Posts Tagged ‘small business lead generation’

Speed is the Key to Small Business Lead Generation Follow Up

By Doug Staneart

Many small businesses pay thousands of dollars for pay-per-click ads for lead generation, and then, when the leads come in, blow it by waiting too long to follow up with them. When people look for information, products, or solutions on the internet, they want instant gratification. If they have to wait for you to send back an email or wait for a phone call from you, you’ve probably already lost them. If they have to wait for you to send them something in the postal mail, you never had a shot anyway.

The first time that I realized just how critical this was, I had been in business for a few years, and my company was a preferred vendor for a training website. Every day, people would visit this website, and because it was so comprehensive, it was very difficult to navigate. As a result, a lot of people would just fill out the form on the website requesting whatever type of training that they were looking for. As soon as someone filled out the form, it automatically got posted onto the secure side, so if you were one of these preferred businesses, you could login at any time and see what had been posted.

To help us all out, though, the owner of the website would send out a summary at the end of the day, so every evening about 8:00 PM or so, we’d all get an email with a list of all of the leads that came in that day.

I responded to hundreds of these leads without any success whatsoever. Then, one evening, there was a lead for a public speaking class in Dallas. (I owned a company that taught public speaking classes in 50 cities around the world, but we were based in Dallas.) I thought, “Oh, I got this one.” And I responded to it. The next morning, I called the person and introduced myself, and she was the most cold and distant prospect I think I have ever talked to. She just said, “We’ve already chosen someone else,” and hung up. I was totally confused.

So I thought about what I should do to try and close some of these leads, and I figured that I really needed to know what everyone else was doing. So I went onto the site and created a posting of my own. It was about 10:30 AM, and I put into the posting that I would only accept email proposals.

By 11:00 AM, I had already received three proposals. The first was just a generic email with a HUGE attachment that took quite a while to download. It was about 20 MB of brochures in eight separate attachments that I never really went through. The second was just a simple email saying, “If you still need help, call me.” (Okay it was a little more involved than that, but not much.) The third, though, was a beautiful, professional looking proposal. After glancing at it, I had pretty much decided that if I had really been buying a public speaking class, I would have hired that company.

By 3:00 PM, I had about 25 proposals.

By 6:30 PM, I had received almost 50 proposals.

By 8:00 PM, the time that I was typically receiving the summary email from the website, I had received over 72 proposals.

The next morning when I woke up, I had received 143 proposals. After the first 20 or so, I didn’t look at any of them – not even out of curiosity.

When new proposals kept coming in the morning (less than 24 hours since I posted the listing,) they just ticked me off. I was thinking, “What a loser! You’re number 150 on the list.” But remember, that less than 24 hours prior, I was consistently number 73 or 74 on the list every single night.

I met with my team that day to share what I found out. We made a commitment to be the first to respond to every request. We only had six people working for the company, but we decided to assign one person every day just to wait for the phone to ring, one person just to wait for individual email leads to come in, and another just to wait for corporate contract requests to come in.

Our goal was to call any email inquiry back in less than five minutes. The most common comment that we started getting when we made those phone calls was, “Wow! I just hit send. You guys are really fast.”

That year we went from a small half-million dollar company to almost one and a half million dollars. The next year we doubled sales again. The only thing that really changed was the speed at which we were following up with potential clients.

Typical Web Surfer

Typical web surfers will usually do something like this. They have a question and quickly do a Google search. They will scan the first page that pops up looking for a listing summary that most closely relates to what they are looking for. If they find one, they will click the link to see if an answer can be found.

Not finding the answer right away, they might fill out a web form requesting additional information.

Then they will go back to Google and look at the next listing. This one has an FAQ page, and they read a few of them and feel comfortable enough to fill out another form to get a second opinion.

Then they will go back to Google and look one more time. This time, the website has a blog with dozens of helpful articles and a few videos that look really nice. They now pick up the phone and end up getting a voicemail.

They might look at a few more listings, but most will not likely to fill out any more forms. No one wants to be bombarded with spam from a lot of websites, so they will probably be cautious about filling out more forms. They will probably only call additional listings from here on out and only if the website is very compelling.

