Finding business leads is still a struggle for most sales people and it's become more complicated in the information age, when many transactions are done over the Internet and some major players in a business deal never meet face to face. But have the rules for finding leads changed all that much, or have they simply adapted?
Networking is still king. Most salespeople will tell you that networking is still the best way to generate business leads. A generation ago it was done through membership in local, state and national organizations and attendance at conferences, seminars and various other industry initiatives. This is still a major aspect of networking today, but you can also do plenty of virtual networking in cyberspace. Becoming a member of an online community that focuses on your industry and has blogs, the opportunity to participate in round table discussions and answer questions posted by others is a great way to network and generate business leads without all the travel and expense.
Many salespeople said that a surprising number of valuable leads come from customers that come to the company's website first. These aren't the customers or clients who are ready to buy, but are browsing the web looking for information. If your company is ready with a short, easy-to-use form that they can fill out with key information (name, address and email address and what the are interested in learning more about), most people will fill out the form. These "casual shoppers" often turn in to solid leads.
Don't ignore the power of emails. Periodic emails with timely information and tips can really catch the attention of potential clients. Investing the time in researching companies who would be interested in your product or service and then sending them a short, information-packed email is a great way to introduce yourself that isn't too intrusive. The advantage to an email or newsletter is that they can save it and read it at their leisure. You don't run the risk of catching them at a bad time and getting the brush-off. Just make sure your subject line is compelling and that your opening sentence is compelling and interesting to them. It should be about "what's in it for them," not about how great you are.
Blogging is big. Be active, be everywhere in cyberspace. Get to know the blogs that are popular in your industry and visit regularly. Whenever an article or post is particularly insightful, offer your congratulations. If you have something valuable to add, do so. After a while, visitors to the blogs will be looking forward to your comments and will want to learn more about you and your product or service. The leads you can get by establishing yourself as an expert in your field are amazing! So speak up and express yourself. And don't be afraid to start your own blog as well. If you gain a real following, you could see your sales leads increase astronomically.
Cold calling is "Old School," and most people hate to do it. But there are some people who still swear by the efficiency and personal touch of a phone call. It's more difficult to say "no" to someone on the phone than it is to ignore an email, but it's also harder to catch someone at the right time by phone. If you've perfected your phone technique, however, cold calling may be the perfect way to get sales lead. Some people simply have the gift of gab and when they call, the person on the other end loves getting a break from whatever they've been toiling away at for the last hour. Just remember to stay focused on the advantages of your service/product and quickly move on to getting that appointment!
Although the methods of finding leads have changed over the years have changed, the essentials haven't. You still need to get their attention, focus on why your product or service is ideal for them and get them to commit to the appointment so that you can close the deal. The methods may change, but the importance of the lead remains the same.