How to find sales leads

How to find sales leads

Before choosing which prospects to target, it’s best to generate a long list of leads so you can narrow down to the best leads. Using the categories you’ve identified as a good fit your business, decide which sources on this list are right for you to generate your own list of leads.

1. Referrals

Referrals from your best clients are your best source of quality leads. A referral implies that you are trusted and valued. Your referral source can also confirm what it’s like to do business with you.

2. Former Clients

Reach back out to these inactive accounts or find out who some of their competitors are that may be more open to new ideas. They could be your own former clients, or unclaimed former clients that no one at your company is currently working.

3. Competitors

Who is working with your competitors? Study competitors to see who is active in the categories you have decided to target.

4. Business & Sales Intelligence Tools

Use business intelligence tools like Hoovers and Winmo. To find resources best for your industry, do a search online for “sales intelligence tools.” Be creative with how you use these tools. For example, you might look for Industry Associations or Board Certified companies in certain categories. Or try searching conferences for sponsors, speakers, and participants that are good prospects for your industry.

5. Google Resources

Google can offer leads in many ways:

  • Google Alerts can send you email notifications about your prospects or clients.
  • Google Maps can show you which prospects are in a location you are targeting.
  • A simple Google search using key phrases such as “top plastic surgeons near me,” can yield results for locations, reviews, and blogs, for the category you are searching.

6. LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, search for groups, job titles and industries you’re targeting. If you are in media sales, you might search for Marketing Director or Marketing Coordinator to see who has this job and then try to connect and message them.

7. Relationship Marketing

While there is a lot to be found online, remember to move from research to building relationships. Think of the prospecting process as Relationship Marketing. Go to industry events to meet people in person, reach out and connect to form online relationships.

Another tip: Consider blocking 30-45 minutes each day to look for leads and attempt to set appointments. Be sure to have some valid business reasons and your Don’t Give Up Planners handy for the appointment setting sessions.

Don’t fall in the “all the good accounts are taken” trap. There are plenty of sources for quality leads right at your fingertips.

Looking for strong sales leads? Try these six ways to generate them yourself.

by Gwen Moran
updated May 11, 2021 · 4 min read

For many businesses, generating strong sales leads is a top priority, but a vexing one. HubSpot research found that generating leads was a top challenge for 61% of marketers. You need clues about the people and businesses that will buy your products and services, but how to get sales leads is a constant conundrum.

How to find sales leads

Plus, unscrupulous entities may take advantage of that challenge. Lead fraud—companies selling bogus leads—is not uncommon. These fraudsters may misrepresent where they got the leads or how they qualified them. Businesses may later learn that they bought worthless sales leads.

Whether you’re selling business-to-business services or trying to generate more consumer leads for your website, one of the best ways to grow your business and avoid being scammed is to create a system for generating your own leads.

Here are six ways to start.

1. Encourage Referrals

“One of the best ways to source new sales opportunities, even in a down market, is to work with happy customers to get active referrals for leads,” says Jeremy Zerbib, head of marketing at community management and engagement platform Hivebrite.

Satisfied customers are your advocates—and they likely know other people who may buy your product or service. “Anyone can cold call, but a referral from a respected entity in the space that has actual experience with your organization will take you much further—especially in a time when businesses are being much more discerning when deciding to buy new services,” Zerbib says.

Remind customers that you’re always interested in referrals. You may even consider a discount or loyalty reward for those who refer business.

2. Target Strong Sectors

In any market, some segments thrive and some do not. When you’re qualifying sales leads, choose strong companies in thriving industries and aggressively go after key targets, Zerbib says.

“Although there is not really such a thing as a ‘recession-proof’ industry, if you work to identify those that are uniquely positioned to weather a down market and target them for sales, your business will be well-suited to maintain a steady flow of sales,” he says. Look for mutual contacts who may be able to help you identify the decision-maker and perhaps even give you an introduction.

3. Optimize Your Website

Whether you’re running an e-commerce business or use your website as an information resource and brand-awareness builder, it needs to be optimized for greatest effect.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of marketing consultancy Mavens & Moguls, advises optimizing for voice search, which allows users to interact with websites through voice commands, making it more usable and also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also optimize your website for mobile use, so it can be viewed across a number of devices. Increasingly, people use mobile devices to get information, and mobile optimization can boost your search engine ranking.

4. Publish Great Content

Post amusing and useful tips on social media platforms or update your website’s blog with the latest industry insights.

“Search engines notice when sites publish consistently and can see how long people stay,” Arnof-Fenn says. “So building a strong reputation as a site that informs and educates pays off in higher organic search results.” Tailor your content to your brand’s personality and the interest areas of your audience to keep them coming back for more.

