The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

How Do You Generate Leads?

Over the past month or so I’ve blogged a couple of times about the fact that Alagad is hiring a Senior Sales person. Why? Well, obviously, we need to generate business to keep our highly skilled developers busy. This has been a challenge for us over the last year.

What tends to happen is that we’ll spend time generating leads. We do this when we’re experiencing some down time. We primarily use on the Alagad.com blog for this. We write about topics which we think you, the technical-blog-reading public, will be interested in. We hope that you either come to us for help or refer your overflow work to us. This works for us and we get good business from it.

Also, we are only in full lead-generation swing when we’re not working. Or, in other words, when we’re busy we’re not generating leads. And, without leads, it’s hard to stay busy. As logically follows, we have fluctuations in our business with periods of complete utilization and periods with less than I would like. We’re in the latter now.  (Can we interest you in some consulting?)

My question to you is: How do you generate leads for your business? Do you mine some sort of database? Do you formally use networking somehow? Do you rely on sales people? How do the sales people come up with leads to talk to?

In general, I know there’s enough work out there to keep us busy all the time.  It it’s a matter of keeping the pipeline full and we’re not yet experts at that.  Do you have any advice to share? 

Comments on: "How Do You Generate Leads?" (11)

  1. Doug, I am not primarily a sales person but I found all of my clients through networking. If I was trying to bring in enough business to keep guys besides just me working, I think I would start calling on potential customers, as well. For example find ColdFusion-based websites for businesses headquartered in my area, make sure I am doing my part presenting myself as a knowledgeable “trusted advisor” in the ColdFusion space via blogs, articles, CFUG presentations, conferences, etc.. I think this is actually a pretty challenging job. I am lucky enough to count some great salespeople among my friends (although not in the CF space), and that is how they do it – pounding the pavement, growing their network and establishing relationships that can one day lead to a win/win.

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  2. Addendum to what I said before – I am not actively looking for more clients as between my fulltime gig that I started in October and the clients I already have, I can’t really accommodate anything else and still have personal time.

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  3. Eric Hoffman said:

    One thing I learned years ago was to work the line while I was still busy working, in order to prevent that cycle of steak to ramen noodles.

    Problem is, that is pretty hard to deliver. We too rely on networking and a series of well placed maintenance contracts to cushion downtimes. Because we know the server and security end of things, we keep some value added services on the hook to make sure we are stable enough as it were.

    Other thing that helps a lot is partnerships with design firms, networking/fixit shops who have referrals for us, and us to them. We use Chamber of Commerce in town as well for geographically based leads.

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  4. Doug Hughes said:

    @Eric Knipp – You really hit the nail on the head there. We strive to be the “trusted adviser”. And networking is as good as we get. And yea, all the blogging and writing and presenting we do is to help foster that image. It works, but, seeing as this is my primary job now, I’m not convinced I’m as good at it as I can be yet. That’s why I figured I’d ask for some advice. In the end, it sounds like we’re in a similar boat, but that mine is a bit bigger and thusly challenging to float.

    @Eric Hoffman – I hear you loud and clear. Sometimes the wait for larger clients and projects can be very difficult. Clearly, the more money thats involved, the longer the process takes. This is one of the lessons I’ve learned this year.

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  5. Lori Rapier said:

    I agree 100% that networking is the most powerful and cost-effective lead generation tool. I believe by identifying and understanding your best customers and past achievements, you can duplicate your selling efforts by networking across complimentary products and services that already have an existing relationship with your best prospects. Their relationship promotes you as an expert in your field, and your credibility is already established through the referral; thereby, shortening the sales cycle process. You then are recommended to your prospect as the preferred solution and can quickly begin discussions on their individual applications. This is a Win/Win for all concerned and strengthens both parties’ relationship with the customer.

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  6. Jeffry Houser said:

    Do you work with business owners or do you work with IT?

    DotComIt traditionally works with small businesses (often the owner). I’m a huge fan of networking as a way to bring in business, but I won’t reach my market no matter how much I blog, write, speak, or podcast on tech issues. They don’t care that I converted encryption routines from ActionScript 2 to ActionScript 3; and they won’t care that I wrote an RSS Aggregator in ColdFusion, etc.. etc..

