For any Apprentice fans out there (yes, I know it’s not as good as it used to be but it still provides just about enough entertainment to muster an office sweepstake each year), last night’s episode was my favourite of this series so far.
For anyone who doesn’t watch it, the episode involved the remainder of this year’s candidates running round Brighton like headless chickens, trying to source various items and negotiate a cheaper price for them than the opposing team.
So what has this got to do with lead generation when they are the buyers, not the sellers?
Well, I would say there are a few relatable points that spring to mind:
Firstly, there is the issue of strategy. The task is on a tight deadline, BUT without sufficient thought about where you might best source these items, you could be wasting precious time knocking on the wrong or totally irrelevant doors. Let’s consider this in the same way we would with a new business campaign. The tighter the targeting when you start, the more likely you are to unearth the hottest leads in the shortest period of time. You can always widen the scope as the campaign progresses.
This brings me to the second point… MAKE USE OF THE PHONE! You can learn a hell of a lot in a very short space of time by having a direct conversation with somebody and without leaving the comfort of your base. You are able to engage in real time, ask relevant questions that are pertinent as and when they come up and you have the attention of the supplier then and there – you don’t need to send an email then wait for their response! Think of this along the lines of “a picture paints a thousand words.” A telephone conversation directly with (in this case) the potential supplier of a very specific product you are looking to source will give you a wealth of information and allow you to probe into the finer details on the spot. This gives you the immediate opportunity to assess whether they can provide exactly what you need (or vice versa).
Finally – and of absolutely essential importance – LISTEN to what is being said. One of the reasons for the loss of the task last night was at first glance quite subtle, but became apparent later on. The supplier was asked a direct question critical to the success of the task and rather than answer that, provided some different information. Just a little bit of further probing may have saved the team a lot of time and potentially saved one of them from Lord Sugar’s firing line.
Whilst outbound new business requires tenacity and the ability to engage confidently and intelligently with your prospects, it’s always worth remembering “two ears, one mouth for a reason”. If you are not listening carefully to pick up on the finer points of what a prospective customer is telling you, you will miss opportunities to maximise your sales.