If you are a sales rep working without the benefit of a marketing department that runs lead generation campaigns, you need to be thinking about drumming up leads all the time. All the time. A 24/7 lead generation mentality is something I’ve noticed in almost every successful B2B sales rep I’ve come in contact with — and that’s a pretty long list.
Here are six specific ways to generate your own leads.
1. Customer Referrals
A satisfied customer will be happy to refer you, but you have to ask. A good way to ask is, “Do you know anyone in your professional or personal circles that could benefit from our products/services?” You may even discover new contacts within the account (different departments, different locations) that can use your services.
2. Referrals from Family and Friends
Your next-door neighbor probably knows 10 people who are potential customers. Just think what would happen if you threw a block party! Of course, I’m exaggerating here; you have to be low key when asking for referrals from friends and family to maintain those very important personal relationships. But again, without asking, you’re not likely to have anyone volunteer a lead.
3. Referrals from Suppliers
Suppliers are a terrific source of leads because they know what companies use the things you sell. The key to getting leads from suppliers is gaining their trust. They won’t give you leads unless they know you will follow up professionally and are extremely competent. This is one reason why it is so productive to nurture strong relationships with as many supplier contacts as possible.
4. Attending Events
Whenever you can rub elbows with potential customers or referrers of potential customers, dive in. Events that are rich with lead generation opportunities include —
- Golf outings
- Industry trade shows
- Business networking events
- Supplier-sponsored activities
- Customer-sponsored activities
Come prepared. Bring plenty of business cards, and also have your “elevator speech” polished to precision. It’s also important not to do too much selling in primarily social gatherings. The key for the event may be to get the contact information for qualified leads, and then follow up later, but quickly.
5. Being Ready at All Times
A great sales rep I know got a terrific new customer by striking up a conversation with a complete stranger in an airport airline lounge — the gentleman happened to own a company in need of creative thinking. A great prospect could be at an adjoining booth in a restaurant or two stools down at the local tavern. Hotel lobbies, company lobbies, taxi cab lines, baseball game stands — anywhere a spontaneous conversation can start could be the start of a new six-figure customer. In these situations, it is wise to put your cell phone away and start interacting!
6. Social Media Interaction
Social media can be excellent for lead generation, but it’s tricky. If you come on too strong, you tend to put people off, especially on platforms where users are mainly interested in personal rather than business interaction. Nevertheless, engaging customers and referrers of customers can be fruitful if you are patient and yet persistent.
Twitter has been useful for me for generating referrals. It’s easy to identify people who could refer business, and then build relationships over time by engaging in genuine discussion and sharing relevant, interesting content. If you can establish yourself as being very knowledgeable and reliable in your field, you can build up a community that may be quite happy to refer business.
These six ways of generating leads work well for B2B sales reps because they capitalize on what is undoubtedly one of your strengths — one-on-one communication. If you’re doing something you’re good at, you’ll like it and excel at it. Having lead development conversations on the golf course is much more pleasant than cold calling a list of unknown names, and will be much more fruitful!