There’s a famous quote from that seminal 1992 movie about sales, Glengarry Glen Ross, in which Jack Lemmon’s character, Shelley, contemptuously dismisses the contact data he’s been given: “The leads are weak!” The movie also coined the unforgettable phrase: “Coffee is for closers!”
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the movie to those just starting out in sales – it’s not exactly a flattering portrayal of the profession. But the dialogue gives viewers some insight into the importance of leads, which are the lifeblood of selling.
So, what is a lead in a sales context? According to Investopedia, “A sales lead is a prospective consumer of a product or service that is created when an individual or business shows interest and provides his or her contact information.”
But what makes a GOOD lead?
First, it’s easy to define a bad lead. “Weak,” or “bad” leads are old, incomplete, inaccurate, irrelevant, or used up. Good leads are harder to pin down. The foundation of a good lead is complete and accurate contact information. The designation of a good lead also implies that there is a match between their needs and what your product and/or service actually does.
For example, say you’re a round widget supplier. You may receive call-in leads from people in search of widgets. Some of them require round widgets, of the type that you provide. Some of them, however, may require a square widget. By calling your company, they’re expressing interest in your round widget offerings. But a key characteristic of a good lead is that they have the potential to benefit from your solution – this characteristic is commonly known as “fit” – so the latter group, although interested, are bad fit leads.
Now, imagine you have several reliable data points on an interested call-in lead. You know Round Industries uses round widgets in the manufacturing of their product. The SVP of Product at Round Industries provided her phone number and email address when she called to request more information. And you recently saw a news article stating that Round Industries is expanding their production capabilities. This sort of lead is timely, relevant, and includes some ways for the salesperson to take action – all qualities inherent in good leads. In fact, some might classify this as an excellent lead.
Okay, where can I find these good leads?
Unfortunately, most leads don’t present themselves by calling on the phone. They must be coaxed, identified, solicited and extracted. It’s a challenging task. Marketing departments coordinate tradeshows, run email campaigns, write & promote content, and conduct an ever-growing list of activities to attract leads and then push them down the funnel. Salespeople comb LinkedIn, check their rolodex of former clients, and pay attention to what’s going on in their territory in order to identify potential opportunities and contacts.
Back when I managed a sales team, we used lead providers to augment our lead generation efforts. A lead provider is a company that supplies lists of contacts, with the assumption that these contacts are a potential fit for your offering. These lists come with limitations, of course, including the fact that they are typically produced via web-scraping, so accuracy and relevance cannot be guaranteed. While helpful, we were always on the lookout for fresher, more targeted information tied back to direct dial phone numbers and verified email addresses.
This is where sales intelligence can play a very important role. Sales intelligence can mean a number of things, but in the case of DiscoverOrg, it’s an in-depth solution spanning from “trigger events” that can indicate the presence of purchase intent, to decision makers’ verified contact data & job responsibilities, to predictive analytics based on content consumption. The addition of sales intelligence can make an impact across the entire buying cycle: marketing is provided with accurate contact data and sales is provided with powerful insights that help them strategize and close the deal. Many salespeople, however, find themselves at companies that haven’t yet invested in an intelligence platform.
What if I’m responsible for prospecting but don’t have access to sales intelligence?
Even with the advanced capabilities of modern marketing and sales intelligence solutions, going without one is still a common reality. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to replicate the benefits while you work to convince your senior leadership of the value of sales intelligence.
Rather than spending your time navigating gatekeepers and hounding less-than-ideal leads, take a step back and be a bit more strategic. The best leads and opportunities may be buried under just a bit of networking effort. Be on the lookout for online groups composed of people posting about topics of interest to you and your business. For example, I subscribe to a community on Facebook focused on the startup industry in Portland, Oregon. This is a great source of names and projects for a salesperson targeting startups in the Pacific Northwest.
Professional organizations – especially those hosting in-person events – are another great way to meet and network with potential prospects, some of which are likely decision makers. Your local community likely has relevant industry-specific events and associations, and many are free to join. You can also use Twitter to follow companies and executives in your market.
What else can I do to spot sales “triggers”?
Be sure to leverage Google Alerts to catch potential opportunities as they arise. For example, I receive daily alerts on new projects and trends within the CRM and SaaS spheres. Sometimes these alerts contain names and titles, so you can direct your prospecting efforts toward the correct contact. Subscribe to RSS feeds, industry newsletters, and check LinkedIn to stay informed on what your prospects are interested in. Compared to the data within a sales intelligence solution, these leads will be more widely prospected to and not as timely, but it’s a great start.
It’ll take time and effort to distill good leads and relevant opportunities using these methods, but they’re an effective way to make ends meet until your company invests in an intelligence solution. The fact is that with today’s technology, salespeople are in a great position to grow and build their “good lead” lists with pertinent, actionable intel. It’s all about finding those elusive leads worth chasing.