Lead generation is too important to be left to the whim or personality of the salesperson, or to the randomness of customer interest. Here is how to do it.
If you don’t connect, you can’t convert! High value product businesses are a numbers game; if you don’t pull the numbers through the door, you don’t get the sales.
So generating leads is critical, and yet many firms don’t have a systematic way of generating leads and progressing them through to signed agreements.
At the same time, many firms generate huge numbers of leads, but find that most are useless.
The key to this type of business is to generate the right type and number of quality leads and then have a very systematic process for qualifying and converting them.
Many businesses simply fail to work out who their ideal prospect is. They go at the market with a shotgun hoping that random shots will hit someone who might be interested.
The better approach is to have a well-articulated definition of the ideal prospect, identify how best to connect to them, and then design a marketing program that has a high hit rate.
In some cases direct contact with specifically named individuals will work. At other times, the right candidate is found on an industry exhibition floor. Some are best gained through subscription lists. The lead generating program should be like a rifle, not a shotgun.
Progressing leads is often referred to as a funnel which leads to a pipeline – very wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, where the best prospects are converted to signed agreements.
However, few firms strongly qualify at the top of the funnel to get rid of the less desirable or time-wasting prospects. The quicker you can reduce your prospect list to those that have a high probability of conversion, the more productive your sales resources will be.
Next, you need a systematic way of progressing prospects through the evaluation process. My last business had a 17-stage pipeline process. Stages indicated where we were on the qualification and progression path.
Once qualified, they would go through phone call, visit, demonstration, proposal, reference visits, contract negotiation and so on.
At each stage we would set up the action for the next stage. At each point in the process we knew approximately how long it would take to achieve a contract and what the probability of closing the deal was.
This allowed us to predict orders and future workload. It also told us if we were generating enough unqualified leads into the top of the funnel to meet our sales targets.
Lead generation, prospect qualification and pipeline processing is more than a guessing game; it is a highly systematic process for generating sales.
Any business in the high-value product sector should be investing in systems, processes and skills training to ensure that this part of their business is working at the highest level of productivity.
In the end, it is sales that keeps the business going, and is at the heart of growth creation. It simply should not be left to the whim or personality of the salesperson, or to the randomness of customer interest.
Tom McKaskill is a successful global serial entrepreneur, educator and author who is a world acknowledged authority on exit strategies and the former Richard Pratt Professor of Entrepreneurship, Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.