Sales Prospecting: 14 Effective Techniques to Generate Sales Leads

Written by Hisham Hanna

When do you do prospecting?

Answer is simple: ALL THE TIME. Unfortunately, some organizations exert more efforts in prospecting only when sales revenues are down, or market bad conditions are expected in the near future. My advice here is never to stop the engine, if you stop it, it will be harder to restart it once again.

Different ways of prospecting:

Within the scope of this article, I will mention the main prospecting techniques that are used by successful organizations, just headlines; I will go through each one of them in details in other articles. No one does it all; you can choose the suitable ones for your product, organization, and market. 

1. Cold calling

2. Direct mails, emails, and faxes.

3. Getting referrals (form existing customers and even prospects.

4. Seminars

5. Trade shows

6. Networking events

7. Company website

8. Periodic news letters

9. Advertisement

10. Recruit sales channels, partners, and distributers

11. Door knocking

12. Product free trial

13. Exchanging leads with other sales people in complementing industries

14. Internal sales lead referral system.

Who should be responsible for prospecting?

Although a specific department(s) should be responsible for prospecting, but, generally speaking, prospecting should be a culture planted inside each employee in the organization. A nice and valuable technique is the “Elevator Pitch” or  “Elevator Speech” which is defined as the few words about your products or services that you will tell anyone you meet by accident and you have only a chance of 30 seconds to one minute when you meet him/her (in an elevator or anywhere else).

Now, you have to be sure that you memorize this pitch, not only you, but literally each and everyone in the organization.

An inspiring idea that I read about lately is that successful sales people should talk about their products and services to anyone who is close enough to hear their voice! Don’t forget, keep the engine running all the time!

It’s your responsibility as a sales staff, manager, or even the CEO to make sure that all the employees are generating leads for the organization all the time.

Exceed Your Sales Expectations

By David Tyner

Have you ever had a sales manager tell you that they were unhappy with how long prospects were lingering in your sales pipeline?  If so, please forward this to them.

Look at any CRM system and you’ll find plenty of common elements.  Among them include fields for sales stage (with a default win probability), expected close date and expected revenue.  With these elements, management typically forecasts by discounting the expected revenue based on the win probability (per the sales stage) and organizing opportunities according to expected close date.  Thus management has an idea of what they can expect in terms of revenue over the next several months.  This is all very basic Sales 101 stuff, but is often the source of unmet expectations between sales managers and their sales force.

A main source of the divide between a sales forecast and the subsequent sales performance is that win probability is typically tied to the sales stage of the opportunity (e.g., if an opportunity is Identified, it has a 10% chance of closing, if they’re Contacted its 20%, Qualified 50% and Proposed 67%).  It is my experience that, when looking at pipeline from a macro perspective, the single best indicator for how long a lead will be in your pipeline and the likelihood with which it will survive to become a happy customer is the source of the lead.  Therefore, I suggest that you define the lead source at a very high level.  In my CRM, I have just three different lead sources.  They are:

•Seekers – these are prospects that seek you out
•Sought – these are prospects that you seek out
•Suggested – these are prospects that were referred to you
It is important to think of these categories when engaging with your prospects, forecasting your pipeline, and managing sales expectations.

The Seeker
On the surface, this prospect appears to be the best.  After all, they’re most like your mother in that they recognize just how special you are.  They have demonstrated admirable wisdom by successfully identifying you as someone who can potentially solve their particular problem.  Perhaps they looked you up through a web search, found you through social media or just somehow innately knew that you were ‘the (wo)man!’  More likely, they are using one of your competitors and have decided, for one reason or another, to contact you. 

Unless you represent the clear-cut industry leader, the notion of a prospect seeking you out should actually be cause for some concern.  It should raise a red flag for you when companies look to spontaneously replace their current vendor.  If they were a good customer, paid their bills on time and worked in partnership with their current vendor, why would they be looking elsewhere?  If they were indeed a good customer and the incumbent vendor were moderately competent, that vendor, its sales team and customer service staff would be bending over backwards to make sure their good customer was happy.

