The Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation

This is Part One of a Four Part Series: The Ultimate Guide to Generating New Business. This guide focuses on B2B strategies for effectively finding, engaging, and selling your product to other businesses. We hope you find this guide useful and informative. Don’t forget to come back and read the other sections which are set to be released in late 2019!

Table of Contents

Introduction

So you’ve decided your organization needs to generate new business. Maybe you’re trying to launch a new product, expand into a new market, or just need to hit your quota now. Either way, you need to generate new opportunities and don’t know where to start.

First, take a deep breath and know you’re not alone. Many organizations struggle to keep their pipeline full of new customers and although it may seem daunting, this article will guide you through everything you need to get started.

So with that said, lets dive into the first step in generating new business: Finding Leads.

What is a Lead?

Before we can discuss how to generate new leads, we first need to define what a lead is. This definition may change depending on who you ask, but for the purpose of this article a lead is defined as having two parts:

  • A person or organization that you think would benefit from your product/service.
  • This person or organization fits your ideal customer profile.

Easy enough, right?

What is Lead Generation?

Unfortunately, the confusion around what a lead is extends to the term lead generation as well. A Google search for the keyword “lead generation” will turn up results for Facebook ads, CRMs, data companies, and yes, lead generation agencies. 

The definition of lead generation varies greatly depending on the source and the service they offer. At SalesRoads we see lead generation as the process of identifying, qualifying, and contacting prospective customers who are interested in your product or service.

To help your understanding – lets break that definition down a little further.

  • Identifying leads is all about generating a list of potential customers to contact. The emphasis here is on creating a sufficient number of prospects to chase. If you’re always creating new lists, it can be hard to accurately track the effectiveness of your outreach and decide where to invest more time. The exact number of leads you need before beginning to qualify them depends on the length of your sales cycle, scope of work, and bandwidth to pursue them.
  • Qualifying leads is all about figuring out which leads are worth pursuing further. Your time is finite so you don’t want to waste time calling businesses who can’t afford your product. Qualifications can be hard or soft – meaning they can be a preference, or they can be absolutely necessary.
  • Contacting leads is all about getting your foot in the door. Its great if you’ve identified a list of 1,000 companies you’d like to work with, but if you don’t know how to reach your customer it doesn’t matter much. Likewise, you’ll want to understand who within an organization is your target prospect. Calling the IT department about your new SaaS marketing solution probably won’t yield great results, but a direct line for the marketing manager might.

With this in mind, you’ll want to start thinking about what types of businesses you want to work with so you can find options for pursuing them (it’s hard to prospect new business if you don’t know who you’re looking for). This process is formally known as creating an Ideal Customer Profile.

Creating an Ideal Customer Profile

Although countless books have been written on the subject, building an ideal customer profile is a vague, often difficult process but is one that every business should undertake. Your ideal customer profile is going to guide every decision you make from here on out, so it deserves your upmost attention. It is also something you should revisit frequently as your business and market conditions change. To make this process easier, we’ve created an Ideal Customer Profile worksheet that you can download here.

  • Step One: Identify Your Best Customers

Think long and hard about your best customers, but don’t just think about who paid you the most money. Although the average deal size should be a part of your ICP, you’ll want to consider all the factors that make your customer ideal.

You should be considering things like how long they have been a customer, how easy they are to work with, how much they benefit from your product, what verticals they work in, and how they came to be your customer. Imagine you could clone 3-4 customers. Who would you like to work with over and over? Only you know who your best customer is, but these questions should be enough to get you thinking.

It goes without saying, this step is only applicable to businesses who already have some customers. If you just started a new business and don’t have any customers to analyze, find a handful of businesses you think could be ideal customers and use those as your subjects for the next step.

NOTE: Steps Two and Three, Analyze and Interview, are somewhat interchangeable. You may find your analysis opens more questions than it answers, and you may find that interviewing your best customers informs your analysis. It is perfectly fine, if not encouraged, to flip between these two portions but we recommend starting with an analysis.  

  • Step Two: Analyze Your Best Customers

When conducting the analysis portion, start by studying your 3-4 best customers using available data. Utilize any internal and publicly available information like revenue size, total number of employees, average deal size, customer longevity, and anything else you think is relevant to your customer profile.

To give you an example, at SalesRoads we consider the geographic footprint of potential clients when identifying our ideal customer. We’ve found that companies need to have a regional footprint in at least three states to have enough target prospects to truly benefit from our service. Although geographic footprint is important for us at SalesRoads, a SaaS CRM company probably doesn’t care how many states you work in. This theoretical CRM company probably does care how many employees you have and how many of those employees would need a license to use their product. To round out the example, employee size really isn’t important for us when determining if a client is a good fit. At the end of the day, only you know which factors are truly important for identifying an ideal customer.

