Sales lead generation is a process of attracting, nurturing, and converting leads (potential customers) into existing customers. Essentially, it is an engine that ensures you won’t run out of customers.
Back in the day, the lead generation process was limited to a few tools and rules that were generally known. Then the surge of the Internet changed sales significantly.
New times suggest that there should be no more knocking at the doors that won’t open (i.e., cold outreach). Now, when you type in “lead generation” in a search engine, you will find millions of sources on how to generate leads in sales and turn them into customers.
However, almost half a century later, the key pain point for 63% of marketers is still lead generation. So, should we be knocking on more doors?
To clear any ambiguities you may face, we break down the sales lead gen process into eight stages and create a new version of this guide with every tip and trick we have from a successful work across hundreds of customers’ accounts.
Sales Lead Generation Process: Information Imbalance
The depiction of the lead generation process is heavily imbalanced and is strongly associated with marketing practices, namely inbound. However, inbound is only one side of a lead gen coin. Why can’t we get a full picture?
Because most of Google’s results on “lead generation process” (blogs and articles fully dedicated to content marketing, SEO, social networks, newsletters, etc.) are written by marketers.
On the one hand, it’s no surprise—marketers are prolific at writing content. On the other hand, few of them mention sales development teams’ efforts aimed at attracting customers.
Countless articles and influencers claim that cold calling is dead and all your business needs to succeed is a good content marketing strategy. If it was true, would these statistics exist?
To boost your sales in a highly competitive environment, we need to open our mindset to both inbound and outbound. We need to look for leads in order to be found.
Table of Contents
Sales Lead Generation Process: Information Imbalance
Lead Generation Stages
Lead Generation Stages
Outbound prospecting remains a highly effective lead generation practice for B2B.
There are so many myths around this statement; nevertheless, it’s true. CIENCE bases its lead generation process on outbound prospecting. Plus, we’ve already successfully orchestrated successful outbound campaigns for more than 1,000 clients across one hundred different industries.
In other words, we’ve used our deep and relevant experience to outline the eight stages of the sales lead generation process.
Note: We think of every lead generation stage in two dimensions: 1) who contribute to this stage; and 2) what actions they take.
Stage 1. Analysis and Planning
Contributors: CEO (Business Owner, President), VP of Sales, COO, VP of Marketing, and HR team
A. Define the needed human resources.
Your team must include a certain number of people for each position—you’ll need at least one full-time researcher, a full-time Sales Development Representative (SDR), and an email copywriter. A VP of marketing will contribute here to align sales and marketing efforts to get the best out of the lead generation process.
Pro Tip: One SDR can work on several accounts.
B. 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 may appear along the way:
C. Research the market and competitors.
Start with creating an Ideal Customer Profile. An ICP is a set of features based on your previous customers’ analysis and your sales pipeline. It includes demographic, firmographic, and technographic characteristics that define your ideal customer-to-be.
Note anything that may be used as an element of personalization, like trigger events and potential paths to referrals. You will need it later for the email, call, or sales pitch personalization.
Pro Tip: “We already work with another vendor” is one of the most common sales objections. You’ll hear it a lot, so be ready to object as well. Who are your main competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? And most importantly, why is your solution better?
D. Analyze potential clients.
While an ICP is your map for finding leads, a buyer persona is an instruction for targeting those. It includes generalized psychological traits, social habits, buyer behavior, and the professional experience of your potential customers.
It helps you to understand what moves your lead toward a purchase, whether it is a desire, ambition, or a pain point they face. And now, you don’t just sell for the sake of selling; you are trying to address their problems and make a difference.
Pro Tip: A buyer persona is essential at every stage of the lead generation process in sales. Make sure you update it all the time and create new ones based on different criteria (various types of products, size of a company, or an industry). Make it brief, easy to understand, and as precise as possible.
E. Set the timing.
Figure out the deadlines for your lead generation campaign. Set the launch date along with how long the campaign will take. Make sure to figure out the “daily to-dos” for your team members (SDRs, researchers, copywriters, etc.).
While on the topic of timing, you can decide on the frequency and cadence of your email campaigns.
Note: Take into account the time necessary for your SDRs to ramp up.
F. Choose the tools.
CRM is vital for the lead generation process. If you don’t have one, you should consider getting one. If you do, check it from top to bottom—perhaps it’s time to migrate.
