Networking websites create business leads

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Friday, September 01, 2006

For entrepreneurs seeking new ways to find connections and generate sales prospects, the web has become a virtual candy store of options. Many small-business owners are giving cold calling the cold shoulder.

Frank Rumbauskas, a sales coach and author of Never Cold Call Again (Wiley, June 2006), is convinced that cold calling is obsolete. Prospects hate getting unsolicited sales call now more than ever — if they even answer their phone at all. “Sales people everywhere are learning the hard way that cold calling just doesn’t work anymore,” says Rumbauskas. “They are using 20th century sales techniques to try to lure 21st century customers who have no patience for the sales pitch.”

Great alternatives to cold calling are the so-called social networking sites that are all the rage in the Internet world right now. And darned if some of them don’t actually have a lot to offer small-business owners.

Perhaps the hottest player in this niche is LinkedIn, an online network of some 6 million business people worldwide. While big social sites such as MySpace cater to personal use, LinkedIn is strictly business.

First, you join and create a profile of your business accomplishments. The profile helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients, partners and prospects. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join and connect to you in web-like fashion.

LinkedIn is free to join but last year added paid memberships (at $60 to $2,000 per year) that offer premium tools for finding and reaching the right people. The paid memberships have been hugely popular, and LinkedIn says it will expand its free services as well.

The power of these new digital grapevines is their ability to share lead-generating ideas across large numbers of people and to provide “introductions” through trusted contacts. You don’t find your ideal prospect nicely registered on the site, just waiting for you.  Rather, through an efficient system of contact sharing, it may be one of your contacts’ contacts that ultimately generates the introduction and big sale you are seeking. 

LinkedIn aims to make the search for business contacts and prospects as smart and easy as possible. Business owners already use it frequently to look up people before business meetings to learn about backgrounds and interests of other meeting attendees as well as suppliers and potential customers.

Other popular web-based lead generators for small business include Jigsaw, Spoke and Zoom Information.

Jigsaw is an online business contact marketplace where you can buy, sell and trade business contact information. You can buy leads for cash or acquire names by contributing some of your own.

Spoke comes off as a more sophisticated service offering on-demand business contact information designed to help you find and sell to targeted buyers. Spoke has information on 650,000 companies and 30 million people and also has a social networking feature that lets subscribers share contact information.

Another helpful feature is Spoke’s ability to feed leads and contact information directly into Salesforce.com — a big bonus for small firms already using Salesforce. A Spoke subscription is $59 per month, or $495 if you sign up for a year.

— Daniel Kehrer, BizBest Media

 

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Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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