Many successful companies depend on adding to their customer base to grow their business. One key way to accomplish this goal is to ensure that companies receive a regular stream of sales leads. Here's what you can do to generate leads for your business.
The importance of sales leads
A sales lead is a person or business that could purchase your company's goods or services. A lead becomes a prospect once you've identified their level of interest and fit as a customer for your business. You can use different methods to identify sales leads, including advertising and marketing, cold calling, social media, referrals, outreach and networking, consultations, and product/service trials.
Inbound marketing methods can help your business create a steady stream of inbound sales leads. Use the following lead generation strategies to generate sales leads for your business.
1. Ask current customers for referrals.
Your current customers can be your best source of sales because they've already purchased from you, so they know your products and services work. Therefore, they should be an integral part of your strategy to attract new sales leads.
Warm referrals are more powerful than cold emails or outreach to prospects who know nothing about your business.
However, many businesses don't take the time to reach out to current customers after the sale, beyond providing support or customer service when asked. They don't thank customers for their business nor do they ask for referrals or help with generating more business.
Following some of these strategies can help turn current customers into a great source of sales leads:
- Ask your account manager to ensure that customers are satisfied with your products or services and customer support. Have them reach out to find ways to make the situation better.
- Set up a time to have a quick conversation with your customer, and thank them for their business. Ensure that they understand how much you appreciate their relationship and discuss how you can add value to that relationship.
- Ask for the names and contact information of business contacts or other companies that might need your product or service, as well as the reasons why they would make a good fit.
- Ask your customer to contact the prospect on your behalf, first through a short email or phone call. You can provide them with what to say in an email so that the sales lead understands the value you provide.
- Thank your customer with a thoughtful gift for the referral. Make it something personal rather than related to the company's products and services.
2. Work with your network to identify sales leads.
Everyone has a personal network of family, personal, and work friends, past and current business associates, neighbors, service professionals (e.g., plumbers, doctors, lawyers, landscapers), and so on. You might overlook these people for a variety of reasons as a source of sales leads, and yet they should be one of your first options for doing so. You already have their trust, which makes them valuable sources of generating leads.
While the members of your network have you in common, many of them exist in separate areas of your life and don't interact with each other. They don't share the same contacts, so each person has the potential to provide incredibly valuable sales leads. If you've talked with them about life and business, then you can ask them to connect you to prospects.
How do you begin the process? Just let them know that you're looking. Be specific about the type of person or business you're looking to connect with. Describe their industry, business size, sales and revenue ranges, geographic location and so on. If they have a connection, ask them to reach out on your behalf to make the introduction. Better still, provide them with the email that they can forward to their contact.
Remember that you're dealing with a friend or acquaintance that you plan to keep as part of your network. Mixing your professional and personal lives means you should be respectful of their time and the relationship.
3. Engage with sales leads at networking events.
Make attending in-person and online networking events part of your routine of finding sales leads. Networking is an effective way to reach new people and build relationships with people you've met in the past. It also allows you to engage your leads face-to-face.
Networking requires time, so choose your events wisely. Attend networking events where your sales leads are likely to lead to the best use of this time. Follow these strategies to make the most of your networking:
- Networking involves building relationships with real people. Don't approach people from a sales perspective; instead, go in with the mindset of trying to help other people first. Find out about their business and about them as people, and identify what they need to succeed or solve a problem.
- For in-person networking events, exchange business cards with new people you meet. Add the person's contact information to your customer relationship management system. Follow up within the week with an email to thank them for meeting at the event.
- For in-person and online networking events, ask if they would like to connect on LinkedIn. It's a great way to stay in touch, even when they move to another organization.
- Be yourself and have fun.
4. Revisit closed and lost opportunities.
Sometimes, "no" means "not right now."
You've probably reached out to a number of businesses that did not buy from you at that time. Make sure to reach out again. They already know what your business does. You might have demonstrated your product or service, and even engaged in a discovery call. They didn't buy then, but that could change.
Revisit closed or lost opportunities. Reconnect with the prospect every four to six months. Ask them if anything has changed in their business, such as their priorities, challenges, goals and needs.
Companies that did not buy from you before are already qualified sales leads. Invest time and resources into marketing to these prospects. Stay in touch through blog posts, personalized communications and approved marketing emails.
You might not make the sale the next three times you reach out to them. But you might get a sale or interest after the fourth, fifth or sixth time they hear from you. And your prospect's situation will definitely change. Their budget could increase to make financial sense to purchase your solution. Or your contact could move to a new company or department, where there is a need or impetus to implement your solution.
Staying top of mind with sales leads will make you the first business they call when it's time for them to choose their sales solution.
5. Find sales leads on relevant social media networks.
Everyone is online, including your sales leads. It's just a matter of finding and connecting with them.
You're probably on LinkedIn right now (or should be), so use LinkedIn to generate top-quality sales leads. Your most desired connections and companies in your niche are on LinkedIn. They are here because they want to do business, grow their network, promote their products and services, and find solutions to their business needs.
Follow these strategies to use your social media profile to generate new sales leads:
- Connect with as many people in your existing network as possible, as well as sales leads and people in your industry. Every connection helps to extend your reach, as you can now connect with your contacts' connections. You don't need to know your connections personally; any connection can be a source of great sales leads.
- Let your network know about your ideal prospects and the types of problems you can help them to solve. You can write a post or share an update on what you're looking for right now. For example: "We're looking to help dentists and orthodontists in the Denver area with expanding their promotional reach during the back-to-school season."