Case in point, I was once contacted by one of my competitors’ largest customers.  They called me in for a meeting and already had all of the information I would normally solicit waiting for me, accompanied with a list of one-sided, ridiculous demands.  Against my recommendation, our company met their demands for reduced pricing and extended billing cycles as well as some other one-sided concessions.  They quickly became my 4th largest customer from a revenue perspective.  Frankly, I looked like a hero for the quarter.  However, the stringent requirements of this customer caused me to have the lowest year over year growth of my sales career!  My prospecting time was diminished and time spent with profitable customers was cut.  I was not able to methodically sell and produce the “right” kind of business.

Eventually, the reasons why this company left its incumbent supplier became painfully obvious.  In an unprecedented move, I presented a business case for why our company should fire this customer and no longer do business with them.  We gave them 30 days to find a new vendor.  Despite the loss of this revenue, I was able to sell far past the deficit and ended up in the top 1% among all sales people globally for my company.  I still say that my best and most profitable “sale” that year was selling my company on the idea of cutting that customer loose.

The moral of the story: be very cautious when a prospect seeks you out.  Find out why they have sought you out.  Be very slow to give concessions.  Most importantly, establish a balanced, open communication system with them so that they view you as a respected partner and not a pawn.

The Sought
The Sought are the most challenging and have, by far, the lowest conversion rate.  However, these prospects are the key to success for the B2B sales elite.  If you want the highest quality leads, you have to seek and engage them for yourself.  No one knows more about your product’s strengths and potential for success than you.  No one knows more about the types of businesses that will have a painful problem that your company can solve.  No one is as invested in wanting to close the right kind of business then you are!  This is the prospect you are cold-calling, sending more information to and trying to get time with in order to engage the right buying influences.

The big challenge with these prospects is that they are extremely difficult to accurately forecast in your sales pipeline.  A symphony of sales activity must take place, rapport built, relationships established, knowledge exchanged and persuasion gently applied.   After first contact, the entire sales process must be executed with flawless precision.  Keep in mind that at any time this prospect may shut you down, after all, they did not seek you out.  Unlike the The Seekers and The Suggested, The Sought have no initial reason to engage with you.

Often The Sought will tell you that they are happy with their current supplier.  To that, my response has always been, “If you are happy with them, wait until you get a load of me!”  Of course I’m kidding, but seriously, the fact that they are happy with their current supplier is some of the best news you can hear.  It may have more to do with them being a perfect customer than their supplier making them happy.  Your job is to get to the right person or people with the right message at the right time.

The Suggested
These are relatively rare in B2B sales.  When you can get them, they can be fantastic.  Though not always an easy sale, they represent the opportunity to work from a position of mutual, professional respect.  Unfortunately this is something that is that is not common enough in the beginning of the sales cycle.  The main challenge with The Suggested is that they are often not properly qualified.

I recommend that you do everything possible to introduce as many of these prospects into your sales pipeline.  Sources can include your own marketing department, current clients, social media and your oldest and dearest friends.  The B2B sales elite treats all prospects with the utmost in professionalism, however, it is even more important to go the extra mile with these prospects.  Remember, with these prospects, your actions are not only a reflection on you but on the person that referred you.  By going the extra mile, you are turning a favor your referral source did for you into a favor you have now done for them.  Initially, they did you a favor by referring you customer.  If you do your job well, you will have done the person who referred you the business a favor by making them look very smart for recommending such an outstanding company and sales professional.  Lastly, make sure you report back the results to your referral source and, if possible, reciprocate by providing them with leads as well (email me and I’d be glad to share some ideas on how best to do this).

Realizing that there are salient differences between the types of prospects is one of the first steps in understanding a sales pipeline.  In reviewing potential sales opportunities, as a sales manager, ‘how did they get here?’ should be one of your first questions.  This will help to manage actions and exceed expectations.

