Over the last 10 years, inbound marketing has proven to be a great way to generate leads and acquire customers and help you hit your quota.
Inbound marketing is a holistic, data-driven approach that leverages content on your website to attract buyers researching your products and services online and then convert them to leads so that you can close more deals.
It mirrors the way people buy in today’s digital environment and works in both B2B and B2C situations.
But what if you don’t have a marketing department or your marketing team doesn’t practice inbound? What if you have to generate your own leads?
Many sales professionals don’t have the marketing support to rely on a steady flow of inbound leads, but still have to hit their quotas. Luckily, the inbound sales methodology provides many ways to fill that need. Here are a few ways you can start generating inbound leads on your own.
Inbound sales is a way to identify and connect with prospects that leverages the inbound mindset of building relationships way before someone is ready to buy.
Most successful salespeople already practice some version of solution selling. They know sales is about consulting around the prospect’s problems, not closing the deal. It’s about letting the prospect define the pace of the process and offering education and advice as a way to build confidence and trust that makes it easy and safe for a client to buy. Here are a few ways you can make it scalable and efficient on your own.
1) Get on social media and offer to help someone.
Most salespeople are on LinkedIn, but may not be using it effectively for generating top-of-the-funnel activity. It is a salesperson’s dream to be able to connect in a high-value, low-effort way to find interested prospects, and social media is a great way to do so.
A few quick recommendations to make sure your Linkedin Profile looks professional:
- Post a professional, relatively current picture that reflects your professional demeanor.
- Try to connect with as many people as you can. The more connections you have, the wider your reach will be. You don’t have to be best friends with the people you connect to. Tangential connections can be amongst the best for potential prospects.
- Post in the “Share an Update” section that you are currently looking to identify and help a specific type of prospect with a specific type of problem by a specific date. For example: We are looking to work with three new commercial landscaping companies by September 1, 2016 that are interested in building their business in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area.
- Get three recommendations from current clients demonstrating high-quality work that can vouch for your value, professionalism and effectiveness.
- Extra credit if you can broaden your professional brand to Facebook for Business, Twitter and Snapchat, although this does increase the amount of work involved.
2) Post a blog article on LinkedIn with an offer for a 15-minute consultation.
I speak on behalf of HubSpot 50 times a year, and often when I mention “blogging” to my audience, people’s eyes glaze over. They think of blogging as a structured and difficult way of writing a college essay — and writing is up there with public speaking on the list of things that people hate and fear.
But blogging is really just a conversation, and a blog topic can be as simple as answering the standard questions about your product that you do every day, such as “The Beginner’s Guide to [Common Business Challenge]” and “X Things You Need to Know About [Business Area].”
3) Ask your current clients for references.
In the course of my work helping digital agencies fill their sales funnel, I frequently ask my clients the last time they pinged their current clients, thanked them for their business, and asked for help in generating more business.
Everyone agrees that referrals are effective, but for some reason it’s hard to implement it effectively. You can follow the seven steps below to get started:
- Check with your account manager to make sure the customer is happy (and if they’re not, set up a call anyway to see how you can make things better).
- Ping the client with a phone and an email and ask for a 10-minute conversation.
- Thank the client for her business, explain that you value your relationship and you are always interested in making it more valuable to your client.
- Ask if there are any other contacts or companies she can think of that would be interested in the same level of service.
- Get the name, phone number, and email of the contact, and why your client thinks it is a good fit.
- Ask if they can tee you up with a quick introduction email.
- Extra credit: If you can, send them a handwritten note or small item like a T-shirt thanking them for the referral. Little touches go a long way.
4) Ping your brother-in-law (and other personal acquaintances).
Working your personal network is another sometimes-overlooked option that is fairly easy to get started with because you have built-in trust. There are certain people you’ll meet in a personal context that you wouldn’t think of as a lead generation machine but can be incredibly valuable.
In today’s busy world, you have yoga friends, work friends, neighbors, and more — but they exist in these separate buckets that don’t necessarily intersect. The key is remarkably simple — if you are at the point in your relationship where you can talk business, let potentially useful acquaintances know. Identify the type of company you are looking for (size, employee number, revenue amount, location, etc.) and send an email that they can forward to make the connection.
Of course, mixing the personal and professional like this needs to be effective and respectful — but it is a great way of broadening your reach.
5) Attend a networking event
Whoa — face-to-face interaction in 2016? This is the fun part for me (but can be really hard for others — check out my blog post on how to build rapport with people who hate networking).
Attending these events should be part of your routine, because they’re a great way to grow your reach and potentially drum up business.
Below are four basics that I remind people of before they dive into networking:
- It’s about mingling and being human and having fun. Don’t take things too seriously!
- Explaining your “always be helping” philosophy face-to-face is usually a pretty big differentiator.
- Bring business cards to hand to your new acquaintances.
- Offer to connect on LinkedIn from your phone while you are standing next to someone. I usually respectfully ask — would you like to connect on LinkedIn? If they say yes, I just hand them my phone and say, “Can you find yourself and connect?”, which makes things a lot easier.
How do you generate your own leads today? Let us know in the comments below.