The Top 12 Ways to Generate Sales Leads

Brad Huisken Keeping leads in your pipeline is the only way to ensure that you will continue to grow your business. Leads don’t happen automatically; you must create them. Here are the top dozen ways to generate your leads.

1. Join a networking group. Local business networking or lead groups are plentiful. Choose a group that encourages one-on-one exchanges where you can develop relationships over time. Don’t expect to do business directly with members of the group; instead, educate members about what you do so that they can refer people to you (and vice versa).

2. Join an association. Local chambers of commerce, professional associations and other groups offer opportunities to network as well. Again, relationships that take time to develop may not necessarily translate into immediate leads but can contribute to lead generation down the road.

Join an association’s committee, volunteer to be a speaker or help organize an event to create a close working relationship with other members.

3. Make cold calls.You can approach prospective customers by telephone or, if you’re bold and the situation is appropriate, in person. Either way, you not only generate leads, but help to develop your sales techniques.

4. Develop strategic alliances.Depending on the type of business you’re in, you may mesh well with another type of business for the purpose of cross-referrals. For example, accountants may refer clients to bankers and vice versa. In some cases, referrals may proceed only in one direction; develop a number of alliances so that referrals come your way.

5. Generate referrals.Obtain the names of prospective customers from your existing customer base. Offer incentives, if necessary, to solicit referral information (e.g., cash back with each referral that becomes a customer). Also seek referrals through family, friends and other business associates.

Ask for referrals by those who may have no interest in your business. For example, if a prospect turns you down, salvage the experience by asking for a referral to someone who might have a need for your product or service.

6. Host seminars.Instead of speaking a dozen or more in one place. Offer information through a seminar – this is a valued service to people and showcases your expertise. Build attendance by inviting existing customers and having them bring new faces. Leave your commercial for the end of your presentation – keep it brief so as not to distract from the presentation you’ve jest completed. Ask orally or through a written handout whether attendees have an interest in hearing from you after the seminar so you can follow up effectively.

7. Be a guest speaker.Local business associations and charitable organizations are always looking to fill their event schedule with speakers. Offer to talk to members on a topic that can highlight your expertise. Speaking leads to visibility in your community.

8. Host a special event.Hold an after-hours wine-and-cheese party for your customers. Have them bring their friends (your new prospects).

9. Become a community volunteer.Join a local organization that has nothing to do with business – the volunteer ambulance corps, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or the PTA. Again, the aim is not only to support the local organization or cause but to become visible and develop relationships. This activity may not produce immediate sales leads, but you’ll be supporting an important cause and over time you will gain new relationships that will help your business.

10. Send direct mail.A mail campaign need not be a massive undertaking costing thousands of dollars. You can adopt a limited program in which you send out five or 10 pieces each week. The key in your program is to target your prospects and then follow up with a telephone call. By having a direct mail piece precede your call, you’ve warmed up a prospect – you can refer to the piece and ask the prospect if he or she’s had a chance to read it and has any questions.

11. Use trade shows. Trade shows provide a venue for obtaining a large number of leads in a short amount of time. Whether you have a booth or table at the show or ware a visitor, you can exchange business cards with others at the show.

Write key information on the back of each business card to help you remember something about each person.

12. Observe the three-foot rule. Whenever you are with three feet of someone, be prepared to give your 30-second commercial about who you are and what you do. Introduce yourself, state the name of your business and give a brief explanation of what your company can do for a customer.

Using the three-foot rule turns waiting time into productive time when you’re standing in line at the post office, bank or another location.

This article was developed with the help of Ben Blumberg of Salesworks LLC in White Plains, NY (

Copyright © 2004 by, Inc.

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