A Lead Is Not A Lead Is Not A Lead

“People are strange, when you’re a stranger,
Faces look ugly, when you’re alone.”

— The Doors

A few weeks ago, I received the following email:

“My wife heard Mr. Katz speak somewhere and thought he was the cat’s meow. She subscribed me to your newsletter. Every few weeks she says: `You should be working with those people.’

“Tonight as I read the latest version it occurred to me that rather than wring our hands and talk about what we should be doing to continuously energize our customer and referral base, I could take the first step and shoot this off.”

There were a number of reasons why reading this email made me smile. First, someone had forwarded my newsletter on to somebody else. Second, the newsletter had done its job — it kept me in front of a future client issue after issue, until the day came when he was ready to contact me. Third, he called me “Mr. Katz,” which I have to admit always gives me a thrill.

But what really made this Katz meow, was the tone of the email itself. Here was a person whom I’d never even heard of (referred to me by another person I’d never heard of) and yet he was writing as if we were old friends.

As you can imagine, the “sales call” that occurred a couple of weeks later in his office was as light and fun a meeting as you’d ever want to have. And while there are any number of possible ways to generate leads (e.g. run contests, offer free seminars, publish white papers), the leads generated by E-Newsletters tend to be of this warm and familiar variety.

But why, you might ask, does warm and familiar matter in the first place? Good question. It matters, because it means you’ve jumped way ahead in the sales process.

With leads that arrive as the result of my E-Newsletter, by the time the first meeting takes place with a potential client, there’s hardly any discussion at all of my capabilities, my trustworthiness, my style or frankly, even my qualifications. The only thing that gets talked about is whether or not what I have to sell and the terms under which I sell it is a match for this particular company.

Compare that to “cold” prospect meetings where you’re likely to be asked such “checking under the hood” questions as, “What makes you different from your competition?,” “Why are you qualified?,” or (my personal favorite), “Convince us to hire you.”

If you’ve ever had to perform under those conditions, you know that starting the discussion with trust, confidence and familiarity already in place is worth quite a bit(which, incidentally, is why getting more work from existing clients is so much easier).

Bottom Line: While generating leads is a necessary part of running a business, keep in mind that leads come in many different shapes and sizes. The fact is, it’s not leads you want, it’s clients, and in my opinion, your time is better spent with tactics that create a few, very warm leads (did somebody say “E-Newsletter?”) than with those that, although they may make the phone ring off the hook, require lots and lots of effort to ultimately convert.

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