Regardless, write down everything you know about your 3-4 best customers and move on to the next step.

  • Step Three: Interview Your Best Customers

At this juncture you should have some hard metrics on what your best customers look like. Now reach out to those customers and ask them if they would be open to an interview (if they don’t say yes, they might not be your best customer)!

Before sitting down for an interview think about what information you can’t gleam from available data and center your questions around that. Examples might include:

        • What was the reason you decided to invest in a solution like the one we offer? (e.g., what was the issue you were trying to solve)
        • How did you find our service?
        • Why did you choose our service over other solutions you looked at?
        • Why do you continue to use our service?
        • Is there anything you would change about our product?
        • How many people are involved in decision making process to purchase our product?
        • In what ways is our service helpful to your organization?

For example, at SalesRoads we see our ideal customer as a sales executive or organization who doesn’t have the time or resources to effectively manage an inside sales team. We also like to see a client who is looking for a long-term sales partnership, not just a short campaign to hit their immediate goals. As we alluded to earlier, it doesn’t mean we won’t take a shorter campaign, but it’s not our ideal customer. To flesh out this information we asked some of our best clients:

        • What led you to work with us originally? (lack of time/resources & need to rapidly increase sales)
        • Why do you continue to work with us? (a true sales partnership)
        • How many people we’re involved in deciding to contract our services? (informs our sales cycle)

Once you have an idea of the types of companies you would like to work with and what types of stakeholders to target within those organizations, you’re ready to start compiling a list of prospects to chase!

Types of Lead Generation

We’ve already touched on the lack of consistency surrounding the lead generation vernacular, so you probably won’t be surprised when we tell you that methods around lead generation are also convoluted. To make things easy we’ve broken down lead generation into two buckets. Let’s take a look together.

  • Inbound Lead Generation is about making yourself visible. This includes activities such as search engine marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, and more traditional channels such as television, radio, and print. Like the name suggests, you’re trying to get yourself in front of customers and pique their interest, so they contact you organically.
  • Outbound Lead Generation is about making yourself heard. Outbound lead generation strategies include trade shows, offering referrals, outbound social, targeted email, and cold calling. The strategy with outbound lead generation is oriented towards proactively reaching out to your target prospects and starting a dialogue. This strategy is closely aligned with sales.
Types of Inbound vs Outbound Lead Generation

With the emerging popularity surrounding digital channels you might be thinking, “perfect, I’ll start a blog and wait for all that sweet business to roll in!”

Wrong!

For an in-depth exploration of various B2B channels, read 4 Steps for Identifying the Right B2B Channels to Grow Your Business by SalesRoads’ Director of Business Development Maria Enns.

In no way are we suggesting you neglect inbound channels. Creating a stream of inbound leads is one of the most valuable endeavors your business can undertake. It is also one of the hardest things to nail down in practice and is an investment in every sense of the word. People aren’t going to start buying your product because of a couple social media posts, no matter how funny they are. We’ll explore inbound lead generation techniques later in Part Four of this series, Scaling Sustainable Growth.

The reasons we suggest focusing on outbound lead generation first is multi-faceted, but to summarize quickly: inbound lead generation requires a deep understanding of your most effective messaging and this takes time to develop. You could spend countless hours writing blog posts and thousands of dollars on ads with nothing to show for it.

Compare this to outbound lead generation where the goal is to engage live people, and it’s easy to see how the ability to pivot mid-conversation and read social cues is a major advantage in terms of message refinement. Outbound lead generation also has the advantage of being inherently linked to sales. Business now is better than potential business later, and any good conversation has the chance to turn into an immediate purchase. As a bonus, you’ll get live feedback on the challenges your prospects face regarding your solution.

Lead Generation Services

If you’re reading this article, you might be interested in starting your own lead generation operation. But if you’ve decided that it all sounds like too much and you’d rather just have your team call pre-qualified leads, there are options available. At this point it should be no surprise that the scope and quality of lead generation services vary widely, but here are a couple different types of services you’ll come across.