Naviga and The Brooks Group Enter Alliance to Provide Complementary Services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Paul Bilodeau
May 27, 2011 The Brooks Group
Office: (336) 282-6303
Email: paul@thebrooksgroup.com

Greensboro, NC – May 27, 2011 – Today, Naviga Business Services and The Brooks Group entered into an alliance to provide their respective clients access to each others complementary services.

Naviga, a national sales and marketing recruitment firm, and The Brooks Group, a sales training and assessment firm, will now offer each others’ clients additional resources to improve sales effectiveness.

This new alliance will mean that sales-driven companies will have access to unrivaled recruitment, selection, and training tools to drive top-line revenue growth and sales performance improvement.

Kathleen Steffey, Founder and CEO of Naviga, stated, “Formalizing this partnership allows us to offer our clients a turn-key solution when selecting and hiring top sales and marketing talent. The alliance with The Brooks Group exemplifies our business model and core philosophy on quality.”

President of The Brooks Group, Will Brooks, said, “We’re constantly searching for opportunities to partner with organizations whose offerings benefit our clients. Naviga is a perfect fit. Their ability to recruit the nation’s best sales and marketing talent is exactly what so many of our clients are looking for. We’re truly excited about this partnership.”

Naviga Business Services, LLC is a nationally recognized sales and marketing recruiting firm, headquartered in Tampa, FL. Since 2002, Naviga has been viewed as the top recruiting partner to choose when recruiting sales and marketing talent across the country. Naviga’s core philosophy is highly driven by customer service, quality and relentless execution. Naviga provides you with the best sales and marketing recruiting service to hit revenue goals faster.

The Brooks Group is an award-winning sales and sales management training and assessment company based in Greensboro, NC. Since 1977, The Brooks Group has helped thousands of organizations in more than 500 industries transform their business practices through practical, down-to-earth skills development in sales, sales management and personal performance growth. The firm’s mission is to deliver results-producing processes, services and products to sales organizations.

####

The Next Prong in Sales 2.0 is “E2E”

This week’s blog comes to us from Gary S. Hart, an aficionado of sales and marketing who has been a guest instructor for the Dale Carnegie Institute and presented on a variety of related topics to numerous associations. He is currently building sales enhancement applications and working with companies in a variety of industries to increase sales and improve customer retention.

Our 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Joyce led us into the auditorium for televised French lessons on Thursday mornings. The PBS instructor would begin, “Écouter – écouter — la plume — la plume. Répondre – répondre,” which translates to, “Listen, listen; the pen, the pen. Respond, respond.”

Listening and responding are the essence of conversation. Quietly sandwiched between the two is understanding, for if one does not understand what they are listening to, the response is empty and vain.

Knowing the definition of the pen does not impart understanding of how and why it is mightier than the sword.

“Why didn’t you “call” me?” and “Why didn’t “you” call me?” have two different meanings. From behind the keyboard, the sentences are identical, and discerning the difference is impossible.

Today we live behind the keyboard and as a result, there is less eye-to-eye (E2E), less understanding, and relationships are dying a slow death. Heck, you can delete a relationship with one click, but we aren’t quick to hang-up on a call or get up and walk out of a meeting.

In a recent edgy Focus roundtable called “Sales SmackOff,” part of my answer to “What should the modern salesperson look like?” included video calling. Video conferencing, like the tablet, failed the first go around, but like the Phoenix and the tablet, video calling is rising from the ashes.

Our culture and economy have made physical face-to-face meetings fewer and farther between. The keyboard is easy, inexpensive, and reasonably acceptable, but at great expense. The resounding absence of eye contact has hurt the sales profession by commoditizing the sales process.

Better content, better emails, and better texting do not give the buyer what they want, need, and crave. They have their place, but people are craving real connections more than ever. People need people – a twist on an old corny song – but no truer words have ever been spoken.

E2E is a higher quality, more transparent conversation that develops better connections, relationships, and results.  Phone calls come in a strong second place, but video calling, as Bell once pitched, “is the next best thing to being there.”

