4 sources for identifying leads in complex B2B sales

Identifying Sales Leads

Identifying Sales Leads

Professional services firms, like management consulting, financial services, and information technology, are involved in complex projects that engage large on-site staff over an extended period of time.  They have extended capabilities to engage in a wide variety of work.

For these types of projects, mining every possible asset for identifying and qualifying leads has significant revenue and profit payoff.  This is a case where ever stone must be turned over.

Beyond marketing, there are four major sources for identifying leads:

  • Customer contacts
  • Technical staff in your company that are working or have worked with the customer
  • Industry partners
  • Professional colleagues

Before reviewing some specifics, let’s highlight one best practice that seems to be common among companies who are getting this right.  Companies engaging in this type of work often have Business Developers and very large teams of highly qualified technical experts who are onsite doing the work.

As one Managing Partner of a consulting firm shared – “We have a lot very smart and respected people onsite every day working with client contacts.  They work with the clients; they eat lunch with the clients but the problem is they keep their heads down versus up when it comes to identifying leads for future work.  We need to change that big time – we don’t need them to sell but we must have them identify leads.”     

With that thought in mind, let’s take a closer look at each lead source:

Client Contact

  • Mutual benefits are the most frequent outcome. Obtaining a reference is sometimes viewed as self-serving; but that is seldom true. In most cases, references turn into a meeting that is positive or a sale that is highly successful. This means the person providing the reference benefits as much as the person receiving it.
  • Timing matters. For example, if a solution has just been implemented or a project recently completed and you are getting positive feedback, asking your client contact if someone else inside their company could benefit from this type of effort is a good way to generate leads.

On the other hand, it is possible to imagine situations where the timing makes asking for a reference more difficult or even inappropriate. A best practice for optimizing client referencing is planning ahead. Ask for a reference or for the right to ask for a future reference when the situation and timing is right.

  • Clients move to new departments. When a client with whom you have worked successfully moves to another department inside the same company they are an excellent source for leads. The move can provide either a lead you can develop or a lead you could pass on to a Business Developer in another division of your firm. In either case you are identifying a potential lead and maintaining the customer relationship.
  • Clients move to a new company.  If you have worked successfully with a client and they take a position at another company, this is an ideal source for identifying new leads. The added advantage is often the person will assume a more senior position. Top performers go out of their way to keep track of customers as they move from one organization to another.  Fortunately today there are all kinds of online systems for making this easy.

Company Staff The potential for lead identification from your company staff is substantial. For example, when another person’s client contact moves to one of your accounts they can make an introduction.

Also, as previously noted, there are technical and support staff on the client’s site implementing the solution – often for an extended period of time. Although the technical and support staffs are not salespeople they have an opportunity to observe changes in the client organization that may signal future work.  They are an excellent source of intelligence that can be leveraged when it is passed on to someone in business development.

Industry Partners and Professional Colleagues.  Sometimes companies are working on different phases of the project or one is serving as a subcontractor to the other.  In many cases these companies are not competitors.  In such cases the history can be leveraged for future leads.

But industry partners do not always have to be formal relationships between companies. Very often multiple salespeople from different companies call on the same client contact but they are selling products that are not competitive.  In situations like these, individual salespeople can forge personal relationships with salespeople representing complimentary products – sharing contacts, introductions, and even some client intelligence.

Last, don’t forget professional colleagues. Keep track of people you meet professionally – from conferences and meetings to university alumni groups.  Develop business relationships with them by keeping in contact and sharing information, research, or other professional materials you think they might find interesting. Nurturing these professional relationships have many benefits from generating leads to introducing you to key decision makers.

Final Note.  Companies that are engaged in large complex projects have extensive capabilities.  Often clients have knowledge of only those capabilities that relate to the present scope of work.  Therefore they do not think of you when a new and different type of project is funded.  Everyone in your organization needs to be on the alert for operational and financial signals that future work may be forth coming.

Since the technical and support staff in the position to observe such signals are not salespeople, they need to be trained in lead identification and lead qualification skills.  In too many situations this training never occurs.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2013 Sales Momentum®

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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3 Responses to 4 sources for identifying leads in complex B2B sales

  1. Ivan says:

    I agree with you on “Clients move” leads – they’re hottest ones. The only problem with those is they’re not scalable – we can’t get more of those by investing more resources in lead generation.

    I do lead generation automation for a while and we explore social graphs to scale the process – each referenceable client gives us ~10 C level leads with introduction opportunity on average.

    The most valuable piece of lead generation though is having the best service 🙂

  2. Brian says:

    I am truly glad to read your blog here. And, I also believe that Customer Contacts, Technical Staff, Industry Partners & Office Colleagues plays major roles for Sales leads. Although Customer Referrals and Marketing are essential for B2B sales leads.

  3. Plugleads says:

    Nice post. Really customer contacts plays vital role in B2B sales. It depends on the way of approaching customers. we can contact them and follow up them using different kind of Business development automation tools.

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