How to Generate Sales Leads

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Generating leads is a smart way to support your sales staff and make their efforts more efficient. A good lead generation program can lower your sales costs and raise your sales revenue.


Here are the basics of making lead generation work for your company:


Offer something free. This is the key to any successful lead generation program. Whether you use direct mail, print ads, radio, television or other media, you must offer something free to get prospects to raise their hands and say, "I'm interested in this." You can offer just about anything -- free booklets, free gifts, free surveys, free samples, free catalogs, free inspections, free consultations or anything else that's related to your product or service.


Help your prospect solve a problem. Forget positioning pieces and other pomp and circumstance. Give your offer value. For someone having tax problems, offering a "free tax-reduction kit" is more appealing and relevant than "a free brochure about the XYZ Accounting Firm." Try to solve particular problems.


Stay focused on getting the lead. Don't get carried away with the creative aspects of designing a mail piece or ad. Keep your message as simple and lean as possible. The idea is to peak your prospect's interest in the free thing you are offering and get a request for it. Don't talk about your company, then tack on an offer. Focus the whole message on the free thing you are offering.


Gather the information you need to make a sale. The only reason for offering something free is to get a name, address, telephone number and other information to build your database. So make sure your reply device asks for the necessary data. Be careful if you ask for e-mail response, though, because the prospect may not give you everything you need. And 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.


Follow up fast. Hot leads cool off quickly. When you get an inquiry, send the freebie immediately. Then get the lead into the hands of your sales force pronto.


Fine-tune your program to raise or lower lead quality. Once you have a lead-generation program in place, evaluate the quality of the leads you are getting. Make adjustments to raise response (and loosen the quality of leads) or lower response (and tighten the quality of leads).


Here are ways to loosen the quality of your leads:


* Give away free information and pay the postage yourself.


* Give away a free gift.


* Offer a premium that's not related to your product.


* Say less about your product or service.


* Make it easier to get your information -- coupon or bind-in card.


* Provide a toll-free number.


* Ask for less information from your prospect -- just ask for name and address.


* Don't ask for a phone number and stress no obligation or no sales call will be made.


* Highlight your offer.


* Make your message "loud."


* Give your offer more value.


* Don't mention the price or any conditions.


* Use bingo cards.


Here are ways to tighten the quality of your leads:


* Charge a nominal fee for your information or catalog or ask for postage.


* Don't give away a gift.


* Offer a premium that is directly related to your product.


* Say more about your product or service.


* Make it harder to get your information -- give address only so your prospect has to work.


* Provide a pay phone number.


* Ask for more information from your prospect -- plans to buy, age, income, phone number, business size, title, etc.


* Ask for a phone number and perhaps mention a sales call.


* Bury your offer.


* Make your message "quiet."


* Give your offer less value.


* Mention the price, conditions, requirements.


* Avoid bingo cards.


Dean Rieck is president of Direct Creative, Columbus, OH, a direct marketing creative firm. His e-mail address is dean_rieck@ compuserve.com.

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