Sales Lead Generation in the Traditional Versus the Lucrative Way

All farmers know, even me as a small-scale former farmer, that in order to harvest we have to plant. And while planting doesn't guarantee plentiful harvest, not planting does guarantee full scale famine and hard-core starving, unless someone (like a government with a distorted, communist mindset) bails us out.

Lead generation is the same. It doesn't guarantee abundance of clients right away, but if you don't do it, then you can land in very deep yoghurt with no hope in hell to ever be able to climb out. The sad fact is that many IT companies choose this route because they mistakenly believe they can save a small fortune if they skip marketing and skimp on the associated investments. And they are so everlastingly stupid that they regard marketing as an expense to be eliminated, as opposed to an investment to be optimized for ROI.

If I advertise in the local paper, and a $ 1,000 ad brings me $ 5,000 every month like clockwork, then I'll re-mortgage my home and invest all my money in the ad campaign because I know It'll give me a pretty consistent and predictable400% return on investment. But no!

The typical IT companies ignore this avenue, because they invest their money in their savings accounts at a meagre 2% interest rate. Or they have other kind of investments at 10% interest the most. So, they walk over dollars to reach out for pennies. Or they invest in the stock market. They invest anywhere except their own companies.

But the main reason why they don't do it because they've done it once and burnt their fingers. They got their ads designed by their teenage kids and written by their English major friends. "Hey, Fred has a triple Ph.D. in English. He must be a good ad writer."

Their ads miserably bomb, and they claim, "Advertising doesn't work in my industry." It's like claiming, "My car doesn't need engine oil. It's a special car with a special engine." The last thing they admit that they were a bunch of idiots who violated every rule of advertising and caused their own losses.

Of course contrary to its purpose, most people want to generate leads for instant sales. But that is just as retarded as trying to have sex on the first date. Yes, you can have it all on the first date, but, people with "those" virtues are not the best candidates for repeat business, that is, the relationship won't escalate into a long-term, trust-based romantic relationship.

It will never go beyond the "quick bonk in the haystack" type relationship, and you will spend the rest of your life chasing new dates. And this is the problem with trying to generate instant sales. People don't buy when you're ready to sell, but when they're ready to buy.

So, let's see what's happening out there. Let's see why so many lead generating efforts miserably fail. And let's see why it's not the process' fault but the people who use it.

Step 1: Creating a message and sending it out with the intent of generating some instant sales. Sending out can mean direct mail, postcard, email, fax or even cold calling. Of course your message is riddled with bragging about your company, service and how desperately everyone, with more than two brain cells, needs your stuff. All in all, your offer is a sales pitch. These companies usually don't have marketing programs of any kind besides a one-shot effort to make instant sales.

Step 2: The generated leads are distributed to sales reps and they star following up on those leads, that is, hunt prospects down, wrestle them to the ground and take their money whatever it takes. The battle cry is: "Don't take 'no' for an answer!" When times are great, hire more peddlers and start pounding the pavement and dialling for dollars. Constantly inflate and deflate the size of your sales force as circumstances dictate.

Step 3: Your salespeople pick out the "Buy Right Now" prospects, which is roughly 3% , while gracefully ignore the other 97% . After all, the reps are paid commission only, so their only incentive is to sell right now even if they have to compromise your margins. Commissioned salespeople are notorious for dropping the price even to the point when it becomes cost-prohibitive to sell. As the business owner, you care about margins. They care about sales volume and commissions. Clear conflict. You've created them. Only you can stop them if you want to.

Step 4: Sales reps start working on the low-hanging fruit and do their best to close them as soon as possible. The problem is that when people sense this, they run as fast and as far as they can. The other problem is that there is always fewer good leads than salespeople, your peddlers actually work against each other to grab the best leads. They will fight internally for good leads because they are compensated as individuals not as a team.

Step 5: Getting rid of or ignoring 97% of your leads because they are not red hot. Salespeople plan to come back and deal with them, but it hardly happens. After all, salespeople get fired on a daily basis for missing quota simply because they were working on the higher-hanging fruit. The fact is that – largely due to business owners' greed, stupidity and the incorrect compensation structure – salespeople keep hunting for other hot leads, and the merely warm leads will fall through the cracks. And finally those leads gradually fall into the hands of the competition. So, when a company runs a $ 10,000 lead generation campaign, $ 9,700 of the investment directly benefits the competition. That's retarded.

Step 6: Starting from the beginning, repeating the whole process and generate another $ 9,700 worth of leads for the competition. Replacing another batch of salespeople and running another of business owners' ranting spree: "I'm surrounded by idiots and incompetent salespeople." And in the confusion and cacophony the poor sods don't even realize that they are the biggest idiots in the equation. The salespeople just follow orders. What else can they do? There is no use in trying to reason with a lunatic.

Now Let's See Another Way Doing This …

I don't want to say "correct" way because that's relative. Correct for people who hate chasing after prospects. Incorrect for people who enjoy chasing prospects and enjoy begging for business.

The multi-step, sequential campaign for the unreachable leads might look like this: Note that if you're desperate for money right now, then this approach doesn't work. This approach is about building long-term relationships.

Step 1: Create a free giveaway offer, a response vehicle for your communication. Realize that no one buys on the first contact, and only 3% of people will respond to you if you contact them with a paid offer. And it's just plain brain dead to sacrifice 97% of your potential sales leads on the altars of an idiotic offer. In the first round you want to raise interest, not money.