Define which lead generation software you’ll be using, apart from a CRM. It can be a mail-, call-, or a social-media-oriented one.
G. Plan, plan, plan.
A few more things before you go on to stage two. First, define the goals of your lead generation process. What will your SDRs be responsible for? Qualified leads, appointments, or both?
Next, set the weekly or monthly quotas for your sales reps. These benchmarks should control, motivate, and, most importantly, be real to achieve. For instance, a researcher at CIENCE can find, and an SDR can process, approximately 100 leads a week.
Stage 2. Research
Contributors: Research team, VP of Sales, and VP of Marketing
A. Prep the newbies.
If you start from scratch, there will be some learning and training every step of the way. Your researchers need to know three things before starting actual research:
- How to analyze ICPs and BPs
- Where to look for leads
- How to work in the database
Now the researchers actually:
- Look for leads and their contact information
- Fill in the database (e.g., a spreadsheet)
- Hand the database to SDRs
Reporting is essential to monitor the performance of each worker and to keep track of incoming leads.
Pro Tip: Set a cadence for reporting—it can be daily, weekly, or monthly.
Stage 3. Message
Contributors: Copywriter and VP of Sales
Action: Create a сopy for various messaging channels.
Messages in the lead generation process are used in various channels:
A good copy must answer these questions for the person that sees your company name for the first time:
- Why me?
- Why this product/service?
- Why now?
Your copywriter has an important job there. The copy must be compliant with the buyer persona, short, simple, and most importantly, human.
To make messages feel personally crafted, use personalization. At CIENCE, almost every email sent out is personalized. Our SDRs perform additional research on each lead, and in cooperation with the copywriter, write one sentence/paragraph fully dedicated to the receiver.
It increases the response rate at the expense of time. It takes five to fifteen minutes for an experienced SDR to look for specific information about a lead and five to thirty minutes to write a personalized message based on it.
Finish off with a strong Call to Action (CTA) embedded with a landing page link. This landing page will include everything a lead has to know with one more CTA waiting for him.
To create a highly effective landing page, check stage 5 of this guide.
Note: Remember to comply with the GDPR policy. Always leave an “Unsubscribe” button at the bottom of a cold email.
Stage 4. Pre-targeting
Contributors: Marketing team, Copy team, Design team, and Front-end Developers
Action: Create highly personalized ads.
An old-fashioned sales lead generation process used to be: email, call, email, call, email, call. It could either end with a victory or an exasperated sigh. However, that’s not where we stand now.
To squeeze the utmost best out of cold outreach, you need pre-targeting. Pre-targeting is a type of advertising that creates brand familiarity among a target audience. It warms your leads ahead of the first email or call.
How does pre-targeting help your lead generation efforts?
- It boosts your brand awareness.
- It warms up leads for your cold outreach.
- It boosts your outbound marketing KPIs: click-through rate, conversion rate, and response rate.
After a click on the ad, a link should redirect users to a landing page. It’s great if your ad is clicked; however, its primary goal is to be seen.
Stage 5. Landing Pages
Contributors: Marketing team, Copy team, Design team, and Front-end Developers
Actions: Create landing pages.
Note: Landing pages can be used at least two times during the lead generation process: to create pre-targeting ads and create the email copy. We suggest using it for both; however, it’s your call.
A landing page is a website page with a specific goal—to facilitate the desired action, e.g., set a discovery call or gather contact information.
So why should you use landing pages instead of links to your website? The website contains a whole lot of information and various CTAs. The landing page focuses on one action and eliminates all the distracting factors. Also, it allows you to segment the audience into micro-groups and send a highly targeted message.
To create a good landing page, make sure you include:
- Clear headline
To keep users from bouncing off, you only have a few seconds to grab their attention. The value of your service must be the first thing they see. Consider it a punch line.
For instance, for our client Propio, we’ve used the “Highest-quality service in under 60 seconds” headline. That landing page gained 1.75% conversion rates and a bonus of 1.25 appointments per month on average.
- Custom CTA
Base your CTA on the goal of your lead generation efforts. Make it short and instructive, e.g., “Make an appointment,” “Fill out a form,” or “Contact our experts.”
