B2B Lead Generation
Lead generation is an integral part of any b2b company. Here, we share some basics to consider and tips to setup and improve your lead gen strategy.
Generating leads is critical for the success of your company. A well-defined B2B lead generation strategy can help you improve your product or service, grow your customer base, and increase your revenue.
The highest performing lead generation strategies have clear and consistent messaging and focus on providing the best customer experience. Your goal is not just to sell, but to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
Table of Contents
What is B2B Lead Generation?
B2B or business-to-business means your company sells to other businesses, rather than directly to consumers. This includes all companies that offer products and services geared toward other businesses. Lead generation is defined as the process of collecting and identifying your ideal customer profile and attracting them to your product or service, with the goal of purchasing.
We define a prospect as a potential customer, another business, that may have a need or want for your product or service. A lead is a profile or contact information of a qualified prospect that is interested in your service or product offerings. Their profile should contain their contact information such as name, phone number, email, title.
Types of Lead Generation
The two main goals of B2B lead generation are to capture the interest & information of your ideal customers (prospects & leads) and move them along the buying process (customers).
B2B lead generation is critical for building a strong sales pipeline and creating a shorter sales cycle, which leads to higher revenue. These strategies also help provide more insight into industry positioning and the overall value of your service or offering.
There are two main types of lead generation: Inbound and Outbound.
- Inbound lead generation is the process of creating content, campaigns, or strategies that target and draw in groups of customers. The customer comes to you in this scenario through channels like social media and other content, or through referrals.
- Outbound lead generation refers to any cold contact you directly initiate with a potential prospect. This can be done through cold calling, cold emailing, TV commercials, or other paid advertisements.
While outbound is the traditional form of B2B lead generation, the best strategies should try to incorporate both types to effectively move prospects and leads down your sales funnel.
Inbound can sometimes be better at generating awareness but outbound is better for one-on-one conversations and connections. It is especially important if you want faster results or customers aren’t aware of your brand’s product or service.
In sales, B2B lead generation, strategies are often managed by:
- Sales Development Representatives (SDRs): SDRs are responsible for attracting, engaging in outreach, outbound prospecting, and appointment setting.
- Business Development Representatives (BDRs): BDRs are also responsible for qualifying leads and engaging with prospective buyers through business accounts. In some cases, the BDR will work closely with marketing to align touchpoints and strategies.
- Account Executives (AEs): AEs are responsible for answering questions, handling objections, closing the sale, and managing the accounts.
It is important that your sales team is aware of their responsibilities and can meet the needs of the prospects and leads to effectively move them down the sales funnel.
Creating a Better Sales Funnel
A B2B sales funnel represents the customer’s journey through your sales cycle. It defines how your leads are attracted, nurtured, and moved from potential prospect to customer.
Before starting your B2B lead generation campaign, you need to make sure you have correctly identified and evaluated your ideal customer profile and target audience.
Any method of lead generation typically involves four main steps in your sales funnel:
- Attracting: This top-of-the-funnel stage focuses on awareness and drawing potential customers to the company website and social channels. Here, the value of the lead is low because there’s no guarantee they are going to buy your solution. But, if you provide them enough high-level information and valuable content, they may become interested in your products and services.
Engaging: Second stage in the funnel. At this level, you begin to form trust and a stronger relationship with your prospects. You need to provide more knowledge about your products and services. The goal is to keep them on your website or platform as long as possible while you introduce new features and interact with them.
- Nurturing: The third stage in your sales funnel is about showing value and how your solutions will be the most effective for their business. Nurturing leads can shorten the sales cycle by 23 percent and increase the average spend by 47 percent. This may include a product demo, demonstrations, or other sales pitches. If your solution is not the most effective for them at the moment, they should not convert to the next stage.
- Converting: At the bottom of the funnel, you focus on offering attractive information and solutions in exchange for more information or payment. Once your lead is converted to a customer, you engage in the next round of customer content and education.
But, before you can move prospects and leads down your sales funnel, you first need to set your goals and define your ideal customer(s).
Build Your Ideal Customer Profile
To get the highest quality of leads throughout your campaign, you need to define your ideal customer profile. An ideal customer profile (ICP) is a specific description of a company that can benefit the most from your product or service offerings.
In B2B lead generation, your ICP is about attracting the most valuable leads and crafting specific messaging that resonates the most with their wants and needs. Understanding these unique attributes will also help convert leads faster and easier.
You should be re-evaluating your ICP at least once a year or after any major shifts in the market or your offering. For the best results, systematically identify shared traits and characteristics of real customers who are succeeding with your solution.