So here is the big question…

Who is most likely to get the business?

If the owner of the third website had answered the phone instead of having the call go over to voicemail, then that person would have had a tremendous advantage over the other two companies. In fact, if the person replies to the voicemail right away, that owner still has an advantage.

In reality, the person who makes contact with the prospect first and builds rapport with the prospect is always in the driver’s seat.

However, if you respond to the email the next day, the person will answer the phone saying, “Huh? Who are you again?” The person typically forgets entirely that he/she requested the information in the first place.

If the person gets a brochure in the mail a week after sending the email, well… you get the picture.

Speed is your friend in online sales. If you can’t personally follow up on the requests, then hire someone. If you can’t hire someone, then at least invest in a good email follow up system.

Don’t make your good prospects wait for you.

Move quickly. Move nimbly. And make a ton of people happy and a ton of money in the process!

Doug Staneart is the founder of The Leader’s Institute Entrepreneur Boot Camp author of the book Cultivating Customers, Small Business Lead Generation in a Digital Age. His small business seminars help entrepreneurs generate new customers and build small business infrastructure. Visit the Entrepreneur Boot Camp website for details about his programs.

Closing the Sale: Big Mistakes that Cause Your Customers to Buy from Someone Else

By Doug Staneart

Closing the sale can be one of the trickiest parts of the selling process if you make a few mistakes. You’ve worked really hard to get tons of new people looking at your website and all of those great leads start flowing in. Now the most important part takes place. You have to turn those leads into sales. Unfortunately, this is the part at which most entrepreneurs fail miserably. Most small business owners have an expertise in their own industry, but they often don’t have a lot of first-hand experience in how to close the sale – especially when they are first starting out.

Below are some of the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs make in the follow up process that keep them from closing the sale. Avoid them, and you will increase your closing ratio dramatically and turn more leads into sales.

Mistake #1: Thinking that All of Your Leads are Ready to Buy Right Now

Remember that just because people who search you out have a challenge or a problem, doesn’t mean that they will be ready to buy right now. However, if you keep in touch with them, avoid pressuring them to buy, and continue to educate them, they will often come to you when they are ready to buy.

You or your sales team will want to provide information for potential clients that help them solve their problems, build a relationship with these potential clients, and follow up until they are able to make a buying decision. It is a process, and in every step of the process, the trust level between you and your potential client should grow.

Granted, though, if you are getting thousands of leads every month, it will be impossible to follow up in detail with every single lead forever. You will also need some type of automated follow up system so that no one falls through the cracks.

An email follow up system can save you a lot of time.

Mistake #2: Giving Up on Leads

Most professional salespeople give up on prospects before they turn into business. Most entrepreneurs have an even lower closing ratio, but if you change the way that you follow up with your potential clients, you can turn things around very quickly.

When an initial lead comes in, for instance, someone comes onto a website and requests information via a form on the website, most small business people will do one of these things.

Most entrepreneurs will likely email the prospect with tons of sales literature and follow up via email a dozen times or so, and then quit trying with a “that’s not a real prospect after all” mentality.

Others might make a phone call and leave a voicemail and just wait for the person to call back.

Others will call and leave a voicemail and wait. Then call back and leave another voicemail. Then call back and leave another voicemail. And when the client doesn’t call back, they quit trying with a “that’s not a real prospect after all” mentality.

A very few will send out an expensive sales kit to the client via FedEx and wait a week or two to call them again hoping that the sales kit closes the deal.

By the way, any of those techniques will work every once in a while, but none of them will close a high percentage of deals for you.

A better process is to create different tiers of potential leads.

The first tier might be what I call email address leads. These are people who got free information from you and gave you their email address in return. If all you have is their email address, then you only have one way to follow up with them. So create an email follow up system in your CRM that combines education (information that they need) with offers to buy stuff from you. You might want to start with something small and build on it. If you are using a CRM system with an automatic email follow up, your follow up is turn-key.

