Where Do I Find Leads?

Throughout my 25 years in this industry, which have included 12 as an integrator and 13 as a consultant, the number one question of all time has been: where do I find leads? In the past, I have written commentaries on efficiencies, service and technological aptitude because it is important for an integrator to be efficient when performing the work and to keep recurring revenue and retain customers.

During a recent conversation with a local integrator, the conversation centered on where they get leads from, and his challenge of finding the right resources and sources of valid leads. In fact, it reminded me of two recent conversations from manufacturers that centered on the same question about how consultants get leads.

So, what is a lead? It is an open door to new business. It is the first leg of the sales cycle. It could come in the form of a phone call, a note from an existing client about another person/company, a request for proposal (RFP), a request for quote (RFQ), Request for qualification (RFQ), or a request for statement of qualifications (SOQ). There are probably a few other types of leads, but let’s take these as the bulk of lead types and lets go back to the question: “Where do they come from?”

If you are in sales or business development, your world centers on finding and generating leads. Your world would revolve around this very thing and how you respond to them. What I found over my years of experience training sales staff was that the delicate handling of a hot lead takes more talent than skill. It’s something that you either have developed from parts of your character or have not. I have seen fantastic personalities that were great at introducing people to one another but couldn’t identify how to have, acknowledge or open/close a sales conversation to save their life. As a sales person you must to be able to recognize when the conversation with a hot lead is turning from introductory into the sales conversation. Taking a hot lead and turning it into a cold call is not going to help make your quota.

Now, let’s get back to the question at hand: where do these leads come from? The answer is there are multiple sources and almost too many at times. We will start with the easy ones to find which are referrals.

As an integrator you should have already focused on how to handle service calls and complaints when they come in, but are you prepared to handle sales leads when they come in? Does the person or system answering your phone know how to identify and handle a sales lead as it is coming in? I have seen quite a few integrators that simply took a number and said they would have someone call them. The chances of that cycle happening are dependent upon the person answering the call and the person who is supposed to then call them back.

A lot of the success depends upon qualifying the lead. If the lead is a simple pass through then we are asking the sales person that is supposed to call the person back to call 10 people back to find the one real actual lead versus the request to be the third number in a competitive bid situation.

A lead qualification step is required to handle leads appropriately and successfully. One way to do that is to have a lead qualification form, either hard copy or electronic, at the fingertips of the person answering the phone. Notice, I said person answering the phone because if your phone answering is automated then let’s hope the person calling in selects the right option to get to the sales department. Chances of success on catching a lead from an automated phone answering system are low; it requires more steps for the person calling in, and is hit and miss depending on the sophistication of automation. A sample lead qualification form should have a minimum of the following data:

  • Name of person calling in.
  • Phone number of person calling in.
  • Company that person calling in works for.
  • Is this an existing customer?
  • Is the request for card readers or access control?
  • Is the request for video surveillance cameras?
  • Is the request for intrusion detection devices or system?
  • When would the project happen?
  • Are we bidding against other companies for this work?
  • Assigned _________________ to follow up.
  • When is a good time for _____________________ to reach out to you?

You don’t want the lead qualification to be too lengthy or the person calling in feel like they are being interrogated. The above list of items can be asked in a flowing conversation and someone can be assigned as the lead so they are part of this conversation and not a virtual bucket where names get dropped off in. Knowing who is going to follow up on the lead is an important step because if it is not clear who will follow up then your sales cycle is broken, and you need to fix it.

RFP, RFQ, SOQ, or the second RFQ are all leads that are not associated with a person calling in but a form or document that defines the scope of work. The word ‘define’ here is a broad spectrum of definition. The hope is that the RFP/RFQ/SOQ has enough detail in it to identify what the scope of the project is and if not how to ask questions to find that out. These types of leads generally come from companies/agencies that are required to have at least three bids in a competitive nature.

The reason RFP, RFQ and SOQ’s are created is to achieve competitive pricing to identify the best price among qualified bidders. To identify where to find these leads, you need to understand where they come from. These lead types originate in a company or agency in an operational department and get distributed through the procurement or purchasing department.

The purchasing department ends out the bids and receives the bids to keep the process fair and non-collusive. The questions are typically answered by the operational department in charge of the project, but the handling of all data is normally the purchasing or procurement department. To find these leads you either need to subscribe to a lot of different city, municipal or government procurement notification sites. Another way of locating these leads is to subscribe to RFP distribution sources that distribute lists for cost each day. Bidsync and IMS are just a couple of many different companies that provide this type of service.

These are companies that either subscribe to as many different procurement sites from cities, municipalities or agencies as they can, or they advertise to the end user putting the RFP out that they can get more responses. Either way, the list is extensive and comes out daily.

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Charlie Howell is an independent security consultant in Northern California.

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