Problem Solver: What is the most effective way to generate sales leads?

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Dean Rieck
Dean Rieck

Lead generation has always been an important sales tool for those who sell products that are expensive or hard to explain. It's a great way to identify who is really interested in your products and services, help your sales people work productively, and improve your marketing ROI.

However, many people can't make lead generation work well. The problem? They create a lead generation piece the same way they create a straight sales piece, confusing one-step sales with multistep sales and short-circuiting the process.

As someone who has created countless lead generation ads and direct mail pieces, here are three simple rules I follow to maximize the effectiveness of any lead program:

Offer something free. Whether you use direct mail, print ads, radio, television or other media, you must offer something free to get a prospect to raise his hand and say, "I'm interested in this." You can offer just about anything — free booklet, free gift, free survey, free sample, free catalog, free inspection, free consultation or anything else that's related to your product or service.

Build your offer around the freebie. A lead generation offer is structured a little differently than an ordinary offer. In an ordinary offer, you get people interested in the product or service, and then you ask for the order. But in a lead generation offer, it's best to build the entire promotion around the free item that you are offering.

For example, if you have a free whitepaper on your new widget, you don't talk up the widget and then, at the end, mention you have a free whitepaper. Instead, you begin by talking about the free whitepaper and discuss all the things it will reveal about your widget. In other words, you “sell” the free item. 

 Gather the information you need to make a sale. The only reason to offer something free is to get a name, address, phone number and other information to hand over to your sales people or build a targeted database. So, make sure your reply device asks for the necessary data. Don't ask for too much information, though, or you'll scare people off. Just get what you need for the next step in your sales process.

If you want to direct a prospect to your Web site, create a special URL that will ask for contact information first, otherwise your prospect will wander around your site and leave without providing the data you want.

The interesting thing about generating sales leads is that it's one of the simplest tasks in marketing, but one of the most misunderstood. If you can remember that generating leads is about breaking the sales process into steps, and that the call to action in your lead generating piece is the offer for more information and not an immediate sale, then you'll be way ahead of the game.


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