The second tier might be website form leads. This is where someone comes onto your website and fills out a form requesting information or a call back from you. These are much higher quality leads, so they deserve a phone call. They are more likely to close more quickly, so be persistent in getting them on the phone. Don’t just leave a voicemail and wait. Based on your conversation with them, you can determine whether you want to create more follow up calls with the person or just divert them over to your email follow up system.

Your highest tier might be call-in leads. Typically, when people call you, they want immediate results, so they will close much more quickly. Spend more time with these folks and follow up with them one-on-one for a longer period of time. Don’t quit on these leads.

Whatever system you decide to use, DON’T QUIT! They requested information from you for a reason. You can help them.

Mistake #3: Giving a Sales Pitch

Don’t deliver prospects a standardized sales pitch. Instead, find out why they requested information from you. Once they tell you their problem, oddly enough, they will assume that you can solve the problem.

Here are a few phrases that will be gold for you.

* Do you mind if I ask you a few questions so that I have a better idea of what we should be talking about?
* So why are you interested in (fill in the blank with whatever product or service you sell)?
* Has something happened recently that has moved this up on your priority list?

Those should help you get started on the right foot with your new prospect. The more that they talk, the more they will want to buy from you. Fight the urge to jump in when you see an opportunity to sell to them.


Business Owner: “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions so that I have a better idea of what we should be talking about?”

Prospect: “I guess so…”

Business Owner: “So why are you interested in getting some advertising specialties made for your company?”

Prospect: “Well, the company that we bought pens from last time increased their charge and then messed up our website on the pens. We had to send them back, and we didn’t have any for our big tradeshow.”

Business Owner: “Well let me tell why that won’t be a problem with our company…”

Arrggghh… That is a BIG mistake. Your prospect is now venting to you about how bad your competitor is. Don’t cut her off. Encourage her to tell you more instead. Try something like…

Business Owner: “Gosh, that sounds terrible. What do you think that cost you?”

After she vents a little more, ask another question like, “Is there anything else about your current vendor that you’d like to improve?” etc. etc.

Continue asking questions until you feel like you have a few challenges that she has experienced that you think that you can fix for her.

So if you really want to close the sale and not push those leads away, realize that many of the people who contact you are not necessarily buyers now, but will become buyers in the future if you build a relationship with them. Keep following up with your leads and get an email follow-up program to help you turn those leads into sales. And finally, don’t come rushing in with a sales pitch. Instead ask questions of your prospect that gets the person to tell you what the real problem is, then offer a solution. Do these three things and you’ll close the sale more often.

Top Ten Small Business Lead Generation Mistakes

Small Business Lead GenerationSmall Businesses are always looking for new lead generation ideas, but many of the things that entrepreneurs do before they even make their first cold call or before they attend their first business card exchange practicaly ensure that they actually fail in the Lead Generation department.  Folks say that “Experience is the best teacher,” but that is really only about half right. In fact, “Someone ELSE’S experience is the best teacher,” because they have already made those mistakes. Learn from their mistakes, and you get to a higher level of success in a much faster time frame.

Below are The Top Ten Small Business Lead Generation Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make (and How to Avoid Them).

Mistake #1: Hiding Your Company from the World. The internet is the great equalizer for small businesses, but you have to make it easy for people who are looking for your products or services to find you on the internet. Search engine optimization (making it easier for people to find your website through search engines like Google) should be your top priority as a small business owner.

Mistake #2: “I’m a Really Small Company” Website. Just like when a person hands you a business card with the rough edges from separating it at the perforation after it was printed at home, a cheap looking or homemade looking websites is a neon sign saying, “I’M A SMALL BUSINESS… Don’t trust me.”

Mistake #3: Creating a Confusing Perception in the Marketplace. This mistake made early in a business’ history can follow you for years. When we first start out, we’re trying to find any way that we can to generate revenue, so when times are tough in one product or service line, we dabble in others to make ends meet. People who see you promoting dissimilar product lines will wonder what exactly it is that you do.

