Selling has taken a new form with the advent of the internet, or web 2.0, or whatever name you call the amazing wealth of information that is available to those of us who choose to take advantage of it. Gone are the days of cold-calling, and subsequently getting hung-up on, until your ears bleed. Dan Pink explains it perfectly in his book To Sell is Human when he describes the transition from ‘caveat emptor’ to ‘caveat venditor’. Making a sincere connection with a potential customer is vital to closing the sale, and cold calling is unreliable at best when trying to generate results. People just don’t want to be sold.
So that leaves us with a predicament: how do I generate qualified leads in this new world of sales. The answer is simple as long as you know where to look. Far too often, sales reps are stunted by the inability to effectively generate qualified leads. But if there efforts are focused on the right system, generating these leads will be a much more surmountable task. I am going to tell you how to do it.
These methods assume that you are targeting large business accounts ($20,000+ per contract/year). If you are looking for smaller customers, these methods might work but will not likely be as effective.
Create a Customer Profile
First and foremost, you have to know who you are looking for. Before you even type your first word into the Google search bar, you should be able to name at least 50 companies that you would like to have as clients. This post is not about defining your market, and it is not about identifying the value you provide to potential clients. Once you have those in place, you should create an “avatar” of the ideal customer you are looking for. Is it the CFO of the company? Is it the branch manager? Is it the Vice President of Risk Management? Identify exactly the role of the person you are looking for and the industry they work in, and you are ready for the next step.
There are a number of B2B contact databases on the internet like SalesLoft or Data.com, or ZoomInfo, but none can compete with LinkedIn when it comes to accurately identifying who to go after. The social verification that is native to LinkedIn makes it much more likely that the prospect you are targeting actually holds the advertised position at the company. If you are not involved on LinkedIn, start now. You will thank me.
Once you have identified the your prospect’s role and industry, you can narrow down by geographic location or size of company. The bigger, the better. You can use LinkedIn’s advanced search to identify the role (e.g. “Risk Management” or “Controller”), location, function, industry, group, etc. You can even name accounts (your list of 50 companies) and generate an automated report that gets delivered to your inbox once a week with new contacts who meet your criteria. After you search, pick out the appealing candidates and cross reference their contact info (email, phone number) across the prospecting tools you use.
The last piece of the prospecting puzzle is to keep your data clean. Use a CRM (Salesforce, Nutshell, Base) to catalog your findings. Save as many people from each company as you can find. The wider your net, the more likely you are to get the sale.
Ultimately, sales is a game of numbers, and if you apply this process to your prospecting, you will have a very healthy number of prospects to pursue. The next step is to reach out to them in a systemized way so you can turn those cold leads into warm leads, and eventually into customers. That, however, is another topic for another day.