Follow our 7-step guide to lead generation and watch your business grow.

You have targets to hit and pipeline to grow. While everyone is putting into action their own plans for the coming 12 months, now is the perfect time to begin prospecting and lining up growth opportunities for the remainder of quarter (and beyond!).

The process begins at the top of your sales funnel: with lead generation.

Regardless of your industry sector, company size, product or service – the same core, fundamental principles of lead generation are the same. You may have a 50-strong marketing team behind you, or you may be attacking the entire sales cycle solo. Our simple 7 steps to effective lead generation will ensure you get well on your way to achieving those business growth targets you’ve set.

Step One: Business Targeting

Your business is unique. The businesses you target need to match that. Don’t waste your time: ensure you have set, defined criteria for the types of organisations you’re looking to engage with. Profiling your leads and categorising them allows you to focus your attention in the areas most likely to progress down the sales funnel.

For example, you may want to consider criteria such as:

  • Company size / number of employees
  • Industry sector or vertical
  • Turnover and financial history
  • Market trends

The good news is, most of the information we need is readily available. Utilise Google, LinkedIn, your own network – build your own ‘wish list’ for the perfect lead and use that to steer your efforts.

Step Two: Industry targeting

Determining what industries to target is key to effective lead generation.

One of the strongest sources of information is your existing customer base. Look at your sales for the past year. Can you identify any trends?

If it’s worked before, it’s good to play to those strengths. These leads are likely to convert more often and more quickly, supporting your growth plans. What’s more, you’ll have a ready-made base of references or case studies to help you close more effectively.

If you’re considering breaking into a new area, analyse, analyse and then analyse some more. Consider market trends for the industry, whether any relevant news or changes may be creating demand for your product. When is their financial year end and the best time to target? Who are the sector leaders and why? Buyers seek reassurance, so look at their challenges and pain points and see if you can correlate those to industries in which you’ve had previous experience.

Step Three: Location, Location, Location

Where do you currently do business? If you’ve traditionally stuck close to office locations or saturated particular regions or areas, you may be restricting your revenue. It’s time to go further afield.

Start by mapping out your current customer base. Where is your current focus? Are there any gaps?

Pick a new geographical area and explore it. Look at local business groups, the Chamber of Commerce and networking groups. Don’t shy away from locations further afield due to fear of logistics: thanks to the power of technology, we don’t necessarily have to be in proximity to progress a sale.

Consider a digital strategy for pitching and prospecting in the early stages of the sales cycle – Skype, GoToMeeting, connecting on LinkedIn. Do it right and by the time a meeting comes around, it’s worth the investment in travel expenses. Line up multiple opportunities in the same area, and it’s a win-win.

Step Four: Source Quality

Not all leads are created equal. Understanding what sources work well for your business and looking at the metrics and numbers can help target your lead generation efforts, maximising your ROI.

If you don’t currently record the source of your leads, now is the time to start. If you have that data, break it down and answer the following:

  • Which lead sources convert quickest?
  • Which delivered the highest value / best quality?
  • What is the average conversion rate of your leads to opportunities, meetings and then sales?

Example:  Target: 12 meetings a month

Speak to: 50 Decision makers to get 12 meetings:  ( conversion 5:1)

Calls a month : 500 to speak to 50 Decision Makers ( 10:1 conversion)

Leads a month: depends on quality of lead generation

From this, you can determine where to place your time and effort, and establish realistic leads targets.

Step Five: Decision Makers

They’re the holy grail of prospecting, and with good reason. So how do you ensure you’re hitting the decision maker?

First, here’s a key stat. In a typical company, an average of SEVEN people are involved in most buying decisions. Don’t narrow your search to a single DM.

Look at your existing client base to determine what constitutes a decision maker for your business. What are the typical job titles that crop up? What’s the typical decision making chain? While those at C-suite level may have the final say, don’t forget influencers and champions further down. They may be the ones making the business case for your product or service, putting a word in the right ear to help you on your way.

One of the simplest ways to map this out is to simply get on the phone. Asking open questions will help you profile the individual(s) you need to target and the organisation as a whole.

Step Six: Social Media

Knowledge is power. The more you have, the greater your chances of turning those leads into viable sales prospects. One of the most powerful tools we can leverage is social media.

Fact: At the close of 2016, LinkedIn reached 467 million users. That’s a lot of potential leads.

By identifying what your target DMs are talking about, sharing, or commenting on, you can build a fuller picture of their interests and painpoints. You may have shared connections you can reference, or can join the same groups or networks to build rapport.

The more informal nature of social media means it’s not the place for a full-on pitch, but it’s great for building relationships, making initial introductions or simply keeping an eye on both prospect and competitor activity. Ensure you’ve got a strong personal brand on your own social media profiles, and get talking.

Step Seven: Lead Volume, its quality not quantity

Lead generation can be a balancing act. Too many and you risk viable opportunities slipping through the net; too few, and you’re not going to hit target. How can you be sure you’re getting it right?

  • Keep it steady.Don’t let lead generation become a reactive task for when pipeline is looking low. Strive for a steady flow; allocate time daily, weekly or monthly as needed to keep them coming in. If you know you’ve got peaks coming due to marketing activity, consider holding some back until they can be dealt with properly.
  • Track your leads.Whether you’re utilising a sophisticated CRM or sticking to a simple spreadsheet, keep a record of where your leads are up to. Failure to track appears unprofessional and may not only cost you that lead in question, but prove damaging to your brand.
  • Prioritise. Is the lead time sensitive? Are they engaging with your competitors? Do they have a request for proposal imminent? Consider which ‘hot’ leads need pushing to the top of the list – and which ‘cold’ leads require a slower nurture.

Remember: depending on your industry, product and the lead itself, it can take multiple touch points to get that lead sales-ready. Don’t write off viable leads too early: be patient.

Finally, ask yourself the question: what do all high growth businesses need? Well, probably everything. From office materials to recruitment services, if they’re growing quickly, their demands are too. They’re the most lucrative form of lead to go after.

So why not target this group specifically? Tools and resources such as The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 league table, which ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales over their latest three years, offer a valuable starting point. Compiled by Fast Track and published in The Sunday Times each December, the list is a ready-made lead generation framework to get you started.


Authored and contributed by: Gilly Thomson, ISM Leader.