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Startup sales: #7: Lead generation depends on people

First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth parts. Now seventh part:

#7: Lead generation depends on people

The ideal (or rather, idealised) lead generation approach is one where you just have a process that magically produces a list of leads that you then approach, pitch, and close (or not). It's nice, impersonal and predictable, and is the given model for many mass-market B2B and B2C tools that are entirely web-based. Unfortunately, it largely doesn't match the reality of higher-price (product, service, or combination of both) B2B sales, at least not when it comes to small companies.

Instead, what I've observed actually happening is that different people have different preferred ways to generate leads. They have some ways they hate and some ways they love. As a new company, you need to make the most of the resources you have, and that means leveraging your people's abilities to generate leads, to the max.

Here are some examples of different people having vastly different ways to generate leads:

One person I know is extremely good at cold calling - insanely so. It might sound like an exaggeration, but I've observed him calling a company he's never dealt with before, and figuring out how to engage and build rapport simply from the way the other person said "Hello" when they picked up the phone. If you have someone like that on your team, obviously cold calling lists of companies becomes a viable lead generation approach (though it's still best to pre-qualify and triage those early leads).

Another is what I call a super-networker. She is simply able to work a room and meet almost everyone worth meeting. She then relentlessly follows up, builds relationships, and gets to know basically everybody. Her favourite and most effective lead generation method is obviously turning up at interesting events.

Myself, I find that my best leads have also come up in networking events, but much more indirectly. For me, it's best to be involved in an event in some capacity, which gets other people to come to me. Some of those then turn into very strong leads.

Every person has one more more lead generation approaches that work best for them. When you track statistics of "how many leads we got from X", bear in mind that when you're small, your salespeople's favourite lead generation techniques will vastly distort the numbers. Accept that and embrace it, because it gives you an edge over more systematised companies that try to shoehorn their sales force into standardised processes.

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