Keeping the sales pipeline gushing with leads is a lot more complicated today than it once was.
Back in the day, banging on doors at the local industrial park was a sure-fire way to get lobby meetings. The tools of the trade were the Yellow Pages, a memorized sales script, and a good pair of steel-toed leather shoes. You could cold-call because the hunted actually answered their phones.
Unconventional methods of lead-generation included tailing competitors’ trucks and rummaging through garbage bins late at night.
That era is long gone. In fact it’s dead. Today, phoning a prospect and asking to “steal” a few minutes so you can learn a little more about his business is sales suicide. You’ll lose any chance of getting business before the sales cycle ever gets started.
Despite the march of time, one rule of selling has not changed: the amount of business you close will never be greater than the amount of new prospects you need to generate. No fresh, exciting opportunities equals zero new business. The math does not lie.
How do you keep the prospect pipeline flowing? Here’s what every sales professional should be doing to generate quality sales leads:
Look Under Your Nose
Wowing old customers has never been more important for getting new customers. If you’re a rainmaker and a trusted, credible business advisor to your customers, they will repay the favour by helping to replenish your pipeline.
Referrals from existing customers have the highest probability of turning into business. Customers have loads of contacts inside and outside the office just waiting to be tapped. Instead of making cold calls and chasing low-probability returns, recognize that the best sales leads are the ones staring you right in the face. You just have to earn them.
Extend a Handshake
Social media is not a prospecting tool, it’s a networking tool. Networking is about gathering contacts, information, and opportunities. It’s also about sharing ideas with like-minded people—namely, customers with freight.
I think LinkedIn is the most effective online networking tool available right now. It’s today’s handshake, and allows you to build on existing relationships and establish credibility with people you have never met. What makes LinkedIn especially powerful is the fact you can communicate and engage with decision-makers during “off” hours, saving prime-time hours for face-to-face time.
Once you’re all connected-up, it’s time to get creative with the keyboard.
Every sales rep needs to develop a personal, content-driven lead-generation program. By “content” I mean good ideas. There are lots of ways to go about it. Create and participate in industry chat rooms. Write a blog. Source and distribute timely magazine articles. Send your customers reports on their industry. Build credibility in the transportation community by sharing your insights with customers, suppliers, and yes, even your competitors.
Don’t overlook your personal interests. They may have nothing to do with trucking, but sharing what you’re passionate about in your free time could spark a conversation that turns into business. I bet there a lot of guys in your Corvette club who have freight to move.
Fix Your Online Rep
Referrals, handshakes, having something to say—these are all ways to build your reputation as a salesperson and raise your profile as a freight expert. If you’re “findable,” leads will fall into your lap.
If a prospect types your name into Google and likes what he sees, he’ll take the next step and call. The trouble is, too many salespeople have holes in their online reputation. Their LinkedIn profiles are inaccurate and incomplete, they follow porno starlets on Twitter, and look hammered in every Facebook picture.
Your virtual public image is your personal brand. If you have a spotty online image, you’ll never know how many opportunities you’re losing.
Generating sales leads today takes creativity, imagination, and hard work. It’s also more fun than it used to be. Prime your pump with referrals, a solid online reputation, and something credible to say. It doesn’t even have to be about freight.
Wouldn’t you rather be writing a blog on Corvettes than sifting through a garbage bin?
Mike McCarron was one of the founding “M”s in MSM Transportation before the company was purchased by the Wheels Group. Based in Toronto, he currently works for Wheels in mergers and acquisitions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mike on Twitter @AceMcC.
Mike McCarron is the president of Left Lane Associates, a firm that specializes in the “monetizing” of transportation companies. A 30-year industry veteran, he founded MSM Transportation which he sold in 2012. Mike can be reached at email@example.com or at 416-931-7212. Follow him on Twitter: @AceMcC All posts by Mike McCarron