How to Fill Your Sales Funnel With Fresh, Quality Leads
Business begins and ends on the back of a company’s sales force. When sales does its job well, the organization will prosper for years to come.
In any size security organization all employees have a function, from the admins who do the day-to-day office work to one or more service technicians that keep things working in the field.
Of all of them, the sales team is the most important part of your security and life-safety organization. And yet every department in your company is important.
Sales is what makes a company run. It’s where everything begins or ends. It’s where the rubber meets the road. Without sales, there will be no installations, no service calls, no profits, no cash flow, and consequently no growth.
Perhaps it’s wrong to say that sales is the most difficult job in a company, but when the call goes out for more salespeople, we don’t see techs and admins volunteering to switch jobs.
Anyone who has performed sales work knows all too well how difficult it can be to find quality, fresh, potentially viable leads. This is one of several reasons why the owner(s) of a small alarm company eventually aspire to hire it done. Because it can be so time intensive, and because the owner of a small firm can’t do everything, delegating sales to others makes perfect sense.
And so, business begins and ends on the back of a company’s sales force. When sales does its job well, the organization will prosper for years to come. Whereas if sales are not forthcoming in a timely manner, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the result will be economic failure.
In my April SSI blog post, we discussed commission sales, which included ways to find and keep quality salespeople. In this month’s column, we’re going to talk about the many ways we can fill our sales funnel with fresh sales leads.
Ways to Farm Sales Leads
How many basic, fundamental ways are there to farm qualifiable leads? Let me count the ways:
- People we know
- People we don’t know
Only two, you ask? Although this may appear a bit simplistic, in the finale it represents the two places where all our leads come from. Warm leads come from people we know and those who know of us because of word of mouth. Cold leads, on the other hand, come from hard, sometimes tedious work involving people who we don’t know.
“When the office leads keep me busy, that’s all I do. Then, whenever it slows down, I go to local police stations where I look at recent break-ins and other crime reports,” says Tim Baechel, a 30-year sales veteran in the security and life-safety industry. “I look them up on a map and either do mailers, phone calls or a sales call. There was a day when I also knocked on the doors to all the homes within a two-block radius.”
It goes without saying that all of us who have worked in sales for any length of time would rather drink warm water than knock on the doors of people we don’t know. But in reality, successful salespeople end up knocking on their share of unfamiliar doors anyway. I guess the bottom line is this: When there’s nothing happening and our sales funnel is nearly empty, it’s time to do something to change it.
Cold calling works, so if that’s all that’s left, then we’d better start knocking.
Developing Warm and Cold Sales Leads
Where it comes to developing cold leads, Baechel says that he speaks with realtors and insurance companies — people that, for the most part, have a nearly inexhaustible source of fresh contacts. In addition, he makes it a point to ask new clients for leads. The result is a comfortable path with warm leads to follow up on.
Where it comes to farming cold leads, “I rarely knock more than once, but I always leave a flyer in the door with my name and number on it. If I feel there’s a good potential sale at a certain address, I follow up with a phone call, which I do quite often,” says Baechel.
The truth is cold connections can become some of the best accounts we’ll ever have. It was certainly that way for me. Case in point:
Many years ago my business included security, life safety, electronics bench repair, and antenna tower installation and service. I had stuck my head in the door of a local “radio telephone” company at least a dozen times, leaving a business card and a brochure behind each time. One day the receptionist told me that her boss was on the phone, so she took my business card and I left. Just as I reached my truck, she asked me to return to the office, that Mr. Rush could see me now.
When I entered his office, he rose to shake my hand. I will never forget what he said: “Anyone that pokes his head in my door as many times as you have has got my attention.” His company, Stark Radio Telephone of Canton, Ohio, became one of my better accounts, and I made money working for them for many years.
Every cold prospect we visit gives us an opportunity to hone our skills by examining our approach, including the pitch we give. This enables us to learn from our mistakes. It also gives us a chance to correct bad habits we’ve developed along the way.
Russ Ackerman, sales trainer and book author, has a simple but profound saying that embodies the truth behind proactive selling. He says, “I sell a lot of people that I’ve never seen, because I see a lot of people I never sell.”
What Ackerman means (if it’s not obvious) is we’ll never sell everyone. My own sales philosophy is, “The more we pitch, the more we sell.” You could call it the shotgun method, only you need to target your sales effort each day.
Ackerman says it this way, nothing happens by accident. The bottom line is, nothing happens unless you and I make it happen. In fact, effective salespeople plan their sales strategy each and every day, then they go out and make it happen.
“So, let’s be proactive. Let’s turn those computers off and get out on the street, go to work and make some sales today,” says Ackerman.
A New Day, a New Age
There’s no doubt that hitting the streets and knocking on doors is one tried-and-true way to make new friends and sign a contract here and there. However, there are additional options open to us that can help us gain quality leads without wearing the heels off our shoes and freezing our toes off.
One of the most important aspects of farming for leads is that of personal relationships. Knowing the right people in the right positions within key organizations and associations is often integral to finding good leads. Here are some of the options that you might want to explore in your own locale, state or region:
- Builders Exchange (BX)
- social organizations (i.e. a Rotary Club)
- new building permit listing services (city and/or county)
- local construction associations and organizations (ex., jobstars.com)
- local electrical distributors
- local/regional Realtor associations and organizations
The BX, for instance, offers both an online portal as well as a brick-and-mortar plansroom through which you can search for new construction and retrofit projects. In the plansroom you can search for project using an onsite computer. You can access the entire specification as well as a list of electrical contractors (ECs) and general contractors (GCs) that intend to bid on each specific project.
With this bid list you can send a letter of intent, a quote for the project itself, as well as sending information on your company with regards to future work, thus building new relationships. You also can obtain a copy of the blueprints to take to your office where you can do the take-off at your own pace.
There also are building permit listing services that provide their subscribers with an up-to-date list of all new building permits with the building department. There also are local construction-related associations where you can develop long-lasting relationships with GCs, which can and often do turn into quality leads over time.
Electrical distributors also are a viable source of leads simply because these folks know that without you, installation and service, they won’t sell home automation, security, video, etc., to ECs, GCs, consumers and others. Realtors and insurance agents also are a major source of fresh, quality leads because their clients require protection against arsonists, burglars, vandals, and others.
In my next SSI blog post, we’ll discuss sources of job leads using a variety of sources on the Internet as well as ways to make your services known so you can attract attention through search engine optimization (SEO).
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