When it comes to sales, a lot of people like to focus on the close, getting people to sign on the dotted line. However, as any salesperson knows, there’s a lot more that goes into getting the sale.
Sales is a process, a funnel that your prospect moves through, and each step is vital. This includes the first step: lead generation.
At Reply we’re all about helping our customers automate their sales outreach process, and over the years we’ve seen our share of sales lead generation techniques that work (along with the ones that don’t).
In this post we’ll run through our favorite lead generation strategies, to make sure you’re starting your sales process the right way.
1. Get to know your leads
One of the things that break my heart is when I see someone clearly using ‘spray-and-pray’ outreach. Their messaging is vague, impersonal and makes as much impact as a soggy tissue. They try to appeal to everyone and end up appealing to no-one.
Most of the time, this can be traced back to one key mistake: they don’t know their leads.
All of the most effective lead generation techniques start with an in-depth knowledge of your prospective customers. What do your ideal customers look like? What industry do they work in? What’s their job title? What problems are they dealing with relating to your service? What keeps them awake at night? The more you know about your prospects, the more powerful your lead generation will be.
Don’t make assumptions here; talk to your existing customers. Listen to the words they use, resisting the temptation to put your words in their mouth.
If you don’t have any existing customers, find customers of a similar product/service and talk to them. Whatever happens, build your ideal customer profiles on real data, not your imagination.
2. Generating outbound leads
With a clear picture of who your leads are, it’s easier to start finding leads. For businesses in their early stages, generating outbound leads is usually the most effective as it can generate results quickly, even if you aren’t established.
There are plenty of vendors out there who’ll happily sell you a list full of incorrect or out of date contacts. Don’t underestimate the devastation this could cause; at best it’s a waste of your time and money, at worst you might find your sender domain reputation severely damaged, blacklisting your IP and having your messages marked as spam, meaning even the correct email addresses never see your email.
Often, the best option is to build your list yourself, either using a scraper to harvest contact information from websites and social networks or carrying out your own research and building your list manually.
Either way, I strongly recommend you set aside time to check and verify your list. Contact details change frequently, and a small mistake importing your leads can make even a legitimate list useless.
3. Generating inbound leads
If you are already an established business, inbound leads can be a cheap and powerful way to generate more leads. Be aware you will almost certainly have to wait longer to see the results but, on the plus side, inbound leads are usually more qualified than their outbound counterparts.
One of the most popular methods of generating inbound leads is through content marketing. Put simply, by creating content that helps and appeals to your ideal customer, they’ll come to you.
Done well, content marketing will cause your prospects to happily hand over their contact details in order to receive more content. With content that’s closely aligned to your prospects’ needs and the product/service you offer, they are more likely to become customers in the future.
The content can take many forms, but can typically be broken down into three formats:
- Written content, such as blog posts, white papers, and ebooks.
- Audio content, such as podcasts with relevant interviews and advice.
- Video content, such as webinars and tutorials.
4. Nurturing and qualifying your leads
Regardless of which online lead generation techniques you choose, any leads are extremely unlikely to become customers overnight. Initially, they’ll likely be resistant to any attempt to sell and will need to be nurtured over time.
This means your outreach has to be focused on providing clear and obvious value to your leads.
Have you ever been to a party and met someone who could only talk about themselves? How fun was that conversation? How long did it take for you to make your excuses and move onto someone a little less self-centered?
If all your emails revolve around you and how amazing you are, then bad news: you are that person, and your prospects won’t have to come up with a polite excuse to stop talking. They’ll just delete your message or, even worse, mark it as spam.
Instead, with every message you send to your leads, put yourself in their shoes. From their perspective, ask “what’s in it for me?” If the answer isn’t obvious, then start again.
Lead generation is an essential part of the sales process, vital to the success of any sales campaign. By getting to know your leads, using outbound and inbound techniques, and nurturing your leads, you will be building a solid foundation for your sales.
Lucy, VP of Marketing @ Reply. Lucy is #3 employee in Reply with 8+ years of experience in different fields of B2B Marketing. Her main areas of focus are SEO, Content Marketing, Analytics, CRO and a bit of PPC for SaaS companies. Fond of working, traveling and Sci-Fi.