Mistake #4: I Can Do It on My Own Mentality. We become entrepreneurs because we are experts in a specific industry, and we know that we can do it better than our competitors. However, we are never going to be experts in EVERYTHING, so it’s important to surround yourself with other experts in different industries. You can either contract work out through subcontracting or joint ventures, or you can create alliances with other companies who support you but don’t compete with you.

Mistake #5: Offering Something that the Market Doesn’t Want. You might have a great product or service that people actually want to buy, but if you are promoting that product or service to a marketplace that doesn’t want it, you’ll go broke. If you are networking with other entrepreneurs and your services are for prime contractors, you’ll just become very frustrated. Go find where people in your market gather, and promote your company there instead.

Mistake #6: Salesperson Fangs. This mistake is the absolute most annoying and will drive customers away in droves. It occurs when someone out of genuine interest or in some cases, just kindness asks a question about what the person does for a living, and in response, the person spends the next fifteen minutes talking about himself and how the listener really needs his product or service. Successful people tend to be pretty good listeners.

Mistake #7: Casting Your Pearls before Swine. Just so you know, I’m not calling your prospects swine. I’m just saying that most small business people spend way too much time with people who they think are prospects but who have absolutely no chance of ever buying something from them. In order to be a good prospect for you, the person needs to have the resources to buy from you and the authority to buy from you. Don’t spend a lot of time and effort building a reputation amongst people who aren’t in and will never be in your market. Find where your market gathers and build your reputation there.

Mistake #8: Giving a Pitch Instead of Solving a Problem. Most people walk into a meeting with a prospect or start a call with a prospect with a pitch in mind. So, before the prospect even indentifies a problem or a need that she has, the pitch starts and we verbally jumps all over the person with features and benefits about how great our product is. Remember that a successful entrepreneur is a one who solves problems for clients and customers, so spend less time talking about yourself and ask more questions about the prospect.

Mistake #9: No Follow Up (Web Visitors and Leads). This used to be a big problem with face-to-face meetings where an entrepreneur collects a business card from a prospect and then just doesn’t do anything with it, but in the digital age, website visitor follow ups are way more valuable and rarely capitalized on effectively. For instance, if you look at most website statistics, you’ll see a number of “page views” which is just the number of pages on your website that people have looked at in a given month. This number is almost always a BIG number, but then if you compare it with the number of people who actually request information from or buy from you, the latter is microscopic in comparison. More often than not, the big difference in numbers comes because we don’t make it easy for people to request information from or contact us.

Mistake #10: Slow Follow-Up. In face-to-face meetings, if you don’t follow up within 24 hours, your prospect will likely forget about most of your meeting because people are extremely busy. Website visitors are not as forgiving. If you don’t respond to them within a few minutes, they will forget about you. When we surf the internet looking for solutions to our problems, we want instant gratification. If we don’t get it, we just move on to the next site. Follow up quickly with your prospects, and you’ll increases sales dramatically.

If you solve just some of these challenges that many small businesses face, you’ll increase your income potential and your growth rate very quickly. This book was created to offer tangible, step-by-step processes and ideas to conquer these and other obstacles that you’ll likely face as you build your small business.

Doug Staneart is the founder of The Leader’s Institute® and the creator of the Entrepreneur Boot Camp that helps small business owners grow their companies by sharing little-known secrets of successful entrepreneurs with new business owners. This article is one in a series of helpful small business lead generation tips, and you can read all of them for free on his Entrepreneur Boot Camp blog at https://www.leadersinstitutebootcamp.com/.

Small Business Lead Generation – Why Spamming and Cold Calling Does Not Work

By Doug Staneart, The Entrepreneur Boot Camp

Small Business Lead GenerationEvery small business is the proverbial Needle in the Haystack, so small business lead generation is critical to an entrepreneur’s survival and the growth of his/her small business. The thing that most entrepreneurs forget, though, is that it is a lot easier to turn a prospect or lead into a customer if the lead calls you versus when you call them. It cracks me up when I hear titles of articles, seminars, or books about how to “Make Effective Cold Calls” or how to “Warm Up Cold Calls”. In the past decade (through two recessions, mind you,) I’ve built a total of four multi-million dollar businesses from scratch, and none of that revenue was ever generated from any “cold call”. In fact, I’ve had over 405 of the Fortune 500 companies become clients, and they have all called or emailed my companies. They searched my companies out when they had a problem instead of us trying to find people within these companies that were facing the specific problems that we could solve. These are a few of the secrets that we have uncovered to help small businesses generate more leads (and more quality leads).

