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Common Questions and Answers
Prospecting for leads is the first step in the sales cycle. But not all leads are created equal — and what might be a really good lead for one salesperson is garbage for another. So before you invest your time and money on any lead source, confirm that you’ll be getting a good value for it.
Before you do any sourcing, you need to sit down and determine exactly what those leads should look like. No product is a good choice for everyone on Earth. For any given product or service, there will be a group of people who are ideal fits, another — usually larger — group who will get somewhat less benefit from the product but who can still appreciate it, and a final group that is everyone who isn’t qualified to buy the product. Either they have no use for it or they can’t buy it, either because they can’t afford it or for some other reason.
Your lead sourcing should focus on people or businesses belonging to the first group, the ones who can benefit the most and who will be most eager to buy your product once they understand what it does. If this group is too small to meet your needs, you may need to fall back on leads from the second group.
So how do you identify those perfect leads? Start by looking at your current customers. What attributes do your very best customers have in common? If you sell B2B, this might be a specific industry, or a certain revenue window (e.g. companies that make between $10-$20 million per year in revenue), a specific geographic area, etc. For consumers this might be a type of family (e.g. parents with small children), certain hobbies, a specific annual income, or something like owning their own home. Once you’ve identified the qualities your very best customers share, look at your next-best customers and see if you can add anything to that list. Keep looking until you’ve got several factors written down. These are the qualities you should look for in any lead list.
As with many things in life, if you want a good lead list you’ll need to invest time, money, or both to get it. You can invest your money by buying a lead list from a list broker. Do your research first because there are plenty of shady companies in the list-supplying industry — stick with a provider that has a good reputation, such as Dun and Bradstreet. Give the broker the list of qualifications you worked up earlier and ask for leads that fall into those parameters. You can also put some money into advertising. This is especially useful if you’re selling to a narrowly defined group of consumers, for example people who own their own yachts. You can buy ad space in magazines or on websites that celebrate yacht ownership and bring in more leads that way.
If you’re short of money, you can do the footwork yourself. Your local library probably has quite a few reference guides with company information that B2B salespeople can use to identify leads. Many libraries also subscribe to directory services online that provide this information in an easy-to-access format. Your chamber of commerce probably has a business directory that can be a great place to identify local leads. B2C salespeople should look for places where their ideal leads will tend to congregate. This includes websites that would be of interest to these people. For example, if your ideal leads are all homeowners, you can check out the local homeowners association website. If your leads share similar hobbies, join clubs that celebrate those hobbies.
About the author
My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.
As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.