MBA Mondays: Sales Leads On A Small Budget

So today on MBA Mondays we are going to talk about something useful – Generating sales leads on a small budget. Every startup that wants to sell something runs into this challenge.

I asked Russell Sachs, who runs sales for our portfolio company WorkMarket to tell us how they do it. And this is what he put together. I think its terrific. I hope you do to.

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Uncovering Qualified Leads Without a Big Marketing Budget

It is hard to debate the fact that leads are the lifeblood for virtually every sales
organization. Without qualified leads, scaling a business can be a tricky thing to maneuver. For
large organizations with big marketing budgets, there are many options at your disposal – trade
shows, conferences, SEO, social media, lead lists, outsourced sales and webinars to name a
few.

But for startups, early stage companies and small/medium businesses, uncovering
qualified leads on a tight budget is a very different situation, and one that many organizations
struggle to figure out. While I am not suggesting we have discovered the holy grail here at Work
Market, I am going to share some of the more effective methods that we have used, and look
forward to additional comments on what this readership finds successful.

“Calling All Customers”

One of the easiest and most accessible sources for new prospects resides in an all too
often untapped source; ­ existing customers. What we have found in our organization is that
there are networks and friendships that extend well beyond the walls of competition. If you are
doing a sound job of servicing your customers, they will happily (in some instances eagerly)
share the success with their peers; even those that work for a competitive organization. Asking
your customer who else they can recommend can uncover a bounty of qualified targets for your
sales team to go hunt. The obvious caveat here is knowing when you have earned the right to
ask for referrals and recommendations.

A great example was a recent trip we took to visit a customer in a major metropolitan
location. The customer was so impressed with our software and team that when we asked her if she knew anyone else she could refer us to, she picked up the phone and called her colleague
at another company right on the spot.

Leverage the Marketplace

For those who are not familiar with Work Market, we are a contractor management
platform tied to an online marketplace that lets enterprise organizations efficiently find talent and
manage the on­boarding and off­boarding process of that contractor and freelance workforce.
Literally thousands of jobs are run through our platform every single day, and we are proud to be
able to support such a vibrant community. Because our freelancers have a great experience on
our site, get paid every week by hundreds of companies and can essentially keep themselves
busy all year, they are all too happy to refer us to other companies that they do work for or have a
relationship with. In fact, some of our best customers are the direct result of our talented
community referrals.

Recognizing that not everybody has access to an entire marketplace that they can tap
into, there are countless similar ways to leverage the same “crowd” dynamics. Whether you
sponsor a specific user group in your community, get active in a local “meet­up” or become a visible member of a relevant organization, you can successfully create trust and credibility.
Having others sing your praises will drive interest in you and your company ­ after all, word of
mouth is some of the most effective marketing available! Volunteer to host or chaperone a
session, moderate an interesting discussion, or present on a topic of interest at a trade show or
event. People will not only approach you to get your perspective on what you presented, but they
will be more inclined to invite you into their office to learn more about your organization (and you)
since you have removed the threat that you are simply contacting them to “get the sale”. And,
they will willingly share your information with their peers if you are providing them with content
and direction.

Get Social with “Social Media”

I am not proclaiming that you should create a Facebook page to drive inbound interest
(since this is an obvious solution). But there are a variety of professional tools like LinkedIn and
Twitter that will enable you to find out who your customers are connected to and what their
interests are. Too often, people are looking to link with others simply for the thrill of accumulating
contacts or to help them get a job. But, by reaching out to your customers and partners and
explaining why it makes sense to truly network via LinkedIn, you will have visibility into who they
socialize with and open doors to a vibrant community of constituents.

Similarly, by using Twitter to communicate relevant articles, blogs and data to your
community, potential customers will start following you and be more receptive to your overtures
if they perceive you as a contributor and expert in their field. Creating a corporate and individual
brand are vital to differentiating yourself. In our organization, we try to share content about
contingent workforce topics, associated companies and pertinent data to our followers every
week and have built a strong brand in the process.

Generate a Newsletter

At Work Market, we strive to educate our customers and prospects on a variety of issues, including product updates and new feature releases, ways to improve and scale
contractor business, customer success stories and case studies, as well as industry topics.

For example, tax and compliance are of top of mind for organizations that leverage contractors.
To address this, we recently ran a series of short newsletters educating our database about the
pitfalls of improperly managing and utilizing those resources, and found the interest on this topic
to be overwhelming. We used the power of sharing knowledge to establish credibility and enable
prospects to feel comfortable reaching out to us to learn more.

In addition, there are plenty of wonderful, low cost tools that let you email your prospects
and understand their open and click­through rates, survey them to gather feedback and opinions
and have visibility and transparency into exactly what messages are resonating. You can then
share this information with your sales force and arm them with a more precise, targeted
message to serve as catalysts for powerful conversations.

Outbound Calling Team

To be clear, I am not saying that outbound cold calling is a “new” strategy, but I am
shocked at how many people have proclaimed that using the telephone to source opportunities
is dead. We have proven this model to be extremely successful, and have tied incentives to
ensure that we are promoting the right behavior. For instance, we reward our inside sales team
for setting up qualified appointments and provide an additional bonus if their appointments turn
into closed deals. Lists on the internet are in abundance, and should be leveraged to their fullest
capacity. In my experience, if you are calling a prospect with genuine intent to uncover whether
a problem or pain exists, and are respectful and intelligent in your dialog, you will uncover great
opportunities at every turn.

I am sure that there are dozens of other ways that people get effective leads without
spending big dollars for them and I am looking forward to hearing more! Please share your
thoughts.

Russell Sachs
@russellsachs
Vice President of Sales and Business Development
Work Market