Pro Tip: Include the CTA button above the fold of the page, meaning no scrolling is needed. You can add one more at the bottom of the page.
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. If you need more tips on creating good copy, go back to stage 3.
- Responsive and relevant design
Good design is vital for landing pages. It must be:
1) Relevant—always stick to the topic of your services
2) Clickable—links and forms must work correctly
3) Optimized for mobile devices—mobile-optimized websites get 15% more unique clicks
Stage 6. Email Sequences and Phone Calling
These two stages of the lead generation process are united because usually, they happen simultaneously. You can start calls straight after the first wave of emails.
Contributors: SDRs and VP of Sales
A. Check, research, upload.
Your leads were handpicked by your researchers and handed over to the SDRs. If the leadflow is significant, one or two unfit leads may slip through, so it’s better to check again. Then, SDRs look for information on leads that can be used as a personalization point. Afterward, when everything looks OK, the leads are ready to be uploaded to the CRM.
B. Send, handle, follow-up.
Before pressing send, SDRs group contacts by the time zones. This way, your first sales pitch arrives at the best time possible. A CRM gets in handy here as well. For instance, in HubSpot, you can set the time and day of delivery for any group of leads.
Now, you wait for the responses. As they keep flooding in, your SDRs have to handle them quickly to move your lead through the sales funnel. It can be a positive, neutral, negative response, or an auto reply.
Pro Tip: Create a script with the most common questions and answer strategies to fasten reply-handling flow.
If you got no answer, the best strategy would be to follow up after a certain time gap (24 to 72 hours is the common one). For our own (non-client) projects, we use a 48-hour interval before reaching out again.
C. Prioritize, call, 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 whom to call first. A lead that shows more activity should be in the call priority compared to the one that hasn’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.
A qualified lead is a lead that is ready to move down the sales funnel (move from being a lead to becoming a prospect). To qualify a lead, you should choose one of the various lead qualification methods. For instance, at CIENCE, we use the NOTE framework.
When both email and call outreach is over, SDRs must fill in the stats for future reporting. Every lead response must be recorded in a spreadsheet or CRM and later used to track and adjust campaign performance.
Pro Tip: Provide a cold calling script for your SDRs. It will help with the training and prepare them for the call.
Note: Not every sales lead generation process includes cold calling. At CIENCE, we have some clients who prefer email outreach only. It depends on the industry’s specifics, and that’s why market research is vital during analysis and planning.
Stage 7. Reporting
Contributors: Sales team and management, Research team and management, and Copy team
Action: Create a general report.
You must have noticed that reporting is present at almost every stage of a lead generation process.
SDRs and researchers have a lot to do and won’t be able to keep every detail in mind. So it’s better to fill in the stats along the way to form a detailed report at this stage.
The general report must include:
- Leads researched
- Time spent on research and average time per one prospect
- Email templates
- Emails sent
- Bounced emails
- Emails opened + open rate
- Rate of opened emails per sequence
- Emails that have never been opened + rate
- “Unsubscribe me” requests
- Positive responses + rate
- Negative responses other than “unsubscribe” + rate
- Follow-ups + time necessary to write them
- Calls + average time
- Conversations per dials rate
- Appointments and qualified leads
- Conversion of appointments/qualified leads into closed deals
Note: Some campaign lifecycles are too long, so it might happen that you’ll initiate the reporting stage before any deals close.
Stage 8. Analysis and Planning
Contributors: CEO (Business Owner, President), VP of Sales, COO, VP of Marketing, and Head of HR
Stage one repeats itself at the end of a lead generation process, and the cycle starts again.
This scheme might seem like a circle from above, but in reality, it’s a spiral. Similar to the Earth rotating around the sun and never coming back to the initial point in time and space.
Go through your marketing and sales KPIs, needs in additional recruitment, and strategies that worked or didn’t work. Analyze, plan, and improve.
That’s a lead gen process continually moving forward. And just like any spiral, it can become wider or narrower. It’s up to you if it grows or declines and in which direction it goes.
We believe that a properly organized sales lead generation process will be fruitful, providing a predictable and consistent flow of new prospects to your sales funnel.
To get there, you should ask yourself how to continually generate sales leads, teach your employees well, and get into every detail.
Or you can hire CIENCE, and we will take care of everything.