For many entrepreneurs in the business-to-business market, the key to success often lies in the generation of strong leads and trusted referrals from colleagues and friends alike. Unlike companies whose key business model is based around the selling of a product or service directly to consumers, the push towards success in the world of B2B is by necessity a smaller and more directly social proposition. And when leads feel scarce, it is often a confusing path to navigate when generating new connections, especially as B2B sales may seem like a closed-off world that is heavily resistant to change or new ideas.

Fortunately, the rewards are huge for those who wish to traverse the landscape of peer-to-peer business despite its many difficulties. Here are just a few tips on how to generate great leads in a challenging and growing field.

Keep It Simple: Take the Competition to Lunch

In the old days of business, generating leads and networking was not something that could be done via email or social media. For many business owners in past decades, in fact, a simple but effective way to generate connections within a community came through face-to-face meetings. Offering to pay for lunch to a local business owner in your market, for example, is not only a great way to show colleagues your great qualities; it is also a time when other business owners can refer you to entrepreneurs who are looking to solve their own business issues. Shared mealtimes and conversations like these are also a great way to turn a business connection into a long-term friendship and consistent source of referrals; when other business owners see first-hand that you’re reliable and friendly, their interest in working with you will increase exponentially.  

Understand What Businesses Need, Rather Than What Businesses Want

When thinking about business solutions, most of us will tend to think in terms of big, abstract problems with seemingly no discernible way forward. Indeed, focus groups, marketing research, and networking can only go so far in the world of B2B, where common sense and simple solutions often rule the day.

If you’re feeling stuck, for example, it’s okay to take an afternoon to generate a list of what local businesses in your area actually need to function at their highest level. Sure, we can all use and appreciate the many perks and creature comforts that many businesses provide for us, but we actually need many things to keep a business running. To wit, a business owner may enjoy having a good espresso maker in their break room, but they will actually need to have reliable phone and Internet service to keep their doors open. A company may appreciate good interior design for its office, but the company actually needs to have functional electricity and plumbing to generate revenue. The question is, are we providing a service that other businesses want, or are we providing a service that other businesses need?

By understanding what other businesses find essential, in other words, we can better focus on how we can provide the best solution to their problems. And when word gets out that we can help other companies to reach their goals in a way that really matters, new leads are sure to follow.

If You Want to Find Allies, Ask Your Peers

While some business owners are hesitant to reveal that they don’t know everything about their particular field, the truth is that the people around us are often more helpful than we realize when we’re in a bind. When we don’t know something, in other words, it can often be beneficial to simply let people around us know that we’re currently working on a problem that doesn’t have an easy solution. Indeed, we’ll likely be surprised at the kind of responses we’ll get when others know that we’re seeking out a particular solution to an issue. When colleagues realize that we’re stuck on how to generate leads from your network, for example, they will often put us in touch with colleagues who are successful in their own area of business.

For these reasons, generating leads in the B2B arena does not have to be a stressful or negative process, although some days may feel tougher than others! Remember that in the world of B2B, a positive attitude can carry a business through its greatest challenges, and other businesses are always quick to help a colleague they can respect and trust. While it may seem daunting to reach out to new leads, just remember to enjoy the process. The journey and connections we develop over the course of our careers is often the greatest reward we can experience. Believe in yourself, and good things can result!

By:  Walter Bodell