Most marketing and sales leads come about when companies search the same public information. As a result, by the time salespeople pursue a lead, they have a pack of competitors nipping at their heels. In that sort of race, it’s hard for anyone to stand out.
Finding sales leads for government and commercial opportunities sooner than competitors is a huge advantage. Getting in early, before the bid is announced or the request for proposal (RFP) hits the street, changes everything.
Direct Versus Indirect Marketing and Sales Leads
Sales leads are the lifeblood of the construction business. The traditional, direct approach to generating sales leads involves a marketing campaign of email, direct mail and cold calls targeting lists of government buyers and influencers. This approach can work with a large enough marketing budget. However, be aware of three major drawbacks.
The first drawback of the direct approach is that the mailing lists everyone uses contain essentially the same information that has been in the public domain for quite some time.
Second is a distinction legendary ad man Lester Wunderman likes to make: Suspects are not prospects. "Prospects are able, ready and willing to buy, while suspects are merely eligible to do so," he says.
Most lead generation programs include a gift offer that lifts response rates. Many of those “direct leads” turn out not to be qualified prospects, but rather people who just wanted the free information or gift offered.
The third drawback is missing key opportunities by limiting efforts to the direct approach. In the multibillion-dollar world of government contracts, state and local agencies constantly reveal clues about upcoming projects long before making an official public announcement. Prime contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers can get in ahead of the competition by tapping into a wellspring of indirect leads.
Identifying Indirect Sources for Sales Leads
Business information services can provide daily notification of direct sales leads, such as bids, quotes and RFPs. These services also provide ready access to indirect sources of information that can help identify sales opportunities in advance of a solicitation process.
One productive, yet often overlooked source of indirect sales leads is the bidders list?a list of government contractors, subcontractors and materials suppliers that expressed interest in bidding on a government contract. Government agencies issue this list when putting contracts out to bid.
A company’s interest in bidding may be expressed by purchasing a plan for a specific government contract, in which case the potential bidder also may be known as a plan holder. (In some cases, these plans may be free.) In other instances, a prime contractor, subcontractor or supplier may simply sign up on the government’s bidders list of potential providers for contract work.
Once a government contractor is selected, a bidders list can provide tremendous insight into the competition. For example, service providers archive government bidders lists and put them into a database so clients can examine trends on who is winning government projects and why. For subcontractors and material suppliers that sell to prime contractors, bidders lists are one of the best tools for developing a mailing list and prospecting list for new business.
Listed below are additional ways to increase sales opportunities through indirect leads.
- Search through bid documents for keywords specific to a product or service. It can be frustrating when a service or product isn’t in the bid or project title. Detailed information is always in the specification documents, which can be hard to locate. Government purchasing offices make the documents available for a limited amount of time, making them a great way to generate marketing leads.
- Review minutes from city council meetings. Early awareness can make or break the chance to win new government or commercial business. A construction, engineering or architecture company can generate marketing leads by accessing city council meeting minutes to learn in advance when funding is approved for new roads, buildings and utility projects.
- Tap into information on renewing contracts/term contracts. It’s hard to keep track of sales leads for contracts that will be up for renewal, but acquiring information on the current vendor, buyer, project description, price and contract term dates puts companies in an advantageous position to pursue these sales leads when the contract’s term is up.
- Utilize a custom contact list of government decision-makers. Getting to the right decision-makers before a project is announced can help increase the chances of winning a bid. With a custom contact list, businesses can develop ongoing phone, postal and email communications so their products or services stay on the agencies’ minds. Again, business information services can supply lists of difficult-to-obtain agency contacts customized by industry and marketplace.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of digging up indirect sales leads is uncovering revenue opportunities that might otherwise be missed by limiting efforts to traditional marketing campaigns.
Researching bidders/planholders lists, decision-maker contacts and city council meeting minutes can be cumbersome and time-consuming—especially because the government doesn’t provide a central location for all of this information—but business information services can streamline the process by providing access to relevant government and commercial opportunities, giving contractors a leg up on the competition.