Sales Prospecting - Sources of Sales Leads

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Published: 07th April 2009
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A lead is any source of information that could be converted into a sale. Leads can be generated from both inside your business and external to your business; both these areas are covered in the following:



Typical sources of leads



* Existing customers

* Trade directories

* Internal inquiries

* Print media

* Library resources

* Networking

* Internet



Existing customers



Mainly underused because many businesses are afraid to ask the million-dollar question - do you know of anyone else who would be interested in my products and services? Never feel embarrassed to ask this, the most valuable question you can ever ask is for the opportunity for a referral. Ask the customer if you can use them as a reference, using the customer as a reference usually reduces the perceived risk for potential future customers. Also an element of trust is instilled early with the person (or business) that you have been referred to because of their association with your existing customer.



Trade directories



Information on potential prospects could be in the form of industry newsletters and business CD directories. Set up a system of subscribing (for free of course) to relevant industry newsletters, local government newsletters, be aware of as many opportunities as possible for future business. Subscribe to newsletters in e-mail format (preferably HTML because it's easier to read) these will then conveniently drop into your in-box at the frequency you have requested. Spend a few minutes per day checking these; I do this first thing and last thing everyday religiously, just to make sure that I'm not missing out on any opportunities that I wouldn't otherwise know about.



Internal inquiries



Make sure you have a system in place that promotes leads, make sure customer feedback is directed to the right people. Have regular staff network meetings, I used to call these meetings BBS - business building sessions, whereby every Monday morning key staff (who have direct customer contact) attended this meeting and contribute recalling the events of the previous week, customer contact items of interest, and general discussion focusing around every sales possibility within the business from their experiences over the past week. Also involving your team in all aspects of the business cannot help but foster team building and the creation of a good harmonious working environment, not to mention the opportunity to grow the business from these meetings!



Print media



Taking time to read your industry magazines or even better trade journals may offer leads to follow up that you hadn't thought of previously. Trade journals are a great source of information as your target market would be reading, advertising or even writing editorials in these types of publications. Local government newsletters are also a good source of information providing such information as opportunities to do business with them and even better, from time to time, the opportunity to tender or bid on upcoming contract work or other similar opportunities. These would also be of a higher value proposition for your business!



Another successful lead strategy that I followed in the early stages of my business was every week to go through all jobs in advertisements in the local paper. You will need to pick the best day when most of the ads appear, in my case it was the Saturday edition. Sure there are many, many advertisers in the paper and I would only look at those advertisers who were not using a recruitment consultant (direct company advertising). I would further cull this by looking only at the advertisements for positions (jobs) that were in my specific areas of expertise, in other words my target market.



My strategy would be to cut each of these ads out of the newspaper and paste them into a scrap book, noting at the top of the page the date that the advertisement appeared. In carefully looking at each of these ads, you would normally see the company name, the name of the person to respond to in the ad, sometimes the e-mail address and usually a telephone number. I would then wait for maybe two months, maximum three months and then call the number from the ad and ask for the person in that position (that was advertised) and then prospect to this person using my elevator statement (see below).



Whilst this may be considered a bit of a long shot, it is nevertheless, another opportunity to generate leads and gain some business in areas where your competition may not have considered. You will be surprised at the results, maybe you might even get a job offer because of your inspired research or like what happened to me, be offered a lucrative consulting opportunity when I was in front of a prospect (I found through using this process), I was asked to train all her sales staff in these prospecting techniques!



Now just how good is that!



An elevator statement is a brief two or three minute pitch about your business. Using your words economically fire in some statistics, no room for technology jargon here, give a concise pitch about what it is you do, adding a convincer as to why the prospect should meet with you! Remember the elevator statement is just like a CV it is designed to get you a meeting (or an interview in the case of the CV).



Library resources



In most local libraries there is usually a wealth of material that can be accessed to generate possible leads for your business. In my local library for example there is a business database which can be accessed from the library and remotely over the Internet using my library membership card number. Also just reading the local library notice board from time to time can also be an opportunity to business.



Also in my hometown Melbourne we have a State Library which is a wealth of information for businesses and the means of lead generation which I have utilised successfully since 2002. You may need to research to see if there is an equivalent to a State library in your local area. My State library for example provides a reference business database which enables me to interrogate and search the database based on any criteria I choose.



For example:



* Size of business, by turnover and employees.

* Location of business, by state, city/suburb, or postcode.

* Whether or not the business has a website.

* Whether or not the business is quality assured (e.g. ISO: 9001).

* Whether they export or not.

* Major product lines or services offered.

* Contact numbers and position titles of key senior staff.



This now enables me to perform searches on the types of businesses (by industry segment) that I have had previous success with, or those businesses that present opportunities for me to prospect to and start the qualifying process. So for me each interrogation or search boils down to finding three main areas, these are:



1. Industry segment

2. Size of business

3. Location of business



Once I input these three search criteria (and further refine each of these areas as required) I can then see exactly what companies I should prospect to over the next period. Usually most of the library resources are free, you would normally only pay for the printing of this material, as unfortunately in some cases you're not able to download this information (i.e. to your USB stick).



Whether you have this type of resource available to you or not, you should continually look for a way to research which will enhance your prospecting activities, focusing around the key areas of industry segment, size of business, and location of business. These key areas should ideally match with your previous experience (your previous employment), your skills, your abilities, your capacity to produce, your competition, and your location.



Networking



Networking can be the most cost-effective way to grow your business, word-of-mouth marketing, referral marketing, are all forms of networking. Seek out opportunities to meet people in your target market at:



* Business breakfasts

* Seminars and events at your local management institute

* Local government small-business seminars

* Local business and community events

* Exhibitions and trade shows



Even take the opportunity to do a presentation on a particular subject around the industry and technology you may work with. I have done this on many occasions particularly with my local government where I have presented on the subject, and then at the end in the final slides, I provide a background and a soft sell for my particular services that I offer to businesses.



Seek out the person responsible for business (or small-business) in that particular local government office and offer to do a free seminar based around a topical subject. In most cases local governments are always happy to find ways to assist businesses in their area and provide experts to present on particular subjects on a regular basis, usually monthly.



Of course at the end of the sessions you will have the opportunity to give out numerous business cards, brochures, and other documentation to solicit business opportunities at the end of your presentation. And this is the main reason why you're doing this.



Internet



Sources of leads via the Internet come in many forms, this may come from (as previously mentioned) from e-mail newsletters that you have subscribed to, listing opportunities with local governments for contract or tender work. Be selective and subscribe to relevant newsletters from your industry where you are kept informed and up-to-date on relevant issues, technology, trends, and other key information to keep you across all there is know about your changing market.



I subscribe to maybe 20 or 30 newsletters per week, this keeps me informed and up-to-date, so when I am in front of my prospects, I speak from a background of knowledge, relevance, and understanding of my industry and the changes occurring within it which they also should be made aware of.



For more information on my new e-book - "How to Grow Your Business Successfully with Prospecting" click here

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