DON’T PANIC. In any business the tides can change very quickly, and some months are just busier than others. The key is to not lose your cool.
You should have a system to generate new business leads into your sales funnel and not rely on word-of-mouth to drive traffic. But regardless of whether or not you already have an existing system, sometimes you still need to get some qualified leads in the door NOW.
Here are some ideas and strategies I’ve used to build a sales funnel fast.
First, here’s what not to do
Some entrepreneurs turn to cheap, desperate tactics to fill up their sales funnel. It’s only natural to scramble when the funnel is dry and I’ve been guilty of that in the past. But you owe it to yourself, and your business, to follow these ground rules:
- Don’t buy an email list and spam people. Same goes for cold-calling the phone book or cold-contacting people through LinkedIn.
- Don’t discount your services. Or list any limited time deals on your website. You’ll only attract bad clients (ones who are only going to for the lowest price) and you’ll turn off good potential clients.
- Don’t take on any clients who aren’t a good fit. It’s a slippery slope and you’ll eventually regret it.
- Don’t chase after the ever elusive RFP. Unless you were personally invited to respond by a person you know is making the decision, it’s likely a waste of your time.
Now that we’ve covered what NOT to do when it comes to generating new business leads, let’s talk about what TO DO.
1. Call/email existing clients
I listed this at #1 for a reason. It’s the fastest way to get a new project in the door. Existing clients are usually happy to hear from you. Make it a habit to keep in touch with past clients every now and then, even when you’re not looking for business. Pick up the phone to chat about their business. Offer some tips or content you think will help.
Then when you eventually make an ask — like seeing if they have any upcoming projects or if they know anyone they could refer to you — clients will be more likely to reciprocate because they know you aren’t always trying to sell to them.
2. Email your subscribers
Hopefully you already have a list of emails that you regularly send interesting and helpful content to. If you don’t, you should start doing that as soon as your funnel is topped back up.
A subscriber list allows you to foster relationships with people you don’t personally know. When the time comes, you can work those relationships you’ve been nurturing to turn out a quick sale. You might wonder if that's possible when you’re selling a high-priced service like design or marketing.
It absolutely is. The key is to sell a “foot-in-the-door” project.
If you sell web design, don’t offer your email subscribers a web design project. If you’re an inbound marketing agency, don’t offer your audience a 12-month retainer via email. It's too large a purchase and it’s unlikely you'll happen to find someone right when they are looking to buy such a major purchase. Instead, sell a foot-in-the-door offer.
Your foot-in-the-door offer should be something fairly inexpensive that doesn’t require a lot of budgeting or layers of approvals, and is small enough in scope to give a new lead a taste of what you have to offer. Audits are great for this.
Neil Patel of Quicksprout has a really good landing page for generating consulting leads:
Notice some of the things Neil does really well with this offer:
- The headline identifies the problem the user has and the results Neil can provide.
- He validates his expertise by using a real number (800,000,000 qualified leads)
- Urgency is used to make his offer seem more scarce (“Hurry! Only 1 spot is available”)
3. Answer questions on Quora and Clarity
Social media is often abused by people looking to make a quick sale. How often have you received emails from LinkedIn from so-and-so offering “offshore development with skills in Joomla, Drupal, PHP” blah blah blah.
Does it work? Maybe, but technically so does spam.
But if you’re looking to get qualified leads in the door quickly, avoid the spam route. Instead, find people who are looking for answers right now.
Twitter can be good for this, but there’s a lot of noise on Twitter and it can be hard to filter it out. LinkedIn can also be used for lead gen, but it takes a lot of steady, ongoing investment of time and energy to do it right. Don’t always look to the biggest sites with the most amount of users because sometimes the more niche sites generate better results.
Quora has millions of users every month who post, read, and review questions. If you don’t have an account already, sign up and choose your interests. You should be looking for questions that your target customers are asking.
At Proposify, part of our target audience is agency owners or managers so I look for questions on Quora from people asking questions about how to run an agency.
