Effective Methods for Generating Sales Leads

A sales lead is a prospective consumer. The person becomes a "prospect" when he or she shows interest in a product or service. There is no typical, or best approach to building sales leads — success depends on your industry and other factors.

Some of the more traditional methods of generating sales leads follow. They can be grouped into two categories: Personal and Digital.

Personal approaches are low-tech/high-touch. They may require a change in your (and your colleagues') behavior and orientation, and possibly even your organization's culture.

Digital approaches, on the other hand, are high-tech/low-touch. They can be used to reach many prospects. The challenge is in using them effectively, and as part of your overall personal+digital efforts continuum.

Both personal and digital approaches work best when they are sincere, customer focused, and relevant. With one caveat: Don't undertake more than you fully understand. Try them out — one at a time. Get to know what it can and cannot do. This will help you focus on outcomes rather than efforts.

P E R S O N A L  A P P R O A C H E S

Customer Relationships  By establishing and developing rapport with a business, customers eventually refer the business to others. This is one of the simplest ways of generating sales leads.

Customer Referrals  Entrepreneurs essentially thrive from making customers happy, and nothing is better than getting referred to someone else by a satisfied customer. Such customers know exactly what you are offering and have a good idea of what their friends need and, when they refer you to their peers, your credibility soars. Referrals from your customers mean that these leads are already interested in your services and therefore, have a higher chance of conversion.

Industry Events/Trade Shows  Industry-related events like trade shows and conventions exist for a reason. Several SEO experts agree that the best lead generator is to put forth an event presentation followed up by giving customized peripherals such as letters, calls, and emails to anyone you meet at the show. By doing so, you immediately give your company a name a face — something that helps immensely in brand recognition.

Networking  The root of every business is people. If you are limited to a small pool of people as your customers then you won’t be able to generate leads. This means you need to expand your network. You can do this by going to trade shows and (digitally) connecting to people on LinkedIn.

D I G I T A L  A P P R O A C H E S

Website  If you saw a scrap of paper lying on the floor of your company's lobby, would you pick it up? When was the last time you looked through your entire website? Your website is your lobby to the world. Its content and links should be reviewed tooth-and-comb, annually — or more often. Misspelled words, old content and broken links are like garbage in your lobby. And, while we're at it, make sure your site is "mobilized" for cell phones and tablets.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)  The best way to get leads is exposure. Your brand's visibility online depends on having a high ranking ("relevance") on search engines. Contracting professional firms to optimize your website is a good way to generate leads from curious consumers.

Pay-per-Click (PPC)  This is a low-cost method of acquiring prospects and leads because individuals usually scour search engines when they need something.

Email Publications  Distributing regular emails (that provide content that's relevant) help in gaining customers. This could be done through sign-ups at a trade show, a seminar, or advertising.

Providing Easy Contact  People like to know more about what they’re getting into. Providing an easy way to contact you like a live chat window on your website gives them a chance to know you better and a get a positive impression of you.

Social Media  Social media is also a powerful tool for generating leads yet many businesses fail to use it to its full potential. A good strategy is to be seen on multiple social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Using Twitter's hashtags helps businesses find customers in need of their services or products. This often starts the "engagement" process.

YouTube is perfect for your stories that are best shared in video. Keep them short, relevant, educational and entertaining/engaging.

LinkedIn is the social network for professionals. Here, business conversations don't alienate users — and it is proven to be miles ahead of Facebook and Twitter in lead generation. Use these platforms to direct your customers to your website.

Blogs  Blogging is the best way to deliver relevant content to your customers. Prospects seek information before spending money on products and services. And blogs are a great way to share your stories and ideas, answer frequently asked questions, and interact with existing and potential customers.

Visual Content  Some customers prefer informative videos and images as opposed to reading blocks of text mostly because visual elements are more attractive. Videos have the potential to be viral and present a great opportunity for generating more leads.

In summary, sales leads are a vital part of any marketing effort, so it is best to know various methods of generating them to get more customers. A business should use as many methods as it needs to — but it should focus on only those approaches it can effectively manage. This will maximize your sales leads potential.