In our FOCIS® consultative selling course, we teach participants how to have conversations that pave the way for sales and that also deliver value to the prospect within the sales process. At some point during the course, we are always asked: “So now that I know how to have those conversations, how do I find people to have those conversations with?”

Many ways to identify sales opportunities exist-calling campaigns, networking, direct marketing via e-mail, social media, and, yes, even snail mail. In fact, we often help clients leverage those channels to improve the quantity and quality of their leads.

But another effective way is simply to learn how to recognize and to advance lead-generating opportunities in your day-to-day life, both personal and business. In sports it’s called “letting the game come to you.” We do it to score leads and so can you. In a moment, I’ll tell you about how one successful lead-generating day recently unfolded in my life.

But first, some background: The week before as we were playing golf, an acquaintance from my church asked me about my work. I explained, briefly, and then began asking about his work. By the end of the round, he wanted me to meet with his company’s head of operations, who also oversees sales and who would be in town one day the next week at the company’s law firm. Meeting with that operations executive launched the day I’m going to tell you about.

8 a.m. The operations executive and I got together at the law firm before his meeting with the attorneys. We both learned that his company had problems my company could solve and he referred me to his sales manager. There still isn’t a sale but our conversation advancedthe sales process.

Now, here’s where watching for opportunities and activating them comes into play. My first meeting that day came about from a golf game being played for personal reasons, not business. I hadn’t planned doing business with my golf partner, but I always plan onrecognizing an opportunity and helping it play out.

9:30 a.m. As I was leaving the law firm it occurred to me that the firm itself could be a good prospect. (We have some 25 law firms as business development clients.) Instead of just leaving, I stopped at the reception desk and asked which attorney was most involved in helping the firm’s other attorneys grow their practices. The receptionist recognized me from my early-morning meeting and was happy to give me the appropriate name. I left my card with her and made a mental note to drop that attorney a brief e-mail introducing myself. This proactive, unplanned step turned one opportunity into two.

9:40 a.m. Then, in the elevator on the way down to street level I met a lawyer who used to be with that same law firm but had launched a private practice. He asked why I happened to be in the firm’s offices. Though unplanned, I recognized the business opportunity; answered his question, again briefly, and then began asking him about his practice. Once on the street, we walked in the same direction, continued to get to know each other, and our work helping law firms with business development came up naturally. We exchanged cards when we went our separate ways.

11 a.m. Back at my office I put the contact information for both lawyers in our database and updated my file on the operations executive. They will all receive our monthly columns like this one. We’ve found that nurture marketing pays off over time and often helps our clients create and run similar marketing programs.

Noon. While grabbing lunch at the café in our building, I ran into a consultant with whom we cross refer clients and prospects. He alerted me to a change at one of his clients who is also one of our prospects. New people were now in charge, which meant re-launching my prospecting efforts at the company.

5:00 p.m. After spending the afternoon with a client, I was on the golf course for a “twilight” league (yes, I like golf) and ran into a referral source who had recently introduced us to a company that became a client. My advance here was simply taking the opportunity to say hello and maintain an already valuable relationship. We didn’t talk business at all.

In summary, how many planned business contacts did I make that day? Just one-the meeting with the operations executive at the law office. How many unplanned leads or potential leads did I create by recognizing the opportunities? Three-the lawyer in charge of business development who I later e-mailed; the lawyer in the elevator who asked me about his former firm; my referral contact at the café, whose tip would save me a lot of time and effort. A fourth potential source for leads was the referral source I ran into on the golf course.

Key Point: Keep in mind that I did not initiate any of the conversations that generated leads on this particular day, except perhaps to say “Hello” and generally be courteous. As you sometimes hear about sports, it’s often best to “let the game come to you.” When a conversation did begin, and only if asked, I described my work briefly. Then I asked low-key questions emphasizing the other person’s profession or business, not mine.

We find our FOCIS® workshop participants like this approach because they don’t feel as if they are imposing on the other person but just having a conversation. As so often happens, if you are asking the right questions in the right way, you learn whether there are problems you can help with. Both parties leave the conversation with some idea of whether value can be exchanged and whether another conversation makes sense.

To learn more about how we think about lead generation and selling, just get in touch at 847-446-0008 or pkrone@productivestrategies.com

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