5. Build Community

Create a community of fans of your product, company, or content through social media, which gives you an opportunity to connect with those who already have a relationship with you. Albert Ho, founder of Healthcare Heroes, a healthcare sales consultancy, and author of the book, Checkmate: How to Win the Sales Game in Healthcare, suggests creating a mailing list to communicate with customers and prospects.

“A popular way to build a mailing list is by using a squeeze page [on your website], in which the business provides something of value that is given to the lead in exchange for providing an email address,” he says. He offers a free copy of his book on his website. You can also create groups or profile pages on social media as an easy way to create a community.

6. Boost Your Platform

When you build your own or your company’s profile, you can benefit from inbound leads that come with awareness. Ho likes to host webinars, which he says are a great way to provide value and better understand your audience.

“Customers want to regularly hear from businesses that they know, like, and trust,” he says. “Other ways to push out content are through social media such as YouTube.”

Work on generating publicity and buzz “by reaching out to third-party influencers,” suggests Peter Blanchard, COO of Actinium Healthcare Holdings. Think of newsworthy stories in your industry or about your products and services and pitch them to appropriate media. Engage with influencers. Write bylined articles or start a blog. All of these efforts can help you gain awareness with a broader audience.

Think about the ways you can target people who need your products and services and raise your profile—a winning combination for keeping good leads flowing.

How to find sales leads

Finding new sales leads leads can be one of the most frustrating parts of a job in sales.

Many salespeople feel confident closing new business, but can’t find or nurture leads well enough to develop a steady pipeline of new opportunities. In some companies, leads are provided by the marketing department, while in others, salespeople must fend for themselves.

If you’re in the “fend for yourself” camp, you might be struggling to find new sales leads to fill out your pipeline. In this case, it’s easy to exhaust all of your resources pretty quickly.

Keep reading for 5 ideas on how and where to find new prospects:

1. Referrals: The best source of new sales leads

Ahh, a warm lead.

In this age of Facebook likes and Yelp reviews, we are all more likely to buy something if it comes with a strong recommendation. Even more so if that recommendation comes from someone we like and trust. That’s why referrals are so powerful. The recommendation of a friend or colleague can mean more than all the marketing materials in the world.

So if referrals are so great, how do you get more of them?

Most people love to help. If you ask for referrals and your contact feels comfortable with you, chances are they will think of someone who could benefit from your product or service. Even better, suggest a specific LinkedIn connection if you can identify someone in their network you want to be introduced to.

This takes the guesswork out of it and increases the likelihood you’ll be introduced to someone who could really move the needle for you. And be sure to follow up with your referrer, and do something nice for them in return.

2. Find new sales leads at networking events

Great salespeople are great networkers.

Treat networking events as an opportunity to build relationships, not as a race to collect as many business cards as possible. Networking has a bad reputation because people treat each other as transactions. If you’re in my target market, I’ll take your card and move on to the next transaction.

Instead, take the time to get to know someone. He or she will be much more likely to return your follow-up call or email after the event. Having a conversation will also give you something to talk about when you do follow up. Sales is all about building relationships – networking should be, too.

3. Revisit lost opportunities

Remember that opportunity that didn’t pan out? A lot might have changed since that initial “no” for both you and the prospect.

Reach out again with a soft touch – ideally offering something of value to the prospect. “I came across this article about [your industry/company/interest] and thought of you. How’s business? Would love to catch up.”

Similarly, reach out to ask how things are going. You’d be surprised how well people will respond to your genuine interest in the problem they had when you last spoke. See if they came up with a solution. If not, you’re there to help!

4. Reconnect with past clients

If you have a client that’s lapsed, go back and try to rekindle the relationship.

You can approach a past client with an email along the same lines as the example above for lost opportunities. Just make it a soft touch and keep it genuine.

Since you probably know your past clients fairly well, use this as an opportunity to add more value with something you know they need or want. Send them a list of great new lead sources for their industry, or an article they might find interesting. Start with something small and the conversation could grow.

5. Mine industry recognition and accolades lists to find new sales leads

Awards, recognition and accolades lists for your industry can all be great sources of new leads.

The Inc5000 organizes honorees by industry, revenue, location, number of employees and more, so you can narrow down your search to your target market. The CMO Leadership Awards is specifically geared toward excellence in the pharmaceutical industry, which could make it a gold mine if that’s your target audience.

Not only are lists like these handy collections of similar prospects, it also gives you a talking point. “Congratulations!” emails are often better relationship-builders than “check out our new product launch.”

