Your sales team is making lots of visits, getting on well with potential customers and business is coming through the door. However, targets are not being met – the cause could be that you don’t have enough prospects being worked on.
The start of the Sales Process – generating leads, is the activity that is furthest away from the finish line and bringing in the revenue. It’s not glamorous and is often neglected. However, does lead generation have any less significance than submitting proposals or closing business? No…….not at all. The flow of opportunities through a sales pipeline is often hindered by insufficient leads being entered at the start.
Whilst every activity is important in selling, have you ever taken the time to look at your sales teams activities in this key area and provided them with a clear plan on how much time should be committed to lead generation? If you have you are in a minority in this market. If you haven’t, read on…..
HOW TO GENERATE LEADS
1. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET MARKET
Spend time to identify the sectors and types of organisation that require your service or product.
This is probably the most crucial part as it does not only affect obtaining the leads but also your closing ratio.
Why is Asif closing twice as many customers as Mohammed?
As you can see, everything about Mohammed and Asif is the same in regards to their skills, ability and overall activity. The only difference is that Asif spends more time identifying Opportunities that are more likely to close. Many people say that a closing ratio is based on the sales persons skill in sealing deals, however if we were to get the best sales person in the world to work on Mohammed’s pipeline they will not win all of the business as some of the clients are just not in your target market. Their requirements are just not in line with your offerings. The key is not to just fill the pipeline when generating leads, but to fill them with leads from your target market.
2. PENETRATE THESE PROSPECTS
Consider carefully how will they respond to different approaches – phone calls, cold call visits, introductions, recommendations…..?
This varies dramatically from business to business. Should you call them or drop in, write them a mail or send them a text. You really need to decide this yourself. I believe that creating an affective Elevator Statement (which we will cover in another edition) and simply making a call has the best impact in relation to the efficiency of this activity.
However if you feel they are a great opportunity and the numbers game doesn’t really apply here, do what you can to find an introduction from a mutual acquaintance. Maybe search on LinkedIn, ask around your contacts or contact existing customers in the same sector. Whichever way works an introduction helps considerably.
Often people tell me that sending a mail to the prospective contact before the call helps. If you feel it does then do it. However make sure the email is very professional, customised and not a bulk mail out. The customer will develop clear first impressions from this initial interaction.
If you try and develop an effective system for generating leads on your own, you will miss ideas and you could be in for a long day. However, if you hold a brainstorming session with your sales team you will quickly build a more comprehensive and effective plan. Pool all of their experience and knowledge, challenge them on their thoughts, and get their buy in to this key sales activity. This will work better than you can imagine.
Deliver these Lead Development activities in a weekly or monthly plan, dedicating a set amount of time to each.
We need to remember now that sales people will come up with some brilliant ideas, as sales people do, but how many will wake up the next day with any intention of executing their fantastic plans from the previous day? Not many. You will personally need to be clear on the plans of the individuals you are managing and gain their direct commitment to working to these plans including what actions are going to take place and how much time are they going to spend on each action. Get them to put in a weekly or monthly report and then FOLLOW UP.
IDEAS ON HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET MARKET SEGMENTATION
This always works well. You have many market intelligence tools or just use Google to look at companies and help work out who is your Target Market. Obviously your favourite will be segmenting by industry but don’t limit yourself to this. Investigate how long companies have been in the market? Where are they located? What is their turnover? How many employees do they have? Etc etc. There are many things to look at here.
The best way to do this is to think when sitting in front of a client, what do they say that excites you. For example if they say we have offices internationally and your business is dependent on that, you can search for companies that are not owned privately in this region (remember, there may be some privately owned companies that have an international presence but we are looking for the majority). If a client says they have over 500 employees and this makes you jump up, you can easily search for companies within your territory with this many employees.
You can even mix and match. If you believe your target market is in Business Bay and over 500 Employees, you can easily filter this through any software. It’s not complicated but requires you to think through what type of opportunity gives you the best chance of selling your product or service.
I worked with a client recently that had their sales team ‘cold call’ on companies looking for potential clients spending up to 8 hours a week knocking on doors. The company changed this approach with the salespeople making strategic phone calls during this time which resulted in them filling their pipeline with many more quality opportunities they were likely to close.
