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Sunday, November 16, 2008

The real value of (commercial) leads services

Bobby Darnell in Atlanta makes some interesting points in his blog posting: "Where will the economy 'lead' us?"

One of the profound incidences that led to me this business is when I was working at Construction Market Data (Now called Reed Construction Data) and would see companies paying up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for leads and using the information to just a small degree of their worth. My analogy is they were purchasing a new set of woods and irons (golf clubs for the non-golfers out there) and when it was time to play; they would grab just three clubs and leave the rest in the bag.

This is the time to review your sales and marketing strategies. How do you feed your pipeline? How do you process your contacts? How do you measure your results? How do you leverage each lead? What are you doing that your competitor is not?

With the days growing shorter, construction slowing down because of the season, now is the best time to review your sales processes and sharpen your ax.

A lead is not a contract or purchase order but merely the first step in that direction. What will you do differently that will give you the edge over the other hundreds of companies who have the same information?

There is no better time than now to refine the processes that fill your pipeline. I do not believe the economy will stay down but who knows when it will turn? In the mean time, use any time you have not fulfilling business to do all you can to build new business.

I think the point he is making is that the leads services provide indications of potential opportunity -- they rarely can lead you down the garden path to a sure thing.

Most projects, by the time they reach the RFP or bidding stage, are 'set' for one contractor or another -- or, if they are an open competition, will be commodity-priced opportunities only really valid to pursue if you are truly the lowest cost producer within the segment. (This happens, of course, if your expertise and specialized knowledge allow you to compete on these terms.)

But the contact information, project data, and other resources within the leads services ARE useful clues to set you on the path of building meaningful relationships and contacts, and deciphering what may appear to be hidden opportunities.

For example, if you are a sub-trade or supplier, and you see a project within the pipeline that might need your services, you can research and discern the likely 'winner' and then build your relationship with that business well in advance.

Or you may find indications of future projects within the pipeline, so you can allocate your marketing resources and energies to develop constructive relationships with these businesses.

Or you may find a rather different use of the leads service -- you may forward the lead to someone you know who can legitimately act on it, more than you, and your good-will here will generate further reciprocal business (of course I am not advocating you violate the copyright from the leads service -- you should adapt the information and interpret it from your own perspective.)

Darnell's point is that the 'leads' you receive actually have much more information than might be obvious at first glance; it is up to you to develop and learn how to apply them.

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