Now that you’ve got these 5 creative ways to source new leads, make sure you add any new processes to your Sales PlayBook! Don’t have a Sales PlayBook? Learn to build one by downloading our eBook:

How to find sales leads

If you want to grow your business, you’ll need leads, and there are no better leads than free leads. That’s why we’ve compiled the best tools that will allow you to get a certain amount of leads for free.

We’ll tell you how to use them, we’ll highlight their pros and cons, and mention if they have any monetary limitations. That way, you’ll get to know which ones to use, and you won’t run out of places to find free leads online.

Let’s get started.

Quick Links:

1. Uplead

How to find sales leads

UpLead is a powerful prospecting tool that allows you to grab free leads with extremely accurate information.

Trusted by clients like HubSpot, Google, Amazon, and Dropbox, UpLead is an online B2B sales intelligence platform that gives you a 95% accuracy guarantee on your data. With UpLead, you’ll know you aren’t paying for leads you won’t be able to contact.

To start generating leads, all you need to do is browse over 54 million leads, filtering the leads through multiple data points to find leads that fit your user personas.

When you’re ready to download their information, their emails will be validated, so you’ll always know you’re paying only for valid addresses , and keep the rest.

You can also use the tool to enrichen the data you already have, updating it with more information and verified email addresses.

Finally, UpLead doesn’t just show you someone’s email. You will also receive their entire profile.

With this information, you can quickly learn more about your lead before contacting them, so you can personalize your message and tailor it to them.

Also, it is worth mentioning that a good lead generation project requires investing your time wisely, using a tool to gather your passwords could help you store your credentials and make your workflow more efficient.

How to find sales leads

Many successful small business owners are continuously looking to expand their customer base and grow their businesses. Business growth can be a difficult and long-term process, though. One of the foundational elements of growing a business is having access to a steady stream of sales leads. A lead is a person, or business if you have a company that sells to other businesses (B2B), that has an interest in the products or services you are selling.

Here are some tips for creating a system that will help you identify sales leads in your small business, and — with the right focus and effort — turn them into customers.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

The first step of lead generation is identifying your target audience. You can't successfully reach and sell to your ideal customer if you don't know exactly who that is. So it's important to research your audience and come up with a clear picture of who they are, where they live, what they like to do, how much money they make, what their lifestyle and personality are like, etc.

If you don’t already have one, you should also create a comprehensive marketing plan as part of this step.

2. Pick Your Promotional Methods Wisely

In order to generate leads, you need a promotional plan that will get your products and services in front of members of your target audience. There are a number of ways you can promote your business, and again, you will want to use your marketing plan to identify the most effective methods for your business.

Some marketing ideas include an informational website, a blog, social media, speaking engagements, industry events, current customer referrals, pay per click (PPC) advertising, and traditional advertising.

3. Create a Sales Funnel

Once you know who you are targeting and have determined how best to reach them, you need to have a plan for collecting contact information. The first part of the process involves funneling all prospects to a standard form or landing page that encourages them to share their contact information, generally in return for a free gift, a coupon, a sample or some other value-added incentive.

At this point, it is vital to have a customer relationship management (CRM) database that will help you keep track of potential customers through the process.

4. Use an Email Newsletter to Build Relationships

Now that you're in contact with prospects, it's time to cultivate those relationships so you can take them from the lead stage through a sale (and eventually a repeat sale!). One of the best ways to create consistent communication with your prospects is through an email newsletter.

While you are planning your email marketing plan, make sure you are aware of and follow regulations that are a part of the CAN-SPAM Act.

5. Leverage Social Media to Connect and Engage

Social media provides a number of opportunities for small businesses to create conversations with prospective customers and generate new leads. You can create a Facebook page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn company page, Pinterest account or a YouTube channel to attract and engage your audience, then funnel them through your process to become leads.

Plus, once you have leads in the system, you can use social media to talk to them and find out more about what they need and want. The more positive touchpoints a customer has with your business over time, the more likely he or she will be to trust your brand and eventually purchase from you.

Lead generation should be thought of as a long-term and continuous process. If you get an efficient system in place using the sales lead tips above, you can streamline the lead generation process and increase your opportunities for business growth.

Businesses need customers, and every customer was originally a lead — a potential customer who at some point decided to go ahead and do business with a company. As discussed in How to Grow Your Business with Lead Generation, the process of going out and finding new potential customers is called lead generation.

Lead generation: The process of gaining the interest of potential customers in order to increase future sales.

Lead generation is an art and a science. In the past, sales reps reached out to customers to introduce them to new products and services. But today’s customers have so much information at their fingertips, they’re much less receptive to cold-call sales pitches. Modern companies instead generate new leads by developing a strong internet presence. Salesforce makes it easier to generate leads, and to qualify, manage, and route them to sales teams once you do.

