Written By: Matthew Ferrara
This may come as a surprise, but finding more sales leads is really pretty easy. And free.
I’m a salesperson, just like you. Sure, I get to do lots of other things in my job – write, speak, make videos, take photos, travel – but trust me: None of that can happen if I don’t make a sale. In fact, I need to make 50 sales a year, more or less. But I don’t complain: When I was in high school, I had to make fifty sales a week working as a telemarketer. I’m pretty happy with my current quota.
Like you, much of my business comes from my sphere of influence: Past clients, business contacts, friends and family, plus other professionals in the same industry. With a lot of hard work, I’m fortunate to book about 75% of my sales from repeat customers and their referrals. From what other salespeople tell me, that’s about the norm in any sales industry. Still, that means I need to find a bunch of “new” prospects each year to make my budget, and achieve my goals. So how do I pull it off?
You might think I buy a lot of search engine ads; Nope, not a dime spent in a decade on that game. I get my search-based leads through content creation: blogging and making videos. Sure, there’s time involved, and time is money, but it’s also fun, creative, and an excellent way for me to “pre-sell” my prospects on what I can help them achieve. SEO-generating content offers value up front. Show me a pay-per-click ad that can build rapport and connect with prospects. You can’t.
Maybe you think I buy email lists. Sure, we tried it once, but all we got was a lot of bounce-backs and grief from our internet service providers. Besides, once you start sending tens of thousands of emails, you’re paying hundreds of dollars a month to third-party email services. Even with a fairly expensive product or service to sell, that’s a lot of money spent first for just a maybe. Too random for my taste, especially in an age where everyone (myself included) is unsubscribing from every e-newsletter that hits their inbox. Instead, I have a small list of a couple hundred key folks – people who like what I have to say, and will pass it along to someone who they think I’d like to meet – which delivers a pretty high rate of return. Mostly, I email each of them one at a time, throughout the month, with a personal message.
Ok, then, I must buy ads in social networks, right? Not a chance. Social network ads work great if you’re selling soda pop and computer chips. But have you seen some of the ads in Facebook lately? Who wants to be associated with such scantily-clad desperation? Still, I generated about a dozen sales last year from social media, simply by liking their posts, commenting on their posts, and chatting with them when we were online at the same time. I should probably say something about candy and babies here…
All of which is just a roundabout way of saying: I don’t get salespeople who pay for leads.
Really, is it that hard to sell? Share some thoughts in a blog post. Talk into YouTube. Follow up on some old acquaintances. Jump into a Twitter conversation. Heck: Pick up the phone. It still works, and it’s really quite cool to have a conversation these days. Texting only satisfies so far.
Finding new business isn’t rocket science. We’ve figured out all the parts. First, set aside time in your schedule every day to conduct what is arguably the most important activity of your career. Second, keep it simple: Contact three people a day, any way you want. Three a day, five days a week, sixty per month. Mix it up – past clients, business colleagues, someone on Facebook. Over time, that’s 700 conversation starters annually.
Now imagine if you followed up with two of them daily, too. That’s a total of only five a day, 100 a month. You surely can get at least four or five sales out of that many conversations, even if you just talked about the weather.
I’m confident it would be more – much more – than four or five.
Making five contacts a day is pretty much free. Two emails, one call, a tweet and a handwritten note can’t possibly be hard enough to justify paying for leads from someone else. Can it?
It’s not like you have to go knocking on doors with your vacuum cleaner, you know. Today’s salespeople have so many cool conversation starters at their disposal. Yet I suspect it’s not really about the tools, so much, as it is the mystical allure of leads for dollars. Fools gold, I say! No reason to do it. There are too many strings attached – dependency, for one thing; brand dilution on the other; capricious pricing, too. All of which undermine a salesperson’s control over their career. Seems almost antithetical to the write-your-own-ticket mindset of successful salespeople I know.
How about this: Give it a try.
Start five conversations a day for a month, and see what happens. If you haven’t primed your pipeline well enough by then, you can still run up your credit card with some lead genie out there. And if it turns out you don’t need to pay for your own leads, well, then, you can always send me a Starbucks gift card with the money you’ll save.
So, will you?