Here are some of the most common ways to start developing your ICP.
- Make a list of your best current and past customers:
- Use available online data or schedule an interview, if possible,
- Conduct a survey of a few questions to learn more
- Look for patterns
- Look at their company size, niche, and industry:
- What makes them different?
- What do they have in common?
- Are they high-ticket or low-ticket customers?
- What are the root causes of their pain points?
- What tools, products, or services are they currently using?
- How long have they been in business?
- Note their growth rates
- Note their growth rates
- What are some challenges they face?
- Mark these as areas of opportunity – prioritize the challenges by which ones would help your business the most
- What offerings may help these challenges specifically?
If you see two or more common patterns for these questions, it may be necessary to create more than one ICP for your business.
Source and Build Your Lead List
Now that you have defined your ideal customer, you can move on to finding a quality leads database. It is important to make sure you have accurate and clean data in this stage of your lead generation strategy or your strategy will most likely be unsuccessful.
- B2B Contact Databases- Allow access to multiple sales lead databases that can source accurate contact information based on a variety of criteria.
- AI Technology & Web Scraping Tools- Invest in different tools that use artificial intelligence and web scraping technology to source and generate harder-to-find leads.
- Manual Research- For the more unique prospecting lists, you can find experts specialized in manually researching and scouring the internet for sales contacts.
While there are many sources for prospecting lists, teams of expert researchers are your best bet for specific B2B leads that are harder to find using traditional databases.
Make sure your source is reputable and can provide multiple touchpoints like:
- Phone Number
- LinkedIn Profile
Now that you have your ideal customer profiles and quality leads lists, you can begin to plan your lead generation strategy.
Popular Lead Generation Strategies
Like we mentioned before, the best way to gain more leads is to use a combination of inbound and outbound lead generation strategies. Here are some of the most popular.
Email marketing is one of the most productive, cost-effective communication channels that allows you to consistently build and shape stronger relationships with your customers.
It is also one of the most used and most reliable methods for lead generation since you can use it at any stage in the funnel. Email marketing campaigns can also further qualify leads so your sales team isn’t wasting time on the “bad” ones.
Since the success of email marketing is measurable, knowing how to manage your leads is a necessity. One of the easiest ways to build an email list is to make it simple for people to subscribe through your website and social media channels.
Pro Tip: Segment your audiences into smaller groups based on their needs and messaging so you can be as specific as possible in your emails. This will help you meet the needs of your leads more efficiently.
Cold calling means making an unsolicited call to a business or consumer, by telephone or in-person, in an attempt to sell their goods or services. Phone conversations play a huge part in your B2B lead generation strategy and can help you increase sales and gain direct insight into your potential customer’s needs and concerns.
Cold calling isn’t always the easiest lead generation strategy but it is certainly one of the most effective. Unlike SEO or Pay-Per-Click, cold calling allows for immediate and timely feedback, often at a lower cost.
Pro Tip: Use a script for better cold calling results. Following a specific methodology or script framework can help you move freely along the conversation while working as a guardrail for using specific language that will resonate the most with your prospect. The script keeps all of your valuable information close by and ready for action in an easy-to-follow conversation format. It’s the perfect little cheat sheet for everything you need to know!
According to a recent study from Hubspot, around three-quarters of B2B buyers use social media to research and evaluate purchase decisions. This makes social media a crucial part of any lead generation program today. The more value you can provide the better.
Along with your own social media channels, use sites like Twitter, Quora, or Reddit to your advantage. It can help Marketing come up with better content and can help you generate more personal and brand awareness The key here is to provide valuable information, not sell it.
Pro Tip: Automate processes, not interactions. Automating processes, like scheduling content to post ahead of time, can help you reach more prospects daily. But, it is important to stay human and be authentic with your social media followers, so be sure to avoid automated and generic replies.
There are multiple tools and ways to get quicker results off your company website that you can use to gather more information. Try setting up a lead or chatbot on your website to collect more information from your visitors.
The more information you can gather before talking with the prospect, the more value you can add once you start the conversation. According to Statista, in 2020, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated about half of all website traffic globally. So, be sure to optimize your website for both desktop and mobile devices.
Pro Tip: Identity which pages you will install the bot or app on. Use specific messaging to ask more intelligent questions that will allow you to make informed decisions or assumptions based on the pages they were visiting.
Turn website traffic into leads and customers even after they’ve clicked away. This strategy can work across different channels, including social media, display, and email.