    I find that networking in local business groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, is moderately effective. But, most of my work comes via word of mouth. It takes time generate that sort of ‘buzz’.

    What can you do to get referrals from current / past clients today?
    You may want to look up a local BNI chapter too. It’s like a very structured Chamber of Commerce.

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  7. Kenan Rappuchi said:

    Doug,

    Great piece, and close to the heart of all business leaders in the B2B complex sale space.

    As a matter of fact, I do have some very specific advice for you to build an ongoing pipeline of new revenue opportunities.

    I have seen your targeted employment ads looking for a Sr. Salesperson with complex, consultative sales experience. The ad is well written, but do you really want to hire a telecommuting-based sales gun or do you want/need to build ongoing pipeline? They are not one and the same, contrary to popular notion.

    In the complex sale environment, the only way to generate new prospects is through high-volume, high-capability (read, very skilled & experienced) and sustained direct prospecting. Networking is great and should always be a fundamental component of your sales function, but nothing beats talented, disciplined, driven, results-oriented and properly-compensated front-end sales experts in a complex solution, B2B sales environment.

    These are the guys that focus solely on building pipeline, and not managing accounts, processes and proposals. They bring deeply qualified, motivated and prepared customer prospects to your table (basically ‘tee them up’) and then you and your account management team present, propose and CLOSE!!

    Visit http://www.sellerant.com for some information about a possible resource for you. These guys are good, they’ve done some work for 2 different web development firms in Austin and know your space.

    Good luck, and I trust you will be smart with your choice!

    Cheers,

    Kenan Rappuchi

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  8. Doug Hughes said:

    @Kenan – You’re right, we ARE looking for someone to do direct prospecting. It may sound like the telecommuting nature of the job is a negative, but you should be aware that all of Alagad’s employees work from home. We have no offices so we have much lower overhead than our competition (ignoring our payroll).

    In the end, I want this person to fill the pipeline and then take a directorship role over all sales.

    I really want a person on staff and not another firm which is focused on their growth, not ours. That said, I will look at the company you referred.

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  9. Kenan Rappuchi said:

    Doug, Thx for your reply, just wanted to offer my insight into a topic that is extremely critical to, yet most often completely misunderstood by, small business leaders in growth mode.

    Prospecting is prospecting, period. To do it well, and to achieve its objective, you must have singular focus. In other words, all you do is prospect.

    Most ‘staff’ sales people in boutique, technical solutions companies like yours are asked to do more, by design and by necessity. You might want to ask yourself what is more important at this current stage of your business: building a strong pipeline or having a captive staffperson?

    I’m not saying you can’t have both, but that is probably more of a wish list than a reality at this point in your company’s history.

    If you are really committed to building your sales pipeline, you may want to consider a low-risk, performance-based prospecting function as part of a phased overall sales force solution approach. Just a thought.

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  10. peter caputa said:

    I agree entirely with Kenan. I couldn’t imagine having a business and not having atleast one person dedicated to sales. In fact, you should have as many as you can recruit. It’s your responsibility as the business owner to keep your employees busy. That involves building a pipeline of suspects, leads, prospects and opportunities.

    Also, If your blog generates leads for you, you should figure out how to institutionalize that. I’ve done that:
    http://www.pc4media.net/how-to-generate-leads
    Your salesperson is going to have to prospect in some way, whether it’s networking, cold calling, online networking, blogging, buying leads, or generating referrals from clients, etc. Somehow, he or she needs build a steady stream of opportunities.

    Also, I’d recommend reading The RainMaker Maker. http://therainmakermaker.com

    And if you’re going to hire salespeople, you need to read this white paper:
    http://www.omghub.com/SalesSelectionSalesRecruiting/Whitepaper/tabid/24463/Default.aspx
    Here’s the authors blog: http://www.omghub.com

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  11. My company’s blog has interesting post to answer your question on of “How do you generate leads for your business?”

    check out:
    Local Search for SMBs: Its About Being There and Being Found (Less About SEO)

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