Asking Well: The Secret to Successful Lead Gen

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Sep 29, 2015
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

Ever see the movie Glengary Glen Ross? You remember — “Coffee is for closers!” If you can stomach the abundant profanity, it’s actually an interesting study of the absolute worst possible approach to sales.

The basic storyline revolves around a supply of allegedly superior leads — the “Glengary leads” — that a group of washed-up salesmen are desperate to get their hands on. Granted, it’s a Hollywood movie, but the premise struck me as an unfortunately realistic and particularly pathetic reflection of those who depend on lead generation to earn a living.

If you ever find yourself saying, “I know I could be successful at this if I only had some good leads,” it’s time to stop and take a hard look at your work process and perspective.


My experience is that there is no goose that lays the golden leads. Certainly there are plenty of internet lead generators to troll through (Monster, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, etc.) and I don’t want to suggest that those resources have no merit, but you might want to stop and consider that anything you can find on the internet is also available to your competitors. Using them makes you one of dozens of companies chasing down the same potential clients. The dream lead — if there is such a thing — is one that is exclusive to you. Those come from only two possible sources: referrals and what you cultivate through networking and your own hard work.


Making it Rain Referrals

Great referrals, especially unexpected ones, are just wonderful aren’t they? A potential client contacts you based on the advice of a trusted colleague or friend. You have almost instant credibility and a considerable advantage toward conducting business together. Amazingly, while clients with whom we have had successful business transactions are usually more than happy to provide us with referrals, many of us miss out on these supreme opportunities simply because we don’t ask for them. Assuming a client will make referrals based solely on your excellent customer service is naive and frankly, not good enough. One of your greatest potential lead sources — receiving referrals on a consistent basis — is far more a function of proactive and deliberate planning than anything thing else.

Your goal is to make it rain referrals, but that won’t happen if you don’t ask, and more importantly, ask the right way.


Direct Questions Get Direct Responses


If your referral request starts along the lines of, “Hey, you don’t happen to know somebody who might…” then it’s unlikely you will achieve satisfactory results. Questions like this are as broad and open-ended as “Hey, let’s get together for lunch sometime.” You know that meeting will probably never materialize and maybe you secretly don’t even want it to. If having lunch with your buddy was truly a priority, the question would be framed more like, “Hey, what about lunch next Tuesday at noon?” It’s a specific request attempting to elicit a specific result. The same is true when asking for referrals.


A better approach is, “Jim, you’re a member of the Rotary Club right? Do you know anyone there who could use my help finding people they need to grow their business or connect them to their next career opportunity?” Jim now has a very specific and manageable population to consider. The Gallup 2013 State of the American Workplace report states that a whopping 70% of Americans either hate their current job or are completely disengaged at work. So theoretically, three out of four members of Jim’s Rotary Club would love to find a new job or may be looking for new employees. Chances are he’ll know at least some of them and, by being specific and narrowing his field of reference, there’s a much greater chance you’ll end up with actual names.


Don’t Limit Yourself


Don’t fall into the trap of limiting your referral requests to only those you have done business with. There are probably hundreds of people you know, some in positions of great influence, that you may never do business with for one reason or another. That does not mean that they don’t think highly of you and wouldn’t be happy to refer people to you from their own circles of influence. But again, it will never happen unless you ask, and ask the right way.


The Joy of Calling Cold

Ask a room full of sales people how many love cold-calling and it’s doubtful you’ll see a lot of hands. Many see it as pure drudgery and a waste of time. I, on the other hand, actually believe that a good old-fashioned session of grabbing a data base of potential clients, and smiling and dialing, can be extremely productive and lucrative.

People shy away from cold-calling because they inherently hate rejection and the two tend to go hand-in-hand. Most of us also prefer instant gratification which is rarely achieved through cold calls, but much of that problem can be resolved with a simple attitude adjustment. If you cannot get positive and project the genuine belief that what you’re offering has true value then indeed, you are likely to fail.


You also need to learn to let the haters and rejections roll off. Don’t personalize someone’s refusal to speak with you and move on to someone who wants your help.


Develop a powerful, creative and brief script that identifies you, your purpose, and asks for an appointment. Remember, the purpose of cold-calling is only to win the right to have an actual conversation with the prospect. Anticipate objections and be ready with thoughtful and convincing responses. Nothing increases cold-calling success more than careful preparation. It will take persistence and multiple attempts to connect with most decision makers. If you are new to cold-calling I can assure you it will be a real challenge at first, but stick to it and break through your initial resistance.


Most importantly learn to master delayed gratification. At least in our industry the odds are in our favor. If 70% of the workforce is truly unhappy, a chance to talk to a professional recruiter — even a stranger — is probably more welcome than you realize. It’s all in the presentation. Of course the major upside is that when you do win the opportunity to talk to a prospect, you most likely now have an exclusive lead.

Websites and Social Media’s Role

Two other resources that we use to create additional leads are the inclusion of a lead capture feature on our company website and social media. Clients and potential clients are able to see job openings on our website and respond if interested. The biggest downside here is the potential to become bombarded with underqualified applicants. Effective use of social media, in particular LinkedIn, can also provide results. The social media game is another entire article in itself, but I will say that while these tools do have merit and should be part of your overall strategy, they are secondary options and not a quick fix to any lead drought you may be experiencing.


This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
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