According to retargeter.com, retargeting can help you stay in front of leads during longer than average buying cycles. It can also help if you have strong website traffic but aren’t seeing as high conversion rates as you would like.
Pro Tip: Visitors to your website are your most valuable audience, but too often, businesses do not nurture these visitors along a specific journey. More often than not, people don’t fill out a lead form on their first visit. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested, it just means they’re not ready. Retargeting allows you to stay in contact, nurturing them until they are ready.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising:
While SEO and PPC are more long-term strategies that play an important role in moving prospects down the sales funnel. According to Think with Google’s 2019 report, 49% of users say they use Google to discover or find a new item or product.
Finding the right PPC tool for your business will allow you to attract leads already looking for what you offer and target different stages of the funnel. Ranking high on sites like Bing and Google will help your content appear before your competitors, so tailor your messages accordingly.
Pro Tip: Work with your Marketing team to establish the best content that will deliver your messages and help you rank higher in SEO. Talk with them about trends you discover or any ideas you have for content. They will have a better understanding of what keywords you can use to help lead more people to your website. Be sure to share your company content and build a personal brand to generate extra awareness.
A lead magnet is a valuable resource or service that’s offered in exchange for opt-in contact information, like an email address. The best lead magnets are detailed and targeted towards a specific solution. This can be done through resources like:
- White Papers or guides
- Training courses
- Free Trials Discounts
- eBooks & other gated content
Pro Tip: Don’t bombard your prospects with too much all at once. Be sure to provide value up front and then ask for more information later. Sometimes, people won’t want to give you information right from the start. Earn their trust, then ask for their information.
Networking & Referrals:
One of the best ways to gain leads is through networking and referrals. We think of a referral as a pre-qualified sales opportunity where two parties are introduced to each other and both have consented to be introduced. Referrals and recommendations come with approval and trust, which is key to gaining traction and building a strong reputation.
Pro Tip: After every successful project, ask your client if they know anyone who may benefit from your products or services. You can also ask for online testimonials or endorsements to help build your organic presence on a review page or social media.
Tracking Your Lead Generation Metrics
Tracking your metrics is one of the most important aspects of your B2B lead generation strategy. It is important to invest in the right tools that can help you track and monitor your important sales metrics, activities, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Sales activities are daily operations performed by your SDRs, BDRs, and AEs. Quality sales activities have a direct correlation with business growth and pipeline opportunity, so it is important to focus on the right metrics. KPIs are important to track because they are the specific metrics that connect specifically to your company-wide goals, priorities, and objectives.
Take the time to search for the right sales tech stack for your company. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and sales engagement tools can help enrich your data and provide a cadence for outreach.
They can help your sales reps increase productivity and spend less time performing tedious tasks. CRMs like Salesforce, HubSpot, SharpSpring, and Pipedrive are some of the most popular.
Most times you can find a CRM that will be able to contain both sales and marketing activities, saving you time and money. For example, Hubspot is a great all-in-one tool where you can collect lead data and information, perform calendar scheduling, create landing pages, and send emails.
But some B2B lead generation experts prefer to add a Sales Engagement solution on top of their CRM to help qualify leads and manage opportunities.
Have trouble managing all of your data?
Outsourcing your lead generation might be the perfect solution.
What is Best? Hiring vs Outsourcing
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of your sales and marketing strategies. If you don’t already have the team, software, and hardware in place, then you might want to consider outsourcing.
In-House B2B Lead Generation
B2B Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of your business. Deciding whether to handle it in-house or outsource it, depends on your capabilities. If you are a larger firm with enough resources and investments to handle the tracking, monitoring, and scaling of a B2B lead gen campaign, handling your campaigns in-house is most likely the best option for you.
Some lead generation experts argue that they would rather be in full control of their campaigns and that outsourcing means they won’t be able to make quick changes or track their teams appropriately. Other leaders feel that an outsourcing partner doesn’t have enough product knowledge or won’t be able to represent their brand effectively with their customers.
Handling your B2B lead gen in-house means you can control every aspect of your campaign, without outside resources. These are normally companies that have already invested in the CRMs, Sales Engagement tools, tech stacks, hiring, training, and overhead costs needed to properly run a B2B lead gen campaign.
To help you get an even better understanding of where you are at in the process, take a look at these questions below:
- Do you already have the workforce?
- Do you have the infrastructure/processes in place to be successful?
- Can you scale quickly?
- Do your employees have the proper knowledge and expertise in lead generation?
- Does your company have a sales tech stack (CRMs & sales engagement tools, and other necessary software) needed to complete the tasks?
