Build an effective B2B lead gen machine

What is B2B lead generation?

Lead gen for B2B sales is the process of turning identified prospects into genuine leads with a credible and timely interest in your product or service. If your B2B lead generation process is effective, it is your key to successfully identify, qualify and prioritize the most suitable candidates to nurture down the B2B sales pipeline.

B2B lead generation is a key pillar of the B2B sales process that drives the first two stages in your B2B sales pipeline: Awareness and Interest.

However, the culture and expectations around B2B lead generation is undergoing a radical transformation. The days of corporate hospitality and backroom conference dealmaking are fading away.

According to the Harvard Business Review, at the beginning of 2020, 80% of B2B lead generation involved face-to-face meetings with prospects. Today, that’s changed – McKinsey reports that over 70% of B2B decision makers now prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the different building blocks you need to construct an effective B2B lead generation machine built for today’s world – one that finds you the right prospects and helps you nurture them into customers, wherever they are.

Table of contents:

  1. How to find the ideal prospect
  2. How sales and marketing can collaborate in B2B lead generation
  3. What are the best outreach methods?
  4. How important is database management?
  5. How should I measure lead generation success?
  6. How to find the right software and tools to transform your B2B lead generation

1. How to find your ideal prospect

The first obligation of any effective digital B2B lead generation machine is to find prospects that represent good ROI. Moving prospects down your sales pipeline takes resources – digital marketing, online communication, sales calls, live product or service demos, negotiations and so on. You need to pick carefully.

B2B prospecting for sales is the first stage of lead generation that identifies those leads that align with your offering, and are likely to want your business. So, how do you find these in the wild? The answer is to build an ideal customer profile.

Why ideal customer profiles are important

B2B lead generation for modern and mature sales teams needs an increasing level of confidence in prospects’ interest. B2B buyers are making decisions faster, so you need to be aware of exactly how your product or service will benefit them so you can create immediate value.

An ideal customer profile (ICP) tells you exactly who you need to target and why.

You can use them to identify important characteristics your most profitable customers share, backed by accurate firmographics like, company size, revenue, industry, location, funding, IPO status and more.

How do I build an ICP?

The best way to start building an ideal customer profile is to take a look at your current happy customers and note any similarities and trends they have between them.

A good way to narrow this down even further is to note your most active, happy and developing customers, as they’re more likely to have the traits you’ll want to see in prospective customers.

Here’s a list of things you should be looking for when you gather data on these customers:

  • Budget
  • Revenue
  • Company size
  • Geography
  • Pain points you are helping solve
  • Number of employees
  • IPO status
  • Age of the company
  • Customer lifetime value

Note this stuff down in a document of your choosing if conducting this in-house (there are plenty of companies who specialize in ICP creation – get in touch with us if you want to discuss your best way forward).

Straight away you should be able to see some trends appearing, your ideal customer profile is emerging…

So, what next? Go a step further. Get in touch with your current active and happy customers, if they are as active and happy as you hope, they should give you the time for a call or email. This is a great opportunity to ask how you can target new companies that have similar pain points.

Ask them questions that you may have missed in the initial data gathering stage:

  • Why did you decide to purchase our solution?
  • Who was the final decision-maker?
  • What pain points were you trying to solve when you purchased our solution?
  • Where did you first learn about our product?
  • How do you use our product on the daily?
  • What is our most valuable functionality?
  • Why have you continued to use our product?

Doing this as your first stage of B2B lead generation will give you a lot of ammunition to use further down the line when you make sales calls to your various contacts in prospect companies. If their situation is similar, then you have the ultimate cheat sheet of understanding, and can help answer their concerns before they even have to voice them.

2. How sales and marketing can collaborate in B2B lead generation

One of the main challenges leaders in mature sales teams face when building an effective B2B lead generation machine is how to work with marketing to supercharge results.

Sales and marketing teams routinely work in silos. But the increasingly remote and digital nature of B2B sales means both sides need to unite behind a smooth and consistent sales process for prospects, with a shared objective in mind. Let’s have a look firstly at how you can break down the barriers, then define your roles, and finally execute a winning digital lead gen strategy.

