Does your sales team rely on marketing to deliver leads? Are there enough to go around? You don’t want them twiddling their thumbs if the leads run dry. Here are 5 lead generation techniques sales can use themselves – no excuses.  

1. Start social selling

You've built your sales team, and they're spending time on social media, but are they effective at social selling? It’s amazing how many people do it badly, or waste time on the wrong people and the wrong activities.

Nobody knows your customers better than you, so think about where they are likely to be on social and task your sales team with seeking them out. 

By finding out what your customers are talking about, listening closely and striking up a conversation, you’ll raise awareness of your brand – and if the conversation is skilful enough, get yourself a foot in the door. For example, if a prospect has posted a question on LinkedIn, can your team provide a relevant answer?

You may need to educate your team on using the right language and phrasing on social – they can’t go for the hard-sell approach. It can often take a number of interactions with a prospect on social before it’s acceptable to mention that you might be able to help them – any earlier and you won’t have had time to establish trust. 

Build rapport with contacts first by engaging in genuine, helpful conversations – then they will know where you are when the time is right. 

Check out the following two articles for detailed guides into making the most of the two most popular social networks for lead generation and sales prospecting: 

Ten Tips For Using Linkedin For Sales Prospecting

7 Ways To Use Twitter for Sales Prospecting

2. Master the outbound email

Marketing may own the mailing list but it’s quite straightforward for sales to create their own list of ideal prospects. Who would you most like to work with? Who is spending money in your sector already? Do some research and compile a list of their email addresses.

Even after you've nailed your company's sales pitch, cold emails are tough to get right. Setting the right tone and content for your first approach is a vital lead generation technique to master.

Don't underestimate the importance of this skill: like cold calls, cold emails naturally tend to have a low response rate, with figures well below 10% not uncommon.  But email does have an advantage over telephone marketing in that you can target prospects more precisely – if you apply the results of your research and your knowledge of the market. 

Do this well, get the content of your email right – and your hard work will pay off.

Social selling comes into play here too. Creating engaging LinkedIn InMails is effectively another form of outbound email, all that has changed is the platform. 

3. Network at events

Every industry has its key events during the year: conferences, trade shows, awards, dinners and exhibitions. Networking at these is a great lead generation technique for salespeople, who should be experienced already at building quick rapport face to face.

Even if you don’t close any business directly following the event, at the very least you'll know your market better, and come away with some business cards to add to your list of prospects to email.

Talking to event delegates could also give you insights into how people think about your company or your rivals, which can help you tailor your pitches. 

Find out what’s happening around you locally that might be worth your time, and start to research likely attendees. Many events are free, and paid-for shows are usually reasonably priced for individuals.

To make sure you're getting the most out of these events, you'll find some useful tips in this article: Five top tips for successful small business networking

4. Remember: Personal relationships are valuable 

Don't forget to speak to lapsed clients, former prospects and people you know in the industry who you might not consider leads. Having a catch-up and asking about what’s going on with them can open up opportunities you hadn’t thought of, and new connections they can make on your behalf.

You can make this kind of sales lead generation more manageable and more governable by setting call rotas for contacts, so you never leave it more than a quarter between catch-ups. If you can, get your team to use automatic reminders.

Keep an eye on LinkedIn contacts too. When people you've worked with for some time move on to pastures new, talk to them to see how things are set up at their new company.

Word-of-mouth recommendation goes a long way. It’s always worth asking your customers to recommend you to others if they’re happy with your product or service. If you are recommended, reward your ‘ambassadors’ to keep them on side.

5. Be persistent 

It's highly unlikely you’ll get a yes in your first meeting, but make sure you follow up appropriately. Be reliable – if you say you will send something (such as a brochure or a reply to a question) do so quickly. 

Keep asking questions so you understand your prospect's needs and potential problems. That way you’ll be able to tailor your offering. Keep following up (at sensible intervals) until you get a yes or a definite no.

If someone says no, don't be afraid to ask why – from prospects you’ve called who don’t want to talk to you, to ones that initially appear receptive but end up walking way. The answers might be hard to take, but you can also learn valuable lessons that may help you to refine your approach (and even your product) in the future. 

Remember that timing can be everything when it comes to sales, so it’s always worth trying again. Sometimes a lead could be receptive to your product or service but not have the budget for it. If you know this, you can then help them frame a business case internally for the money, or a plan for getting it into their budget for the following financial year. 

Many businesses have their own internal politics to negotiate, together with a sign-off and approval process for spending. You won't typically be dealing with a single buyer, but effectively with a buying team of up to 5-7 people. Have sales spoken to them all?

Combined studies show that you may have to follow up at least 5 times to get to ‘yes’. Robert Clay of Marketing Wizdom recommends introducing a ‘5 Nos’ policy with your team. So be persistent. Don't give up. Make that call, write that email. Get one step closer to your next sale…

Next steps

Go put these ideas in to practice and see where it takes you. If you're stull hungry for more tips, check out our 25 Tips To Grow Your Busines in 2016 e-book.