If your reading this you are likely in sales so this is not shocking news I am sure – leads are not provided and if they are, they are terrible! Our Sales Directors still beat the sales drum and hold the Key Performance Indicator meetings and hand back Corrective Action Reports expecting amazing attitudes and smiling faces though. They sensed they hired go-getters, they know we want a raise every month, and I have yet to have a boss who did not love handing me a check larger than theirs. Lead generation is a something-from-nothing hat trick, but that is what makes a great sales person though – producing something from nothing. Clients where there was none before, revenue flowing from sources it never had been, phones ringing where offices had once been quiet. Here are the ways I have developed that gotten me the best leads I can muster in the 21st Century.
Revisit old leads
This is the oldest trick in the book really and a great place to start if new in sales. I call it “warm prospecting” because the contact is familiar with you or at least the company you are calling from. They had a need before and they have either found a solution or they have not. That is the lead into the call. What they say next is either “no”, “yes”, or “I have, but it is not working out well”. You are either on the bus or off the bus or convincing them to get off a worthless bus! Also, if you find a hundred “no’s” hurts at the end of a work day, it is likely sales is not for you and why I recommend it to beginners especially.
G2G (Go to Google)
I had been in digital marketing sales, and more specifically sales of search engine optimization for 4 years. SEO is considered the keystone of any online marketing strategy. The goal of SEO in most minds is to be first page, first spot for a desired set of keywords. Ask any business owner and they will tell you that shallow explanation. Regardless, find some heinously difficult keyword, search from about position #4 and you can go for a whole day, maybe a week even, calling leads. With some queries having millions of results means there are thousands of leads to call. For every keyword you search, you should have a solid 20-25 leads. Don’t forget those paid ads too!! Running out of lead sheets in a similar niche? Try ubersuggest.org to expand your list. This tool will give you expanded search terms using Google Suggest and Google Trends in a single algorithm they have developed. Uber-handy.
Ask for referrals from current clients
These people have a great relationship with you already, they trust, they buy, and they will refer if you ask them and make it your goal to get your super easy, no-fuss client to be your champion to their colleagues. Typically after a productive and meaningful SEO report review or closing a new opportunity with a client, I will ask them for a referral. The key is to ask your client to reach out to this person to see if contacting them is okay. Never ask your client to have them call you, as the response rate will be very low. I will typically send a follow-up email with a few highlights from their report: the increase in traffic, lowering a bounce rate, the increase in leads monthly, and the rankings they hold, and ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing the figures. Ask it nonchalantly as the figures may be sensative or confidential but make it sound like it.
For this method I use semrush.com and compete.com. From Compete, I search for a company (client or prospect) and the site generates me a few competitors based on traffic size, organic rankings similarities, paid ad cross-referencing, and a few other metrics. I then use SEMrush to see what organic rankings they have and what they spend on paid ads. These are signs of getting a temperature check on how savvy the prospect might be. Do you go in with SEO 101 or throw jargon at them right away? An SEO knows his job, and if it looks like it was done previously, you might really have a battle uphill. However, when you can show someone how a competitor is out-performing them, it is easy to tug at their ego to help close a sale no matter what they think they know.
Wikipedia is crawling with SEO leads most people do not know of. Each Wiki has a bibliography toward the bottom. The successful people who get a citation and have it reviewed and accepted are building links to their site. This is evidence of SEO and where there is SEO, is a hungry business owner. The trick here is to look up terms relevant to business niches. For example, if I wanted to target software companies, I would search Wikipedia for things like “Hadoop” or “Big Data”. There will likely be links to large tech firms or articles written by such. Large companies have this kind of expert content on their site and they get a link or citation on Wikipedia for having that good reference. Hint These people WILL need content. Let them beat there head against the wall while you focus on better content. When Wiki will not accept a citation is is because the source was fluff, short, not cited, or irrelevant. Helping the content is the only way to get links for your client, and saying their content is not top-notch it can be like calling their baby ugly so tread lightly when approaching someone at this level of link earning.
Network Events or Lead Groups
I was a member of a Phoneix BNI for awhile and it is a phenomenal way to get leads. This is not a good way to generate leads immediately as trust and rapport takes some time to establish within your circle. The pro is the people in your group are your own personal army of sales people. They go on about their business but when they hear something that sounds like you might be able to help someone with, they refer you out in good faith that you will return the favor at a later date. The other great thing about this method is it ends the monotony of grinding yourself out on the phones, walking the block handing out business cards and being in an office or crumby cubicle. I would look forward to my Tuesday morning meetings each week! My group was fun and I had five great referral partners in the areas of web development, graphic design, promotional products, car wraps and business consulting. Even in inside sales, there is plenty of events after work hours to attend and make use of, so do not throw this method out if you are someone who sells from their desktop and headset. Just don’t go in and start pitching the group. Remember, they are your salesforce not your prospect pool.
Host a clinic or workshop
Gather people for a mixer/clinic on a topic relatable to a pain point your audience shares, and deliver what I call “the tip of the iceberg”. An iceberg shows above the surface about 10% of its mass, while the other 90% is submerged. In the clinic, show just enough of how to start the solution to a problem while keeping 90% of the full solution to yourself. This causes your audience to understand the problem you are describing as it relates to their situation. Afterward, you obviously have the expected Q&A. If people have very specific questions answer them with information relevant to the whole audience or refer back to a key point if thats the case, Afterwards ask they follow-up after and schedule an appointment directly.
Family and friends
These people should be a given as they always want to know what you do for a living anyway and how it is going. For digital sales and SEO, just explain to them that you help businesses bring in more business, and always keep them informed about success stories and how you helped out. This will ensure top-of-mind referral of your expertise; they just have to know what you do which is often overlooked in what you tell them you do for a living. for years, my own father thought I fixed computers until I explained it better. He then turned me on to Marketing Director at the headquarters for Daktronics, one of the largest LED and electronic display companies in the U.S. that happens to be located in located in Brookings, SD… She just happened to be the daughter of the someone that helped host the brunches after church every Sunday that my family also helps with. In South Dakota, “everyone knows everyone’s business” and this usually unforgiving fact.
Every possible volunteering event that is put on by a company I work for, I attend. Your company is taking the time to put some goodwill behind their name and being on the front lines of people in your community is highly beneficial. At anytime, there is always a few business owners in those groups, as they too like to put goodwill behind their name. These volunteer events usually host a breakfast so this creates the opportunity to actually talk. You will need a 30- to 60-second “elevator pitch” to make the most out of your time there. Talk to everyone you can, because while they might not be the decision maker, guards are down at these events and getting that decision makers name is almost too easy. If you can’t get them in a quick pitch there, knowing the name is half the battle to any gatekeeper and mentioning the same volunteering event always puts them at ease to putting you through.
Read forums and participate in discussions
It is a born-again trend first having died out in the early 2000’s, but answering questions in which you have expert feedback on is a great way to step into a larger issue. I typically find simple questions about on-site optimization and answer them. I will always follow-up asking what on-going SEO efforts they have and offer my contact info. If the person on the end answers me or not, I still have a webpage on the internet with my contact info for others with similar problems. This is not a superb method for generating mass leads, but it has worked out in the past, and little effort comes from it. You just need the knowledge you have and time to reply to a thread and the website to stay live.
Please leave a comment, and tell me how you gain leads, no matter what your industry, product or service you sell!