I watched Glengarry Glen Ross again last night. The salesmen would do almost anything to get their hands on the coveted “Glengarry” leads, including breaking in to steal them.
The movie took me back a few decades, to my days in vacuum cleaner sales. I worked out of the local Tri-Star office. Our ‘phone girl’ (there wasn’t a politically correct, more glamorous term for them back then) at the time was very pleasant, but most of the leads she wrote on those 3×5 cards were crap. She just didn’t have the courage or motivation to tactfully ask the important questions.
We’d be sent out to close people who were unemployed, in the throes of bankruptcy, or worse. A favorite trick was to sign on the dotted line, clean the entire home, and those of every friend and relative, with our gleaming new machine, then return it within the 3-day cancellation period in unsaleable condition. The cost of the machine would come out of our commission. Unqualified leads suck!
Nobody in the office was making money any more and most of us were ready to walk. In desperation, our office manager reached out to the regional office. Enter Maya…
Maya was on loan to us, a day or two each week. Her brand new Corvette rumbled up behind our office and in she strode, Chopard on the wrist, Gucci bag, bleach blonde hair, perfect nails and stunning pink dress. Maya knew how to qualify a prospect. She produced her own 3×5’s, custom printed with questions and check-boxes.
She was sweet, but far more direct, and clever. “In exchange for the lovely steak knives you’ll receive today, we’d love your opinion on one of our new products. Our head office would like me to file the responses under various demographics, so they can make better advertising decisions. Could I ask what line of work are you and your husband in? You’re an elementary school teacher, and your husband is a roofing contractor… thanks so much, that’s very helpful.” Check, and check… they’re gainfully employed. 🙂 She worked her way down the entire list, carefully qualifying each prospect.
Maya’s cards were pink, with a red heart in the upper left corner. Our manager would tell us that if we couldn’t close a pink card, we should find a job flipping burgers, because we sure as hell couldn’t sell. They were the holy grail, “Glengarry leads”, and they didn’t come cheap. Maya put her money where her mouth was. She waived the minimum wage the phone girls received and asked to be paid $150.00 on each sale made (out of our $500.00). Compensated purely out of results, she reserved the right to hand the best leads to the top closers. She worked for about 4 hours a day, without a wage, but there were nights she made over $2,000.00 in kickbacks from the salesmen. (It would be a lot more in 2014.) Fresh out of high school, I quickly understood the value of a qualified lead.
Sales are the lifeblood of any business. And salespeople will always covet quality leads to follow up and close new business. Pounding the pavement is just too expensive, with both breadwinners in many homes out all day. Cold calling your way to impressive sales, particularly within a few months, has become rather unrealistic in 2014.
Fortunately, the new millennium ushered in the internet as the efficient, cost effective “warm” lead generator. We’ve all been marketed to death. Wary buyers eschew traditional marketing, preferring to research the products and services they purchase themselves. They value the opinions of others who have already invested. Sales tends to be a longer term process, consisting of quite a few interactions, and consultative selling has pretty much replaced the high pressure closer.
In 2014, highly qualified leads are not generated by a phone solicitor, offering steak knives, but through multiple points of contact. We offer valuable information and genuine connection. Today’s “lead machine” typically has social media relationship builders and content creators at the mouth of the sales funnel.
Transparency, a genuine interest in helping existing clients, and gently educating potential buyers or sellers, build value and trust online. Where sufficient content value is perceived, readers will subscribe to updates and follow you. If the caliber of the content your readers receive continues, you have permission to keep in touch. You have influence, the ability to interact again and again. And the subscriber list provides you with priceless information.
Back in the “good old days” of sales, we used the Haines Criss Cross directory to determine the address of our prospects from the phone number. We could then estimate what their income might be. That was what often passed for qualifying the prospect. Today, we can gain a vast amount of information about our subscribers through the internet. LinkedIn and Facebook profiles tell us a lot about each prospect, both professionally and personally. Skilled lead developers build relationships and trust with prospects weeks and months in advance. By the time you’re introduced, it’s a friend recommending a friend; a very receptive lead versus a cold one.
Who is actively courting your potential clients online today?