Lead generation is the sales engine that ensures you won’t run out of customers. Back in the day, the sales lead generation process was limited to a few tools and techniques to know. Then the surge of the internet and digital media changed sales significantly.
Yet, even today, 61% of marketers still find lead generation their top challenge in business. So how do you go about knocking on doors?
Let’s explore the meaning of sales lead generation today, look at the different types, and go through an eight-stage sales lead generation process to set your business up for success.
What Is Lead Generation?
Sales lead generation is a process of attracting, nurturing, and converting leads (potential customers) into existing customers.Lead generation can happen organically: someone is interested in your services, visits your website, fills out a form, and becomes an inbound lead. But for a business to grow in the current climate, it is not enough to rely on other people to find you. You have to engage in both inbound and outbound to secure the growth of your sales pipeline. That's what lead generation does.
Before going into the actual steps on how to get new customers, let's go through the most common questions about lead generation:
What is lead generation in digital marketing?
Digital marketing lead generation is one of the most popular ways of generating leads. It takes usable digital prospecting methods (email campaigns, online phone calls, social media outreach) and focuses on online users that match your ideal customer profile.
What is a way to do lead generation?
Your lead generation process depends on the goals you have for your sales and the company overall. You can do lead generation through prospecting, advertising, events, or online content creation. Using every method at your disposal is highly recommended.
Is outbound lead generation dead?
Not even close. Some resources like making those loud claims, and many tend to listen. Why? Because it’s not an easy task to do, and not all are qualified to do it. In fact, the biggest challenges of lead generation include data gathering, prospecting, and lead qualification.
Types of Lead Generation
There are two common types of lead generation: inbound and outbound. Inbound is considered organic and less intrusive by using indirect marketing efforts (advertising, events, referrals, SEO, content creation, etc.).
Outbound, however, is an active method of searching for leads, seeking out potential customers, and conducting detailed work to close a deal. Both types are equally important.
The Importance of Lead Generation
Simply put, lead generation equals business growth. It ensures you never run out of customers, keeps your income stable, and gets new opportunities coming in. In fact, companies with lead generation processes in place enjoy 133% more revenue than average companies.
But it’s more than just sales. Lead generation raises brand awareness, builds natural customer relationships, and creates organic interest around your company’s name.
8-Stage Lead Generation Process
Every lead, no matter where it comes from, goes through a certain journey to become your client: awareness, attraction, outreach, conversion, and close.
Stage 1. Analysis and planning
Any good business project begins with a plan. Start by defining your goals, outlining your budget, researching, and targeting your ideal clients using these seven steps:
1. Access the human resources needed.
Your team must include a certain number of people for each position—you’ll need at least one full-time researcher, a sales development representative (SDR), and an email copywriter. One SDR can work on different accounts if needed. You'll want a VP of marketing (or manager) to align sales and marketing efforts to make the most out of the lead generation process.
2. Analyze and outline the budget.
To decide on the starting budget for your outbound prospecting team, you should analyze the average salary on the market (browse the wages of your competitors and colleagues in the field) and include every possible expense that you may have along the way:
3. Research the market and competitors.
Start with creating an ideal customer profile (ICP). This ideal profile sets features based on your previous customers’ analysis and your sales pipeline. It includes demographic, firmographic, and technographic characteristics that define your ideal customer.
Ask these questions as you research: Who are your main competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What is their Reputation Management Strategy? And most importantly, why is your solution better?
4. Analyze potential clients.
While an ICP is your map for finding leads, a buyer persona is used for targeting them. It includes generalized psychological traits, social habits, buyer behavior, and the professional experience of your potential customers.
The buyer persona helps you to understand what moves your lead toward a purchase, whether it is a desire, ambition, or a pain point they face. You’re not just selling for the sake of selling; you are trying to address their problems and offer a solution.
A buyer persona is essential at every stage of the lead generation process in sales. Make sure to update it and create new ones based on different criteria (various types of products, the size of a company, or an industry). Make it brief, easy to understand, and as precise as possible.
