Lead generation is the biggest single challenge for a small company moving from selling strictly to friends and family of the founding team to a broader market.

The most common approach is to look for seasoned salespeople who have a Rolodex™ in the target market and a professed appetite for cold calling and mass mailing/emailing. The sales person is given 3-6 months to produce results and if they can’t, a replacement is found.

Just yesterday, I received a call from a Japanese telecommunications company who was looking for “hunter sales people“ in the NYC metro with relationships at target companies and an “ability to cold call all day long”. This search is repeated, I’m sure many times over, on any given day.

This old school approach is tired, expensive, and largely ineffective. Here’s why…

I have implemented eight SEO based, demand pull projects over the past year. In two accounts, website generated sales leads grew from 2 or 3 per month to 346/month in one case and 247/month in the other in a 3 month period. The cost of the 100X growth in sales leads was only the cost of my consulting effort to implement the program. The other accounts all had substantial sales lead increases although not as dramatic as these two. Both accounts offered a whitepaper written by a domain expert on a current topic of interest and used PR/Web to promote this availability creating persistent and link backs to the client website across the Internet.

So, roughly these sites generated 12-15 sales leads per day for every one of 20 business days in a month.

The most cold calls I’ve seen in practice is 100/day. That’s one every 6 minutes without stop for ten straight hours. Using an industry average of 2-3% hit rate, this will generate at most 2-3 leads per day assuming that the sales person can continue to make 100 cold calls per day, every day on the month. Taking a half day to actually make real sales calls would deflate the sales lead productivity tremendously.

Now I also know that it is impossible to sustain 100 cold calls/day. I challenge anyone to prove to me that for a month straight, this level of cold calling can be produced. I will send $100 to anyone who can prove this to me.

However, it should be obvious that the sales lead acquisition cost for cold calling is abysmal.

Today, the most cost efficient and effective means to generate sales leads is the following:

  1. Make yourself easy to find by search engine optimizing your website with professionally researched keywords implemented in the website copy, blogs, and emails
  2. Write an intelligent whitepaper on a subject of general interest written by a true expert in your field and devoid of anything even remotely similar to a “sales pitch”
  3. Make the whitepaper available on several places on the website including the primary landing page in exchange for an email address (just an email address…think low friction!)
  4. Promote the availability of the whitepaper as well as other interesting news about the company via PR/Web. This service will create persistent links back to your website across tens of thousands of press and industry endpoints across the web. These links will last a long time and create permanent pointers for traffic back to your site. With any luck your PR/Web produced press release will be picked up by other industry journals and thereby create even more links to your site. The more links to your site, the higher your search engine ranking.

Do the math on the cost of this approach and potential results versus the “old school” cold calling approach. It won’t even be close!