It's not easy. It's time consuming, must be done consistently and is often frustrating. But in the end there are really no shortcuts.
Here's what you must do to generate increased leads and hence increased sales.
1) Make certain that you are going after the right prospects.
Seems like common sense, right? Sure it does, but the truth is that many companies prospect in a somewhat haphazhard manner going after, well, just about anyone. That's not the most effective way to do it.
Rather you need to take stock and decide if you want more of the same types of customers that you have now, or, do you want to break into a new market? And, if that's the case, do you have a realistic idea of what it will take to acquire customers in this new segment? Prospecting is part art and part science. Neglecting to be analytical about whom you want to do business with, and why, can equate to wasted time and dollars too.
2) How fast are you?
Speed counts. In this time of massive competition and with the ability for ALL of your prospects to shop for resources on the internet, sometimes your key differentiator might just be how quickly you get back to customers and prospects. Think about it. How fast do you return calls and emails? Are your prospects waiting to hear from you (during which time they just might be reaching out to your competition)? Aim for a fast callback, even if it means that you are simply calling or emailing to let them know that you got their message and will get back to them later when you have more time to talk.
3) Are you using social media to its best advantage?
Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are no longer tools for merely getting in touch with old school mates or romantic interests. Develop a Facebook Fan page, use Twitter to showcase your expertise and professional events and Linkedin as a strategic prospecting tool. Set aside a small amount of time each day to use these tools to their best advantage. Ten to twenty minutes will do but remember to not surf these sites aimlessly. Without a doubt they can be addictive and you can find yourself with little to show for your efforts.
If you are not certain exactly certain how to "use" these sites to grow your professional identity, simply explore the myriad of free webinars and tutorials that will provide you with the insights necessary to be effective.
4) Ask for referrals.
You've done the work and have a satisfied customer. That ought to be enough to get them to refer more business to you, right? Not so. In most cases you have to "ask" for what you want and what you want are introductions and referrals to other potential sources of business. The best time to ask for referrals is when you have a happy customer; doing it too soon will cause them to be uncomfortable and resistant. And doing it too late means that the job is pretty much "old news" and they will be less enthused with the results.
While timing is everything, it is also important to make certain that the referral is direct rather than "if you think of anyone who might need my services, please give them my name". You need to be proactive and in the best cases your customer will connect you with the referral through a phone call or email introduction on which you are copied. Make asking for referrals a standard part of all of your projects for the more times that you ask the more you will be put in contact with new prospects.
5) Be "out there"
Networking has become an integral part of business development and while it might not be your favorite activity, it is something that all business people must consider if they want to generate more leads. Consider your options. There are leads groups, rotary and chambers of commerce, professional organizations and much more. You can attend most groups as a visitor or as a guest before you make any decision about joining but you must understand that networking is a long-term process and not a short-term solution for your lead generation woes. You have to "work it" in order to see results but rest assured, they will come.
If you are unsure about how to really get the most out of your networking endeavors, there are many resources and websites that can provide tips, tricks and techniques to be successful. One of the most useful is to go early! By being one of the first attendees to show up you will be the center of attention and rather than having to walk over to people while they are talking, everyone that enters the room will gravitate towards you. This simple step takes care of any discomfort or shyness and you have a better opportunity to meet the group or event leaders and organizers.
Probably the most important thing to remember is that lead generation never stops. You must continue to keep the sales pipeline filled, even if you are busy with work for if you don't, you will experience those peaks and valleys that can cause havoc with cash flow and revenues.
Make lead generation a part of every week and you will ensure a more steady flow of business.
Adrian Miller is President and Founder of Adrian Miller Sales Training, a sales consultancy that she launched 20 years ago. Adrian provides real-world, highly practical sales skills training programs and delivers executive level sales strategy consulting. She is the author of "The Blatant Truth: 50 Ways to Sales Success" and is a highly regarded speaker and consultant.