Near the beginning of Orwell’s masterpiece, Animal Farm, the animals embrace the powerful philosophy that “All animals are created equal”. During my 20-year career in the B2B sales industry, the majority of sales organisations I know seemed to work on the basis that ‘all leads were created equal’. The burning question to answer, if you genuinely want to increase sales is …

What are the best lead sources available to increase sales?

Ok, back to Animal Farm for a moment. Snowball and Napoleon, the all-conquering pigs of Orwell’s story, encourage the other animals to rebel and drive out the drunken farmer, helping deliver on their Utopian dream of self-governance.

The animals learn to read and write, the farm runs smoothly and food is plentiful. Unfortunately the dream soon becomes a nightmare. As time passes, the farm falls into disrepair, divisions emerge amongst the animals and the old philosophy is quietly amended to reflect their new circumstances in which ‘all animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others’.

In the ever-evolving sales world in which we live, where millions of dollars, thousands of man hours and countless social media campaigns are deployed in a concerted effort to create more sales leads, perhaps we also need to amend our philosophy. I believe the new philosophy should state that ‘all leads may be created equal, but some leads are definitely more equal than others’.

In a previous post I talked about the pros and cons of cold-calling in the world of B2B sales and whether this was still a valid strategy to fill your sales funnel. I also promised to share some other creative lead-generation ideas that salespeople might consider adopting.

So here goes, 4 quick, proven strategies to fill your sales funnel with the best leads you possibly can …

#1 – Internal and external referral strategy

One strategy to consider and one that very few sales organisations have truly mastered is the internal and external referral strategy. If you agree not all leads are created equal, it’s important to recognise and understand how to source the best possible leads.

Those prospects with the highest propensity to purchase are invariably ones that have been referred to your business by someone who is both known and trusted to them. Working out how to target referral opportunities and harness the influencing power of your customer’s network can be a hugely successful mechanism to increase the value of your customer base.

What’s so great about referral-based leads I hear you ask?

  • They are usually pre-qualified
  • They are less likely to shop around for multiple vendors
  • They have less tendency to haggle over pricing
  • And perhaps most importantly, whether they become a new customer or not, you get to have the right conversation with the right individual, in a timely fashion.

Often the hardest thing is knowing who to ask and when and how to make the referral request. Creating some simple and sensible language for your sales teams to use and a mechanism to trigger this conversation with your customers is a powerful way to create a consistent stream of referral-based leads.

# 2 – Ascending transaction model (ATM)

Another powerful funnel-building strategy is the ascending transaction model (ATM), where prospective clients are initially exposed to your product, service or value-adding content for free, in a ‘try before you buy’ approach.

The basis for the ATM strategy stems from the psychology of human behavioral science, which tells us that the vast majority of individuals need to spend time becoming familiar with and developing trust for a product, service or brand, before they will genuinely consider making a purchase. This is especially true of larger or more expensive purchases.

By understanding this purchasing reluctance, smart businesses create ways in which to engage with, add value to and normalise their product or service in the eyes of prospective customers, before ever trying to sell anything. They earn the right to progress from step to step, as some prospective customers become further engaged and others self-select out of the ascending transaction model.

The benefit of this approach is that the cost of serving them is low. While prospects are becoming more qualified, it allows you to significantly increase the size of your sales funnel and ultimately the scale of your business. At face value the ATM strategy is deceptively simple, but executed effectively its one of the most powerful lead generation activities available to any businesses.

#3 – Recurring revenue model

In order to increase sales, don’t just focus on net-new prospects, where the cost of sale is higher and the sales cycle is longer. Aim to create a recurring revenue component within your existing product or service line, meaning customers will have a compelling reason to re-engage with you time and time again.

Look at dentists or car mechanics for inspiration. At least once a year, when you go in for your annual check-up or car service, its usually booked well in advance and represents repeatable revenue with little or no added cost of sale for the provider.

In the B2B world this is already being achieved in lots of different ways, including:

  • SaaS businesses where customers sign up to an often small, monthly recurring fee for access to the platform or service they require
  • In the hardware and software worlds, annual maintenance and support contracts, where an ongoing percentage is payable each year to access new releases and updates
  • Time-based discounts that are locked in for a period of time and trigger a future sale
  • In fact anything that you can use to create a catalyst for action or repeat business, without incurring significant additional cost of sale.

#4 – Land-and-expand strategy

It’s rare that your first sale to a new customer will be the big one. Human nature dictates that customers will often try out a new product or service with a small sale first, before risking a broader deployment.

Take a moment to analyse your revenues over the past couple of years. Chances are a significant portion of the larger transactions have come from existing customers. Customers who are happy with your product or service and have been willing to increase the wallet share they grant you.

Consider embracing the ‘land and expand’ sales strategy as a mechanism to create more such customers. The focus on this strategy is to create a small foothold with a new customer and earn the right to expand your relationship into other areas of their business.

The upside, from a sales psychology perspective, is that once a customer has made an initial purchasing decision, no matter how small, you have overcome an important obstacle and the opportunity exists to broaden and deepen your relationship.


If you have a perspective on which lead types can help drive sales fastest, please share your feedback below, I’d love to hear from you.

Cian McLoughlin is the Amazon #1 bestselling author of Rebirth of the Salesman, a regular keynote speaker at sales kick-off’s around the world and one of the Top 50 Sales bloggers in the world for the past 2 years. He is a passionate proponent of an ethical, honest and authentic approach to sales. His company, Trinity Perspectives, is committed to helping sales organizations unlock the latent potential of their customers’ insights with their Win Loss Analysis and Sales Transformation services. To read more of Cian’s sales articles visit

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