5. Set the timing.
Figure out the deadlines for your lead generation campaign. Set the launch date along with the timeline for your campaign. Make sure to figure out the daily to-dos for your team members (SDRs, researchers, copywriters, etc.).
6. Choose the tools.
A customer relationship management (CRM) tool is vital for the lead generation process. If you don’t have one, you should consider investing in this software. If you have a CRM, re-examine it—perhaps it’s time to migrate or it's costing you too much.
You’ll next need to define which lead generation software you’ll use apart from a CRM. It can be used for prospecting, lead list building, sales intelligence, data enrichment, or social media outreach. And perhaps you'll want to have the team leverage a text expander application in conjunction with the other tools.
7. Plan, plan, plan.
In this step, you’ll want to define the goals of your lead generation process. What will your SDRs be responsible for? Qualifying leads, appointments, or both?
Be sure to set the weekly or monthly quotas for your sales reps. These benchmarks should control, motivate, and, most importantly, be realistic to achieve.
Stage 2. Research
Providing up-to-date accurate data will set the tone for your lead generation. To achieve high-quality results, follow these steps in the research process:
Before you begin, your researchers should be trained in the following areas:
- How to build and analyze ICPs and buyer personas
- Where to look for leads
- How to filter out bad data
- How to work in the database
The process for researchers involves looking for leads and contact information with data provider tools, uploading the data to a CRM, and handing off the database to SDRs who can immediately start to prospect.
Reporting is essential to monitor each worker's performance and keep track of incoming leads. You should set a cadence for reporting—daily, weekly, or monthly. Most of the prospecting tools (GO Data, Yesware, BuiltWith, etc.) offer reporting and filters to create targeted analytics and interactive digital reports.
Stage 3. Messaging
Messaging in the lead generation process can be used in various channels: emails, landing pages, cold calling scripts, social media posts, pre-targeting ads, and playbooks.
Your messaging should answer the following questions for a potential customer:
- Why me?
- Why this product/service?
- Why now?
The content should target the buyer persona, be short, simple, and most importantly, human. Use personalization to make your messaging feel more authentic. Take about five to fifteen minutes to research each lead and then up to thirty minutes to craft your message. Finish your copy with a solid call to action (CTA) with a link to your landing page.
Stage 4. Pre-targeting
Not all leads are ready to be prospected right away. Some of them need warming up to avoid wasting the SDR's time and lead's temper. To get the most out of outreach, you’ll need pre-targeting ads. These help put your sales lead generation process into motion by:
- Raising brand awareness
- Warming up leads for your cold outreach
- Boosting your outbound marketing KPIs (click-through, conversion, and response rate)
Pre-targeting enables your company to show its ads to users who have never visited your site but are looking for the solutions you provide. It's an effective method to target potential customers early in their buyer's journey.
Stage 5. Landing pages
A landing page is a website page with a specific goal—to facilitate the desired action, such as setting a discovery call or gathering contact information in the lead generation process.
So why should you use landing pages instead of links to your website? A website contains a whole lot of useful information and various CTAs while the landing page focuses on a specific action and eliminates other distractions. It allows you to segment the audience into micro-groups and send out highly targeted messages.
Follow these tips to create a good landing page for your target audience:
1. Add a catchy headline.
To keep users from leaving your site, you only have a few seconds to grab their attention. The value that your service provides should be the first thing they see.
For instance, the Propio landing page with the headline “Highest-quality service in under 60 seconds” gained an average 1.75% conversion rate and a bonus of 1.25 appointments per month.
2. Create a custom CTA.
A landing page’s copy must thoroughly support your CTA and lead a user toward taking the desired action. The tone should be compelling, direct, and straightforward.
Base your CTA on the goal of your lead generation efforts. Keep it short and instructive: “Make an appointment,” “Fill out a form,” or “Contact our experts.” Include the CTA button above the page's fold, meaning no scrolling is needed. You can add one more at the bottom of the page.
3. Use a responsive and relevant design.
A good design is vital for landing pages. It must be:
- Relevant: Always stick to the topic of your services.
