Most business owners are pretty confident in what they do, but run into trouble when it comes to getting paid for it. The first step is attracting enough potential clients or customers.
Effective lead generation can solve many problems. It’s a confidence booster to know that they’re lining up for what you have to sell. It also takes the pressure off of your sales skills knowing that if you don’t get this one you’ll have plenty of opportunities.
Generating leads and prospecting is one of the first challenges many new business owners, or even those who have been at it for a couple years, can struggle with. Here are 27 tips for generating new leads in your business.
1. Know Who You’re Looking For
Clearly defining your target market as specifically as possible serves a couple of purposes. First, it positions you to recognize someone who will be a good fit when you see them. Second, it makes it a lot easier to ask for introductions or referrals from your network and contacts. And finally, it helps you with your positioning and messaging to consider exactly who you’re speaking to, what you need to say to them, and how you need to say it.
I recommend defining as many as 3-5 avatars, or specific individual representations of your ideal clients or customers. Think of it like hiring a model for your commercial. You want to find someone that represents your ideal prospect and with whom your prospects will identify. If you create these in advance you can use them to compare your prospects to and also to practice in advance speaking to their fears, doubts, and concerns as well as their desires, dreams, and aspirations. Effectively doing this will lead to stronger relationships and more sales.
2. Know Your Core Message
Once you know exactly who you’re talking to, you can figure out exactly how you need to say it to make sure you resonate with them.
You need to make sure you’re speaking to their needs and desires about the true value of the solution you’re offering. Stay away from cost and focus on what you’re going to do for them and why it’s valuable to them. Don’t get sucked into talking about how you do what you do. Stay focused on the what. The how is what they’re going to pay you for.
3. Match Your Offer And Message With Your Target Market
You’ve got to be delivering the right message, to the right people, in the right way. Make sure your offer is of value to the people you’re targeting and that you understand how to speak to that value effectively and appropriately.
4. Know Who You’re Not Looking For
Just as it’s important to know who you are looking for, it’s equally as important to know who you’re not looking for. You don’t want to work with just anyone. You want to work with the people who want to work with you and with whom you will enjoy working.
You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and hassle down the road by learning to recognize and avoid these people sooner in the sales process rather than later.
5. Be Where Your Prospects Are
Building on what you know about your ideal client avatars, you need to know where they are.
- Where do they hang out online?
- Where do they eat?
- Where do they vacation?
- What hobbies or sporting events do they like?
- What do they drive?
- How do they spend their evenings and weekends?
- Where do they work?
There are the places where you can get in front of them, either in person or with your marketing and advertising. The more you can target the patterns and behaviors of your ideal fit clients, the more you can appear to be everywhere in their lives, thereby reinforcing the natural fit to do business with you.
6. Focus On Desired Results And Solutions
You have to identify the pain, then sell the solution or desired outcome. Far too often, we get sucked into talking about how we do what we do instead of why we do what we do. Prospects believe if they can understand how you do it they can either do it themselves or have confidence that they can trust you, but they’re not qualified to make that determination.
You need to build credibility with testimonials and social proof and stay focused on the desired outcome. Your clients and customers are buying an outcome.
7. It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It
The market wants to be led. Be the confident leader who can get them where they want to be and you’ll have no trouble.
As social beings, we humans are innately and incredibly adept at communicating emotion. We can’t not do it. If you are filled with fear, doubt, and worry those emotions will leak into your communications with your prospects and detract from your message.
Sales is a process of emotional transfer, so make sure the emotion you’re conveying is confident, positive, and inspiring.
8. Take Fast, Frequent, And Decisive Action
Consistency builds trust. People want to know that they can count on you. Seeing you putting yourself out there consistently instills this confidence and builds social proof that will help them feel more comfortable committing to working with you.
Momentum builds urgency. If they see that the bus is going to quickly get them where they want they’ll jump on. If you’re driving in circles or meandering about, they’ll take a cab. Be the one who moves with purpose and clear intent to get people where they want to go on time.
9. Do A Little Every Day
Business can be cyclical, due in part to the length of your sales cycle. If you generate a lead today you may not close it for days, weeks, or months. If business is good today and you stop prospecting you may be creating a dip several weeks or months out.
Do yourself a favor and get consistent and disciplined about doing your prospecting activities a little every day.
It’s like a savings account. Keep putting into it now so that it’s there when you need it.
10. Track Everything
Measurement is critical to success. In the words of H.James Harrington, “If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
Track how many new people you reach out to. How many of those you’re able to schedule calls with. How many of those you make proposals to. How many of those you turn into paying customers. And how long it takes between each step.
With that information you can control and improve your sales cycle. Without that information you’ll have no idea of what works, what doesn’t, or how long it might take to get where you’re going.
11. Take Responsibility For Everything
Always have a scheduled next step that you can take. If you need to follow up with a prospect, put it on your calendar for a specific date. If a prospect wants to call you back, tell them “Great! If I don’t hear from you by the next day can I give you a call?” and put it on your calendar. If someone tells you “now’s just not a good time” put a reminder in your calendar far enough out that you can check in to see if the timing has improved.
You want your destiny to be in your own hands. You don’t want to be sitting waiting for a call or an email from someone who has long since forgotten about you.
12. Schedule Everything
Anything worth doing is worth scheduling. Someday turns into never unless you take action.
If you have no system and just hold everything in your head, the mental energy that goes into not forgetting and worrying about forgetting is energy that you can’t afford to loose. Put it on your calendar so that you can be sure you’ll get to it and let go of the mental strain of trying to remember.
If it’s not worth putting on a calendar it’s not worth worrying about until you finally get around to it. Just let it go.