Video chat is the next wave of communications and will be embedded in websites and every device with a browser. Get ahead of the curve. Instead of writing an email, text, or tweet that does not convey the intricacies and nuances of E2E, setup a quick video call.

New ideas and new paradigms – change – all come with discomfort. Nevertheless, change happens and we either jump on the bandwagon, or, we fall behind.

Don’t follow the change, be the change.

Video chat with prospects and customers may seem edgy today, but video chat will become as common as your smartphone. Apple, Google, Skype and countless users already looking into other people’s eyes think so. B2B use of digital E2E is here for the taking. Here are four apps to elevate your sales game, and, don’t forget to look into my eyes the next time we talk.

The Upside of Being Measured – Sales

By Tibor Shanto

People often have opinions or views that drive their approach and by extension the sales results.  It therefore follows that if the underlying assumptions or beliefs are inaccurate than so will the resulting approach and related actions, which can undermine their success.  This is one reason you want to measure and quantify things so you can base your actions on facts rather than just feel.  Yes, I will acknowledge that there are some things you can’t measure and therefore have to rely on other inputs, but at the same time there are a whole bunch of things that you can measure but some choose not, or choose not to take the action, leaving them with no measure and no success.

Improving Sales Efficiency and Productivity Crucial to Driving Revenue Growth

By Phil Fernandez

I have written previously in this space about growth being the critical business imperative during these still challenging post-Recessionary times. Now, The Conference Board has further confirmed this thesis with a new global survey, which found that fueling business growth is the #1 issue for CEOs these days.

The Conference Board CEO Challenge 2011 survey polled more than 700 CEOs, presidents, and chairmen from across geographies and industries worldwide. According to Jonathan Spector, CEO of The Conference Board: “The global CEO consensus about 2011 suggests that growing one’s business is the key to success. Now more than ever, business leaders are turning to new ideas, products and markets to fuel growth, drive innovation, and remain competitive on the global stage.”

As Mr. Spector states, innovative ideas and products, and new markets, are all key ingredients that senior executives are baking into their strategic growth plans. But, just as important, in my view, is improving the corporation’s sales efficiency and productivity – in fact, strengthening the entire revenue generating process on an enterprise-wide basis.

In my experience, if there is one thing that CEOs and other top corporate officers think about when they wake up in the morning, it’s probably, “How do we improve our sales efficiency and productivity?” Nothing is more urgent for senior management, because nothing has more of a direct impact on driving topline revenue growth. CEOs have already cut about as far as they can to shore up the bottom-line, so topline growth is the new mantra of the C-suite.

The numbers prove how much room for improvement there is for corporations to raise their sales effectiveness metrics (which are a direct link to revenue performance results). Here are some statistics that graphically illustrate the point:

94% of marketing qualified leads will never close (SiriusDecisions)
52% of sales reps do not achieve their sales goals (CSO Insights, 2010 SPO Sales Strategy Analysis)
45% of sales reps’ time is spent on admin and prep work, not with customers (IDC Sales Advisory Practice)
15-year low in terms of sales productivity (Chief Sales Office, Insights Study)
As long as sales efficiency and productivity metrics are so anemic, it is going to be an enormous challenge for companies to achieve the ambitious growth targets that CEOs (and especially the financial community) are now demanding. The critical first step to confront this 21st Century growth challenge – and win – is to fundamentally transform the entire revenue process, not just tinker with separate, disconnected elements of sales and marketing (i.e., improving salesperson’s time efficiency or boosting lead flow).
End-to-End Process Drives Sales Efficiency and Revenue Results

What’s required is establishing an end-to-end, analytics-driven revenue process that revolutionizes the company’s entire sales and marketing engine – from generating the initial leads, to closing the ultimate sale. It’s akin to the global business/management movements that similarly revolutionized logistics in the 1980s with supply chain management, and production in the 1990s, with Six Sigma.