Quora users upvote the best replies, so the more clear, articulate, and in-depth your answer is, the better chance you’ll have of getting upvoted. You can add links so at the end of your answer you can insert something like: ‘If you’d like to book a one hour consultation click here.’ (with a link to your landing page).
When I look at at Google Analytics for the last few months I see that Quora brought me 237 visitors and 15 leads (6.3% conversion).
Not bad considering I only have a handful of answers on there and each answer took about 10 minutes of my time.
Clarity allows entrepreneurs to book calls with experts. First, sign up and apply to be an expert. Once you’re approved, you can browse the answers section and look at any questions people have. Just like with Quora, you provide your experienced answers to those questions.
The great thing about Clarity is if the people like your response, they can book a call with you right then and there.
If someone books a call with you, keep in mind that they are paying by the minute for your advice, so don’t spend the whole time selling your services. Instead, listen and be as helpful as you can. By the end of the call you can suggest connecting via email as that’s where it would be appropriate to pitch your services.
4. Attend local events
When I quit my full time job to become a freelancer, I was completely unprepared. I had debt, little savings, and a newborn baby. I had one solid project on the go, but only about a month until it wrapped up.
In other words, I needed to get some new sales leads in the door quickly.
At the time, my target client was other agencies who would subcontract work to me, so I signed up for a regional marketing conference and had some business cards printed. That one event alone got me so many clients that I didn’t need to do any prospecting again for six months!
You can find events in your local area by going to Eventbrite, clicking browse, and selecting the category of event you are looking for.
Business events are often the best to focus on, but it depends on your target persona. For example, if you provide marketing for the healthcare industry, there’s a category for that in Eventbrite.
Here are some tips to keep in mind once you’re at the event:
Dress appropriately — I don’t care how smart you are, flip flops don’t impress anyone.
Relax — People can smell desperation. Focus on meeting new people and learning about their business.
Business cards are still used — but it’s more important that you get their card than giving them your card. That way you can follow up after the event if you think there’s client potential.
And if you feel a little shy, check out this article for tips on networking for introverts.
5. Host a webinar
Webinars are a great way to get upfront and personal with prospective clients.
Find a burning question your existing clients have been asking or maybe one you’ve seen on Quora, Clarity or elsewhere on the web. Then host a webinar where you answer that question. Make sure to design a great slide deck with visuals as you walk viewers through the presentation.
On a past episode of our Agencies Drinking Beer podcast, I interviewed Zach Johnson who explained how his company, GameChanger Profits, uses webinars to close deals. They use advertising (Facebook/Adwords) to drive traffic to their landing page and the call-to-action is to sign up for a webinar.
This page converts at 31% which is pretty incredible.
A webinar allows you to leverage your own time and talk to 10, 20, or 100 sales leads at once instead of having to schedule private one-on-one meetings with every lead. Q&A lets people ask you questions and get the answer on the air. Then you can follow up with each prospect after the webinar to move a deal forward.
6. Become a featured expert
Journalists, reporters, podcasters, and influencers are always looking for experts to feature in their stories who will validate claims or offer opinions. If you get interviewed, it’s great exposure for your business and you'll often get potential clients knocking on your door.
Journalists are hungry for content, but 44% of them get pitched a minimum of twenty times per day. I’ll admit I’m no PR expert, but I’m sure you’ll agree it’s easier to stand out by offering journalists valuable stats or an expert opinion they can use in their story instead of just asking them to cover your business.
Start building relationships with them NOW and offer them value so when you need some coverage to build up leads, they’ll be more receptive and willing to talk. (HARPO - Help A Reporter Out is a great resource)
Be proactive rather than reactive
For whatever reason, seasonal or otherwise, leads just dry up sometimes. But all the tactics I’ve shared for quickly getting clients in the door should be a part of a bigger strategy that ensures your sales funnel never runs dry in the first place.
What does that bigger picture strategy for building your lead funnel look like? Check out my blog post on how agencies can create a repeatable system for generating leads.
If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to get notified when we launch new content. I’d love it if you shared your last minute lead gen tactics in the comments below.