Do you see generating leads as the shortcut to a sale or the start of something more?
If you’re focussing on converting leads into sales as quickly as possible, you could be missing a trick and the chance to really connect with your customers.
Generating leads is as much about nurturing connections by adding value, as it is about adding names to your database. And while the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, grabbing data at the expense of making connections could mean that your relationship with the client ends as soon as you close the sale.
If this all sounds like a daunting departure from what you’re used to, don’t worry; there are some surprisingly simple ways to generate interest in your business and start creating connections.
- Identify your perfect customer
Who are they? Where are they? What are they looking for? What can you offer them?
Creating a profile of your ideal customer will help you focus on the sort of businesses you should be trying to connect with. Think about what they do and what you can offer them. The stronger the picture you build up of them, the easier they are to recognise and the less time you will waste chasing the wrong leads.
Research is key; once you know who you want to target, learn everything you can about them. What issues are affecting them? What opportunities are heading their way? What deals are they making?
Remember, the more you know about a company, the better you can understand their needs and how you can meet them.
As John Dougan – Director of Sales Advisory at SalesITV – says: “It’s no longer what you know or who you know, it’s what you know about who you know”.
- Know what’s going on
Get to know the market that your ideal client is operating in. Find as much as possible about what’s going on and what is likely to happen in that marketplace. Look at the trends within the sector, the challenges affecting businesses and where things might be going.
Once you know this, not only can you make better decisions about who to approach and how, but you can tailor your pitch or marketing collateral to reflect current issues.
Think about the issues that would affect businesses in that sector, how can you help them? Does what you offer solve a problem? How could your input make a difference?
The better you know the sector the better you can answer these questions and the more likely you are to offer viable solutions to potential customers.
The Internet makes this type of research fairly simple, but there are also tools, such as Artesian that can be set up to gather real time intelligence on selected sectors or clients, so that you are always up to date with the latest developments and can react accordingly.
- Be where your customers are
You can’t connect with customers who can’t find you.
Getting to know the sector you want to target should help you identify where the customers you wish to reach are likely to be.
Are there key events that they are likely to attend? Is there a conference or trade fair in your area that you should be at? Are you hitting the headlines – or even just advertising – in the relevant trade publications?
Attending events that your potential customers are at not only gives you a great networking opportunity, but it also means you can pick up even more insights into the industry. If you – or someone from your company – can arrange to speak at one of these events, that’s even better. Not only will you raise your profile and be able to showcase your expertise, but the chances are that the people you want to connect with will actively seek you out either at the event or online later on.
Don’t forget, if a potential customer thinks that you know your stuff they are more likely to consider you as a credible supplier choice.
- Give more than you take
‘Give more in Value than you take in Payment’, Burg and Mann, The Go Giver
Make the most of the insights you get into the industry. Can you spot a problem you could help someone solve or can you introduce them to someone else who can?
Remember your product may not be what they need (yet) but your expertise and network might be.
Offering help without pushing for a sale means you build trust and establishes you as being someone they can rely on. You may also find that they recommend you to others as a result (and a word of mouth endorsement is a great way to get another new lead).
- Explore new possibilities
If you keep on chasing the same leads all the time you’re likely to get the same results all the time. No industry is static, so your list of leads shouldn’t be either.
Is there a business you haven’t previously approached because they weren’t a good fit? Maybe it is time to look at them again, things change and that company that seemed too small to need you may have grown enough to need your help…
Companies and sectors evolve all the time, as do the opportunities to generate new leads with them. Think about how you could work with a business you would not normally consider approaching. Is there something happening in a certain sector that could be a great opportunity for you?
Keep your eyes – and your mind – open and you could discover a whole new group of clients that you may have previously overlooked.
This is where having access to the latest news and information about a business or sector comes into play. If you can spot a potential sale before your competitors do you can give yourself the edge.
Remember, Steve Jobs liked to use the Wayne Gretzky quote “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been” – in other words, anticipate what’s about to happen and act accordingly.
