Why do SMEs struggle to find new prospects?

Photo credit: David Groh

I was recently chatting with the head of a small B2B company that is experiencing major problems right now. The challenge? They aren’t finding enough new clients to attain their growth targets. On paper however, they have everything to get there: a good product, a product development team, a good service, a nice website, a marketing budget… Yet the clients just aren’t there.

Did you just read that and tell yourself: “Well obviously they have problems, without clients you’ve got nothing.” If so, you’d be right. Without clients, there are no sales, without sales there is no revenue and with no revenue there is no company. Everyone knows that…

Yet, no matter how obvious it is, solutions to remedy the situation are not well understood. Considering how the market is currently being turned on its head, many businesses don’t understand the new ways to generate prospects. Consequently, the results are average at best.

5 telltale signs that you aren’t mastering your lead generation

Here are some flaws or weaknesses you may already have noticed:

  1. An irregular sales pipeline;
  2. Too few prospects;
  3. A lack of prospects that match your ideal client;
  4. Inequalities in the individual performances of your sales team;
  5. A slow or non-existent growth.

If you’ve noticed one or more of these symptoms, continue reading.

2 essential elements of lead generation

Identifying and finding leads

There is a multitude of ways to achieve this.

  • Prospecting;
  • Networking;
  • Systematic request for referrals from clients;
  • Inbound marketing;
  • Blog posts, ebooks and other types of content;
  • Social advertising;
  • Online advertising;
  • Keyword purchase and pay-per-click (type Google Adwords);
  • Social media;
  • Etc.

Unless you’ve upgraded your techniques, the two first elements, prospecting and networking, have lost some of their efficiency in the last while and are increasingly being replaced by inbound marketing and the other options on the list.

That’s because the common element linking items 4 through 9 is the ability to multiply the impact without increasing efforts.

Retaining prospects

This crucial step feeds the sales pipeline and is done through what is commonly called lead nurturing. This is usually done through a series of preprogrammed emails with the goal of pursuing the prospect’s education. You need to help your prospective client’s ‘purchase-decision’ process along up to the point when s/he is ready to speak with a member of the sales team.

What is the secret to lead generation?

Using content to attract and emails to educate is really only a tactic to retain prospects – tactics that work mind you, but still only tactics. Success in generating prospects depends on one and only one element… The secret? It’s attention. Success comes if we know how to attract and retain the attention of our prospects.

Having a hard time finding new clients doesn’t come from the fact that prospecting is difficult or that advertising is pricey or even that writing quality content isn’t straightforward or easy. It all boils down to attention.

According to Wikipedia, “[a]ttention is the behavioral and cognitive process of selectively concentrating on a discrete aspect of information, whether deemed subjective or objective, while ignoring other perceivable information. Attention has also been referred to as the allocation of limited processing resources.”

Given that we’re constantly bombarded by messages, we’ve developed our capability to block most of them out. Put differently “People’s bullshit radars are insane. Marketing is about to get really, really hard,” said Gary Vaynerchuk back in 2010… Think about what that means today… Attention-getting is more expensive and attention spans are shorter than ever.

Maybe a few years ago with a press release and some advertising it was possible to make a splash. Today, well there’s Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, as well as emails (both legit and spam), there are screens wherever we look and messages all over them.

Everyone, including your competition, is looking to grasp your clients’ attention and, without exception companies who have a hard time generating leads are those who have a hard time capturing attention. They’re stuck in their old ways. They’re too promotional. They ask for the sale at the wrong moment. They only talk about themselves

5 ingredients of lead generation success

  1. Learn to draw on your audience’s instincts;
  2. Surprise your audience;
  3. Build trust;
  4. Reward your prospects in order to maintain their attention;
  5. Repeat the message.

If your messages don’t contain those ingredients, they’ll simply be ignored or forgotten and they won’t help you to attract new prospects to feed your sales funnel.

What to remember

Feeding a sales pipeline with qualified prospects is really a question of attracting and retaining attention. In any given market, an organization who does it best will attract the most qualified prospects.

To become a business which retains the attention of its prospects, you need to have a solid understanding of who your clients are: what they do, how they buy, what type of pressure they are under, what objectives they are chasing…

Photo credit: Dustin Groh

(A version of this post was originally published on Prima Ressource’s blog)