Want to know what the best performing salespeople do every day to generate toasty-warm leads? Read these nine sales tips to get started. (And the best part: they won’t cost you a cent).
As a business owner, there are some things you have to do every day: respond to emails, pay your bills, and if you’re a caffeine slave like me, get your daily coffee hit before you can face any of this. Making sales is definitely high up on your priority list, but knowing how and where to start is another thing.
Gathering a healthy stack of leads is something good salespeople do week in and week out. It’s just part of their DNA (along with the uncanny ability of being able to squeeze 37 product benefits into one simple sentence).
Having a robust collection of leads feels great. It means you are not starting from scratch every time you want to get a new customer on board. Instead you can pick and choose from your healthy list of warmed up prospects.
I’m going to share nine things that I do every day to generate more warm leads for my business. If you spend an hour a day doing the things on this list, I would expect you to bag yourself at least five hot leads a day.
1. Follow up on proposals
Most businesses will have a proposal as part of their sales process: once they’ve discovered what the client’s issue is and explained how they could solve it, they’ll follow up with a proposal of their services.
But more often than not, proposals get left there.
Following up old proposals is the first thing an experienced sales person does to generate leads because it’s a nice warm place to start. These clients can often be quite easy to close and only need a gentle reminder of your services. At the very least you can get some good feedback on why you weren’t a good fit, which can help tweak your offering.
How do I follow up a proposal?
I always do this over the phone. Emails are too easy to ignore.
Here’s what I say:
“Hi, remember me? We were talking about the problem that you had which was X, and we suggested that we could do Y to solve that problem.
I sent you an email about it with the proposal attached which explained how we’d do that. Did you read it? What did you think?
[insert open questions, more open questions].
So it sounds like you loved it. [Now close the sale]”
Top Sales Tips:
- Never assume they remember you. Go back to your original sales pitch and remind them what you can offer.
- Be mindful that it may turn into a cold call if the person you sent the proposal to has since left the business. Have your cold calling materials on hand and be ready to handle any objections that might come up.
2. Reconnect with people
Do you have piles of business cards lying around from that networking event you went to last month? Or maybe you have old colleagues in a similar industry who could use your product/service? Dig into your network and reconnect with anyone relevant to your business.
Some people may find this a bit awkward (especially hitting up friends) but it’s an easy place to start because you know them. Here’s my tips for reconnecting:
- Always start with the warmest leads first: Go back to people you already know like old customers or former colleagues.
- Use LinkedIn and other tools to reconnect with those people, and then give them a call.
- Don’t be afraid of asking friends. There’s no harm picking up the phone to someone that you haven’t seen for five years if you think your offering could genuinely help them. Pick up the phone say something like, “Hey, I’ve started a business, it’s really exciting. Just wanted to spread the word and I know you are in this industry”. People usually want to support you.
- Don’t assume that people are going to question your motives. Most people are connected and like helping. And if they help you, you can start a referral network, giving them a bottle of wine or a voucher in return for their referral (more on that in tip #9)
3. Re-engage existing clients
Start with clients you have recently finished a project with. Think about what other issues they have that you could solve for them.
It helps to have a good understanding of your clients and their business. What are their broader business goals? What are their main challenges (outside of your last engagement with them)? How big is their organisation? Do they have offices in other locations that also need your help?
- Use case studies to show what other companies are doing. You could say something like: “You’re working with us on X, which has helped you get X result. We’ve also done this other amazing thing with our other clients, that has got them X amount more results. Do you want to try that as well?”
- Get an introduction to colleagues in other locations: If you’ve had some success with your client in one office, can you replicate that success in another?
- Ask for an introduction to a senior colleague: they may have a different project they need help with.
- Entice old clients back onto your books with a special offer.
4. Create a list of ideal clients
We all want to grow our business (why bother with sales if not?) and brand new clients are essential to your sales process. If you don’t already have a target list of your ideal clients, it’s time to get one.
You have a few options when it comes to building lists of ideal customers:
- Buy a list: There are loads of sites that sell lists – one we’ve used is Prospect Shop (not affiliated with us). But be aware that buying a list is often hit and miss as data can be out of date and unreliable.
- Do some research yourself: Use Google or sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to search for your ideal customer.
- Use a scrape site: These are sites that find and copy names and phone numbers, or companies and their URLs, to a list.
- Outsource it offshore: There are many offshore Virtual Assistant (VA) services out there that can be good value for money. We use a VA in the Philippines who is excellent but you need to provide a lot of direction to make sure they are effective.
