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How We Generate Early Stage Leads in a Complex Sales Process

How We Generate Early Stage Leads in a Complex Sales Process

Lead Generation for Professional Services


In my last missive we ran through a high level Big List of Complex Lead Generation Tactics. Someone gave me the white board and the scribbles were flying. Heads nodded and understanding floated down. “I get it,” someone offered.

“Now what?”

Start with the big list of tactics and shore up the activities you’re currently engaged in. 

Outbound: Referrals/Networking/Voluntering


Your people have done a nice job of getting word of mouth leads in the past. That happens when your team is good at what they do. They’ve been diligent about asking their clients to recommend your firm when they have a chance; they’ve steadily networked at formal and informal events, dropping cards, brochures and lunching where appropriate; and your team is active in the community and on boards, present where the have a passion and can build trust with other like minded people.

Sounds great, right? “Yes,” they say. “We do that so we need to do some of those other tactics now. Which one do we start with?”

Hold on. Before we jump into more tactics, let’s get a few questions answered about these activities that are happening right now. Today.

The first question is, how are we tracking current activity? It’s happening, but what is actually happening out there?

Offering some structure to your existing activity, having a process to fall back on and setting some targets are the easiest steps to take before embarking on a big bad lead generation campaign. Tweaking your existing activity is the easiest way to start. If your professional service firm opened new business in the last year, then you’ve engaged in complex lead generation. Let’s get some structure around that, put some markers in place and identify where we want to be in the next year.

Let’s start with this, do we have a place to capture information on most, if not all, of the people that we’re talking to? If our people are asking existing clients for referrals, is that recorded somewhere? Have they asked everyone? Is there a particular point in the project where referrals are brought up? If we randomly surveyed clients, would they say that they understand how your business works and that referrals are the lifeblood of your business?

In most cases, this collection of Outbound tactics (referrals, networking, volunteering) is done in an ad hoc manner. “We must be asking for referrals because we’ve been getting some referrals,” I hear. It’s that causation and correlation thing, isn’t it? Many firms I work with are adept at generating referrals through sheer force of existence. The old “is it better to be good or be there?” question is answered on a daily basis with “it’s better to be there.” What I’m advocating is structuring this part of your business. Going from saying “our partners must ask for referrals, network and volunteer in the community” to a deeper “and this is what that looks, sounds, smells and tastes like.” Ger your preferred process outlined and data collection points noted.

That’s what we’re after. Going from getting results on accident to getting results on purpose.

It does not have to be a heavy handed, data intensive process, but it does need to generate the information we need in order to measure and manage the process. That’s the only way we get to those “leading indicators” that predict growth.

That’s the goal: Predictable Growth.

“Greg,” you say, “I get it but what do we do right now?”

Start with observation. Ask questions, “What new business came in this last week? Where did it come from? What did we have to do to get it? Could that be repeated? Did we have any foresight as to when it would be coming in? How long did it take to close? Where is the ‘work in progress’ recorded?” Ask about the losers too.”Did we lose any business opportunities last week? Where did that come from? What were the steps we took to get to where we lost it? Did we think it was going to happen? Could we put a measurement on how sure we were? Where was this loser recorded?”

You generate early stage leads in your complex lead generation process every day. It’s happening right now. The first step we need to take before working on new lead generation is to capture snapshots of today’s activity. It’s not quite as sexy as introducing a shiny new tactic to your leadership committee, but it’s the best place to see immediate improvement.

Next, we’ll actually walk through some tactics in our fictional conversation.

Good stuff.


About the Author: Greg Chambers is Chambers Pivot Industries. Get more business development ideas from Greg on Twitter.