The Cold-Call Hater's Guide to Better Business Leads

Last Updated Apr 29, 2011 1:22 PM EDT

I hate cold-call prospecting almost as much as I hate networking.

Seriously, I have always thought that there has to be a better way to get business leads than ambushing people. And I have found a few. The most valuable strategy is to be in the right community with the right expertise to attract decision-makers. So, the big insight here is "Be a widely recognized expert and people will seek you out." Duh! That's like Steve Martin's old joke on how to become a millionaire -- "First, start with a million dollars!"

So, what do you do to get connected to people and put yourself in the position of an expert? Remember my advice on networking for schmooze-haters last week? Maybe you're not the best networker or sales person, but you are a great problem-solver. Lean on that strength as a way to grow your prospect base.

Try these 3 simple steps:
STEP #1: Find people with problems and help solve them. The beauty of the Internet is that it's where more and more people turn when they need to find a solution. They have a dilemma, and so they blog about it, they fire off a tweet, or they pose questions about it to their online communities. One of the easiest -- and perhaps most underrated -- ways to plug into communities specific to your industry is LinkedIn. LinkedIn Groups connect people who want to solve problems and share resources. Join the ones that are relevant to your business.

The key is to become a frequent and useful contributor to a group's discussions. A few guidelines:

  • Remember, it's not about you. Focus on being valuable, authentic, and focused on helping -- not selling.
  • Don't argue. If someone has posted a response with which you disagree, frame your response as a "different way to look at this." Internet fights are entertaining, but do not advance your cause.
  • Be a resource as well as a solver. It's great when your answer includes links to other resources besides just you and your company. It provides credibility and expands the value to other people who are following the posts beyond just the initial author.
STEP #2: Don't just respond to discussions; initiate them. Posting up your own questions, alternatives, and market observations gives you the opportunity to interact and create great connections. Let the community discuss, and then provide your own perspective/solution. Again, follow the guidelines above. One thing you do not want is to develop a reputation as a prospecting pig. At best, you'll get a lot of incendiary emails and responses, and at worst you'll get thrown out of the group.

STEP #3: Be a resource clearinghouse. If you become known as the person in the group who has a resource for everything -- links, articles, white-papers, vendors and so on -- you will generate a lot of inquires and prospecting opportunities. I have seen this work for a number of people and it is great for those people who do not necessarily feel that they are either great writers or credentialed experts. That's OK -- if you are a person who can connect people and resources. You are a different kind of expert and still highly valued.

Last week's networking post got a tremendous response, with all kinds of people posting their own resources and recommendations. That's how it works. Some of the people posting were making a case for different approaches. Some have their own books and groups that they want to attract people to. Some responders were just grateful. That's how a community group is supposed to work. I don't have all of the answers, and last week some great authors and readers filled in extra details for which I am grateful.

So, readers, I am looking forward to the same kinds of responses this week. There are lots of us who want to know better ways to prospect besides just cold calling and email blasting. Post up your favorites here -- who knows, one of the readers may just be a great prospect for you.

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flickr photo courtesy of Ron Bennetts/cc 2.0