The Qualifying Conundrum

Ready to grow your business? Who isn’t? The problem is that it can be frustrating, confusing, and hard!

So, let’s simplify it. Generate more leads and then convert them.

Of course, doing this isn’t easy. Lead gen and lead conversion both need effort, time, confidence, resources, and skill.

While my focus is on equipping people to increase their conversion rates with collaborative conversations that sell*, that doesn’t matter if you don’t have enough leads or prospects to convert.

After hundreds of conversations with small business owners over the past few years about lead gen and lead conversion, I landed on an explanation for lead generation that makes sense to those who aren’t career sales professionals or marketers.

Lead Generation Simplified

There are many ways of getting in front of more prospects for your business, which is what lead generation is. It’s a challenging, confusing, and expensive endeavor for many small businesses. It’s hard to determine where to put your time, money, and energy for lead gen activities.

And it seems that THE lead gen most people believe will bring in the most and best leads is digital lead gen. It’s the hope that, “If you build it, they will come.” So, they put lots of effort into building campaigns, ads, articles, and such.

Somehow the lure of passive leads pouring in pushes us to put all available time, money, and energy into the digital lead gen bucket.

A digital approach — blogs, website, SEO, ads on the right sites, etc. are all an important part of lead gen.

What’s also true is they aren’t the only lead gen small businesses need.

Nope. There is more to a productive lead gen approach and plan.

3 Levels of Small Biz Lead Gen

Here’s a simple approach to small biz lead generation: Think of it as levels of lead generation. To simplify the levels, we’ll call them high-touch, mid-touch, and low-touch.

  1. High-touch lead gen activities are actual conversations with someone who may be a prospect themselves or who can directly connect/refer you to prospects.Activities such as the 1,000 cups of coffee, meaningful one-on-one connections/relationships with centers of influence, or direct calls to potential prospects are high-touch. While many people don’t like these “cold calls” they still do work.This direct prospecting is a necessary part of building a business and securing new clients, especially early in your business lifecycle.
  1. Mid-touch lead gen activities include efforts that get you in front of many people at once.Activities or events that may be solely your own, joint seminars, networking events, trade shows, association meetings and such.Tip: A great way to build relationships with centers of influence and combine high-tough and mid-touch efforts is to feature both of you in a setting focused on a specific topic where you present info relevant to your expertise and they present info on that same topic connected to their expertise.
  1. Low-touch lead gen activities are just that –low-touch. It’s sharing information, building your brand, and letting the tech do the work but not in a conversation with a human. This is where your website, blog, podcast, published articles, contributions to publications, advertising, social media campaigns, and inclusion in association listings, etc. fit.

What’s important is to make sure you have all 3 levels of lead gen in motion at all times.

How do you decide where to give the most effort? It depends on the stage of your business and how full your funnel is.

Though most small business owners don’t want to hear it…the most direct way of getting new prospects is the high-touch activities.

If you need to fill your pipeline quickly, spend more time there. If your lead gen is giving you all the leads you need, then you can put more effort into the mid- and low-touch areas. But never skip the high-touch for too long.

Barriers to High-Touch Lead Gen

If high-touch is the most direct way to go, what keeps most small business owners and teams focused on the lower touch activities?

The three barriers I observe most often are:

  1. Emotions. Fear, frustration, confidence, belief, and so many other emotions come into play when we are “putting ourselves out there” in a conversation. It’s a huge barrier for so many. What’s the fix?
         a. Practice. Focus on What’s in it for Them (just getting ready for a conversation with that focus will increase your confidence that people should want to meet with you because you can help them fix a problem, capture an opportunity, or address a want or need).
         b. Change your mindset. It’s possible to change your mindset about selling, about whether you are asking for a favor or proactively helping someone. Affirmations and reminders of the value of what you offer (messages from clients, thank-yous, etc. can be read over and over again) do work. Just stick to it for twenty-one days.
  1. Egos. Oh yes, the ego is powerful. “I don’t want to be seen as salesy.” “I’m good and shouldn’t have to stoop to that level.” Or “I do great work for my clients; they will refer me when they’re ready.” Or “I will look desperate if I ask for connections and referrals.”
    Like emotions, this is a “head job” and something you can change with affirmations and practice.
  1. Effort. All progress comes with action. And action takes effort. I’ve seen people put effort into ALL kinds of actions that have a low yield of actual prospects. And avoid efforts for the activities of high-touch that will get them prospects. Why? See numbers 1 and 2.
    If you find your efforts aren’t at the level necessary to generate the leads you need, dig in to identify why. While “time” will be the biggest excuse used, I can guarantee there is a deeper barrier. This post explains those internal factors that get in the way of action. 

What Lead Gen Level Needs Your Focus?

And there you have a simple, yet not easy, way to approach your lead generation. Identify what you are doing for high-, mid-, and low-touches and what they yield.

Don’t like your current yields? Move up a level. If that makes you cringe and procrastinate, that’s okay – just be ready to put in more time, money, and lag time to land the leads that will convert the clients you need.

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