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Monday, 14 January 2013

Sources of Sales Leads for Consultancies

There's a recent thread on the Chartered Institute for Public Relations' (CIPR) LinkedIn group triggered by a poll* asking where PR businesses get their sales leads. My guess is this could also apply to professionals and other forms of consultancy, from coaching to management consultants?
*posted by Heather Baker, a London-based B2B marketing specialist.

Last time I looked it was showing the results as:


  • 64% networking/referrals
  • 13% events/tradeshows
  • 9% company website
  • 7% cold calling
  • 7% social media

That's a resounding win for face-to-face and word of mouth. 

Does this mean that we forget about online for sales lead generation?

With nearly 30 years in both the online (since 1985) and offline PR camps you'd expect me to be even-handed and I won't disappoint. I really do believe that a dual approach works best because people in the market for our type of advisory services are encountering more people than was possible when networking was only done offline. If we don't use online tools to augment first impressions and stay front of mind, that warm referral can be surplanted by a more recent one for someone else.

£ follows the Face

Picture shows money and Penny Haywood Calder's face

The old adage, that "the money follows the face" does hold true in our experience. My own analysis of PHPR sales and the type of leads that delivered them over the years has consistently shown that roughly 50% of customers come through some sort of personal contact and the other 50% came from a variety of sales tactics. But - and it's a big BUT - by far the highest value sales have almost always come from known sources or good referrals. In our case, it's very close to the classic Parato Principle: 83% of the value of our client work has come from personal contact and 17% from traditional sales or online work. Or it was until very recently. The one exception is a current client. Our good position on Google for a key search term (similar to one they wanted) was the reason we were invited to pitch. A case of: "do it for us too". Fortunately, it's worked out really well and they are now one of the country's fastest growing companies (in the 2012 Sunday Times Fast Track 100). 

Online PR Supports the Offline Contact

Generally, people buy from people and that hasn't changed a lot in the last 200 years as far as advisory businesses are concerned. However, it would be foolish to assume that the online presence had no influence on the decision to act on the referral or favourable first impression created at a networking event. 
The above poll vote is likely to favour the last point of contact, or the most important or memorable event in the run-up to expressing positive interest. But there's a good chance that, before taking matters further, the prospective client checked the website out, plus LinkedIn and possibly Facebook. It's highly unlikely that they would have proceeded to express interest if the website was off-putting, or if the top social media profiles had no photo or useful details. Or if an insistent telesales person had driven them up the wall on your company's behalf during this crucial period. 

So what's the take-away?

What I take from this poll is: don't get carried away with social media and the millions of people they may be drawing in at unprecedented speed: you just need an in-depth relationship with a select number of people and that can be nurtured on and offline, but only if you have got the supporting fundamentals right like optimising your LinkedIn profile and website, and keeping them up to date. Plus expressing your personality and interests in public posts on Facebook in a way that would suit meeting a colleague or potential client in a non-business setting. 

Wishing you every success in 2013. 





PR blog posted by Penny Haywood Calder at PHPR Ltd, Edinburgh, UK. URL: http://www.phpr.co.uk PHPR TV Channel on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/PHPRtv PHPR Ltd on LinkedIn Follow PennyHaywood on Twitter

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