We’ve got some great resources for learning all about growing your business with lead generation in Salesforce:


If you’re not already blazing trails on Trailhead, you need to get out on the trail pronto. Trailhead is the fun, self-paced way to learn all about Salesforce. And it’s free to use.

Several trails and modules touch on lead generation and related topics. Start with these:

Trailhead: Introduction to Opportunities and Leads
Read all about how opportunities and leads work in Salesforce, and part of a larger trail covering how CRM can help your business grow.

Trailhead: Sell Better with Essentials
Hands-on working with and converting leads using Salesforce Essentials, which brings the power of CRM to Trailblazers in Small Business.

Trailhead: Target the Best Leads
Learn how Sales Cloud Einstein uses artificial intelligence to help you target the best leads.

Trailhead: Pardot Lead Generation
Learn all about using Pardot, Salesforce’s marketing automation tool, to turn website visitors into sales leads.

Salesforce Documentation

When you set up Web-to-Lead, Salesforce captures prospects who provide contact information. You can also redirect prospects to other web pages that are critical to campaign success.

Official Documentation: What are the Advantages of Using Leads?
Understand some of the advantages of using lead generation, including the ability to maintain two separate lists — one for prospective customers and one for existing customers.

Official Documentation: Generate Leads from LinkedIn Lead Gen Ads
Step-by-step instructions connect LinkedIn Lead Gen advertisements to Salesforce. When prospective customers fill out a form on your LinkedIn ad, we convert the data directly to new leads in Salesforce.

Trailblazer Community

Trailblazer Community: How Can I Receive a Notification Email When a New Lead Comes In?
Use a web landing page to capture visitor information, and receive real-time notifications when new leads come in.

Trailblazer Community: Importing Leads from External Lead Generation Websites
Take a look at ways to import leads from third-party lead gen websites into Salesforce.

Knowledge Article: 5 Proven Ways to Generate More Leads with Salesforce CRM
Check out these five ways Salesforce can help you get more leads, process them more effectively, and refine your lead generation efforts.

More Awesome Resources

Lead gen has also been the topic of many a Salesforce blog post, knowledge article, and e-book. Check these out for more strategies, tips, and how-tos for effective lead generation:

Salesforce Hub: What Should You Expect from Lead Generation Software?
Learn how lead generation tools can help your salespeople personally focus on well-qualified leads while other leads are automatically nurtured.

Salesforce Blog: Supercharged Lead Generation for Your Sales Teams
Uncover the secrets to generating great lead pipeline (at scale) for all your salespeople.

Salesforce Hub: 9 Strategies to Help You Generate New Leads
From regular customer care calls to becoming a trusted source of information, here are nine ideas to help you hit your lead gen targets.

Marketing Cloud: 6 Top B2B Lead Generation Strategies
Take a deep dive into six well-tested strategies for lead generation, whether you are building your program from scratch or refining your current lead generation process.

Video: Salesforce Pardot: Lead Generation Demo
Check out this one-minute video overview of Pardot. Get everything you need to drive demand and fill your pipeline with high-quality leads — right at your fingertips.

“ Forty-six percent of sales leaders say deeper customer relationships are a key objective for sustaining success.”

Salesforce, “State of Sales” | ***note hidden for later reuse -dw ****

How to find sales leads

In a perfect world, you would have an unlimited budget to market your business in order to find new customers and increase sales. You could buy lots of online and offline advertising, run promotions to build traffic in store and online, and launch a proactive public relations campaign to increase your product or brand’s visibility and awareness. But this isn’t a perfect world. Realistically, most small businesses and even many mid-sized firms have more great ideas on how to peddle their wares than available resources.

So where do you start if you are looking for more customers? Learning to generate new sales leads is an essential skill for an entrepreneur. Even if you don’t consider yourself a salesperson in the classic sense of the Willy Loman character from Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, you need to understand that the possibilities for finding new customers range from cold calling names from the phone book to buying lists of potential customers to using newer Internet techniques like search engine optimization to drive new business to your website.

The following pages will delve into how to conduct market research to understand your target audience and their needs, how to determine which lead generation techniques are best to broaden your sales horizons, and how to increase sales by following several strategies to sell additional products and/or services to existing customers.

How to Find New Customers and Increase Sales: Understand Your Target Audience

Before you can find new customers and increase sales, you need to understand who your customer is, what value proposition you offer to customers, and what your competition is currently offering in the market and where there are gaps for a new entrant. In other words, you need to do some market research — whether that means hiring an outside firm to do the legwork or trying to do it yourself. There’s an underlying disconnect between your motivation to increase sales and your customer’s motivation to solve their problems.

