower your niche -- either product or customers, the harder it is to find an effective advertising venue. You're paying to reach a lot of "eyeballs" that can't help you.
  2. Direct Mail -- Costly, but effective if you know exactly to whom you want your message delivered, such as a specific job description in a specific vertical market. Or homeowners in a certain age of neighborhood. Very low yield, because available mailing lists are lousy, no matter what the vendors say.  You have to send a lot of mail.  "Lumpy mail" is a good idea.  
  3. Email -- Hugely successful for us at CEBI.  The tricky part is acquiring the email list -- you'll need a strategy for that, and it can be combined with a separate email campaign for farming existing prospects (step 6 above).  Believe it or not, an effective prospecting email is only about 4 lines - something someone can reply to from a smart phone.
  4. Networking -- Labor-intensive but hugely effective. If you're selling in limited geography and your lead-generation strategy doesn't include multiple networking events per week, you're missing the boat. Impractical if your footprint is large.
  5. Web Marketing -- Essential. Search Engine Optimization is key if you're selling something lots of people are looking for. If not, your website content is an early differentiator in determining whether leads inquire for more information.
  6. Social Media -- Still evolving, and generally most effective in reaching a broad base of consumers. A few CEBI members are finding ways to leverage Social Media in Business-to-Business marketing. It takes a lot of maintenance and almost daily attention from someone.
  7. Trade Shows and Conferences -- Speaking and presenting papers at conferences is a great lead generator, plus it enhances your positioning as a domain expert in your business.  The technical paper can then be repurposed in e-newsletters, on your website, as hard copy collateral, etc.   Trade shows can work either of two ways.  You can exhibit at a show that attracts your ideal prospects.  Or you can attend a show where your prospects are exhibiting, and do a sort of "reverse sales interview" at their booth, gathering an amazing amount of information.
  8. Referrals and "Word of Mouth" -- These are excellent sources, and you have to have a strategy to make them happen.   A lot of businesses rely heavily on these because they don't have any other strategy that works.  They don't grow very fast, as a result -- your customers are busy promoting their own businesses, and usually don't have time to promote yours enough to meet your growth objectives. 
Your lead generation mechanism is the cornerstone of your selling system. Make sure you know it's working and that it's generating enough opportunities to meet your growth plans.  If you don't have a lead generation system that works, you may have to hire someone to help you build one -- I did. 

What you don't want to do is hire a sales person and expect him or her to be successful working within a selling system that you haven't figured out yet.  That's a sure formula for an expensive failure. 

Next month -- Opportunity Development
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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International
Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

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