This article is part of a larger series on Sales Management.
Generating leads is how potential customers enter your business-to-business (B2B) sales funnel. Use these 14 tactics to build a strong B2B sales lead generation strategy that provides a constant stream of business buyers who are interested in the products or services your company offers. Learning how to successfully add more leads to your sales pipeline enables you to close deals on a more consistent basis and grow your operation.
Here are 14 ways to generate B2B sales leads along with the main steps for each process:
1. Take Advantage of Existing B2B Lead Databases
One of the easiest ways to generate B2B sales leads is to buy them. Providers like Lusha, UpLead, and Findemails.com enable you to pull leads lists and import them directly into your customer relationship management (CRM) software based on contact information, job position, industry, company size, and more. It’s important to note that the leads will be unqualified since you’re just buying data—but they are still likely to be a good fit and ready to be nurtured.
Here is the step-by-step process to purchasing B2B sales leads:
- Determine which leads to purchase based on factors like industry, geography, contact information, number of employees or size of company, job position, and other information you would like to use to include or filter out leads. These factors should all align with your customer personas and target audiences.
- Based on the leads and type of contact information you are looking for, find a provider that can provide that information within your budget. Our article showcasing the best places to buy business leads is an excellent resource.
- Use the provider’s selection system to filter the types of contacts you want into a lead list.
- Download your new B2B lead list as a comma separated value (CSV) file to import them into your CRM, or, if the provider’s site enables it, transfer the data directly to your CRM software. Alternatively, you can also download the file as a spreadsheet for manual use.
- Distribute the new leads to your sales team and launch lead qualification and nurturing campaigns.
2. Generate Inbound B2B Leads From Your Website
Attracting inbound leads through your website produces marketing (MQL) and even sales (SQL) or product qualified leads (PQLs). It requires you to first get traffic from members of your target audiences to landing pages on your website using search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, social media and Google Ads, social media, email, or content marketing.
Once a site visitor arrives, the goal is to get them to respond to a call to action. This could be the site visitor submitting a web form, clicking on a phone number to call your business, chatting with a live bot for information, creating an account, or some other desired action.
Platforms like Unbounce empower you to quickly create professional landing pages and web forms using professionally designed premade templates. The platform also offers tools for developing web page copy, optimizing web traffic to your landing pages, and providing intelligence on landing page conversion rates.
Here is the step-by-step process for generating B2B sales leads using your website:
- Create landing pages on your website someone would navigate to for product or service-specific information. Landing pages will ideally be dedicated to a single topic, like a specific product or service, or important information, such as the pricing page for a software provider.
- Employ tactics to get leads to your website landing page(s) using things like SEO keywords, email marketing, social media marketing and advertising, business directories, press releases, Google Ads, and audience-centered content marketing.
- Add a specific call to action to each landing page encouraging the visitor to take the next step, such as filling out a web form, creating an account, clicking to call or calling an agent, or opening up a chatbot session.
- Collect lead information submitted on the call-to-action channels to follow up. This can be done manually or through auto-importing prospect contact information to your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Pro tip: Online reviews are a trusted source for leads to evaluate prior to exploring your website for more information. Develop a system for generating customer reviews and posting them on your website and Google My Business listing to give leads positive reasons to check out your website.
3. Create Lead Awareness With Introduction Emails
A more personal way to generate leads is by sending introductory emails to unqualified leads (known as cold emailing) to create awareness of your company and see if they are interested in learning more. Email contacts can be purchased, found by searching online (including searching B2B social sites like LinkedIn), or acquired from networking, such as business cards collected at an event, your email contacts, and even your LinkedIn contacts.
Once you have a contact’s email information, success comes down to drafting an email that gets their attention and initiates the call to action. Here is the step-by-step process for generating leads through introduction emails:
- Put together a contact list by gathering email contact information from online sources, directories, business cards, or by purchasing a list of email leads. If you have sales lead management software, this is a type of CRM data you can easily import.
- Create an email template with fields the CRM will use to merge personalized information for each prospect, such as adding their name at the top of the email. To help get you started, see our email template examples.
- Send emails using your CRM or email marketing platform’s automation tools, and track email open rates, click rates, and responses to your email campaigns. An easy way to do this is using a CRM like HubSpot, which includes email tracking tools. With the email tools provided by HubSpot CRM and similar platforms, you’ll be able to see not only how many people open and engage with your email, but which ones do so, so that you can follow up individually with the most interested leads.
