Most of us that have built businesses remember the hunter. We remember what it took to identify prospects, make contact, build a relationship and wait for the opportunity. That was the old fashioned way to generate leads. Fast forward to today and we are inundated by companies that will fill our inboxes full of qualified leads, waiting to cut a purchase order. And like a lot of technology we have to ask, is this helping us, or making us dumber, weaker and lazier?
Recently I read an article about lead generation here on Linkedin, and I made a simple comment that I wouldn’t be surprised if the process has turned our sales forces into little birds waiting for mom to return home with the bounty. Within a few minutes I got a message from a friend that said essentially “oh my god, I have an entire sales force of these types.” She went on to say that most of them have either forgotten the process or have abandoned it, relying almost completely on marketing to sustain the sales funnel.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t try to nurture leads online and with other forms of promotions and advertising. But I’m asking a question that you might want to ponder for your own sales force. Do they remember how to determine who is a valid prospect for your company’s products and services? Do they know how to make contact, introduce your company, represent your brand, build a relationship and get the opportunity? Or has your sales force, or part of it turned into simple quoting machines that get a lead, make a call and provide a quote. And, keep in mind, when someone contacts you for a quote via the internet, you’re likely not the only one he or she is seeking. I might consider the following (if I had sales people):
- Be sure that when you’re tracking quoting opportunities or “leads” that you identify the source of each one, including sales rep generated.
- Make sure you have training to ensure that sales forces understand the sales opportunity development process, that they know your products and services, and most importantly that they know how to listen! Here’s an article I wrote over a decade ago about the differences between teaching and training.
- Set a benchmark for self-developed leads for your sales force, to help identify those falling behind, and how to help them develop more self-developed sales opportunities.
- Besides generating leads, be sure you have a plan to develop Top of Mind Awareness so that when a sales opportunity arises, your prospect seeks your out via internet, email, social media or phone.
As a sales rep for over three decades I always found the most value in developing relationships and cultivating customers from those relationships. Call-ins were nice, but none of us relied upon them, that’s for certain. So take time to ponder that question for yourself.
If your answer is no, your sales force still hunts, that’s great. But I’d bet dollars to donuts that there are a lot of you out there that can identify more than one person in your sales force that has forgotten the hunter, and waits to be fed. That’s something today’s companies and sales forces can not afford. Help them become the hunter they need to be. Then when the leads come in, make them a treat to be savored.