- Outsource it to a sales specialist: if you’re not sure what kind of clients to target, companies like ours can manage this for you. This option gives you better quality data as it leverages our sales experience and human judgement skills.
5. Set up meetings
Shooting off a quick email or LinkedIn message to generate some leads is tempting, but don’t under-estimate the power of a meeting to build rapport. Meeting face-to-face is always going to be way more effective than just emailing or even just phoning as it helps to build rapport and personal connections.
Any good sales person worth their salt will have meetings booked in as a regular part of their week. I try to make a meeting part of my objectives when I’m doing all the other things on this list. E.g. if I’m reconnecting with an old colleague, I make it my goal to set up a meeting with them.
Meetings also work really well for re-engaging existing clients. Perhaps a meeting could help you understand more about their challenges and how you could help solve them.
If you’re working remotely or in a different location to your prospective client, a coffee date is not always viable so a video meeting is your next best option. We use Google Hangouts for video conferencing but there are also other options like Zoom (although the free plan limits you to 45 minutes per call which is not going to work for everyone).
My tips for video meetings:
If you are nervous about putting yourself on video, arm yourself with a heap of questions. There’s nothing worse than when you feel like the pressure is on you to do all the talking. Have a list of really broad open questions on hand to get your client talking and you’ll find the conversation will start to flow.
Treat it like a normal meeting: Dress for the part, do your hair, all the things you’d do in a normal business meeting (as long as you’re business up top, trackies and uggs down below is fine!) If you have little ones hanging around, lock them up! You don’t want them crashing your meeting.
Look behind you! You may be running your business out of your garage but please don’t let anyone else know that. At the very least have a blank wall behind you and some decent lighting.
Ah, the dreaded networking (I can hear you shudder from here). If you’re not a natural salesperson, you’d probably rather detail your bathroom grout with a toothbrush than mingling at a business event.
But networking is amazing for your sales game because it does what it says it says on the tin: It starts a network for you.
If you can confidently talk about your business, it has a drip effect; people start talking about your business as well. I’ve had quite a lot of referrals through networking including a few potential leads I wouldn’t have found if I hadn’t been to these events.
Think of a networking event like an easy coffee meeting that you haven’t had to organise.
How to find events near you:
- Join local Facebook business groups: There’s nearly always one per area and they usually have links to networking events.
- Search Eventbrite: enter your keywords and local area see what’s out there. Or just put your location in and filter by “free events” and see what you get. And remember that sometimes the best networking events are out of your industry.
Keep in mind that networking doesn’t always have to be about sales. You might find out about a time saving app, or get some intel about how other people structure their client proposals.
7. Stay up to date with market opportunities
I’m not talking about subscribing to The Financial Review and trying to decipher the stock-market gobble-de-gook. It’s about being creative in how you find clients.
Think about your current clients and what made them seek you out. If you work backwards in your customer journey, what triggers made them come to you? Was it a sudden need to scale up? Was it a change in legislation that required them to change their processes?
Now see if you can capture their attention at their moment of need.
E.g. We know that start-ups that have just been funded are likely to be looking for sales resources because they want to grow rapidly and have the money to do it. So if I Google “Top 50 startups Sydney” I get a ready-made lead list.
Another example could be if you’re a Facebook advertising company for real estate, are there any sites that list all the off-plan developments that have just been listed?
Once you find a great lead source, it’s a good idea to create a Google Alert to stay on top of them.
8. Get on social media
Yes, it’s a time vortex but social media is your sales-friend. Find out where your ideal clients hang out and get connecting, send messages, and weigh in on discussions. We find that the two best channels are Facebook and LinkedIn for this sort of stuff.
Facebook groups are a great way to find people looking for recommendations and introduce yourself and your services in that discussion. There are A LOT of groups out there so here are my tips on how to choose and use them well:
- Join a bunch and then assess which ones are right for you. I find I only use a couple and I just leave the rest.
- Or before you join, look at how many members they have and how active it is. If there’s three members then it’s probably not going to be useful. But if there are loads of members and 36 posts in the last day, that’s a good sign.
- Once in, scan posts and get a good feeling of what it’s like. Leave the ones that seem overly promotional or self-serving.
- Use the search function within the group e.g. I would search “cold calling” to see if anyone has been asking for sales outsourcing. This is also useful to scope out your competition by seeing who’s being recommended.
- Make sure you’re giving some free tips and insights as well as offering your services so you are contributing to the group in a useful way.
