by Bill Hellkamp

For years your sales manager has told you to develop “warm” leads because they are easier to call and your appointment ratio will improve. I couldn’t agree more. So to that end, here are some tips for getting more of those toasty prospects.

Build Your Network – You must attend functions where your potential customers hang out. If you sell to engineers, attend engineering functions but not functions for people who sell to engineers. As a friend of mine says, “You need to go where the bucks are, not the other hunters.” I used to belong to a local Chamber of Commerce hoping to meet influential business owners. After a while, I noticed that almost everyone at the meeting was another consultant. When I inquired as to the whereabouts of the business owners, I was told that the CoC president had special meetings with them so they didn’t come to the general membership meetings. After finding that out, neither did I! When you find the right group, here are three things you can do to build your influence:

1. Speak – Find an area of expertise that you can provide for the group and work to get an opportunity to give a presentation. This will help you to be seen as an expert rather than someone who is just looking for a score.

2. Volunteer – Get involved with select groups at a deeper level. When you work with potential customers as a volunteer, you develop deeper and more personal relationships.

3. Lead – If the group is valuable, work your way up to a leadership position. Having a seat on the board increases your standing and makes you a person of authority.

Describe Your Model Customer – Whenever I meet someone who wants to network they ask me, “Tell me about the person you want to meet with.” For years I rambled through a series of different titles, trying to find one that would be meaningful but it never really worked. So finally I came up with a description about the type of person I like to work with. Now I answer that question with, “I work with professionals in leadership positions, but the key factor is someone who believes that the growth of their people is key to the growth of their business.” This always elicits some pertinent question, a lively discussion and often a few names of people who meet my criteria. When I contact the leads, they are very likely to meet with me because they believe in what I represent.

Know 10 Companies You Want to Penetrate – Another effective tool is having a list of 10 companies in the area that you want to do business with. When talking to a client or meeting with a networking contact, you can bring out your list and ask them who they know at any of these companies. Invariably they will pull out there phone and start going through their contacts. They quickly identify 3 or 4 names and give me their contact information. From there the call is easy and usually productive.

Use LinkedIn – I certainly don’t want to promote myself as a LinkedIn expert, but I do believe it is a powerful business tool and a great opportunity for warm leads. Here are the three things I do to build my network.

1. Connect – Whenever I meet someone or have them in an audience when I give a talk, I reach out to them to join my network. I also connect with those who request if I know who they are or they connect through my network. Personally I like to keep my connection list pretty clean because I want to know who they are and how I linked with them. Others want to build a huge list. You can pick your style, but look to connect with a few people each week.

2. Contribute – Since I am a writer and presenter, I like to contribute by posting articles. You may want to repost articles that you find interesting or pertinent to your business. Whatever you choose, try to contribute 2 or 3 times per week.

3. Cooperate – Work with your connections to increase your reach by working in their networks. Look for people in the positions you want to meet and the companies you want to penetrate. Ask your 1st level contact to introduce you and see if you can make a solid new connection.

Whatever tools you decide to use, be consistent in your practices. Building your network and gaining access to their contacts takes time and commitment. But when the result is more and better appointments, you will be glad you put in the effort.

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