  • Simple List Building – many data companies sell prospecting lists under the guise of lead generation. Although purchasing a list can be an effective way to get yourself off the ground, these lists often need to be “cleaned up” before they can be used (more on that soon).
  • Inbound Lead Generation – is often just another term for marketing. Many companies will run online ads and send you the data. This can be an okay option if you’re looking for an economic solution, but these services have the same problem as list builders; the data often needs to be cleaned and you don’t know if their qualified yet.
  • SalesRoads Opportunity IQ Lead Generation – at SalesRoads we offer a unique type of advanced lead generation. Because we believe in forming sales partnerships that are for the long-term benefit of both parties, we start our process by helping you identify a list of prospects that fit your ICP. We then call the prospects and qualify them through a series of questions before asking them if they would be interested in learning more about your product/service. You receive all the data we collect to inform prospecting decisions, but more importantly, you team is connected with prospects who have expressed an interest in your product and want a follow up!

Our clients tell us that our unique approach to lead generation returns highly qualified prospects that are easy to engage and result in profitable opportunities. If you would like to read some case studies or would like to schedule a meeting to discuss how we can help you identify, qualify, and contact new leads for your business, visit our website at salesroads.com/client-success.

All that said – you came here to learn how to create leads for yourself, so let’s get started on creating an outbound lead list!

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Creating an Outbound Lead List

Generally speaking, you need to identify a list of businesses and contacts that fit your Ideal Customer Profile before you can begin to contact and qualify them.

Our recommendation is to purchase a list of businesses and contacts and then supplement that base list with manual research and any existing contacts you have. There are numerous online resources for purchasing lead lists and we’ve included some below.

  • ZoomInfo – Established and credible data company. More expensive than other solutions.
  • Crunchbase – Mostly venture backed start-ups.
  • Discover.org – Owned by Zoom.
  • Seamless.ai – the only AI-powered search engine built for B2B leads. They offer a free trial and are a great cost-effective alternative to Zoom.
  • SalesIntel – SalesIntel is a top provider of accurate and affordable sales data. They have over 4 million human-verified contacts, resulting in 95% data accuracy, plus their chrome extension is completely free. 

Which service you want to use is dependent on several factors including the number of leads needed, your budget, and ICP. If you really need to understand how much funding your prospect has, a solution like Crunchbase is a good choice, although Zoom also has this functionality and is always acquiring new capabilities as the competitive landscape grows.

If funding isn’t as important as finding a cost effective, all-around solution, we recommend a product like Seamless or SalesIntel. Both solutions also have the advantage of integrating with LinkedIn, which can be incredibly handy when you go to scrub and supplement your base list in the next section.

Prices for a list can run anywhere from a couple hundred to tens of thousand dollars depending on the service and size of your list. Once you have a list of leads that fit your ICP, you can begin to scrub and supplement that base list with manual research.

Scrubbing and Supplementing Your Base List

After purchasing a list you’ll inevitably find that some of your lead records contain inaccurate or incomplete data. Before you load these leads into your CRM, its probably worth going through each record and scrubbing out any unhelpful records. A situation where you might just decide to scrub the lead is when you come across a record that obviously does not fit your ICP. If you provide IT support for SMB then it probably doesn’t make sense for you to target a huge multi-national corporation like Microsoft who certainty has an internal team, but if your core customer is listed on the Fortune 500, call away! You will want to strike a balance between removing too many records and eliminating wasted time pursuing dead end leads.

Once you’ve taken out the obviously poor fits, you can begin to supplement the incomplete records with manual research.

Depending on where you found your list you may need to supplement with different sets of information. For example, Crunchbase makes it very easy to find companies that fit certain parameters such as recent funding or executive profiles, but they do not provide contacts for that company. You may decide to look up contacts at those companies using ZoomInfo, but even then, you’ll inevitably have a handful of inaccurate or outdated emails, phone numbers, or titles. We’ve included some resources for you to use when supplementing your list.

  • Email Grabber – scans websites and can help you find missing emails
  • LinkedIn – great for findings contact names and titles within an organization. Can be paired with SalesIntel or ZoomInfo for more capability
  • Rocktreach.co – identifies email structures within an organization allowing you to make informed guesses on where to reach your contacts
  • ZoomInfo – Covered above, solid service but expensive price tag
  • Automata – an amazing tool for finding complex, specific, or unique leads and associated info. For instance, if you need to find the contact info for an individual that has sales experience, was promoted in the last year, and works in the automotive industry, this is your solution.

When all else fails you can use the following process for rounding out your records.

  1. Take the business name to LinkedIn and find a person with your target title.
  2. Go to that company’s website to find their main phone number and call the front desk.
  3. Finally, tell the receptionist that you’re looking for the contact/title you found on LinkedIn and ask to be transferred.