- Follow up with nonresponsive emails until you can determine whether or not they are qualified or disinterested.
Pro tip: Use a call-to-action (CTA) button in your email signature to guide the recipient to your intended objective. Examples of a CTA in a signature include adding a link that says “Click Here to Schedule an Appointment” or “See How We Help Businesses Just Like Yours by Clicking Here.”
4. Engage in Cold Calling Campaigns
Similar to sending introductory emails, cold calling campaigns are a personalized way to generate qualified leads by calling them on the phone. The benefit of cold calling compared to cold emailing is that you get a response right away, assuming the prospect answers your call.
Here is the step-by-step process for generating B2B sales leads through cold calling:
- Gather the contact information of potential leads from online sources, directories, business cards, or by purchasing it. If you use a CRM, import the cold calling prospect list into the platform, so that notes can be added to prospect records and you can track future interactions like lead nurturing campaigns.
- Create a cold calling script you can use as a reference to guide the conversation. To get you started, check out our article about cold calling scripts.
- Place calls, and be prepared to get past gatekeepers and leave effective messages when you reach a lead’s voicemail.
- Track the conversation results and update your notes or CRM records accordingly.
- Follow up on calls not answered and voicemail messages not responded to.
A power dialer, or auto-dialer, is an excellent tool for managing cold calling campaigns. Power dialers allow you to line up all the calls you want to make and then dial the numbers for you in order, saving you time and helping you get prospects on the phone more quickly. Certain cloud-based phone software, such as Freshdesk, has this capability.
5. Use Content Marketing to Attract B2B Sales Leads
Content marketing refers to developing media content, such as articles for a blog, e-books, industry reports, videos, or podcasts, to promote your business. The purpose of using content is to educate potential customers on specific topics relative to your offerings to entice them to learn more, or to provide valuable information that starts the sales process for long-term nurturing.
Here is the process for using content marketing to generate leads:
- Brainstorm the topic(s) you want to discuss or educate an audience on.
- Determine which content channels (video, podcast, website, blog, and so on) you want to use to communicate your message to your audience.
- Develop the content in-house or by using outside services such as videographers, graphic designers, podcast creators, or content writing services.
- Post the content on your website or social media channels with a call to action within the content. An example of this is saying “Contact us at [phone number or email] to learn more about how [topic you went over] can help your business.”
- Initiate methods for generating views on your content through SEO, Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn Ads, organic social media, or by sending the content via an email campaign. Ideally you will use many channels to attract leads using content.
If you’re struggling with developing content ideas, HubSpot is a great resource, specifically for blog articles. They offer a free tool to help generate blog topic ideas based on possible terms in your marketing strategy.
Pro tip: Whether the content is directly on your website or being posted on social media, always use a call to action associated with the content, such as a link to an online web form or an automated appointment scheduling tool like Calendly to help leads navigate and learn more.
6. Create Social Media Campaigns
Running social media campaigns to generate B2B sales leads refers to posting content, running ads, or searching for specific types of leads on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. When running a campaign, one option is to create a post and then pay to boost it on the platform so more people see and engage with the post through likes, clicks, or comments.
Another option is to use platform tools like Facebook Ads to help generate leads. Facebook Ads lets you run custom business ads that target Facebook users based on a wide range of demographics, including but not limited to geography, behaviors, and job titles.
Facebook Ads are easy to create, and within the advertisements include a visual such as an image or short video, a post, and a call-to-action button depending on the ad’s objective you select. In addition, you have the ability to run your ads outside of Facebook, with options for Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook’s extended network.
Pro tip: Social media management software like Zoho Social allow you to schedule your content posts in advance so that you don’t have to worry about making posts on the day of. Zoho Social also lets you monitor your upcoming posts on a calendar-style view so you know what’s coming up.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a tool accessible to LinkedIn members for lead generation and nurturing. Sales Navigator enables you to search for leads based on job function, seniority level, industry, company size, and location. Once you find the B2B sales leads you want to target, you can contact them directly through InMail, connect with them on the platform, or engage with their LinkedIn posts by liking or commenting on them.
Here is a step-by-step process for running a social media advertising campaign:
- Determine the type of social media campaign you want to run and select a social media platform that has the capabilities to run that type of campaign and whose audience types align with your target markets.