13. Work The Phone
Email and social media feel safe and easy, but they don’t work for sales. You simply must pick up the phone or meet face-to-face to have effective sales conversations.
14. Start With Who You Know
Depending on what you’re selling, family and friends may not be ideal prospects. But is there anyone in your network who might be?
When I started my most recent business my first thought was that I didn’t really know anyone who might use my service. Then it occurred to me that I did know a couple, so I wrote their names down and before I knew it I had a list of almost 90 people that I could start reaching out to.
So start your list with any friends, business connections, people you’ve run into, and whoever you can think of as your seed list. Then start reaching out. They may or may not be interested, but you’re building your momentum. Ask for meetings. Ask for introductions. As for referrals. Before you know it you’ll have a full schedule. Just keep at it and work your network.
The power of your network is that it’s not limited to just the people you know right now. You also have access to the people they know and the people who those new groups then know. Before you know it you’ll be connected directly to Kevin Bacon himself.
15. Cultivate Relationships With The Right People
Once you’ve put together your list of people you know, start on a list of people you’d like to know. Then set about looking for introductions from within your network.
In addition, you can use the list of what you know about your ideal client avatars to start hanging out where people like them are most likely to be. Then just start developing new relationships with the kind of people who are likely to be in your target market. This is how you’ll expand your network in the right direction.
16. Leverage Your Resources
Getting introduced to people who know people is where you’re really starting to leverage your network. The next level is to look for people who may not be your ideal prospects, but are likely to have access to larger groups of your ideal prospects. These people will be your potential referral partners or joint venture (JV) partners.
Look for related, but non-competitive businesses who serve the same market you work in. Or businesses who offer services that would lead directly to a need for what you do. Or businesses who your clients would likely need after they’re done work with you.
Compile these into a new list of prospects and pitch referral programs or list swaps of some sort. These types of relationships can be incredibly beneficial to both parties.
17. Work Social Media, Then Take It Off-Line
Social media is great for being social; for creating and cultivating relationships. But it’s lousy for sales. Reach out to people you’re cultivating relationships with and invite them to jump on a phone call where you can deepen the relationship and have the opportunity to uncover if there’s any need or interest in what you do.
18. Ask For What You Want
Don’t try to read your prospect’s minds, and don’t expect them to read yours. If you want a referral, ask for it. If you want to do business together, ask for the sale.
There’s a way to do it authentically and casually, but don’t put it on them. If you’ve developed a relationship, demonstrated value, and done your job up to this point, asking for the sale should be the next logical step. If you find yourself struggling with this part, maybe a coach or training program would be in order to help you get over this hurdle.
19. Nurture Relationships By Giving
Don’t let the relationships you’re cultivating be one sided. Be willing to connect your connections with each other if they can benefit. Give referrals to others with no expectation of reciprocity. If you see an interesting article someone in your network might be interested in, forward it on to them.
These actions will demonstrate your interest and generosity and will improve your standing in their eyes. It will also add to the momentum you’re building in your business and keep you at top of mind awareness (TOMA) when opportunities to reciprocate do arise.
20. Leverage Events
Speaking at live events, holding virtual or online events, sponsoring events, and giving presentations can all be great ways to leverage your time and get in front of new contacts effectively and efficiently.
If you can talk to fifty or a hundred people in an hour as a group versus one or two people in an hour one-on-one, there’s a much greater opportunity to expand your influence and your network.
21. Teach Your Network How To Refer You
One huge problem people have with networking is that they expect they’ll get referrals just for showing up. Stop it!
Assume it’s your responsibility to get referrals from others in those groups. Teach them how to refer you. Remind them to refer you. Make it easy for them to refer you. And reward them when they do refer you.
Getting referrals is just as much a sales and marketing activity as getting new paying clients and customers. Treat it with the same level of professionalism and effort and you’ll get the results you want.
22. Have Something To Offer Them That Pulls Them Into Your Sales Funnel
Every time you meet a prospect have something to offer them as a next step that will let them learn more about you and your offering, add value in advance of the sale, and advance them toward doing business with you.
This could include:
- a phone call
- a free report
- a newsletter
- a website or blog that delivers value
- a podcast
23. Let People Self-Identify
Make it clear who your ideal client is with your language and allow your ideal prospects to step up and introduce themselves. Provide incentive for doing so.
24. Be Quick To Disqualify
As soon as you recognize that someone is not an ideal fit prospect, cut them loose. Don’t let them drain energy or resources, most notably time and emotional bandwidth, away from your focus of identifying and serving those who are your most ideal fit. It’s doing a disservice to the people who are your ideal fit prospects as well as to your existing clients and to yourself.
25. Capture All Leads
A business card sitting in a pile on your desk after a networking event is not a lead. A website visitor who reads your article and leaves without subscribing to your newsletter is not a lead. An unanswered phone call or email is not a lead.
Make sure that you are capturing contact information and scheduling a follow up with everyone who expresses interest in your offering.
26. Always Follow-Up
Consistency and momentum are generated through persistent and repeated action. On average it takes seven touches before someone buys a service or product. In my IT business that number was twenty-seven.
If you give up after the first follow up call, or even the fifth or sixth, you are wasting those leads and all the effort you put into generating them.
One of my first marketing mentors used to say, “Once you’re on my list I’m going to follow up with you until you buy or you die.” Last I heard she was bringing in multiple millions of dollars per year and that sentiment was responsible for much of it.
27. Automate and Be Consistent
Once you know what works and you can predict your prospects buying patterns and timing, automation will be your best friend. Once you get to the point that you can email your initial follow up and just have scheduled calls showing up on your calendar, that’s when things will really start taking off for you.