- Ask two to three current clients to provide recommendations or testimonials for the work you've done for them to demonstrate your value and customer service.
These strategies are geared toward LinkedIn. However, you can expand your company's reach and brand to other social networks that fit your business, such as Instagram, Facebook for Business, Twitter, Snapchat, and so on. Choose the right social media network for your business. Focus your efforts on social media networks that will provide the best sales leads.
6. Optimize your social media profiles to attract ideal sales leads.
If you have a social media profile, you need to keep it up to date. Keeping your LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or other social media profile current helps you bring in more sales leads. The goal is to attract the attention of buyers and make it easier to connect.
- LinkedIn: Create a solid headline and description that will appeal to your target audience. Your headline and summary should describe what you do and who you serve. Focus on what your target buyer will be looking for, using keywords they would use. For example, don't call yourself a "Sales Maven" – your headline should say something like "Sales Manager | Creating Solutions for Human Resources Managers in the Automotive Industry."
- Twitter: In addition to your title and a link to your company's account, include a professional profile photo, a link to your LinkedIn account and relevant hashtags that would matter to your target audience. Follow Twitter profiles in your industry and those of potential sales leads. Retweet and comment to keep your account active.
- Instagram: This social media platform is very visual. Include a professional photo, as well as attractive and relevant images, along with hashtags that would matter to sales leads. Keep it professional yet fun.
7. Create an email sequence.
An email sequence is a series of emails that are automatically sent to groups of people in a mailing list. The goal is to use email marketing to build recipients' interest in your company's products or services.
There are two main types of email sequences:
- Trigger-based sequences send emails based on the person performing a certain action, such as browsing a page on your site, buying a product, subscribing to your email list or leaving something unpurchased in a shopping cart.
- Time-based sequences send emails at specific times, such as two weeks after making a purchase, immediately after opting in to receive a newsletter or an anniversary date.
To effectively attract sales leads, email sequences should be written with a specific purpose in mind. Each email in the sequence builds on the previous one to grow the reader's interest. For example, you could follow this sequence, where each email concludes with a call to action (e.g., call for more information, click here to purchase product):
- First email: Introduce yourself and mention a common pain point that your reader may have.
- Second email: Talk about the value of your product or service.
- Third email: Discuss how a client solved their problem with your product or service.
- Fourth email: Describe what you do for clients.
- Fifth email: Provide a list of benefits from using your product or service.
- Sixth email: Reach out one more time with a special offer.
8. Write and publish informative articles and blogs.
Writing a blog post or article can help establish you as an expert in your field. Write about what you know and how your knowledge can help others. Topics are endless, but you could start with how to help others be more efficient, reduce expenses, increase sales, improve productivity, grow their business and so on.
Writing makes you a visible expert. People will be able to read what you say, and see that you know your business. Your knowledge can educate readers, and when they want to know more or make a purchase based on what you've taught them, you'll be the one they turn to.
Blogging is also part of a content marketing strategy, which can drive traffic to your pages and help improve your lead generation efforts. By using content marketing as part of your lead generation strategy, you can boost website traffic, driving your potential customer to your intended landing page.
On that landing page, you can place a call to action, which could encourage a website visitor to learn more, buy now or engage in some other action you want potential leads to explore
There are many places to write and publish articles and blog posts:
- Your personal website or blog site
- Your company's website or blog page
- LinkedIn and other social media channels
- Other corporate, industry and personal blogs
- Websites that publish industry blogs and articles
- Your customers' websites
You can also create an email newsletter to publish blogs and articles. This has the added benefit of building relationships with your target audience. People have to sign up to receive the newsletter, so they are already interested in what you have to say. They give you permission to market to them, as long as you educate, inform or entertain them along the way.
9. Host a webinar or online workshop.
Articles and blog posts are great for sharing your knowledge and educating people. However, they are one-way conversations – you write and someone else reads. Webinars and online workshops enable you to teach and interact with people, which can be more impactful in creating sales leads.
Webinars and online workshops allow you to go into greater depth in sharing your knowledge with prospects. For example, you could teach people how to create a marketing campaign in a number of steps, and use video and images to illustrate each step along the way. Each person who signs up for the webinar or workshop is a legitimate sales lead. Sharing your knowledge with people in this format establishes you as a leader in your field, builds trust and increases your ability to attract leads.
You can run live webinars and online workshops so that you can answer questions in real time and create time-limited live offers to engage sales leads. You can also record webinars and workshops to reach people 24 hours a day, and attract sales leads even when you are not there. You can host webinars and online workshops on your company's website, or create and host them on sites that publish webinars.
10. Connect with live chat users.
Chat technology has come a long way, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. You can create a personalized chatbot for your website that matches your corporate brand's look and feel. Any time someone visits your website, the chatbot can appear on their screen with a welcome message.
A chatbot can do a lot more than say "hello." It can become a valuable addition to your sales and marketing team. A chatbot can:
- Ask questions and provide responses that address the needs of the sales leads
- Qualify sales leads
- Book appointments and meetings
- Answer commonly asked questions
- Connect visitors to the right contact
You can also review the conversations between the chatbot and sales lead to learn more about the customer and see where you can add value, engage with the sales lead and improve your chatbot's responses. It all depends on the capabilities of the chatbot software, and what you need it do for you.