Time is a commodity in most people's lives, but that is certainly so in the life of a small business owner. Generating leads which turn into sales takes time and sales are often a part of the job that small business owners do not want to do. The first business that I started eventually came to a standstill because I was not generating leads...I was spending all of my time just doing the technical work. That prompted me to spend some time in a sales business so that I could learn how to sell.
Some of the most important rules that I learned in that business was that you needed to devote specific time each week to the sales part of your business and you need to set concrete measurable goals (number of sales calls, number of networking events, etc) that you can hold yourself to. Making connections take time. Generating leads takes time. Following up with potential leads takes time. Writing proposals takes time. Closing deals takes time. All of these activities, however, are a necessary requirement for making sure that you always have new customers and new jobs ready to start.
Today I read a blog by Geoffrey James about 6 easy ways to make your lead generation and qualification process more effective so that you are spending your sales time effectively. (www.bnet.com/blog/salesmachine/six-easy-ways-to-find-more-customers). One of his recommendations is to obtain leads in order of effectiveness:
1) Referrals (friends, colleagues, existing customers and business contacts). Don't forget to ask these contacts for referrals on a regular basis.
2) Networking (meeting people at industry events and other occasions). Following up with 2 or 3 of these people after each event will help to build a relationship with them and push them into the referrals category.
3) Sales partnerships (working with other sales professionals in other companies that sell complimentary products).
4) Web visitors (potential customers who have visited your website.
5) Cold-calling (contacting potential customers based upon the information about them and their companies on the Web).
Another of his recommendations is to make sure that you eliminate bad leads as part of your lead qualification. Write down what a good lead looks like. Find out as best you can what type of prospect is likely to buy by gathering accurate quantitative data. You can supplement that information by examining the profile and traits of your current and past customers. Then tailor your networking and lead generating activities to generate good qualified leads. It is not worthwhile to just generate a bunch of leads. In fact, it is costly. You want to generate leads that are likely to turn into customers.
And finally, measure. Measure how well you are meeting your sales goals. Measure how many leads convert into a paying customer. Measure the traits of those that do turn into the type of customer you desire and continue to adjust your profile of a good lead based on that information.
Now get out there and generate some good leads!