5 dos and don’ts of relationship-based lead generation


By Ryan Galloway

The Brief
For members of your sales team, there may be no skill more critical to lead generation than relationship building. So why is almost everyone astoundingly bad at it? The reason, or so I suspect, is that networking is a very nuanced and highly subjective social dance with few set rules. Here are 5 dos and don’ts of lead generation. 

Networking as a salesman is really, really hard. And while there may be no magic formula building relationships, you can still avoid some of the most common missteps.

1. Being pushy or demanding

This is one of the top offenses in networking, likely because many people confuse harassment for persistence. If a potential client tells you he’ll get back to you about a coffee meeting or an email introduction he’s promised you, assume that he actually means it.

What to do: Give him some space. Wait a week, and then follow up. If he still doesn’t get back to you, then take the hint.

2. Asking before you offer

Anyone with basic sales training knows that one of the first questions you ask when speaking with a prospect is, “How can I help?” But too many professionals today skip right over that crucial first step and go straight for the close. It’s off-putting and undercuts whatever warm introduction you were trying to leverage in the first place.

What to do: Networking, especially for lead generation, is a two-way street. Bring something to the table. Offer your time, expertise, connections or insights first.

3. Failing to respect a connection’s time

There’s a simple equation for understanding how much time you can request from a potential connection: the more senior they are, the less time you can reasonably expect them to give you. So, plan accordingly. That means honing your pitch or ask so that it’s quick but leaves an impression.

What to do: Regardless of where your connection falls in the hierarchy, a coffee meeting or phone call should fall within his schedule. Give as much notice as you can. And be sure to follow up after the meeting to thank him for his time. 

4. Neglecting your research   

This is an entry-level error, but it’s common for professionals at all levels. By failing to research your prospect you lose out on common connections that could further cement the relationship and weaken your credibility in the eyes of your potential client.

What to do: If you want someone to make time for you, take five minutes to Google her. It’s not hard to develop an understanding of what she does and what her background is. It will also help you understand how your product or service can best help her deliver on her goals.

5.  Failing to follow up.

Second and third calls are an inherent part of the sales funnel, but what about those people you meet at conferences or through common acquaintances? Are you recognizing the leads when they appear outside your call sheet?

What to do: It’s pretty simple, really. Keep your prospect list updated, and follow up with a call or email a day or two after your first meeting.

No one’s perfect when it comes to networking. It’s hard. It’s subjective. It can and will be frustrating from time to time. But avoiding these mistakes is the first step toward making meaningful connections for your business. And one more piece of advice: if you invite someone to coffee, for goodness’ sake, pay for the coffee.


Ryan Galloway oversees content for The Hired Guns, a digital marketing and talent consulting firm in New York City. He has written for Business Insider and Forbes.com and is a frequent contributor to this blog. RelSci provides a relationship capital platform that helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. 

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