- Clickable: Links and forms must work correctly.
- Optimized for mobile devices: Mobile-optimized websites get 15% more unique clicks.
When crafting landing pages, make sure to secure your website with the right hosting solution so your content is secure and reliable when it reaches your customers.
Stage 6. Email sequences and phone calling
Lead generation stages are not set in stone: You can change the order a bit, exclude or add something. However, if you are going all in, you have to prioritize email and phone outreach. Those are two of the most important prospecting channels that are easy to track and optimize results. Follow these steps in your approach:
1. Check, research, and upload.
Once the leads are handed over to the SDRs, you should do another data check. This way, no matter how many leads are going into your pipeline, the chances of an unverified data record slipping through the cracks will be zero.
Once the templates for email and calling scripts are completed, the leads can be uploaded into the CRM to begin outreach.
2. Send, handle, and follow up.
Before sending any messages, group your contacts by time zones. This way, your first sales pitch arrives at the best time possible. Use your CRM to set the time and day of delivery for any group of leads.
Now, wait for the responses. As they come in, your SDRs should handle them quickly to move your lead through the sales funnel. To deal with incoming replies, create a script with answers to common questions to move the process along. If you don’t receive an answer, follow up in a timely manner (24 to 72 hours is recommended).
3. Prioritize, call, and qualify.
Cold calling is a very effective lead-generation method, especially when combined with cold emailing. After the first send-out, a CRM will show whether the email was opened, how many times, and if the links inside were clicked or not. This information gives your SDR an idea of who to call first. A lead that shows more activity should be on the call priority list compared to the ones that haven't opened the email at all.
Now, it’s time to call. It’s the ultimate sales moment here—an SDR will get a chance to qualify the lead and set an appointment if all goes well. To ease the calling process, always provide a cold calling script for your SDRs. It will help with training and prepare them for the call.
A qualified lead is one that is ready to move down the sales funnel (from being a lead to becoming a prospect). To qualify a lead, you should choose one of the various lead qualification methods (BANT and NOTE are among the most popular ones).
When both email and call outreach is done, SDRs must fill in the stats for future reporting. Every lead response must be recorded in a spreadsheet of CRM and used later to track and adjust campaign performance.
However, not every sales lead generation process includes cold calling. Some businesses prefer email outreach only. It depends on the industry’s specifics, and that’s why marketing research is vital during analysis and planning.
Stage 7. Reporting
Reporting is present at almost every stage of the lead generation process: This includes tracking how many leads were entered in the CRM, how many calls were successful, and how many introductory meetings went exactly as planned.
By the end of the lead generation campaign, you’ll want to gather every KPI you’ve ever tracked and compile it into one extensive report. You can do this through special reporting tools like building a KPI dashboard or creating a template yourself.
Once you have the report, you’ll see what’s working or not, where leads may have gone cold, or what needs to be adjusted for better results. Spend some time analyzing it along with the reports from the marketing side (content production, social media, and advertising) to get a full picture of your lead generation process.
Note that sometimes sales cycles are longer, so you may need to initiate reporting stage before any deals close.
Stage 8. New planning
The lead generation process is the most effective when it's ongoing. Once you think you’re at the end of one campaign, you should already prepare for the next one. To see the best results, you have to continuously look for new leads, start new campaigns, and hopefully learn from your past mistakes.
Being able to evolve is vital in a competitive business environment, so once you analyze KPIs and goals, make adjustments for the next round of lead generation. Were your templates convincing and warm enough? Do your sales reps need more call training? Are any of your tools outdated?
Answer all of those questions, highlight the areas of improvement, and start again, only this time better.
Boost Your Lead Gen with CIENCE
A solid lead generation process is fundamental to developing long-term business and revenue growth. It may seem overly complicated at first glance, but what new process isn’t?
You have to invest in teams, tech stacks, content creators, and marketing because all of these are part of a big and powerful sales engine. And no matter what industry you come from or what services you offer, having lead generation strategies in place will do one thing for sure—generate high-quality customers.