There’s one thing no one really likes dealing with and that’s the sales funnel. Knowing where you next clients are going to come from is a heavy task and requires a strategy worthy of an epic battle. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this grueling. Whether you have a sales team or are an army of one, you can develop a systematic lead generation strategy that doesn’t have anyone panicking at the close of the month.

One thing you don’t want to do is have your sales people focus on lead generation. Sure this might appear cost-effective, especially if you’re offering a commission based salary, but it really isn’t. If you’ve got a great sales person, then you recognize that their talent is getting people to sign on the dotted line. Now, if you’re making them spend their time searching for leads and prospects, you’ve just turned your star sales person into a business development associate – which they’re not. Keep the two jobs separate. Business development and sales are two different things.

The quickest diagnosis for a poor sales strategy tends to be a poor lead management system. Whether it’s managing the clients you have now or your lead prospects, you should really consider investing in a customer relationship management software (CRM). For some of the best CRMs out there, check out my article on the subject, “Best Customer Relationships Management Software.” You can also use social CRMs like Spredfast, Radian6, Engaging Social, Engage121, Zoho, BreezeSocial, and Sendible. Then there is marketing automation software, which some CRMs might also include: Eloqua, Marketo, Genius, Pardo, and Totus, to name a few. The more you can automate and track engagement, the higher your success rate of getting repeat and new conversions. It’s a sound strategy for both small business owners and large agencies – in fact, it’s an imperative one.

Inc. Magazine recently featured on article on three different types of lead generating strategies. The article, written by Barrett Riddleberger and titled “Who Makes the Call? 3 Lead-Generating Strategies for your business,” covers the pros and cons of various models. The first model is what I’ve strongly advised against, and that’s requiring sales to act as business development.

The second model is having the company generate the leads. While Barrett gives a compelling argument, the area to really highlight here is that some conflict may arise from sales not being happy with the quality of leads. Still, this model beats out the other two, especially in light of the third one. The 3rd model is a hybrid arrangement where both sales and business development are empowered to generate leads. The only real problem I see here is that sales might not attract or go after the type of clientele a company wants. Furthermore, your salesperson might expect additional compensation if they’re bringing in more business than your business development associate is.

To thwart any complications in what is essentially the ideal business model for lead generation, I recommend having sales trained in customer profiling and to offer an incentive reward for successful new business acquisition by sales.

A great resource on learning more about sales and lead generation is the Sales Hacker Conference. The next one takes place on November 6, 2014 in San Francisco, CA. Previous conference series included everything from inbound/outbound strategies and lead generation, technology, and methodology. This year the conference features over 15 different thought leaders in sales and offers several workshops in addition to the lecture series. This is conference that should ideally be attended by marketing, business development, and sales.