- Develop the campaign based on the network. If you are running a Facebook Ad, use the ad builder tool in Facebook to construct it. If you are using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, develop the personalized message you want to send to each recipient. For content posts, create and post the content on your page (image, video, podcast, and so on).
- Begin targeting the campaign toward your leads. Using Facebook Ads, you can narrow ad placement to very specific audiences prior to posting your ad. With LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you will need to use the lead filtering search tool to determine who to send InMail messages to. When posting content on Facebook or LinkedIn, you can also boost individual posts for more reach and views for the audience you want to target.
- After launching your campaign, monitor the progress of the campaign using platform analytics, and reach out to any leads generated through social media.
Pro tip: Integrate your CRM with your social media so that any leads acquired in a social media campaign are automatically added to your CRM database. You can extend this functionality further by creating an automated workflow in your CRM, so that when a new lead is submitted, they are automatically sent an email.
7. Host Educational Events for Prospecting
Hosting educational events, such as a webinar, is especially appropriate when your brand’s offerings require expertise or technical knowledge, or when your audience has shared educational interests. For example, a marketing agency might hold a webinar on social media advertising to find clients wanting to outsource social media posting and ads.
By hosting a free event in person or online that other business owners can learn from, you have the opportunity to provide valuable knowledge and intrigue attendees into wanting to learn more. Modern webinar software like Zoom, GoToWebinar, and Zoho Meeting make it easy for you to plan an event, collect the contact information of those who register for lead nurturing, and hold an event that can instantly generate B2B sales qualified leads.
Here’s how to host an educational event for lead generation:
- Identify a topic that will interest your desired audience and create your curriculum. Whether it’s an in-person event or an online webinar, the information is often laid out and displayed during the presentation via video or PowerPoint slideshow deck.
- Schedule your event to be held using your video conferencing software or at an in-person venue.
- Advertise your event to your desired audience through online ads, social media campaigns, direct mail, and email marketing. Make it as easy as possible for your audience to sign up and attend.
- Hold the educational event and be sure to leave time for a question and answer (Q&A) session at the end, or incrementally if the information is broken up into major concepts.
- After the event, follow up with sales and product qualified leads as quickly as possible, and put all other contact information into your CRM for lead tracking and nurturing.
8. Attend Trade Shows
Trade shows are events where businesses showcase new technology, products, or services, usually in a booth. Attendees of trade shows discover what businesses offer and sign up to learn more or exchange business cards with one another. B2B sales leads can be generated when attendees come to your booth and provide contact information or through networking.
Here is the step-by-step for how to generate leads from a trade show:
- Select a trade show to attend based on your industry and target audience. You may also be a member of a trade association that hosts these types of events.
- Purchase branded promotional items as giveaways to entice attendees to come up to your booth and learn about your business. Common items companies bring include pens, T-shirts, candy, USB drives, and flashlights. It’s a good idea to bring unique items other booths will likely not have, especially if they relate to your brand, such as a commercial builder, interior designer, or architectural firm giving away branded tape measures.
- Design and bring business cards, marketing materials, and any equipment and products you want to showcase.
- Many booths feature video displays and even the ability to interact with demos and prototypes. If you can create and add these types of elements, people are more likely to come to your booth, will stay longer, and be more interested in your offerings.
- A major incentive, such as a post-event drawing for a significant prize giveaway (think iPad or watch, or Yeti Cooler) is often a key element in securing as many contacts as possible at a trade show.
- Collect business cards or collect contact information manually with a sign-up form or electronically using your mobile device so you can follow up afterward with leads.
Pro tip: For in-person events like trade shows or networking events, use a business card scanner that syncs with your CRM. Pipedrive, for instance, integrates with the application Business Card Reader so you can scan a business card from a mobile device, and the information is automatically added to your CRM database as a lead.
9. Participate in B2B Networking Events
Similar to trade shows, networking events are another place to meet people, make connections, and generate leads. Common networking events include Chamber of Commerce get-togethers, LeadShare group meetings, and trade association social events. Have a brief elevator pitch ready to share as an introduction, a sales pitch ready for people who want more information, and exchange business cards with the people you meet.
Here is how to generate B2B leads through participating in networking events:
- Select networking events to attend that make sense based on your location, industry, and target audience.
- Prepare a short (30- to 60-second) elevator pitch you can deliver when introducing yourself to the group.
- Design a sales pitch to use with people who are interested in learning more.
- Purchase and bring business cards along when you attend networking events.
