As a regular feature of our newsletter, Investment Attraction Today, Paul Brogan provides a lead generation tip in every edition. As a special bonus feature, we’ve compiled Paul’s top 10 lead generation tips and tricks from the last year into one inspiring article. Enjoy these tips and tricks from Paul, a leading expert in lead generation for economic development professionals.
1) ???? HELLO, IS IT ME YOU’RE LOOKING FOR?
Cold calling is tough. It always has been. And it’s only gotten harder in today’s digital age. That’s why data matters, even for the tiniest details such as what time of the day to reach out to prospects. Over time, we’ve learned that scheduling cold calls at just the right time of the day makes a difference and will boost your response rate. According to research and our experiments, Wednesday & Thursday are the best days of the week to contact a lead. And surprisingly, the best times to call are either first thing in the morning (8-9 am) or at the end of the day (4-6 pm). Think about your own average work week. By mid-week, you’ve got some projects done and might be willing to squeeze in a few other things. And early in the morning or late in the afternoon, you’re more likely to be available and receptive to a call. Of course, there is no full-proof science when it comes to timing that will work for each person, but we suggest methodically testing and trying these out for yourself. Because we believe the devil is the details!
2) ARE YOU SOCIAL SELLING?
How much time do you spend researching, targeting, and engaging with prospects on social media? You should know this number right off the bat. Why? Because the process of “social selling” should be built into your lead generation process. It should happen like clockwork.
What is social selling? Social selling is an approach to selling that allows salespeople to laser-target their prospecting and establish rapport through existing connections via online social media platforms.
You need to be strategic and disciplined with your time on social media. Your major social media channel will most likely be LinkedIn, however Twitter and Facebook should not be overlooked. Don’t just like prospects’ posts; make thoughtful comments. Give your prospect online the same interest you would show them at a trade show. Socializing on social should not be random. Use all the research and targeting tools. If you make yourself a master – the results will pay off.
3) LISTEN. NO REALLY, LISTEN.
Often when we are engaging with prospects we are overly keen to get across our value proposition. Sometimes we can be too eager to present what is so great about the region or what we think the prospect wants to hear, while potentially missing hints that the prospect is dropping that could steer a conversation in another direction.
In building a rapport with someone it is very important to give them space to speak. If you feel you misheard or misunderstood something, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or ask a qualifying question. While this may seem obvious, it can sometimes be an easy thing to forget. Especially if you have prepared a presentation for a prospect and can feel like « I spent time on customizing this presentation for this prospect, I want to get all this information across. »
Your plan for the conversation may be derailed at an early stage, but at the end of the day, you need to address the concerns of your prospect. And if you run out of time, you can always schedule another time to go over topics that you had wanted to cover in your initial plan.
4) HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE BEING IGNORED?
How often do you follow up with your pipeline? Almost as important, how do you follow up with your pipeline? I’ve noticed a strong reliance on email communication. We all get a lot of emails every day, and if the email manages to fall down off your screen it is easily forgotten.
I hear from clients that they are struggling to re-engage companies, and upon digging they have sent 2-3 emails over the course of a few weeks with no response. In many cases this is not a company ignoring you, or expressing that they are no longer interested, it can simply be that your email keeps dropping off their radar.
It is critical that you also follow up with phone calls and if you are connected, via LinkedIn, Whatsapp, etc. Even a simple 10-second voicemail saying « Hi, I just sent you an email and was hoping to schedule a few minutes to « chat » can be enough to get a response and engagement from a prospect company.
5) KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
A crucial part of any sales process is understanding your competitors. Not just in terms of the region, their assets, and how you compare in terms of workforce – but also how they are presenting themselves. In the highly competitive world of investment attraction, it’s important to be aware of how your competitors are acting. How do they perceive their own value proposition? How are they positioning themselves against you?
One way to get this information can be as simple as visiting their website. Can you counter any of their value propositions? If they are hosting webinars or information sessions, attend them. Talk to site selectors who may have connections with regions you are competing with. How do they and their clients perceive your regions? These tactics can give you insights into not just how your region is perceived in the market, but also in the ways you can position yourself versus your competitors.
6) DOING IT FOR THE GRAM?
Is your economic development group active on social media? Are your accounts managed by a professional copywriter/marketing team? If not, it could be something to consider. Social media is becoming a more common source of information for people – not just potential companies to move into the region, but also your existing businesses. When narrowing down their searches, site selectors will often engage research companies that will search a region’s online profile. A positive social marketing presence, with plenty of local engagement, speaks well of a region and its collaborative nature.
7) ARE YOU FULLY LEVERAGING YOUR EXISTING BUSINESSES
The value of referrals in business development is well known, and the same can be applied to investment attraction. Try and identify a number of your local companies, either homegrown or investors, and engage with 3-4 that have bought into your goal of attracting investment to promote domestic economic growth. Have them on standby to bring into conversations with your prospects. This can bring significant value to companies looking to move into the region. Engage with your investors and ask if they would be willing to make time, even only on a quarterly basis, to make themselves available for calls with your late-stage prospects. Having multiple stakeholders buy-in on this will reduce dependence on one or two, and can make it easier to schedule when you have multiple options.
8) ADAPTING TO THE NEW WORLD
Yes, a lot has gone virtual. But what does adapting really mean? Believe it or not, I’ve actually decided to go for a new goal in this new world: communicate more verbally. This applies to personal and professional communications. We get stuck in the “quick and easy” aspect of text, instant messenger, or email communication and I have found that we are all missing the nuances of face-to-face (even if it is virtual) communication. So, as you are looking to engage prospects, partners, or colleagues, try to pick up the phone/Teams/Zoom a little bit more this year!
9) STAYING ON TOP OF CURRENT AFFAIRS
Sometimes it feels like every time you turn on the news on the tv or radio all that is discussed is the same thing over and over again (politics, elections, COVID-19 etc.). However, I feel it is always important to stay on top of all types of current affairs in general. You never know what could be a conversation starter! I’ve become addicted to podcasts lately. There are a number that range from general current affairs coverage, like The Economist which releases a number of 20-minute editions most days of the week, to company-specific interviews with founders and CEOs, like NPR’s How I Built This, and everything in between. I’ve found that listening to these stories gives me insights into companies and markets I might not have paid much attention to before. I’ve gotten ideas for targeting strategies for our clients. But as mentioned earlier, most often I’ve gotten general knowledge that I can use in conversations with executives.
10) ???? NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW ????
Engaging with decision-makers is always a challenge. In the current climate, it continues to be, maybe even more so with people less often at the office and harder to catch on the phone. Make sure you are reaching out to multiple people within your target company. You may want to speak to the CEO, but she may not be easily accessible. Work through multiple colleagues to find out her work habits, when is a good time to speak to her, can you get an introduction from a colleague? Can her colleagues provide any useful intelligence on the company’s operations that can help you develop your unique pitch for the company? The key is to be persistent, and don’t just focus on playing phone tag with one person when there are other avenues to success.