In previous articles in this series, we’ve discussed the first steps of building your Pipelinerpreneur business. Now we come to the point of obtaining leads, because you can build a great potential business, but without leads, you have nothing. Leads become opportunities, opportunities turn into sales, sales turn into real customers, customers bring in referrals, and referrals turn into future leads.
That last part is especially important, for referrals are the highest quality leads available. When you have become a great salesperson and you really service customers well, people recommend you. It’s similar to when you have a painter who has done an incredible job with your house, and someone says they need a painter and you immediately recommend yours. The same is true for a plumber, a carpenter or an electrician.
Such a person tends to keep their customers, even if they are working for someone else and change companies. I previously brought up the example of a private banker—they live only by recommendations, and when they change banks, they generally take their customers with them. This is true of other professions as well—for example, I followed my lawyer when he changed firms, because he’s done such an excellent job for me. I couldn’t care less what firm he works for.
Once you have your company up and running as a Pipelinerpreneur, you’ll find that how you treat your first customer is extremely important. They are your first multiplier who will bring you other business, which leads to your second customer, and so on.
But it takes far too long to build up a profitable business simply relying on word of mouth. You’re going to need multiple lead sources.
Your lead source, of course, depends on the particular field you are in. In this article, we’re dealing only with Pipelinerpreneurs, although you may be able to apply this information to other businesses as well. The basic mechanism is the same for all enterprises, but sources widely differ.
Who Is Your Buyer?
When you start thinking about lead sources, you must have a clear picture of who your buyer is. Often when people start businesses, they try to sell to everyone. But this is a waste of energy. It’s like trying to shoot ducks by randomly firing shots into the air—after firing 10,000 shots you might hit one duck.
In our case, we’re selling a CRM, which is a tool for sales. Additionally, Pipeliner is tailored for B2B sales, which eliminates a lot of companies, but opens up many others. The ideal prospect company would have a sales team of 10 or more, and an established sales process.
Next, you should establish which industries you should target, for we don’t solve problems for all B2B companies. Some are highly specialized or even transactional, and we’re not. Some of the industries we’ve done well in include manufacturing, insurance, finance and pharmaceutical companies (contact us for a fuller list). This will narrow down your field further.
After that, you need to establish the role within a B2B company that should be your contact. Since it’s a sales tool, should you try and contact all the salespeople and talk about how great Pipeliner is when they use it? No, we’ve already learned that this doesn’t work—you have to go to the top. That means you don’t waste your time with technical personnel, marketing, or salespeople. You go to the sales manager, VP or EVP sales, or someone else at the C-level of a company concerned with sales or sales functions.
- LinkedIn. Now that you’ve narrowed down your ideal buyer, you need to begin assimilating a lead database. The biggest overall source, for us, is LinkedIn, which will allow you to create a broad database. There are also additional tools you can use with LinkedIn, such as Dux-Soup.
- Other databases. If you look around your own area, you’ll find agencies that sell databases of companies. You can also register yourself with bigger databases online, and download from them.
- Ambassadors. One of my favorite lead sources, for Pipelinerpreneurs, is the creation of their own ambassadors. You can set up a deal with one or more people to promote your product, and pay them a percentage for leads that pan out into opportunities. If you only find 5 such people, that means you have 5 times the outreach you yourself would have.
Note that you can partner with someone, or more than one person, and even split profits with each of them 50/50. In the beginning, if you’re not overly greedy, there’s always a way to reach your goal.
Don’t Be Lazy
The only real way you won’t reach your goal is to be lazy. You won’t obtain leads by sitting there waiting for them. It takes work. The Bible points us to the ants who, having no master to push them, are always busy. That same source (the book of Proverbs) tells us that someone being constantly lazy will, in the end, be overtaken by poverty. It’s certainly true.
Some people sit and wait for leads, and do nothing but complain the whole time. I recently heard of someone who bought a moving company, trucks and all, then spent all day sitting in their office playing computer solitaire waiting for the phone to ring. Needless to say, that business failed miserably. It was sad, too, because the person he bought it from had been fantastically successful with it.
In a similar way, too many people wait to respond, instead of acting. Sales is all about being proactive. Years ago I created the term salespreneur, which literally means, “entrepreneur within the enterprise.” That’s what a salesperson is (“Pipelinerpreneur” simply means a salespreneur selling Pipeliner). A real entrepreneur will never sit there waiting.
When you put the work into it, you can’t help but convert at least some of the leads that come in—it’s simple mathematics. When you become better at selling, or if you hire better salespeople, you’ll have a higher conversion rate and bring more business in.
You never know what is really happening with prospects. It could be that you have someone who is interested, but then something like covid-19 comes along and his business slows way down because they’re in the event or restaurant industry. The only way you’ll be safe is to always have an excess of potential opportunities—leads—in your pipeline. Building that pipeline is the most important part of your business.
You do have to make sure that, while your pipeline is full, they’re leads that could actually become opportunities. It is a numbers game, but it’s a numbers game with the right leads. Someone might say, “Yes, I’m interested,” but when you research them a little bit, you find that it’s someone who would never buy anything. Putting leads like that in your database is betraying yourself.
You must be very honest with yourself about what you have in your pipeline. As hard as it is, you must clean it out constantly. You don’t want to end up like the guy at the moving company playing solitaire waiting for the phone to ring.
We will discuss this further as we go.