Break the silos

Midsize to enterprise scale organizations can do this by changing the structure of their teams. You could try merging reporting lines by bringing sales and marketing under a new chief revenue officer (CRO) or chief growth officer (CGO) management role.

This unites the teams under the shared goal of creating a better sales cycle that provides set lead generation and revenue targets. This way, both teams are measured and structurally incentivised to create value together.

Even if you can’t restructure, communication is key. Bring sales and marketing teams in to work on the ideal customer profile so you can agree upfront the buying personas you’re targeting.

You can also communicate to set clearly defined roles to get the most out of lead generation:

Sales teams

To conduct B2B lead generation, mature sales teams often separate into two roles: Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) and Business Development Representatives (BDRs).

SDRs source prospect leads based off the ICP, qualify them, engage with them and book in first contact meetings.

BDRs conduct live demos of your product or service, and are responsible for closing the deal and revenue generation.

Why is this useful?
A team structured this way creates a solid foundation to move prospects along the B2B sales pipeline from generated leads to customers. SDRs create opportunities for BDRs to take action on.

By structuring your team by roles, you also enable your employees to specialise in their responsibilities, and set up a clear path to career progression (employees starting as an SDR could evolve to a BDR). So, before you know it, your lead gen machine will be well oiled and capturing high-quality leads that have a higher chance of making it down the pipeline.

Marketing teams

Alongside this, marketing teams conduct B2B demand generation, where they nurture leads and guide them from the Awareness stage of the B2B sales funnel to the Action stage with informational content.

3. What are the best outreach methods?

Once you have your ideal customer profile, and have aligned your sales and marketing teams, you can target and reach out to your prospects, and hopefully turn some of them into leads.

There are some recommended channels sales and marketing teams can use to outreach to their prospects depending on industry, company size and business needs.

To find out more about which channels you should use when targeting prospects based on their company size, we wrote a handy article on the differences of selling to enterprise companies vs. SMBs.

However, as a general rule of thumb to cut through the noise, simply track with channels your targeted company is most active on or respond to the fastest, and reach out through those.

It takes an average of eight touchpoints with a B2B lead before you reach a decision maker, so once you find out where, when and how to approach your leads, don’t rush it. By guiding them through a journey from awareness to decision, you’ll not only get the chance to educate your contacts about your offering with tailored content, but also nurture an ongoing, trusting and stronger relationship.

Here are some examples of B2B lead generation outreach methods that your sales and marketing teams should monitor and use to get you results:

Outbound calls

You can learn a lot about a lead through an outbound call, especially if you have the right process, or sales intelligence software like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to back your reps.

To make sure these are as effective as possible, research what times would be best to call your prospect and know their business offering inside and out, so much so that you could pitch it to others. The aim of these calls is to secure a meeting or demo of your offering to the lead.

Email and LinkedIn Mail outreach

This is a method that guides your prospect lead through a journey to making a purchase decision. You can use the content created by marketing to structure these journeys, and offer them viable information surrounding your offering.

There are plenty of sales cadence tools out there that make sure you’re in touch with your prospects in the right place, at the right time for the most effective interaction. Finding a sales cadence software that uses smart AI to determine when you should engage leads will help your team build a stronger relationship and drive revenue growth.

According to Gartner, the market leaders in sales cadence and engagement platforms are Outreach and Salesloft, by far. At least one of these platforms is considered in 85% of sales engagement application purchases.

SEO

Conduct keyword research to identify terms your target audience are engaging with, create content that owns those terms, then promote that content. Finally, monitor your Google rankings to analyse their effectiveness, this way you can weed out any issues and respond to them.

Offer lead-magnets

Encourage leads to exchange their contact details for free offerings such as free trials of a product or service or gated content like eBooks and webinars. This will give great incentive for leads to find out more about your offering and give you a leg up to building a closer relationship. To make this more effective, research what kind of content makes your leads tick. If they respond well to case studies, make that your lead magnet.

Get social media savvy

This is one of the most important forms of outreach in the digitized world of B2B lead generation. 79% of marketers strongly believe LinkedIn is an effective form of lead generation and 84% of company decision-makers use social media to inform their purchasing decisions. You can use them to promote marketing content like informative eBooks or publish targeted ads to reach your leads.