- Mingle with attendees, deliver your pitch, and collect business cards or contact information from attendees.
- Follow up with the leads met with an email or phone call.
10. Send Email Marketing Campaigns
Email marketing campaigns are mass emails sent to leads whose contact information you’ve obtained from a trade show, networking event, webinar, or some type of directory. Alternatively, you may have purchased an email list from a lead purchasing database. Typically these contacts represent unqualified leads (UQLs), and your goal is to convert them into marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or even sales qualified leads (SQLs).
Here is how to generate B2B sales leads using email marketing campaigns:
- Create a contact list by gathering contact information, including the contact’s email address, from online sources, directories, business cards, or sign-up sheets, or by purchasing it. If you use a CRM, add the data to the CRM system; if not, upload it to an email marketing platform, like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
- Design email templates to use based on your objectives and target audience. Be sure to include a call to action within each email template.
- Draft and send your emails. This can be done for individual email campaigns, or a series of emails that are automated for periodic email deployment or triggered when a recipient clicks a link or opens an email.
- Track the open rates, click rates, and responses of your campaign.
- Collect lead information for anyone interested in learning more and follow up with a phone call or personalized email.
Pro tip: Use software like HubSpot CRM to automate email marketing. With the email design tools HubSpot offers, you can create and deploy mass email campaigns to all your contacts or select recipients based on your criteria. You can also use automation to send a series of emails on a desired schedule or based on behavioral triggers like opens and clicks.
11. Establish B2B Lead Referral Networks
Referral networks are partnerships, incentive programs, and relationships that generate leads for your business by recommending it (or you) to other people they know. Referral networks are often created among businesses with complementary products or services. For instance, cybersecurity consultants commonly establish referral partnerships with information technology management firms as each service goes well with the other.
You can also use incentive programs where compensation or rewards are provided to those who refer business to you. Additionally, existing customers make great referral partners since they have experience with your business. They often don’t require incentives to recommend your business to others (though it never hurts to say “thank you” in some way).
Establish robust referral networks by doing the following:
- Determine referral partners that would be a good fit for your business. This could include complementary or substitute businesses, centers of influence firms like accountants, commercial lenders, and insurance agencies, your current vendors, or existing customers. For local businesses, these could also include companies located near yours that share similar target audiences and business peers in the community, such as other members of your local Chamber of Commerce.
- Design a referral program, either as reciprocal referral partners or with incentives like account credit for future purchases (for existing customers), affiliate rewards, cash payments, or gift cards.
- Discuss partnerships and/or promote referral programs through email, phone calls, or social media campaigns. If your referral program is public, such as an affiliate or customer rewards program, you can also publish details about how to sign up or participate on your website.
- Follow up with leads generated from the referral program with introductions, nurturing, and business closing activities.
- Track referrals from each source and pay incentives promptly.
12. Be a Guest Contributor
Being a guest contributor refers to things like submitting articles to a professional publication, another company’s blog, or guest speaking at a seminar, webinar, or podcast. It allows you to introduce your brand to audiences that reflect your target markets and ideal buyer types, producing leads for nurturing and potential sales conversations.
Here is how to generate B2B sales leads by being a guest contributor:
- Research and identify potential guest contributor opportunities such as for blog articles on other websites, articles for a magazine or trade publication, podcasts, or trade shows, seminars, or webinars seeking guest speakers.
- Develop a pitch specifically for each opportunity you want to land, and apply.
- Create your guest contribution content by writing an article or developing a presentation. Again, this should be specific to the unique opportunity and audience.
- For seminars and webinars, request a list of registrant and attendee contact information. If you wrote for a publication, you may be able to attain a contact list of those who receive the publication. If this isn’t an option, make it easy for attendees to subscribe to updates for you as part of your article or presentation, such as a short URL or QR (quick response) code that takes them to a sign-up form online.
- Follow up with leads generated using introductions, lead nurturing campaigns, and business closing techniques.
13. Promote Special Offers to Attract B2B Sales Leads
Special offers provide a risk-free or less expensive way for a prospect to try your product or service. Using special offers like free trials and discounts is a proven way to generate sales leads, including leads that are marketing or sales qualified. Promoting special offers can be done through a variety of channels including email marketing, cold calling, SEO content and landing pages on your website, social media, and advertising.
Here is how to use special offers to generate B2B sales leads:
- Outline the offer you want to promote. It could be a free trial, new customer discount, free gift with purchase, or a free consultation. Often these will be limited-time offers (LTOs) in order to create a sense of urgency.
