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You must consistently generate new sales leads to grow your business sales. Marketing is not enough! In Selling Your Services: Proven Strategies for Getting Clients to Hire Your (or Your Firm)<, Robert Bly says you need to 1) generate interest in your products or services (i.e., generate “leads”); 2) follow up on that interest by setting up an appointment or a chance to discuss your offerings further; 3) convince prospects to hire you at a “sales meeting,” which can take place in person, over the phone, or even via instant messaging and e-mail; 4) get the assignment or sale by coming to an agreement on price, deadline and other terms; and 5) make sure you complete the sale or assignment to the client’s satisfaction.

You must go through the entire selling process to truly close the sale. To begin the five selling steps outlined above, you must generate sales leads as part of your sales strategy.  Here are 9 lead generating techniques you can use to begin your sales process:

1. Direct mail is a very effective way to reach prospective customers, especially if you address the post cards, brochures or sales letters to the specific people most likely to buy (avoid generic mailing labels). When writing your sales letters and brochures, appeal to the recipients directly.  What problems do they have that you can solve, or what can you do to make their lives better?  Why should they choose to do business with you or your company rather than someone else?  Also be sure to include a call to action:

  • “Call now for a free consultation.”
  • “Return the enclosed card to received your free white paper on…”
  • “Visit us soon! The enclosed coupon expires on…”
  • “For more information on how we can help you …[call, visit, send us…]”

2. Referrals occur when someone makes an inquiry about your goods or services because a satisfied customer has told him or her about your company. Referrals often happen automatically when you consistently provide excellent products and/or services to your customers. You can also ask for referrals: Encourage happy customers to refer their friends and colleagues to you. You may want to offer customers gifts or other incentives for their referrals.  Referrals help make your business financially successful, which insures that your current customers can receive the same (or better) goods and services from you over the long haul.

3. A web site can generate leads when you speak directly to your potential customers and let them know the benefits you provide. Make sure that your site is easy to navigate and that the content is easy to understand and engages your potential customers.  You can put up a “Request for Quote” or an order form that requires them to input contact and other information before you contact them.  Encourage site visitors to contact you for a free consultation or to receive a free sample or report.  If you regularly publish a newsletter, encourage them to sign up for a free subscription or a complimentary first issue via your web site.  Once you collect contact information, be sure to obtain permission before you e-mail them additional promotional materials, or you may be accused of spamming them.

4. Publish a newsletter. Newsletters can keep your business name, and contact information, in front of potential customers.  While e-mail newsletters (ezines) can be quick and easy to write and produce, don’t rule out the use of print newsletters.  In “The Marketing Minute,” an ezine published by master marketer Marcia Yudkin, Steve O’Keefe, author of a pioneering book on Internet publicity, tells Yudkin that print is persuasive. Yudkin says, “His newsletter gets read when the recipient is in the mood, unlike ezines, which are usually read immediately or deleted. … One client of O’Keefe’s, a retailer, has both a printed catalog and an ezine, each sent once a month. ‘It’s the printed catalog, not the ezine, that drives web sales,’ he says. ‘If they miss a month on the catalog, over 90% of web sales vanish.’” (From Yudkin’s article “Print Newsletter: Wise Move or Hopelessly Retro?” August 13, 2003.)

5. Testimonials from satisfied customers appearing in advertisements, on your web site, in brochures and in your sales letters can be a powerful way to encourage prospective customers to contact you. Doing an excellent job for current customers, and getting their permission to publish the good things they say about you, is one of the best ways to generate new business.

6. Advertising generates interest in your products or services when the ad copy appeals to your potential customers’ needs and desires.  As with direct mail, there must be a call to action:  “Call toll free…,” “Log on to …” or “Visit us at…”  If you don’t have experience writing ads that sell, hire a copywriter or read Robert Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook:  A Step by Step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells” before you design your ad.  You should also ask the advertising publication, directory or radio or television station for a demographic profile of the people who will be exposed to your ad.  Do the customer demographics match the age, race, income and/or education level, and geographic area of your target market, or “choice customers?”   Advertising can be expensive, so shop around for advertising vehicles with the best demographic match with the people you are trying to reach.

7. Public relations:  Sending out newsworthy press releases, writing a regular column for a newspaper, journal or magazine read by your choice customers, or public speaking can consistently generate leads.  If you publish articles and the editor allows, include a resource box with your company name, telephone number and web site information.  For press releases or articles where you’re not allowed to publish your contact information, make sure you are listed in local the telephone directory and place contact information in easy-to-find places on your web site (e.g., the bottom of each page and on a “Contact” page of your site).  When speaking publicly, distribute handouts or brochures with your full contact information to your audience.

8. Telemarketing or cold calling involves calling or visiting prospective customers to inquire about their needs for your goods or services.  Cold calling implies you have had no prior contact with the company or individuals you are calling or visiting.  Use this approach with caution:  Unless you are well trained and are comfortable making calls (see http://www.kendallsummerhawk.com/marketing-teleclasses.html  for some great teleclasses on how to sell), business-to-business cold calls can make you appear desperate for work and damage your professional reputation.  You are better off making “warm calls,” where you have met the person before or have been referred by a colleague.  And if you sell to consumers, be sure to check the Do Not Call Registry, http://www.donotcall.gov/, to insure that your telemarketing efforts are legal

9. Networking is a great way to generate a list of contacts for your “warm calls” or  people to whom you can send your sales literature.Attend events or social gatherings where you’re sure to come into contact with your potential customers (a.k.a., “target market”).  Or, attend events where you’ll meet people who are already in constant contact with your target market.  For example, if your choice customers are small business owners, you might want to network with Certified Public Accountants or attorneys that specialize in providing small business services.  When you attend networking events, be ready to provide support to the other people you meet. Networking is a two way street:  The more you’re willing to support others’ businesses, the more they’ll be willing to provide you with the sales leads you ask for.  When you receive a lead, follow up immediately with a phone call or a letter, introducing of yourself by mentioning the colleague who referred you.  Caren Weinstein, owner of Cmail, a relationship marketing service provider, recommends that you also send a thank you note to the person in your network who has provided you with the lead.

Your leads strategy is important, because you must initiate the 5-step selling process to have a steady, or growing, sales and revenue stream. Begin by choosing the leads generation strategies you are most comfortable with and incorporate them into your sales strategy plan. You will find that you are talking to more potential customers about how you can help solve their problems or make their lives happier, more profitable or more fulfilling.