This end-to-end revenue process combines proven cloud-based technology, advanced analytics, expert guidance, and best practices that change forever how marketing and sales work – and, more importantly, how they work together. Because, breaking down the traditional silos that still separate the marketing and sales functions is a vital part of what makes this new end-to-end revenue approach so powerful and effective.

Of course, I am talking about Revenue Performance Management (RPM), RPM is an entirely new category of technology applications and business-building solutions and services that have the potential of making the previous CRM revolution look small by comparison. RPM accelerates revenue growth by expanding lead flow, optimizing sales and marketing investments, and aligning teams to produce maximum revenue performance and results.

As a fully integrated, end-to-end solution, RPM is all about making the sales rep more effective at every stage of the revenue chain. It gives sales (and marketing) the tools, information, and insights they need to have a much clearer view of when the prospect truly is “ready to buy,” and not still gathering information and advice from trusted sources (typically on the web and through social networks).

With RPM, corporate sales and marketing departments can increase their lead quality, improve lead-to-opportunity rates, strengthen opportunity-to-win rates, and drive deal velocity.

Generating outsized revenue growth in 2011 and beyond is not just a dream of CEOs and their C-suite colleagues. By taking a true end-to-end approach to the entire revenue process, and employing proven RPM solutions, companies are right now accelerating their growth and results to levels they never would have thought possible before.

LinkedIn: 4 Biggest Mistakes You’re Probably Making

By Amy Levin-Epstein, CBSMoneyWatch.com

Are you LinkedIn? I admit, I put in a lot more facetime with Facebook. And my experts tell me I’m missing out on opportunities. “Recruiters are using LinkedIn heavily now. You need to be professional — and findable!” says career coach Kimberly Schneiderman, founder of Career City Services.

Indeed, LinkedIn has more than 100 million members, including executives from every Fortune 500 company. LinkedIn’s research team recently mined that information to determine the most common names for CEOs. Verdict? Peter, for a man, and Deborah, for a women.

But no matter what your name, LinkedIn can take your networking to the next level with just a little effort. Here are the most common ways people aren’t making the most of their presence on the site — and how experts say you can fix that.

Having A Vague Headline
Say your current title is marketing manager. Many people naturally leave that as their headline, a huge error because it says nothing about what you actually do, says Schneiderman. Instead: “Use a headline statement that really describes your expertise and talent, like  ‘Executive-level Product Strategist’ or ‘Hospitality Executive – Expertise in Franchise, Operations, & Change Management,’” suggests Schneiderman. Then further develop it: “Create a summary about your career that fully describes your passion for your work, your impact in your company or companies, and your professional focus. People in an open job search can map out the kinds of opportunities they are pursuing next. Make it about 3 paragraphs and write in 1st-person using ‘I’ statements,” says Schneiderman.

Maintaining A Passive Profile
Filling out an attractive profile is just the beginning. “Most people create a LinkedIn profile, but then don’t take advantage of potential connections that might be available through their existing network,” says career consultant Shawn Graham, author of Courting Your Career. His suggestions: regularly identify and reach out to potential contacts, use status updates to congratulate those contacts on their successes, and consistently review the “People You May Know” section to identify additional connections.

Not Trying New Tools
Branding expert Dan Schawbel says that a major mistake is not taking advantage of the many tools Linkedin has to offer. His tips include connecting with someone you have no connection with by joining a LinkedIn Group they’re active in, using a 1st degree contact to gain access to 2nd and 3rd degree ones, and using apps like SlideShare to connect with even more people. And don’t forget to take your toolbox on the go: “The LinkedIn mobile application allows you to transfer contact details electronically,” says Schawbel. A new one has just been released for the Droid.

Networking Only When You Need Something
Schawbel reminded me that networking on LinkedIn is no different than networking in real life. You still want to give more than you receive, particularly when asking for a recommendation: “The best way to get recommendations on LinkedIn is to give one first,” says Schawbel.