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5 Common Mistakes in Generating Leads

Lead generation starts with self-awareness: knowing what your company does best, and knowing which companies are the right fit for what you sell. There’s much to consider as you evaluate your sweet spot and determine which companies and players to pitch to. Make sure you do your homework and know your target organization’s structure and inner workings. Find the right internal partners with which to align yourself. Each new organization might call for a different pitching method. Once you figure that out, you can focus on building relationships, building trust, and eventually closing sales.

One of the most common challenges for B2B sales organizations is a lack of generating leads that are highly qualified. If you feel like the sales leads on your call list just aren’t a good fit, or if you keep hearing “no” from the prospects that you contact, it might be time to re-evaluate your lead generation. Often, a lack of qualified sales leads is a sign that your company needs to re-target your marketing efforts and give some thought to your company’s value proposition.

Here are five common mistakes you might be making in your lead generation:

1. Targeting the wrong size of company.
Your services are probably best suited to companies of a certain size, and you need to figure out what size that is. Many B2B companies want to sell to big companies, with the idea that big companies have bigger budgets and will be more profitable. However, your product or solution might not be a good fit for large companies. For example, if you offer marketing and graphic design services, larger companies most likely have their own in-house design and marketing departments. Instead of targeting big companies, you might have more success selling to small to mid-size businesses. We had a client who sold sales channel incentive programs and wanted to start by targeting the largest manufacturers. He learned that these big companies either covered these needs in-house or already had vendors they trusted. Instead, we recommended that this client focus on the mid-tier companies that didn’t already have formal structures in place and could benefit from his services. If you want to sell to large companies, you need to have a specialty or superior solutions that will set you apart. Big companies aren’t going to switch to a new vendor over minor differences.

2. Targeting the wrong vertical.
Many B2B companies have the misguided idea that they can serve any industry and any business circumstances. But the truth is, your solution is not going to be relevant in every industry. Your customers want to buy specialized solutions that are specifically relevant to their business needs – and there might be industries that are underserved by companies like yours. You need to consider the industries where your services will best fit the needs and soothe the pain points. Again, if you’re a graphic designer, think about those industries that rely on printed media. Many graphic designers might want to work in web development or technology – but these companies probably already get lots of pitches from design firms. Instead, try going down a less-traveled route and pitch your services to manufacturing companies that are constantly creating new products that require labels, packaging, accompanying displays and collateral. Pitch your services to educational institutions promoting their services with magazines, newsletters, postcards, brochures, or hospitals or insurance companies that need to create well-designed materials to educate patients and consumers. Think about who needs you most – it might not be the “usual suspects.”

3. Pitching to perceived competition.
It’s possible that when you are pitching your services to a prospective company, the person on the other end of the phone perceives you as a threat. For example, if you sell managed IT services, don’t call a prospective company’s Director of IT, since he might see your solution as a threat to his job. Instead, look for a different route into that organization. We have a client that works with manufacturers to save money on logistics. When doing lead generation for this logistics client, we would never contact the VP/Director Logistics, because they would likely see this as a criticism of their work – why would they want to bring in our client if it makes it look like they’re not doing their jobs? Instead in a case like this, we start doing lead generation at the CFO level, or contact someone in the finance department, and see if there is interest in reducing logistics expenses – at that point, we determine if they want to include their logistics person in the meeting. It’s possible to make these conversations “collaborative” instead of adversarial – you can get people on your side even if they might otherwise feel threatened by you. But it takes time and requires effort to build trust and establish relationships.

4. Pitching to the wrong person.
Getting introduced to the right people at your prospect’s organization requires careful planning and strategy. Many B2B sales people assume that they have to talk to the prospect’s CFO, since the decision of whether to buy their solution is “a financial decision.” However, sometimes the VPs and CFOs are not the right targets – people at the top often are too far removed from the immediate day-to-day work that is affected by your solution. Instead, try to reach a senior manager within the company who is the “process owner” that is affected by your solution. When what you have to offer supplements the work of a department, that department head is likely a better decision-maker that you should try to reach first (instead of the CFO), because the department head is more likely to see the benefits of your solution, feel aligned with your goals, and help you sell the concept to other stakeholders within the organization. For example, if you’re selling HR benefits, call on the VP of HR, as your benefits package might fit his own immediate needs, and he will want to bring that idea to the CFO for approval.

5. Pitching beyond your organization’s abilities.
When you pitch to a company, you need to be sure you can make good on your promises. Offer successful testimonials and case studies from similar-sized companies in the same vertical. We all want to be working with large, well-known companies, but if your experience is with smaller companies, nurture your niche and gradually increase the size of the companies you serve. You can’t jump straight from servicing mid-tier organizations to selling to Google and Walmart. Build slowly. Be patient. Over time, you can start to demonstrate a track record of working with larger companies, and prove that you can handle the unique challenges of a company that size.

Lead generation starts with self-awareness: knowing what your company does best, and knowing which companies are the right fit for what you sell. There’s much to consider as you evaluate your sweet spot and determine which companies and players to pitch to. Make sure you do your homework and know your target organization’s structure and inner workings. Find the right internal partners with which to align yourself. Each new organization might call for a different pitching method. Once you figure that out, you can focus on building relationships, building trust, and eventually closing sales.

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