“Attracting more customers is really about listening to their needs, not being a solution looking for a problem,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a strategic-marketing consulting firm whose clients include Fortune 500 companies as well as early stage and emerging businesses. “There are many existing problems out there that need to be solved that customers are willing to pay for today.”

How to Find New Customers and Increase Sales: Find Out Who Your Current Customers Are

In order to develop a marketing plan to reach new customers, you need to better understand who you’re already selling to. “If I’m trying to expand sales, I have to find out who my existing customers are. What are their demographics? What do they look like?” says Jerry Osteryoung, director of outreach for the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at Florida State University. “That means doing market research.”

Market research runs the gamut from very simple qualitative research to in-depth quantitative analysis. It can be done very quickly and inexpensively by sending surveys to your existing customers using one of the many online survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang. You can also get to know the target audience by looking at existing sources of information — from the U.S. Census Bureau or other government agencies, from trade associations, or from third-party research firms. But depending on the questions you are trying to answer and your research budget, your market research can involve more extensive interviews with customers and qualitative studies on how target customers feel about your business, its products and services.

Certain products and services may appeal to one audience but not to another, so understanding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in your target market is critical. You can get to know your customers and segment the market any number of ways including by:

1. Join a networking group. Local business networking or lead groups are plentiful. Choose a group that encourages one-on-one exchanges where you can develop relationships over time. Don’t expect to do business directly with members of the group; instead, educate members about what you do so that they can refer people to you (and vice versa).

2. Join an association. Local chambers of commerce, professional associations and other groups offer opportunities to network as well. Again, relationships that take time to develop may not necessarily translate into immediate leads but can contribute to lead generation down the road.

Join an association’s committee, volunteer to be a speaker or help organize an event to create a close working relationship with other members.

3. Make cold calls.You can approach prospective customers by telephone or, if you’re bold and the situation is appropriate, in person. Either way, you not only generate leads, but help to develop your sales techniques.

4. Develop strategic alliances.Depending on the type of business you’re in, you may mesh well with another type of business for the purpose of cross-referrals. For example, accountants may refer clients to bankers and vice versa. In some cases, referrals may proceed only in one direction; develop a number of alliances so that referrals come your way.

5. Generate referrals.Obtain the names of prospective customers from your existing customer base. Offer incentives, if necessary, to solicit referral information (e.g., cash back with each referral that becomes a customer). Also seek referrals through family, friends and other business associates.

Ask for referrals by those who may have no interest in your business. For example, if a prospect turns you down, salvage the experience by asking for a referral to someone who might have a need for your product or service.

6. Host seminars.Instead of speaking a dozen or more in one place. Offer information through a seminar – this is a valued service to people and showcases your expertise. Build attendance by inviting existing customers and having them bring new faces. Leave your commercial for the end of your presentation – keep it brief so as not to distract from the presentation you’ve jest completed. Ask orally or through a written handout whether attendees have an interest in hearing from you after the seminar so you can follow up effectively.

7. Be a guest speaker.Local business associations and charitable organizations are always looking to fill their event schedule with speakers. Offer to talk to members on a topic that can highlight your expertise. Speaking leads to visibility in your community.

8. Host a special event.Hold an after-hours wine-and-cheese party for your customers. Have them bring their friends (your new prospects).

9. Become a community volunteer.Join a local organization that has nothing to do with business – the volunteer ambulance corps, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or the PTA. Again, the aim is not only to support the local organization or cause but to become visible and develop relationships. This activity may not produce immediate sales leads, but you’ll be supporting an important cause and over time you will gain new relationships that will help your business.

10. Send direct mail.A mail campaign need not be a massive undertaking costing thousands of dollars. You can adopt a limited program in which you send out five or 10 pieces each week. The key in your program is to target your prospects and then follow up with a telephone call. By having a direct mail piece precede your call, you’ve warmed up a prospect – you can refer to the piece and ask the prospect if he or she’s had a chance to read it and has any questions.

11. Use trade shows. Trade shows provide a venue for obtaining a large number of leads in a short amount of time. Whether you have a booth or table at the show or ware a visitor, you can exchange business cards with others at the show.

Write key information on the back of each business card to help you remember something about each person.

12. Observe the three-foot rule. Whenever you are with three feet of someone, be prepared to give your 30-second commercial about who you are and what you do. Introduce yourself, state the name of your business and give a brief explanation of what your company can do for a customer.

Using the three-foot rule turns waiting time into productive time when you’re standing in line at the post office, bank or another location.