LinkedIn is an amazing way to warm up a lead before you call them. If you’re not a confident cold caller, you can refer to just having connected on LinkedIn when you start the call.
If you don’t have a paid LinkedIn account I find Google gives me better results than searching within LinkedIn. E.g. I Google “Sales Directors Sydney” and I can see more results than if I searched within LinkedIn’s search bar.
- Tailor your connection message rather than the generic connect. Make it similar your opening line you would use to start a cold call.
- Address specific needs. If you see someone advertising for sales people and you provide this service, say “Hi, I know that you’re trying to grow this part of your business by hiring salespeople. Have you considered using an outsourced service instead?” Make sure you stress the benefit of your service.
- Add them to your CRM. Don’t leave your lead in LinkedIn to wither and die. Add them to your CRM so they join your sales process.
- Follow up with a call. Messaging your prospect through LinkedIn is OK but if you see immediate potential, give them a call. Here’s some useful tips on how to start cold calling.
When you’re in business you’re often focused on growing your own client base and thinking about how to serve them best. But sometimes it’s useful to look outside of your ecosystem: Do you know like-minded business owners in your industry with similar clients? Or someone completely outside your industry that targets similar demographics? Is there a chance for collaboration there?
Everyone loves a win win situation.
Here are a few ways you can collaborate with people to grow your sales pipeline:
- Set up a kick-back bonus scheme: If you refer a client to me and they buy something, I’ll give you 10% of revenues. And vice versa.
- Cross-promote on social media: You post about them on your profiles and they post about you (make sure they have a decent following before you say yes to this one).
- Run presentations for each other, you might find a new client base that you hadn’t considered before.
- Barter your services: Swap your service for theirs or ask for a testimonial in return for your services.
Getting sh*t done
Although I only recommend spending an hour a day doing these, finding that hour can he harder than it sounds. Here are my tips to fit these into a busy work schedule:
- Start with your ideal activities. But don’t ONLY do those things and not the things you find harder. Alternatively you could go the other way and “eat the frog” (a pretty gross way of saying “do the hardest thing first”).
- Block out one hour a day in your diary, or set an alarm on your phone.
- Be accountable. Find a friend or business contact and tell them what you’re going to commit to for the next week e.g. “I will connect with 20 new people on LinkedIn and I will call 15 of them.” If you don’t have anyone like that, there are free accountability groups you can join on Facebook. If you prefer to fly solo, why not run your own sales meeting every Monday. Keep a standard format every week and go through your to-do list.
- Automate what you can. Technology has come a long way, make sure you’re using it to cut down on mundane tasks.
- Set up LinkedIn saved searches which notify you when your ideal clients join. E.g. you can set up a saved search for “Sales Managers in Australia”.
- Create job alerts to keep track of market opportunities
- Set your CRM up to prompt you to act. e g it can remind you if a proposal is more than three months old, or prompt you to contact someone if it’s been a set amount of time.
- Get Eventbrite reminders for upcoming networking events.
- Measure your results: Every time you do one of these activities, tag it in your CRM as the lead source. And then when it turns into a sale, you can pull a report by tag to see which activities are getting you the most results. Over time, you’ll get a natural feel for what’s working. If you’ve spent an hour doing one thing and an hour doing something else, which one’s giving you all those “hallelujah” moments?
- Modify and repeat: Once you’ve measured, look at what’s bringing in the best results and focus on that. It’s OK to give up on the things that aren’t bringing you a return on your time, but make sure you give it a few months to properly figure this out.
Now you’ve got all these toasty-warm leads in your pipeline, it’s time to get on the phone and start calling people.
Yes, the dreaded cold calling. But since you’ve done all these lead generation activities it’s more like warm calling (like a cozy mug of tea in your hands rather than an ice cube). Read this post about cold calling with confidence if you are feeling nervous about picking up the phone.
If all this sounds fantastic but you simply don’t have the time, we can help.
We can source you some fresh new leads, reactivate forgotten leads, or reconnect with past clients. Get in touch to find out how we can help you reach your True Potential.
About the Author
Jenny White is the Managing Partner of True Potential Sales. After 15 years’ on the front line of sales in IT, recruitment and advertising in the UK and Australia, she decided to put her knowledge to good use and help others improve their sales processes and pipelines. Together with her business partner Chris Hull, they created True Potential Sales. They now have a team of sales people across Australia providing sales expertise and campaigns to small and medium sized businesses. Jenny lives with her husband, Tim and their two small daughters, Tessa and Nina in Helensburgh, Northern Illawarra.