Top Sales Leads Sources (Statistics)

By John Honovich, Published Mar 16, 2015, 12:00am EDT

Where do integrators and manufacturers get leads for new customers?

We asked 100 sales people this question.

The short answer: 'old school' techniques, though the methods / sources of integrators were the opposite of manufacturers.

In this note, we examine the differences, sharing color commentary from both groups, and conclude with an analysis of the problems / opportunities available.

Integrator #1 - 'Word of Mouth' / 'Referrals'

The clear top choice for integrators, with more than half citing this, was having their existing customers and colleagues recommend them.

  • "Referrals and word of mouth keep me busy"
  • "Usually all business is word of mouth. Generally, we are people's favorite contractors due to the little things such as respecting property and cleaning up our workspace when finished."
  • "Leads are generated by Word of mouth"
  • "Word of mouth only"
  • "Word of mouth. Keeping everyone happy."
  • "Just about all our leads come from referrals."
  • "We try all newspapers, events including cold calls... but the most successes we have had were almost always good referrals from happy customers/resellers/friends."
  • "We do very little advertising or promotion; thus, most of our leads come from referrals (word of mouth)"
  • "Almost 100% word of mouth. We target specific industries and get a lot of referrals."
  • "Most of our leads come from word of mouth or from our other techs out in the field. We have a unique way of picking up customers for CCTV or access control since we are a full service locksmith as well. So, a small job just to re-key a lock or install some door hardware in a company can lead into an access control, CCTV, or alarm estimate when the tech evaluates their needs."

Manufacturer #1 NOT Notable - Word of Mouth / Referrals

To the contrary, only a few manufacturers cited word or mouth or referrals as a key source of leads. Since no manufacturer offered an explanation of why, we cannot be confident of what the cause is for this. We suspect that since most manufacturers sell indirect (i.e., through integrators to end users), that this contributes to the lack of referrals (i.e., integrators are often unlikely to recommend products to other integrators for competitive concerns).

Manufacturer #1 - Trade Shows

Whether they called them 'shows', 'events', or 'exhibits', by far the most common source of leads cited were trade shows. No manufacturer gave a glowing endorsement of trade shows or cited specific success. Nonetheless, the fact that so many cited trade shows and so much more than any other option shows their importance.

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What's fascinating about this is the cost of leads from trade shows is very high. $200 - $500 for a new lead is a fair estimate, considering that even a small tabletop 10x10 booths at the back of major trade show floors cost $10,000+ all-in. Though one may talk to a few hundred people, one is unlikely to come away with more than 20 - 50 leads. Despite this, that so many cite it shows that most manufacturers have not found a better alternative.

Integrator #2 - 'Networking'

Back on the integrator side, right behind 'word of mouth' and significantly more than any other source, networking was commonly cited, such as:

  • "Our sales people are involved in networking groups."
  • "I try to network with people I know in business and with contacts in the industry."
  • "I have a great network of professional friends who are always sending me leads. It's not what you know, it's who you know, right?"
  • "Networking in business network groups."
  • "Leads are generated through networking. The biggest challenge is spending enough time networking."

Integrator Notable - Cold Calls, Trade Shows and Manufacturers

Though word of mouth and networking were, by far, the big two for integrator leads, there were a few other (less common) themes / sources mentioned.

A notable minority cited cold calls, though generally not enthusiastic or their top choice. As one noted, "biggest challenge is getting salespeople to work cold leads." However, one did declare, "Cold calls have yielded the greatest returns."

A similar minority cited trade shows though none, unlike the manufacturers, they were relatively few and without the priority / importance that shows were for manufacturers.

Finally, like trade shows, a small minority cited their manufacturer partners as bringing them some leads.

Integrator NOT Notable - Website and Email Newsletters

The Internet, as a whole, was simply absent for integrators. Just a few integrators even mentioned it.

Manufacturer Notable - Online

Unlike integrators, online tools (like websites and emails) were a common lead source, coming in only second to shows. Manufacturers noted:

  • "targeted email campaigns" and another "an outgoing email program"
  • "checking loggings on our website, (Leadlander)"
  • "our web site brings in leads" and "website requests are another source along"
  • "1) customers searching for us online, we capture their information and follow up."

However, a few emphasized the downside of online leads, noting, "Biggest challenge for getting leads through email and / or website is that people looking for systems on the internet are price oriented" Related, "Many of our call-ins are people who should really be going to Costco and buying a $200 kit."

Integrator - Other Notable

Lastly, though not fitting in any one trend, a few integrators had interesting lead sources worth highlighting:

  • "Several leads come from electrical contractors bidding on construction jobs."
  • "Our best new lead efforts come from local County Deed of Records Offices, getting the most current mortgage data on the newest property owners in the area daily and weekly then targeting those persons listed with direct mail, telemarking and drive by door flyers."
  • "We monitor public RFQ's through various services"
  • "I have the luxury of being part of large Cisco Gold Partner. Most of my leads come from direct referral or directly from our sales reps assigned to the Cisco side of the business. It is a distinct advantage because those rep usually are dealing at a very high level inside of the client organization."
  • "We are a huge company that most people have heard of so that helps in that a lot of contractors contact us."
  • "The best process, once you've been in the industry a while, is simply keeping up with contacts. Call on a schedule, just to see how they're doing. Budgets run in cycles. Simply because someone "doesn't have time to talk" two months ago, doesn't mean they don't have a desperate need today."

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