However, I did get challenged by another company on this approach. The preferred knocking on doors to generate leads as to them having ‘eyes and ears’ on potential clients was essential. We agreed that they would still go ahead with the segmentation but instead of calling the clients, (as the numbers of their target audience was so large), they could strategically cold call on clients they had previously identified. For example they would go to an industrial area where there were 60 companies, but only knock on 5 doors. They had huge success with this as they spent less time on wasted contacts and much higher return.
Some people have built their businesses successfully around referral partners. Being referred by an existing customer of yours can be invaluable. I recently asked an extremely successful sales person what his secret was and he admitted that he gets leads from one source and that the deal is nearly completed by the
time of introduction because of the strength of the referral! This doesn’t work in all cases, but start looking for non competitive companies that have the same target audience as you do and cooperate.
I think the best way I can explain this and give you some ideas is on how you could use referral partners is to provide you with a real live example.
I was working with a high end relocation company that had a very low closing ratio of around 5%. They had no issues finding an audience of companies who relocated their staff however when it got to pricing their offer, potential customers were unwilling to pay a premium. As part of their service, this relocation company would help newcomers to an area find schools for their children, identify suitable places to live, connect their utilities etc. so giving more than just moving their effects. Many of their potential clients stated that they valued their employees but not to this extent. Basically many of the companies contacted were not in their true target market.
After a brain storming session on referral partners we discussed what non competitive organisations had the same target market as them. One lady salesperson had a great idea and the very next day she had lunch with a friend who was a sales person at a travel agency. After this meeting she added 13 opportunities to her pipeline and in the next 3 months her closing ration increased from 4% to 23%.
Can you guess what list she got from her friend? Stop and think for a second before you read on.
Yes, well done. Her friend gave her a list of companies that send their staff Business Class or First Class when travelling on business. These companies are spending more money on their employees welfare and therefore are very likely to do the same with relocation.
One point to remember with referral partners: from my experience you can pay people to help you or offer other advantages but then I believe the best way to get somebody to help you is help them as well.
UNDERSTANDING WHY PEOPLE NEED YOUR SERVICES OR PRODUCT
Anyone considering buying from your company has a reason why they may require your service or product. Something has driven them to have the requirement and working out this reason is essential when identifying your target market.
I get challenged on this regularly. People tell me that they know this (the reason companies require their product or service) and have exhausted it or still found challenges they couldn’t overcome. However you really need to think outside the box on this and I will go through a live example with you to demonstrate.
I worked with an interior fit out organisation that were finding it difficult to identify their true Target Market. When I suggested the idea of looking again understanding what is driving the need in potential customers. Straight away they said that the majority of their business comes from people moving offices and they have already approached estate agents who would provide information on office moves at a price, usually providing leads to the highest bidder.
So I asked them why they are approaching estate agents only and also why companies are moving? It quickly became clear that 75% of people that move offices are moving because they have outgrown their existing space. It then became clear what we have to do – find out all of those companies where their offices were at or approaching capacity.
On the face of it this information was tough to find out, but during a brainstorming session we developed the idea for approach employees of water delivery companies asking them to let us know which offices were over crowded.
We would find a way to incentivise the water bottle delivery employees for the info. Although it worked, it didn’t work in quite the way we expected. No companies were identified through this mechanism that planned to move within the next 6 months, however 24 companies were added to the pipeline who intended to move in 6-18 months and believe it or not they sold these leads to Real Estate companies!!!!!
- Generating leads is critical to a successful sales organisation.
- Generating quality leads ensures that you close more business, more quickly.
- The only way to make sure that you are identifying quality leads is by making sure that you take the time and trouble to really identify your target market.
- Truly understanding why potential customers in your target market need your product and service will accelerate your closing performance.
- Don’t forget, the best sales team in the world would sell very little if they tried to sell unnecessary products to people in businesses that had no interest whatsoever in what they were trying to sell.
Article supplied by Peter Heredia of Max Sale Solutions. Max Sale Solutions is a consultancy firm helping companies cut through the issues that are limiting increased sales. Unlike traditional sales training companies, they know that it is as important to increase the efficiency of a sales team by managing activity as well as improving their sales skills.
Peter Heredia will be hosting our March Client Workshop. To pre-register your spot for what will be a popular event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.