- Keep your finger on the pulse
Knowing what’s happening within a sector doesn’t just help you identify new opportunities; it can help you understand why something hasn’t worked out as planned.
If you know when a business is cutting back, it means that you can redirect your energy and avoid wasting time trying to foster leads where there aren’t any. Conversely, if you know a business is expanding, now could be the time to focus on them.
Monitoring what a business is doing helps you understand where to focus your efforts. If they’ve just landed an order, get in touch – even if it is just to congratulate them – if they’ve just lost a key client, don’t write them off, but bear in mind that they may not be responsive to a sales call right now.
Responding to what’s happening not only shows you are following their news and know what’s going on, it helps you make the most of your time.
Remember, what seemed like it was going to be a great lead six months ago may have gone cold now. Factors such as changes in legislation, increased competition, seasonal sales variations or even general uncertainty due to current events (businesses are generally less confident in the run up to an election, for example) can all have an impact. If you know what is going on, you can react accordingly, whether that’s focussing on leads elsewhere or formulating solutions to new problems.
Recognise when something is beyond your control and when that means it’s time to pull back.
- Be enthusiastic, not pushy
Don’t become the person everyone avoids.
There’s a fine line between being keen and being pushy – get the balance wrong and your calls will never get past your customer’s PA and they will always just be about to leave when you see them at events…
It may feel counterintuitive – you’ve got a lead, so you naturally want to convert it to a sale and close the deal – but sometimes you need to play the long game.
A good relationship with a potential customer can be worth a lot more in the long term than a one off sale. Of course you should make sure that they know what you offer and how to get in touch if they need to. Of course you should touch base from time to time to make sure when they do come to buy you are front of mind. But not every call or contact should be about trying to make a sale.
This is another example of when knowing the sector is invaluable – if you understand when people are likely to need your offering, you will be able to know when to take a proactive approach. Likewise, knowing when times are more challenging means you’ll know when to pull back.
For James Crisp – Sales Director at Zimbra – the way ahead is clear: “It’s all about the macro level and building relationships 1-2-1, not broadcasting a message.”
- Get out there
If no one knows who you are, they don’t know what you can do for them.
You need to get your name out there and the best way to do that is to get out there. Whether it is in person, print or pixels, make sure your company name is on everyone’s lips.
Attend events where your customer base is likely to be – or even arrange your own. Sponsor industry awards, invest in ads on the right websites or simply get your story out there. If people know who you are, they’ll know to look out for you.
Never under estimate the power of networking, either online via sites such as LinkedIn or, better still, in person. When you’re online share useful and relevant information, whether it’s your own blog posts that showcase your industry knowledge, or links to articles that others may find interesting.
When you meet people at events demonstrate your knowledge of their business or sector during conversation, by asking relevant and appropriate questions.
Make sure that you become synonymous with your product or service by showcasing your expertise, that way when people come to source your product, they will come straight to you.
Remember the best leads are inbound. In fact, inbound enquires are twice as likely to lead to a conversion. Make sure that people see you as reliable, credible and well informed; be someone they would want to do business with.
- Make things easy for everyone
It may sound obvious, but how easy is it for someone to find you?
Would they need to search the Internet for your details or click through page after page of your website to find a contact number? Tracking down someone you want to do business with shouldn’t be a challenge.
Be as easy to find as possible, make sure that your company contact details are on every page of your website, that the mobile number on your card is current and that any work related social media accounts have your website in the profile section.
If someone has got as far as looking your company up they’re already keen to do business with you, don’t put them off by making the last stage of the process difficult for them.
Believe it or not there are plenty of businesses who focus so much on creating a great looking website or engaging social media presence that they overlook the simple fact; if people can’t find you they can’t do business with you.
If you make things nice and easy for people from the start of your relationship, the chances are they’ll have more confidence in you going forward. Conversely, if you make things difficult for them, the chances are they’ll seek out someone who is easier to connect with and that great lead will be wasted.
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