You may or may not connect with your prospect, but if you do it right you should be able to determine if your contact still works there, if they are the person you want to reach, and possibly how to reach that person.

Testing and Optimizing Your Lead List

Remember to document the steps you took to create your lead list. Once you begin prospecting with this list, you’ll want to determine what works well and what does not. This will ensure that you are continually improving your lead generation process, not just calling aimlessly.

Although we’ll cover this again in Part Two of this series, Generating Interest, proper documentation on the front end is paramount to that effort.

How long Should Lead Generation Take Me?

We wish we could answer this question with absolute clarity, but just like creating your ICP, only you can really determine what is reasonable for your business. Typically, it is recommended that sales professionals spend about 60% of their time prospecting new clients. Using that as a guideline, we would say that generating a list should take about 25% of that time upfront, with the understanding that more research is likely needed as you begin to prospect off that list.

When you do the math (25% of 60% = 15%), a general recommendation might be around 15% of your total sales time should be dedicated to creating a sufficient list to call on, but again, only you know what is appropriate for your business.

If you feel overwhelmed by this process or lack the time and resources to execute on it efficiently, visit salesroads.com/lead-generation to learn how we can help you create a list of high conversion, qualified prospects who have expressed an interest in learning more about your product or service.

Summary

Congrats on making it to the end, we’ve covered a lot in this article! To help you stay on track we’ve summarized a list of topics we covered for creating a high performing lead list!

  1. Create an Ideal Customer Profile
  2. Types of Lead Generation
  3. Options for Finding a Lead List
  4. Lead Generation Services
  5. How to Clean Your Lead List
  6. Testing and Optimizing Your List

I Have a Bunch of Leads, Now What?

In the next part of this series we will discuss how to turn those leads into qualified opportunities. Some subjects we will touch on include:

  • Defining an Outreach Strategy
  • Creating a Funnel
  • Building a Value Proposition
  • Getting People to Listen

Part two of this series is set to release in mid-November so remember to come back and check it out!

David Talks Shop With Victor Arocho

David and Victor Talk Lead Generation

SalesRoads founder David Kreiger was recently interviewed by Victor Arocho, a thought leader in Sales Leadership and Coaching. To learn more about how Victor turns sales professionals into sales leaders, visit his website at victorarocho.com.

Listen to the full interview here and see our top takeaways below!

Top Takeaways For Sales Landscape

4 Steps: How to Identify the Right B2B Channels to Grow Your Business

Putting Together Channels Like Puzzle Pieces

Since the dawn of time countless business owners have asked themselves this same question, “How do I reach more customers?” Although this fundamental question hasn’t changed, the answer certainly has.

To illustrate my point, let’s step back into a simpler time when there were only 4 TV channels, a local paper, whatever magazine you found at the salon, some billboards along the highway, and the party line you shared with the neighbors.

This time was both good and bad for business owners looking to grow their operation. On one hand, it made reaching wide audiences easier because there were simply less places for people to look. On the other hand, business owners almost certainly wasted a lot of money reaching people who had no interest in their products.

To complete this thought experiment, imagine a car dealership wanting to promote the new 1961 Ford F100 Pickup Truck. Knowing that you want to reach drivers, putting a billboard along the main road into town might seem like it makes a lot of sense, but in reality, everyone on the road already owns a car. So, was a billboard really the best means of reaching people looking to buy new cars? Perhaps this dealership would have been better off promoting their car maintenance services instead.

The challenge for business owners today really isn’t all that different. What is different is the sheer number of options they have for reaching customers at their disposal. One look at the diagram below illustrates how confusing it can be to find your target audience.

B2B Channels Diagram Broken Down by Medium

Even this diagram is admittedly incomplete, and the organization of channels is bound to change depending on who you ask, especially when applied to the B2B sphere. Furthermore, each channel has its own streams that further complicate finding your customer. For example, social media might seem like a straightforward way to reach people, but even then, you have to decide which platform to utilize.

This all brings us back to the original question: What are the right B2B channels to grow my business? In the next four steps I will walk you through the process of identifying those channels, and the answer is as easy as you imagine!

Step One: Set a Goal
This should be the first step before undertaking any serious business endeavor, but one that is often overlooked. Of course, you want your business to grow, but you will have to be more specific than revenue dollars if you really want your business to thrive.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider how you plan to reach your goals. For example, imagine you own a SaaS solution with a subscription as well as a “freemium” option, and your goal is to increase the number of paid subscribers. In this scenario, do you want to increase your number of users, or do you want to focus on improving your free-user to paid-user ratio?

