Keeping your sales pipeline full is one of the easiest ways to ensure a consistent stream of new business. However, filling that pipeline with quality leads can become its own impossible full-time job.
Let’s explore how to classify different sales leads so that each type gets the attention it needs. Once you know the type of lead you’re dealing with, you can create specific strategies for each respective type.
Different Types of Leads
Not all sales leads are created equal. Depending on how they’re sourced, sales leads can become an immediate priority or be placed further down the list. Some of the most common types of sales leads are:
Cold Leads: These are contacts you make through the act of cold-calling or by reaching out to people you have no prior relationship with. This process might generate some interest, but actually selling to these folks can take longer since they have no experience with you or your organization. Cold leads will need a full sales pitch.
Warm Leads: These are contacts that have some idea of who you and your organization are and the types of services you provide. Warm leads are much more valuable because closing a sale is generally easier when the prospect knows you.
Referrals: These are probably your most valuable—and valued—sales leads. They are the people who were referred to you by colleagues or other customers, often by word of mouth. Referrals are generally one of your easiest sales to close since there is an inherent trust between you and the customer.
Repeat Business: Some may not qualify these as sales leads in the same way as the other three. But depending on how long it’s been between sales, a repeat customer could qualify as a new sales lead. Consider these the low-hanging fruit of your sales process, which can lead to a quick and easy sale.
You can generate each of the above lead types in a variety of ways, but there are obviously some methods that are more effective.
Cold Leads: While the terms “cold-calling” and “cold leads” go hand-in-hand, the practice of true cold-calling is has fallen out of favor. This is also one of the most time-consuming ways to close a sale. If you’re a small business owner, that’s time that you don’t likely have.
Try these methods instead:
- Email: Craft an interesting and informative email that illustrates why your business is useful to the recipient. There are tons of articles about how to craft the perfect email, how to craft the perfect subject line and what to do when someone does or doesn’t respond. This is also a great method for small business owners as the cost is fairly nominal when compared to the reach.
- In-house Sourcing: Try to source your own list of names and email addresses. Buying email lists is not a favorable practice and should be avoided. However, be careful when sending out mass emails as they must comply with CAN-SPAM legislation. You don’t want to be slapped with a lawsuit for spamming your prospects.
Other ways to generate cold leads is to attend trade shows and conferences, send out direct mail pieces or create an e-newsletter.
Warm Leads: If you use one of the methods above, including meeting and greeting people at a trade show or sending out direct mail, a prospect that reaches back out to you for more information is considered a warm lead. There is also the act of following up with these leads after the initial introduction.
Other ways to generate warm leads include:
- Seminars or Workshops: If you have industry knowledge or a certain technique to share, you might want to consider hosting a workshop or some other lunch-and-learn type of seminar. While the initial investment can be significant, new knowledge is very valuable to a prospective client. However, the seminar should be mainly focused on learning, not an hour-long sales pitch.
- Information Sharing: Similar to hosting a seminar, there is an abundance of information available online that your clients might find valuable. You probably subscribe to or monitor a variety of news channels every day. Take the initiative by sharing pertinent information with your leads. If you are seen as a helper—and not just a seller—you will be viewed far more favorably by potential clients.
- Referrals: These leads should be treated very carefully. If you get referrals from other customers, make sure to follow up with them in a timely fashion. It can reflect badly on you and your organization if a client feels that you neglected a supplied lead. If you’re receiving leads from other colleagues or customers, make sure to reciprocate. Offering them leads is a great way to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.
Here are a few other ways to work with referrals:
- First contact: Make sure, of course, to mention the person who referred them and how you have helped that client. This will give the referral context as to why you might be calling or just provide a better idea of what you do.
- Meet quickly: With referrals, setting up a meeting—even if it’s just a phone call—is probably the best way to kick things off. You want to demonstrate to the referral that you’re serious about their business.
- Establish a customer referral program: You can put a formal referral program in place, complete with incentives, marketing material and promotions. Your business model will determine if this is a viable option for you and your organization, but it’s definitely worth investigating.
Repeat Customers: The brass ring of the sales world, a repeat customer’s worth cannot be overstated. Even if a former customer hasn’t used your company in a while, consider them a valuable asset and treat them a bit differently than other types of leads. You have a relationship with this person or their business; use this insider knowledge to close the deal quickly and keep them happy.
Ways to turn one-time customers into repeat customers include:
- Communication: This is key with turning a customer into a repeat customer. You should keep them on your list of contacts and contact them when there’s a new product launch, a promotion or other major change within your organization. The goal is to keep clients in the know. This can be accomplished via email, phone call or newsletter.
- Personalization: Additionally, if you’re offering a new service or product that would be of particular interest to former customers, don’t hesitate to personalize the message and send it along. With referrals and repeat customers, a one size fits all approach might seem a bit too impersonal and could turn them off.
Your sales team thrives on working leads and closing deals. Make sure to incorporate as many strategies as you can when generating and servicing sales leads. To learn about how to keep up a steady revenue stream and ensure success, read more about how to turn leads into sales.
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