How to Generate Enough Leads to Meet Your Sales Budget – Part 1
One of my readers recently asked me if I knew any effective ways for generating leads. She was new in a new (yes, two “new”) sales position and found lead generation to be really hard.
The following series of posts is about lead generation in mature markets meaning that you are offering something where customers choose a new vendor on a regular basis (say every fifth year). The post is not about selling commodities or about how to build a market for something that customers do not know exists and much less that they don’t know they need – (those are completely different disciplines that I have written about elsewhere).
Are you familiar with the name “Noma”? Noma is a very expensive restaurant in Copenhagen. If you want to dine there then you have to book several months in advance and be prepared to pay at least EUR 350 per person.
Noma doesn’t have a lead generation issue. Guests line up for a table and pay the price asked. Noma’s challenge is to keep up the quality of the experience and make sure people continue to give them five stars and recommend them to their friends and audiences. They must keep innovating and remain a phenomenon that opinion makers are eager to write, blog and broadcast about.
Competition is tough and comes from all corners
Do Noma have competitors? You bet they have and not only from other high-end restaurants. There is a lot you can buy for the same money you decide to spend with Noma.
So how do they stay in business and keep attracting new customers?
Noma (Nordisk Mad = Nordic Food) has a high quality product delivered with a high quality service that is very well positioned and widely recognized in an established market. Lead generation is made through public relations and word of mouth. The waiters at Noma are not making cold calls in the morning selling seats at the restaurant the same night (they have a waiting list and do call/text people when seats become available due to cancellations). People hear or read about Noma and get curious. If fine dining is something you can afford and will appreciate, then you book a table, a flight ticket and a hotel for a couple of nights and head off to Copenhagen for the experience (if you are not going there anyway).
The general principles of lead generation
Generating leads is about reaching those people in the market that need and want what you have to offer now or in the future. You make them aware of your existence and stimulate their interest. When the time is ready they come back to you and buy your products and services if your offerings are competitive and available and the risk associated with the final purchase decision is acceptable.
There are two main ways for generating leads:
A: They find us
B: We find them
They find us (inbound lead generation)
Noma is renowned for its exceptional and high quality dining experience. Sometimes Noma moves the entire restaurant to another place for a limited time period (such as London at the Olympic games in 2012, Japan in 2014 and Australia in 2015). As they set up business in a new location they already have a reputation and again people line up to get a table. The moves of Noma are eagerly communicated by the press and their potential customers are fast to react.
No matter what needs we have, searching our own memory for answers is the first thing we do. If nothing comes up then we go to friends and associates and to Google and other search engines. We do not always search for things to buy. We also search for information and for inspiration on issues and challenges that we are working on and some of these may end up with a purchase some time in the future.
Do people that search for things that you do also find you?
For a lot of companies the answer to this question is no and that is a huge challenge for their sales departments. None of the keywords your potential customers are using leads to your website. Your potential customers do not come across your content when they surf the Internet and when opinion makers report about the trends and the upcoming stars your name is not among them. You are never on stage or at the exhibition floor at the conferences attended by your potential customers and your name never gets mentioned when your potential customers talk to their friends and associates about issues where you could help.
Companies matching this description have a marketing problem. A gigantic marketing problem. Maybe they also have a sales problem, but expecting that sales people should compensate for an inadequate flow of inbound leads is simply naive. I’m not talking “human rights” of sales people here, but questioning if such an approach can be made profitable and scalable? Seldom.
If you are a sales person searching for new challenges (I believe that’s the standard phrase!) and you are offered a job with a company that has no inbound leads, then you should take a raincheck and keep looking.