Lead generation has become more technologically sophisticated in recent years, with customer relationship management programs, auto-dialers, social media and many other tools meant to help sales teams achieve higher-efficiency lead generation and appointment setting.
However, along with all the latest lead generation technology, sales professionals need to keep in mind that some of the most important elements for lead generation success haven’t changed. Lead generation is often a matter of self-discipline, self-motivation and establishing good consistent habits over time, regardless of technology.
Here are a few back-to-basics lead generation tips that can help your sales grow:
1. Set a scheduled time for lead generation: Every single day, block out an hour (or more) on your calendar that is to be used strictly for lead generation calls and related activities. Many sales people make the mistake of thinking that lead generation just “happens,” or that “I’ll get to it later.” No one is going to make the calls if you don’t pick up the phone. Many sales people don’t love prospecting because it often feels like a low-yield, high-rejection activity – they’d rather be out meeting with customers who are ready to buy. But keep in mind that you’ll never have a good base of customers lined up who are ready to buy if you don’t do the hard work of dialing the phones and laying the groundwork ahead of time.
2. Follow-up: Lead generation success rarely happens on the first call. Even if a prospect states that they are interested and want to hear more from you, you will often have to follow up multiple times to set an appointment, get on their calendar and work them through the sales cycle.
3. Nurture your leads: One of the biggest differences between successful sales people and unsuccessful sales people is persistence – and this persistence is nowhere more important than in nurturing sales leads. Keep talking to your prospects, even if it’s been months since your initial call. Keep checking in, even if a prospect wasn’t interested the first time you talked. Just the act of following up and staying on the radar of the prospect, even if it takes months, can turn a “not interested” prospect into a highly qualified buyer.
4. Keep building relationships: Technology can never replace the human element of gaining a prospect’s trust, building rapport, and creating a mutually advantageous business relationship. Go beyond your regular role as a “sales person” and look for ways to add value for your prospects, whether or not it’s directly related to making a sale. Offer some business intelligence. Share a helpful tip about the challenge your solution helps solve. Send your prospect a link to a news article about industry trends that you thought might be helpful. All of these outreach activities might seem like “little things,” but little things add up in keeping you at the top of the prospect’s mind.
5. Analyze your numbers: In a single hour of lead generation calls, how many prospects are you able to reach? How many conversations can you have? How many of those conversations lead to the prospect agreeing to receive follow-up calls or setting an appointment with you? You don’t need a highly sophisticated customer relationship management system to know how efficient you’re being with your sales calls. Measure your conversion ratios at every step of your sales cycle, and look for ways to improve them.
6. Rank your sales leads: Not all sales leads are created equal. Many sales professionals would benefit from a more consistent ranking of sales leads. Assign your leads a priority ranking based on your best judgment of whether or not the prospect is ready to buy – and how soon they might be ready to buy. The higher priority leads can be given the most immediate attention, while longer-term sales leads can be relegated to the “lead management” cycle of long-term follow-up and nurturing.
7. Keep the pipeline flowing: Sales is a constant business of building relationships, working prospects through the sales cycle, closing deals, and doing it all over again. The best way to keep closing deals is to keep your sales pipeline well stocked with new opportunities. Even while you’re in the last stages of closing a deal with a high-value prospect, you also need to be dialing the phones to do the initial work of qualifying new prospects and working them through the sales cycle. The best way to ensure a steady pipeline of prospects is to do the steady, daily work of making calls, disciplining yourself to stay focused, and maintaining a positive and persistent attitude.
Lead generation is becoming more technologically sophisticated, but the ultimate success depends on you, the sales person. Practice good daily sales habits. Schedule time for lead generation activities. Track your successes, rank your sales leads, and keep the momentum going through all stages of the sales cycle. Then get ready to do it all over again. Even as your success grows, you still need to do the hard work of introducing yourself and your company to new prospects, building relationships and finding opportunities. Lead generation isn’t a one-time activity – it’s a way of life.
Al Davidson is the founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing, a “leading light” among lead generation companies, delivering B2B lead generation and appointment setting services for clients ranging from local small businesses to the Fortune 100. Since 1989, the company’s sales agents have generated over 7 million sales leads, and created millions of dollars for clients.