How to find sales leadsI remember a new salesperson coming to me one morning asking which contract she should complete for a particular service. I immediately said, “Congratulations, how big was the sale?”

She responded by saying, “Oh no, I haven’t made a sale yet, but I just wanted to study over the paperwork before I proposed one.”

I responded by telling her that what she needed to do was go create the problem and find somebody who wants that service. Then she would have a reason to need to know how to write it up. I asked her whether sales or administrative people are paid the most. She wisely said; “Sales people.”

I looked directly at her and reminded her that she was correct and shouldn’t forget which occupation she filled, since living on admin pay wouldn’t be as much fun. I told her that I understood that you can’t complete a sale or get paid for one without a certain amount of paperwork, and that I also realized that is part of the preparation process. I’m just saying, in sales you should always keep the main thing the main thing and that means prospecting and continually seeing the people. The rest of the process won’t be hard to figure out.

I would be crazy to suggest that inbound sales leads are anything but a saving grace to any company. Frankly, if they are handled and followed up correctly, most of the time they are a very cost-effective way to stir up and garner new business.

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That said, sales leaders, managers, and business owners are also quick to take note that inbound sales leads are not the panacea that most folks think they are. Conversely, they provide salespeople another excuse to avoid an activity they generally loathe, which is; wait for it…prospecting.

That thinking needs to change because most sales teams rely way too heavily on marketing leads. I know this from personal experience, going back to the early 1970’s, when I accepted my first sales job and quickly became hooked on the rush I got from company-provided sales leads. The bad news is, that because of their addiction to these leads, salespeople have either forgotten how to, or simply ignore the need to self-generate appointments. The ugly truth is that inbound sales leads were never intended to be a replacement for traditional prospecting activities, but rather to supplement them.

In order to win long-term, salespeople have to return to their roots and rediscover their prospecting abilities and relevant resources for their industry. I know its “old school”, but unless they re-train and refresh themselves on some self-generating fundamentals, many will be telling the guys on the barstools next to them that they “used to be in sales.”

For years, in order to emphasize this point I have parroted the following to blue collar salespeople; “A company provided sales lead is nothing more than an interruption to a well-planned day.” This reinforces the fact that outside salespeople are hired to primarily generate their own leads, with the company kicking in some additional marketing leads to help along the way. So, if you are one of these folks, that means the onus is on you!

Sales Prospecting for LeadsHere’s an example of how I coach on this issue. A group of a dozen pest control franchises hired me 3 years ago to conduct weekly online video chat sales meetings. Their business is somewhat seasonal when it comes to inbound sales leads. During the months of October-February it is very important for these reps to create most of their own sales appointments in order to maintain their income during the off-season.

To facilitate that, I am currently reviewing a list of 50+ creative resources with this group, encouraging each rep to attempt appointment setting utilizing several of these methods each week throughout the offseason. My position is that these resources give them something to do during “no lead” days, and that after experimenting they will discover a handful of these resources that will result in sales, thereby improving their attitudes and helping them over-winter. Regardless what industry or market segment you sell in, just remember there are no rules in a knife fight. You do what you must to generate sales appointments. You can’t close ‘em until you propose ‘em, but first you’ve got to have somebody to go see!

The good news is when salespeople commit to simple prospecting activities, they quickly realize a new level of independence, not to mention virtually no competitors in their faces, as they are when calling on inbound sales leads. Compare this with salespeople who sit around waiting for leads, only to encounter buyers who are already well down their path to purchase. This results in grumpy salespeople who point their fingers back at the company, accusing them of producing crummy leads.

The bottom line is that inbound sales leads are awesome, but they should never take the place of traditional sales prospecting. Got it? Get it. Good.

©2015 Robinson Training Solutions, LLC