How to Generate Industrial Sales Leads

First you find leads; then you contact them. Sounds simple, right? Here are some tactics to try.

Trying to find new industrial sales leads is often the toughest and most neglected activity a company can face. It’s the Great Unknown — a vast unconquered territory fraught with sometimes hostile people who you’re only trying to help, and definitely occupied by hostile competition looking to eat your lunch.

You know there are individuals and businesses out there that could benefit from what you offer, but where in that wilderness are they, and how do you make friends with them, much less turn them into industrial sales leads?

How to Find New Industrial Sales Leads

Industrial Directories & Databases

Directories have traditionally been some of the top resources for industrial sales leads.

For decades, the bible of many marketers in the industrial sector was “the big green books”: The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers. Today, Thomas has terminated its print catalogs and exists online as ThomasNet.

While ThomasNet is still a leading resource for finding hundreds of thousands of industrial firms, all categorized by industry, it has longstanding competition from such giants as D&B’s, which provides highly detailed customized search capabilities with a paid subscription.

These icons of industrial listings now also have a whole new herd of competition from newer online industrial directories and databases, many of which provide listings and some search services for free, including MacRAE’s Blue Book, Process Register, and Engineering 360/IEEE GlobalSpec.

All of these major industrial directories cut both ways: You should be listed in every one you can get into, and you should mine them constantly for new leads. Start with the ones you can list in for free. Move up to the high-end subscriptions when you’re ready and able.


Almost always a good way of making yourself known and getting your message out to potential customers, advertising must be focused to be effective.

For generating industrial sales leads, there’s no better buy than placements in trade publications for the industries you’re trying to reach, either print or online or both. It’s especially effective for building awareness of your brand and capabilities.

For online advertising, use only services that can guarantee placement on pages that your potential customers are likely to visit. Make every ad — print or online — prominently feature your website URL, email address, and phone number.


A satisfied customer will often be happy to tell other people or firms that could benefit from your services about you — but many businesses simply never ask them to do so!

When you have delivered on time, within budget, and have a customer who is enthusiastic about your good service, make it company policy to always ask about other possible customers and urge them to recommend you to others.

How to Contact New Industrial Sales Leads

Once you have a list of potential industrial sales leads, how should you approach them? Cold calling and hard-sell tactics rarely work, so it’s often beneficial to try a softer approach.

There is a character called The Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark” who is fond of saying: “What I tell you three times is true.” That has a very practical real-world application in marketing to new industrial sales leads that haven’t been in touch with you: Contact them three times. If no response, move on to new leads. The important thing is to make the effort to contact them!

With today’s emphasis on “pull” or “inbound” marketing, rather than “push” marketing, an industrial website is the foundation upon which almost nearly all industrial marketing is built. But simple passive existence isn’t going to get customers in the door. You’ve got to “reach” in a variety of ways.

Website Optimization

Being easy to find through web searches is its own sort of “reach,” akin to putting up a sign that tells what you do for passersby.

Search-engine optimization (SEO) is both art and science, best left to pros, but you can always use Google as a keyword tool to see where you rank. Search strings of “service + industry,” e.g., “‘metal forming’ + medical.” The ratio of search volume to competition should inform you of your likelihood of ranking for that search term, and will tell you what keywords to use on your website.

Another vital action is to have a place on your website for visitors to opt-in for receiving email messages from you. This gives you another source of new leads that are ready to hear from you.


As an extension of your website, a blog is a virtual soapbox where you can stand and make yourself known.

When a blog is combined with good SEO, timely subjects relevant to your target markets, and solid writing, it can help to establish you as a force in your industry, instilling confidence in your readers about your know-how, experience, and capabilities.

Mailings and Email

Print is not dead! A very effective action for cold mailing lists is to send three inexpensive mailings, such as postcards, that briefly and succinctly tout your strengths and offer a value, such as a free consultation.

Spread the mailings a couple of weeks apart. Always include your website and contact information. Once anyone has received three and not responded, scratch them off the list. Add new names.

The same principle applies to lists of people who have expressed a willingness to receive emails from you: create a series of emails that promote your services and capabilities in few words, and that make it easy to get in touch.

Social Media

While not providing targeted lines of communication, social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have become beneficial for making yourself known to potential customers and generating good word-of-mouth.

Hats & Whips

Marketing slang for the types of souvenirs often sold at fairs and circuses, “hats and whips” refers to anything you can get your name on that puts you in the public eye.

Often called “promotions,” these can include anything from T-shirts to coffee mugs to ballpoint pens to golf balls. The point is to have items you can give away to prospects that carry your name, your slogan, your website, and your telephone number.

Cold Calls & Surveys

While cold calls don’t have a great success rate, they always have been, still are, and always will be an indispensable sales tool.

If you encounter resistance, many people who are resistive to cold sales calls are often entirely happy to give their opinions. So survey! Call cold lists in your target industry and say you would really value their opinion about topics related to their industry.

If they’re willing, ask a prepared list of questions. The answers will accumulate to give you crucial information about the aspects of your business you should concentrate on in your marketing. For instance, ask what problems they encounter with manufacturing suppliers, such as inconsistent quality or late deliveries.

Drill down according to your own services and the industry you’re approaching. Always thank survey participants for their input, and always ask if you can send them some information related to their answers.

Now That You Know, What Do You Do?

Even knowing where to look for new customers and how to reach them often isn’t enough to generate the quantity of industrial sales leads you need for your business.

The fact is, many companies simply don’t have the in-house manpower, time, or “oomph” to implement and maintain a consistent, dedicated outreach marketing program. Existing projects and customers often consume all available resources and companies can get mired in a cyclical promote-produce-promote-produce process that never takes them to the next level.

If you’re ready to break the cycle and experience a steady stream of industrial sales leads, Industrial Strength Marketing can help with a powerhouse lineup of marketing tools and top-shelf marketing professionals. Contact us today for a free consultation.


About the Author

Not so fast!
Don’t miss our latest B2B marketing insights. Sign up to receive Industrial Marketer in your inbox.