Cold Calls do not Work at All in a Digital Age

Cold calls, email spam, blast faxes, popup windows, forced “opt-in” subscribers and the like just don’t work in this digital age (I’m not sure any of them ever worked very well for very long). The ones that crack me up the most are the companies that send out blast email spam guaranteeing us that they can get our website to the top of Google in 48 hours. Seriously? Do you think that if they could actually do this that they would be wasting their time spamming millions of people trying to beg someone to buy their service? Last month, there were 165,000 people who went to Google and searched for the term “Google search optimization”. If they could get to the top of Google with just that one term, they would have about two million people potential leads coming to them every year. So why would they need to spam people? If you are so good at what you do, why are you spamming me? Why are you cold calling me? Why are you trying to force me to subscribe to your newsletter? The truth is that cold calling and spamming people shows desperation, not success.

Get Potential Leads to Call You to Turn more Leads into Customers

The internet is the great equalizer for small businesses. Big businesses have websites, but their bureaucracy forces them to move very slowly in implementing new technology and captivating on new opportunities. However, nimble small businesses can capitalize on these opportunities immediately. It is actually very easy to get to the top of a Google search result. It is very difficult, however, to stay there. In fact, it is a fulltime job. But it is a very lucrative fulltime job. Logically, this is why this is your most important goal for your small business. When someone has a question, where do they go for an answer now? In decades past, if you had a challenge or a question, you might ask a friend or coworker or if it was a really big problem, you might go to the library and search for an answer. Today, though, people go immediately to Google. The listings at the top of the first page have a lot more credibility than the ones on the second, third, or four-hundredth.

If your small business is listed at the top of the results when they enter their question, and then they click through to your website and get the answer to that question, your small business is now at the top of their short-list for solution providers. If they call you or email you, you automatically have about a 25% chance or so of turning that lead into a client. In contrast, if your small business is listed at the top of page two on Google, in order to have someone contact you, they will have already looked at listings from at least 10 other competitors. Most potential customers will not be that thorough, so you will generate fewer leads, and now, since you are competing with at least ten other competitors, your percentage of closing drops to below 10%.

Get Leads to Call You by Giving Away Something that They Need or Want

What is common knowledge to you is uncommon to most people. Remember that your expertise and knowledge is extremely valuable to people who are searching on Google for answers as in the previous example. So if you can help them answer the question – and really help them in the process – they are more likely to share with you their contact information. Once they do, you now know two things about them. First, you know that they have (or had) a specific problem that you can help them solve. Second, you know that they already know who you are and trust has started to develop from them that you are an expert in your industry.

What you give away doesn’t have to be costly, but it must be valuable. Costly means that it doesn’t have to cost you anything to give it away. For instance, if you have a lot of informational content on your blog, then you might ask people to register in order to conduct a search of your blog for specific topics. Or, you might give away a special report or access to a video or audio file with information that a prospect might need. For example, if you are a dentist, you might offer a video about how to teach a three-year-old to brush properly. Anyone who requests the free information will likely have a young child and be concerned about the child’s oral health. Whatever the gift, just make sure that your costs are low and the value of the item is high from the customer’s perspective.

So forget the cold calls and spam, use your website to get more leads to call you, and then use a high-valued free gift to encourage prospects to contact you, and you will generate great success through small business lead generation.

Doug Staneart is the founder of The Leader’s Institute® and the creator of the Entrepreneur Boot Camp that helps small business owners grow their companies by sharing little-known secrets of successful entrepreneurs with new business owners. This article is one in a series of helpful small business tips, and you can read all of them for free on his Entrepreneur Boot Camp blog at https://www.bootcampgifts.com.

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