Prospecting (or lead generation) has fundamentally changed in recent years, especially for small business owners. The “old” ways of finding sales opportunities – direct mail, telemarketing and email marketing – are producing fewer prospects. The way people want to buy has changed fundamentally too.
Both consumers and company buyers now want to control the sale. They will dictate when the sales process starts and how long it takes. Larger organisations have stringent purchasing procedures to ensure a wide range of suppliers are given equal opportunities to bid for contracts.
Public sector organisations have operated open procedures for the last 15 years, allowing suppliers of all sizes to be considered for inclusion on tendering lists. The tendering process is defined in advance so all suppliers know what will be involved.
The “new” ways of finding sales opportunities are built around the concept of attracting prospects. Suppliers wait until buyers indicate they are ready to start their buying process. The average buyer doesn’t want to be bombarded with your sales pitches by telephone or by email.
They do want to know you exist and will visit your website (or access your catalogue) to find out more – when it suits them, not when it suits you. You might be able to persuade them to sign up to receive your regular newsletter – probably an eZine these days. If you can achieve this, you have an opportunity to keep your company name in their minds.
Avoid the temptation to turn your newsletter into another sales pitch. Provide articles likely to be of interest to potential prospects and confirm how they can contact you – with questions, for more information or to schedule a private discussion. Your aim is to get your company onto the shortlist of supplier the prospect will consider.
When you make it onto the shortlist and they do contact you, you immediately know they are serious and have some sort of purchase in mind. As a result, they are ready to engage. This makes them very different to prospects you might have met in the past following a telephone cold-calling campaign. They will willingly answer your questions. They will be happy to see your product demonstration and understand what your other clients think about your products/services.
They won’t stall, delay or procrastinate – they are ready to buy and want to identify a final shortlist of candidate suppliers.
Your job is to make sure these prospects find what they want about you on the Internet and that it persuades them to add you to their shortlist. You can do this without cold-calling them, or sending them a bunch of unrequested emails, with each one being a variation on your standard sales pitch.
The first thing to do is to develop your website so that it contains all the information that prospects will typically expect to find about a potential supplier. Once this is in place, you need to persuade potential buyers to visit your website and allow them to find out all about your products/services, in their own time.
As mentioned above, give your website visitors every opportunity to sign up to receive your newsletter. Your newsletter can remind them of your existence every month in a low-key way.
Persuading relevant people to visit your website will be an ongoing task. Knowing your website has everything a potential prospect needs to evaluate your credentials, you can use social media sites and networking opportunities to ask people you think might be interested to “check out our website”.
If you have a valid email addresses for potential prospects, you can send a personal email with the same message. Everything you do should encourage people to visit your website.
- Ramp up the useful information held on your website and keep adding to it.
- Only produce website content your prospects will find of interest and of value.
- Introduce a regular eZine and encourage your prospects to sign up to receive it.