Step 2: Send out your offer for a free report, webcast, audio or video. The here watchword is "FREE." You must offer something valuable first.

Related your content:  Making a Good Customer Value Proposition Better

Step 3: Depending on your offer, you can expect a pretty good response rate. Put respondents on a continuation program. I prefer automated email sequences. But note that these emails don't pitch. They inform and educate. Good education is more effective than any sales pitch. By responding to you, these people have given you permission to stay in touch with them, and they remain on your list until and unless you piss them off.

Step 4: Day 7. Follow up with a phone call. This is optional and I prefer not to do it. Why? Because it involves manual labor and it can't be automated. Maybe my engineering past is haunting me, but I like automating things when possible. But if you like phone making calls, this can be an option.

Step 5: Day 30. Re-send the free report to anyone who hasn't responded. People are busy and even if they are interested in your report, when life starts firing at them point blank, they get busy dodging the bullets and the interest in and desire for your report go down the toilet. So, you have to stay on the top of things.

Step 6: Day 35. Follow up with a phone call again.

Step 7: Day 42. Send an email and ask if they have any question about the report. You can also solicit some feedback on the report.

Step 8: Day 60. Re-send the free report the second time to anyone who hasn't responded.

Step 9: Day 63. Follow up with a phone call again.

Step 10: Day 70. Send out a different but still FREE offer for another response vehicle. Now you know they are not interested in written stuff. But they may like a CD, some kind of video stuff, free teleclass or webcast.

Step 11: Keep following up monthly with a newsletter. The newsletter must be informative but also has to offer new services. So, there must be some promotion in the newsletter too.

On Summary

Yes, some people say this is a long and tedious process and that they don't have time and money for this. What do you do when you don't have time and money for building a lasting relationship? Well, you can pay a hooker and you have instant gratification. The problem is the quality of the relationship. How faithful will you be to each other? How committed are you to the relationship? What is the chance that you find another hooker and your hooker finds another client? If you operate like a hooker, so will your client. Expect no loyalty and lots of trouble. And you can expect a broad range of the business equivalent of sexually transmitted diseases.

Personally believe it's worthwhile investing in building lasting relationships, in which both parties volunteer to participate. That's why the long process is a lot better. Several studies indicate the longer the buying or conversion cycle, the more loyal those clients are and the greater to work with them.

The experts call this the Education -> Repetition -> Variation cycle. You continually educate your target market using a variety of materials. And it works. And since it's an automated process, do you really care about the few tire-kickers in your sales funnel who just keep taking and never buy?

And although all this may seem like a whole lot, but the beauty is that it can be automated to the hilt. Well, if you opt for telephone follow ups, that 's one thing you have to do for yourself, but everything else can be pre-created and used as needed.

So, when business owners try to increase their sales, the majority hire more peddlers and send them out to beat pavements and pound on telephone dial pads. It's the same as assembling a larger army and sending it to battle … unarmed. Regardless of headcount, this army is doomed. But the minority rely on technology to do almost everything that can be automated. You keep your army small, but arm it with better weapons.

Just look at history. Alexander the Great's army of 50,000 beat Darius' army of 1 million like a double-bottomed drum. Darius went for headcount and brawn power. Alexander went for finesse and brainpower.

I think this whole business development continuum is like a race. Imagine a galley and a sailboat at the starting line and the two different approaches their crew leaders follow. The captain of the galley has bought an army of cheap slaves and gave them cheap oars. Easy job. Slaves are easy to hire and pretty cheap to run. And, with the right amount of whipping and threatening, all that muscle power can gain an instant lead after the start pistol sounds. But due to the heavy muscle power, the boat is heavy and the muscles are getting tired. The galley can't sustain its speed, thus its lead for long.

Now look at the sailboat. Instead of an army cheap slaves, the boat is staffed with a few expert sailors. And not merely expert sailors, but actually a team whose members work together in harmony like Swiss clockwork. They were more time-consuming and expensive to bring on board, and, while fiddling to set up the sails, this crew actually falls behind the slave galley at the beginning.

But then what happens? The slaves on the galley are getting tired. No amount of whipping, threatening and verbal abuse helps. They start huffing and puffing and soon collapse on their oars dead exhausted. And as far as the race goes, it's basically lost. And this is where the sailboat takes over. It has the advantage of lower weight by having fewer people on board and an automated system, the sails. And sails don't get tired.

And this is exactly what is happening in business development. When they want to increase sales, most companies hire more salespeople. Just like the slave galley. They acquire more brawn power to make more instant sales. The sales managers equip the new sales staff with the expected quota they must sell every month and then they are chased out of the company's premises onto the streets, and off they go hunting for people. And initially they succeed, but as a result of the many "Not interested", they get tired and emotionally beaten up. So, morale and enthusiasm start nosediving.

When the sailboat captain does business development for his business, he thinks the same way he thought about hiring his sailing crew. Instead of hiring an army of commission-based peddlers, he recruits a small team of professionals who are experts at getting and keeping clients for repeat and referral business. And then he takes time to align them behind his vision.

And what is the end result? The peddler team may outsell the professional team in the short run, but you can rest assured the sailboat's captain makes fatter profits than the peddler team. Some say, sales is vanity but profit is sanity. And you have to decide which one you go after: High sales or high profits. And the two hardly ever come together.

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