Finding LEADS: Whose Job Is It?

Sept. 1, 2006
According to a recent Gallup poll, one out of five senior salespeople of Fortune 1,000 companies indicated they were “not at all satisfied” with the sales leads they received.

According to a recent Gallup poll, one out of five senior salespeople of Fortune 1,000 companies indicated they were “not at all satisfied” with the sales leads they received. I don’t think it takes senior salespeople or even hotshot companies to realize that most reps are dissatisfied with their lead status.

Why are leads so scarce? Whose job is it to generate leads? Who in marketing can we blame? What benefits are being realized from spending big bucks on advertising and promotional strategies?

The Random House Dictionary defines selling as “the ability or adeptness in creating interest in a product, service, method, or idea.” In other words, selling is creating interest. Lead generation is finding people most likely to want or need your offering. Therefore, it is the salespeople’s job to find people to interest in their product, service, method, or idea. So, if you are hired as a salesperson, generating leads is YOUR job - not the marketing department’s!

Think about it this way. Nobody knows potential buyers and your market the way you do. You not only have the most to gain, but you are in the best position to find the most qualified leads the easiest!

One of the biggest differences I see among top sales producers is their ability to generate qualified leads on a consistent basis. Average salespeople fail to identify their best prospects. In fact, according to Cahners Publishing Company, only one in 10 leads receives personal follow-up. What’s worse, 76 percent of those who inquire about a product or service intend to buy. WOW! That’s a lot of missed commission opportunities!

Let’s explore a few prospecting techniques and ways to improve your prospecting skills.


Every rep knows referrals are a lead-generation powerhouse. But how many maximize this prospecting method to its fullest advantage? Probably the biggest reason reps fail to get more referrals is that they are unwilling to ask. If “you gotta play to win” the lottery, you gotta ask to win referrals.

The best time to ask for the names of others who might benefit by your offering is immediately after a buying decision is made. Customers are at a peak state of enthusiasm for you and your product. Ask and most customers are happy to oblige.

It is sometimes difficult to know when to ask for referrals during a routine sales call or follow-up. The best solution is to create “referral moments.” Set up opportunities to be of service, and then when customers express their appreciation, ask for a referral. You can create “referral moments” by solving customer problems in times of trouble or helping to prevent them. Anything you can do to go the extra mile warrants a “referral moment.”

Telephone contact

With an industry average of $280 for a live sales call compared to $12 for a telephone contact, the advantages of using this prospecting method are obvious. Unfortunately, telephone solicitors have abused this sales method to the point that customers and reps alike tend to shy away from its use. But there are professional ways of using the telephone for lead generation.

When using the telephone for lead generation, remember there is magic in momentum. Block out chunks of time to sell. This will help you accomplish more with less effort. Select times that are best for reaching your customers. For example, many offices are not as busy early in the morning and late in the afternoon. So they will be more receptive to your call during those times. Be sure to prepare a positioning statement that sparks their interest and professionalism as part of your opening statement. Focus on what problems this account may have and how your product can help. Remember to ask if your call is convenient; this will demonstrate your respect for their time and patient schedule.

Another effective telephone technique is to call when the office is closed. Most offices have an answering service or voice mail. Leave a compelling message about your offer, then promise to follow up with a visit. This works well when you are going to be in the area or working a sales route.

Direct mail

Typical direct mail marketing efforts usually generate a 3 to 5 percent return response. As a result, you can spend a lot of time and money at the post office with very little return. Direct mail is probably best handled from the home office and your marketing department; however, there are some ways you can get this prospecting method to pay off in your territory.

Mailing postcards is an inexpensive way to set up a sales call. Identify a particular city or part of your territory that you will be working about two to three weeks in advance. Mail postcards to the zip codes surrounding your target territory. A personal modification on this technique is to send a handwritten note. Follow up with a phone call before your visit to schedule a meeting time. This technique will not only warm up your cold call, but it will also dramatically increase the actual prospect meetings and appointments you will have.

Small-group seminars

One of the biggest advantages of selling to dental professionals is that they want to be educated into the sale. Your target prospects appreciate learning new methods and techniques to provide better patient care. By conducting small in-office or multiple-office workshops, you will not only be seen as a product expert, but you will also create an opportunity for a group sales event! Years ago, I was a part of an implant company that used study clubs to establish credibility for procedures using our products. Today, implant products are a multimillion dollar therapy solution for patients throughout the world. You may want to start small with single- or multiple-office sessions. Once your reputation and confidence grow, approach study clubs and local dental societies with an educational program. Be sure to keep your presentation professional and focused on accurate clinical data, not marketing hype. Focus on clinical solutions, and the product sales will follow.

Top salespeople sell more. They sell more because they create more prospects to sell to. Take on the responsibility of generating leads in your market. The results will show up in your prospects and your pocket!

Track your prospecting efforts for better results with a Lead Planning Map. Send your request for a FREE map to [email protected].

Anita Sirianni, The Professional Sales Coach, can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (480) 323-6909.