Gotten any self-generated leads lately? If you're like most home improvement company owners, the answer is probably, “Not as many as I'd like,” or “None.”

Even where reps are employees rather than independent contractors — and therefore accountable for their time — few companies bring in significant business through self-generated leads. This isn't for want of trying. Many companies have, from time to time, introduced programs offering bonuses for self-gens. Some have gone so far as to double the commission on these leads, figuring that a 10% lead cost is a bargain compared with the 15% they might otherwise be paying.

But guess what? Few or no takers.

Here are some reasons why: First, at many companies there's a sense that getting leads is the company's problem, not the rep's. If that doesn't change, forget about self-generated leads.

Second, many reps dread cold calling, and many owners — as well as reps — feel that it's enough for salespeople to be closing at high rates without adding lead generation to their responsibilities.

Third, some owners fear that requiring salespeople to self-generate leads will cause morale to suffer, close ratios to fall, and the salesforce to defect to competitors. So why shake things up?

There's one good reason to consider self-generated leads: rapidly rising marketing costs. To compete and make a profit into the future, you'll have to hold those costs at 10% or less. You can reduce them by closing on more appointments, finding inexpensive lead sources, or getting salespeople to produce 15% to 20% of their own leads.

Perhaps it's an uphill battle because you're using only carrots. You also need to employ the stick. Suppose that, instead of giving reps 10 leads per week, you cut that to eight and reps had to come up with the other two leads on their own. You could combine that requirement with additional commission or other incentives.

OK, it's still a tough sell, especially for sales veterans. But if the new salespeople you're hiring know they're expected to come up with some leads of their own, they won't quibble.

Overcome the fear of cold calling by giving them a system to prospect for new leads. Show them how to recognize and approach potential buyers. Talk it up at sales meetings and set the goal of making self-gen one of your company's five or six top-producing lead sources.

Risky? Yes. But your bottom line results could be more than worth it.

Jim Cory, Editor