Use PPC marketing

Pay-per-click advertising is a great way to make sure leads are aware of your brand, and stay interested. A solid PPC outreach strategy can help increase brand awareness by 80%. This can be run alongside an SEO outreach program through Google Ads.

Try affiliate marketing

You can use this method if you’re unsure of your own lead generation success. Find suitable affiliates that will publish your ads, track any conversions and pass on customers to you for a fee. It’s a great way to lower your overall cost of B2B lead generation, increase ROI and expand your reach.

4. How important is database management?

Once you’ve created your ideal customer profile and perfected your outreach methods, you should start to see leads trickle into your sales pipeline. A B2B lead database holds prospect company data, buying histories and patterns you have gathered throughout the lead generation process.

It should include things like:

  • Contact details
  • Key contacts within the business
  • Organizational chart
  • Geographic locations
  • Company challenges
  • “Hot”, “warm” or “cold” lead
  • Intent to buy

When done right, this process helps businesses see which of their lead generation strategies work best, and shows the steps that move your leads from awareness to action.

However, if your B2B lead database is inaccurate, it’ll cause you a lot more problems than it’ll solve: wasted time tracking down correct contact details, ineffective sales calls due to a lack of or incorrect information and loss of trust with clients to name a few.

For a mature sales team, there are some crucial steps to take in order to build a lead database that doesn’t fall into the disastrous pit of inaccuracy.

  1. Set your standards early
    Leave no salesperson behind. Every member of your team should be aligned on what data is being used to build your lead database. This ensures consistency within your sales process when nurturing larger prospect companies, who will want to speak to multiple contacts in your sales team.
  2. Update regularly
    If your B2B lead database isn’t updated at least monthly, the relevance of the data stored on it will gradually fade away. Changed contact details, updated pain points, developments in relationships; if these things aren’t up-to-date, your interactions are either going to be halted altogether or severely damaged.
  3. Keep it growing
    Decision-makers or influential contacts within a prospective business won’t stay the same. Internal promotions or employee turnover will see multiple different contacts you can engage with emerge, or drop your existing contacts off the map. You need to grow your database accordingly to keep up with any fresh, or gone-stale leads.

5. How should I measure lead generation success?

So, you’ve created a solid B2B lead gen strategy, aligned your teams for maximum efficiency, created the content, and prospects are starting to move down the pipeline.

Let’s look at some of the most important KPIs you need to report on in order to continuously spot weak points, and proactively improve them.

  • Number of leads – this is obviously one of the main objectives of your sales team, and should measure the quantity of leads rather than the quality, which you can do later.
  • Reach and frequency – quantify how many people are seeing and how often they’re seeing top of the funnel content produced by marketing or sales outreach activities.
  • Cost per lead (CPL) – the amount of money a business spends on sales and marketing activities to move a lead down the sales pipeline and convert them into a customer. These can include things like: Employee salary, subscriptions to sales software and data-collection tech, production of content and digital campaigns, travel expenses, and inventory upkeep.
  • Sales quality leads (SQLs) – classify your leads depending on their quality (you can measure this based on their match with your ideal customer profile)
  • Lead to customer conversion – quantify the amount of leads that eventually become customers. You can calculate this by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of leads and multiplying it by 100 to get a percentage. Conversion rates differ depending on the product offering, industry and price points.

6. Find the right software and tools to transform your B2B sales

These are the tools that can help your sales team optimize every aspect of the B2B lead generation process.

Finding the right ones for your business is as important as getting the steps right yourself. Implementing the wrong tool for your process in the wrong area leads to wasted costs, time and resources.

In the digital era of B2B sales, there are a lot of tools and softwares out there to choose from. Some of the basics include:

  • Prospecting tools
  • Landing page builders
  • Marketing automation tools
  • Database management softwares

However, going out and finding these tools yourself can be an overwhelming process today. To identify the right software for your business, you have to trawl through the thousands of offers out there, making it harder to prioritize what will really impact you.

At Webhelp, we’ll take the time to fully understand your business, its needs and processes to help transform your B2B sales for the better.

We use our experience, reach and modern sales expertise to create lasting value for the world’s most exciting companies.

If you’d like to find out more about what we can do for companies like you, we should talk.