One of our clients, Kuebix, was faced with such a dilemma. After thoughtful consideration, they decided to focus on their paid to unpaid ratio and found massive success. I invite you to read the case study here.

The point being, there is more than one way to dice an onion and you’ll want to consider not only the “what”, but also the “how”, when outlining a goal. This can be deceptively hard and will force you to consider the subtle nuances of your business and surrounding marketplace.

Step Two: Identify Your Audience
Again, this is one of the first things you should understand about your business but is one of the hardest things to nail down in practice. Your target audience should also align with your goals. To go back to our previous example of a 1960’s car dealership looking to sell their new Ford Trucks, they thought their core audience was drivers, a fair assumption provided they sell cars. But more specifically, they were looking to sell to a specific kind of driver, either one who was looking to upgrade from their previous model, or a new driver who had no car altogether. Either way, maybe they should have spent their ad dollars on a placement in the local paper’s classified section – the place someone in the market for a new car would be.

Step Three: Find Where Your Audience Is
You might be thinking to yourself, “If I knew the answer to this question, why would I need this article?” But stick with me, the answer isn’t so straight forward.

Take social media for example. If you sell funny pop culture t-shirts, your core customer is aged 18-24, and your goal is to drive sales, a display ad featuring the shirt on Instagram might be your best course of action.

Conversely, at SalesRoads we work strictly in B2B, so we choose to focus our social media efforts on LinkedIn because that is where our core customer is.

The more clearly you define your goal and audience the easier this step will be. So if you are struggling to identify where your customer is, try refining steps 1 & 2 before moving on.

Step Four: Figure Out Which Channels Convert
At this point in the process you should have a clearly defined goal, a target audience, and an idea of where to find them. Now you need to put some skin in the game and start testing different channels to see if your hypothesis was correct so you can start measuring which channels convert.

This process is a lot harder for traditional B2B channels and for businesses whose goal is to build awareness. It is nearly impossible to attribute revenue growth to a collection of billboards, although you could make educated guesses about the number of people who likely saw the ad and assign a rough dollar amount to each impression.

Especially when just getting started, you probably want to avoid big brand-building exercises like the one above and focus on the channels that can be attributed. This is why digital channels are increasingly popular, everything can be tracked. So unless you have millions sitting in your ad budget, focus on B2B channels like email where you can attribute your conversions.

Putting it All Together
Now that you’ve tested some different channels, you ideally have a crystal-clear picture of who your customer is and how to find them. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always so obvious. In all likelihood, most channels you tested probably generated something, but knowing where to invest your precious dollars may be a challenge.

Our suggestion is to take a multi-channel approach and continuously test your mix. At SalesRoads we’ve generated more than 50,000 business opportunities using three main B2B channels – Phone, Email, and Social Media (LinkedIn to be more specific).

How did we find this perfect mix for success? Well, let’s walk through the steps together.

1.) Set a Goal: For most of our clients this is an appointment set with their ideal customer. So we’ve defined a goal and move on to the next step.

2.) Identify Your Audience: Because we operate exclusively in B2B, our clients want to reach high-level decision makers who have the authority to close a deal. Depending on the client and target prospect our audience may be a director or C-Suite executive.

3.) Find Where Your Audience Is: Since we are targeting high-level executives who can make decisions on behalf of their business, we reach out to them at their place of work. In practice, we’ve found our most productive channels to be the Phone, Email, and LinkedIn. Because we have a clearly defined goal and target audience, this makes a lot a sense.

A) Executives always have a phone number dedicated for work and we’ve found a phone call is an effective way to cut through the noise.
B) They certainly use email for business functions.
C) LinkedIn is a social media platform for professionals.

When you put it all together, you have a powerful channel combination for creating new business!

4.) Figure Out Which Channels Convert: On any campaign, we’re always measuring this along the way and adjust depending on what the data says. On some of our campaigns, LinkedIn is a huge conversion driver, on other campaigns, phone is our bread and butter. We tend to shift our focus onto the most productive methods and messaging but never eliminate a core channel.

At the end of the day, we recommend using this approach and utilizing a multi-channel strategy. Although the notion of a multi-channel approach certainly isn’t novel, identifying the right mix can be challenging, especially if you are having trouble personifying your core customer. For this reason, it is important to always be testing your mix and following your audience. Ultimately, identifying the most productive channels for growing your business is challenging work, but if you utilize our battle tested method, you are bound to find a successful mix to grow your business!