- Define your target audience for the special offer among the buyer types most likely to benefit and become high-quality leads.
- Promote the special offer using tactics like mass emailing, cold calling, advertising, landing pages on your website, search-optimized content, or social media campaigns. For maximum reach to your intended audience, use multiple channels.
- Follow up with leads who express interest in or who sign up (such as signing up for a free trial) with lead nurturing and business closing campaigns.
- Track special offer campaign results and use them to inform future special offer lead generating campaigns.
14. Hire a Telemarketing Services
If you want to use cold calling campaigns to generate B2B leads but don’t plan to conduct them in-house, you can hire a telemarketing service to make calls on your behalf. Using their contact database or a list of contacts you provide, they will handle all of your cold calling to set up appointments for your sales team or qualify the lead in some way.
A few reputable telemarketing companies to consider include DialAmerica, Quality Contact Solutions, Strategic Calls, and Superhuman Prospecting. Reputation is important—you don’t want cold calls made on behalf of your brand being perceived as spam. The pricing models for these services are either a flat fee, fee-per-call, or performance-based like charging for each appointment successfully set up.
Here is how a telemarketing service can generate leads for you:
- Research and sign up for the telemarketing service you want to use.
- Discuss your goals and target audience with the telemarketing provider.
- Provide them with a script for guidance as well as a contact list (or select a target audience from their database).
- Use a platform like Calendly, which syncs not only to your calendar but also to many popular CRMs, including Salesforce, HubSpot, Zoho CRM, and Pipedrive. The telemarketing agents extend a link via email or text to interested leads to choose the time that works best for them. Once made, the appointment syncs to your calendar and contact information is automatically added to your CRM.
- Follow up on appointments scheduled by the telemarketing provider as well as on any marketing or sales qualified leads they identify as potential buyers.
The 4 Types of B2B Leads
A B2B lead is a person with buying power or decision-making ability in an organization who indicates an interest in another company’s products or services. Some even expand the definition to include any business that’s a good fit for a company’s products or services, regardless of brand awareness or interest in the company’s offerings.
During the lead generation process, varying types of leads enter the sales funnel depending on their relationship with the business. It’s important to understand how they differ so that you can set lead follow-up and management strategies accordingly. For example, introductory calls or emails may be needed for unqualified leads while marketing qualified leads can go straight into nurturing campaigns.
The four main types of B2B sales leads include:
- Unqualified lead (UQL): An unqualified lead is any contact who could be a good fit for your business’ products and services but who has not expressed interest yet.
- Marketing qualified lead (MQL): A marketing qualified lead is any contact who isn’t yet ready to purchase, but has expressed some level of interest, usually by interacting with a marketing campaign. For example, if a contact submits a form for a special offer, takes advantage of a free trial, signs up for or clicks on a marketing email link, they have indicated a degree of interest and can be considered an MQL.
- Sales qualified lead (SQL): A sales qualified lead is any contact who has shown interest, has been vetted by your sales team in some way, and is almost ready to purchase and/or would like to discuss with a sales representative. For example, if a B2B lead requests a quote or price estimate, they are showing intent to buy, and are therefore sales qualified.
- Product qualified lead (PQL): A product qualified lead is any contact who has used a product through a free trial or no-cost option and then expresses interest in becoming a paying customer. For example, if a lead using a free trial asks a sales rep about a specific feature or for pricing estimates, or visits the site’s pricing page, they have become product qualified.
Why It Is Important to Use More Than One Strategy
Developing an effective B2B lead generation strategy with multiple and diverse channels and methods is a crucial element of a sales management position. These methods create sales opportunities for your team to identify and nurture prospects, allowing deals to be closed and your business to grow.
Depending on your business and how its sales operation is structured, you may utilize a wide range of techniques to generate unqualified, marketing qualified, sales qualified, and product qualified leads. Having diversity among tactics is important because it creates more consistent flow and reduces the negative impact felt if any one tactic ceases to be effective or only works on a seasonal or cyclical basis.
Tactics used for B2B sales lead generation vary depending on your industry, skill set, and comfort level for each method. Take an outbound approach by connecting personally through networking, email marketing, or cold calling, or adopt inbound tactics like advertising, content marketing, and developing a referral system. These proven sales process tactics will fill your pipeline with B2B sales leads and close deals.