- What is the risk involved with a bad campaign? Layoffs?
The answers to these questions can help you compare and contrast whether or not you should consider outsourcing your lead generation. If you answered “no” to more than two of those questions, it might be best to weigh your outsourcing options.
If you are looking to hire more sales representatives to help your company handle your lead generation, it is important to know what to look for.
Job responsibilities can include:
- Communicating with prospects and delivering value that meets their pain points
- Monitoring sales intelligence and personalization
- Performing CRM Operations
- Setting Appointments & Managing Calendars
- Reporting & Feedback on Processes or Script Functions
To be successful in these roles, sales development representatives should have:
- Product or service knowledge
- Fluent understanding of their sales tech stack
- Organization and time management
- Resilience and determination
- Conversational skills
Outsourcing Your B2B Lead Generation
For business owners, CEOs, and executives focused on the bottom line, deciding on how to structure their outbound sales program comes down to two things – time and money. If you’re looking to save time, costs, and resources, hiring an outsourced partner could be the right choice for your company.
Outsourcing your B2B lead generation means working with an external company or partner to help build your sales pipeline. Studies prove that experienced B2B call centers make a higher volume of calls and get better results than companies performing these tasks themselves. This is because they are experts in their field and already have the knowledge needed to properly run a campaign.
Another compelling reason companies outsource is simply because they would not be able to handle the workload of running their own campaigns. Outsourcing partners can often create more effective and efficient campaigns with the ability to target better opportunities – like a new audience segment or market altogether.
They can also scale or change direction much easier than in-house teams. Your outsourcing partner knows all the necessary tools like the back of their hand and is automatically leveraging them to produce better results for your company.
If you cannot handle the workload of a campaign, you will have to hire, train and buy tools that are necessary for your B2B lead gen. Many leaders assume that hiring and training in-house will be more cost-effective than hiring an outsourcing partner, but that is not always true.
The average SDR base salary ranges from $47.8 to $62K and the average hire comes with less than 12 months of experience and an average tenure of under 16 months. According to this data from Hubspot, companies also spend around 26% of their time on training, which takes a manager’s time and effort, and automatically reduces the productivity of those around them.
Infrastructure + Hiring (Salary + Commission) +Training (Turnover)+ Overhead Costs
Reporting + Technology + Risk Mitigation + Sales Tech Stack
Scalability + Inside Sales Support + Team Support (Expertise)
= $130,000 (or more)
Your SDR could end up costing your company more than double their salary. That is a heavy price tag for someone who will probably quit in less than 16 months. And all of this is just for ONE SDR. You may need multiple sales reps or account executives to meet the needs of your lead generation campaign.
Outsourcing means giving your sales team more time to focus on converting and closing leads, which can help you increase conversion rates and shorten the sales cycle. This ultimately can lead to higher revenue.
Other Options For Your B2B Lead Generation
If you are trying to decide whether to outsource your B2B lead generation or handle an in-house team, a combination might be the right answer. There is no one size fits all solution, so it is important to find the right outsourcing partner for your specific needs.
The most important aspect of outsourcing is choosing the right partner to work with. Outsourcing partners should have open communication and be very transparent with records, notes, and campaign results. Be sure to compare:
- Reviews & Testimonials – you need a trustworthy, reliable, and dependable partner that can understand your goals, needs, and wants.
- Company Size, Leaders, Branding- Do they have the ability to scale quickly and effectively? Do you trust their leadership? Is their brand reliable?
- Transparency & Communication Standards- Open communication is one of the most important standards when choosing an outsourcing partner. The success of B2B lead generation is dependent on data, you need to make sure they have tools in place to record, track, and monitor data, while also streamlining records, communications, and feedback to your company.
- Expertise & Industry Knowledge- How long have they been in business? Do they have a good track record? Are they compatible with you and your brand? Your outsourcing partner should be an expert. Trust in them to make the right decisions for your campaigns. If you don’t trust them, there is no reason to work with them.
- Pricing- How does the pricing compare? Look for any red flags – like if they are trying to guarantee leads. Make sure the pricing matches your expectations.
- Reviews & Testimonials – you need a trustworthy, reliable, and dependable partner that can understand your goals, needs, and wants.
A successful lead generation strategy can help propel your business forward in 2021. It is important to have well-defined tactics and strategies to fulfill your sales pipeline and move prospects down your sales funnel to customer status.
The highest performing campaigns have quality data, clear and consistent messaging, and focus on providing the best customer experience. Remember, your goals to build better, long-term mutually beneficial relationships, not just sell.
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