B2B Lead Generation: Choosing the Best Online Business Leads to Work On

B2B lead gen

If you want your sales team to drive lasting growth for your company, you can’t rely on getting lucky with the leads you generate.

You need a scalable, repeatable sales prioritization process so you can always focus on the hottest leads, convert them into customers faster and reduce the time wasted on B2B leads that aren’t ready or have become cold.

This guide will show you how to get good prioritization habits in place so you feel comfortable handing over control to your team, knowing that everyone is working on the best online business leads.

Sales prioritization comes from lead qualification

Sales productivity stems from knowing what’s currently in your pipeline and how your team can convert these leads into customers. In other words, it starts with good lead qualification.

Lead qualification is the process of finding, approaching and following up with the prospects that are most likely to convert. When this process is detailed and well-implemented, your team can use their time effectively, follow up strategically and bring a higher return on investment.

A practical lead qualification process should help your sales and marketing teams understand how to:

  • Spot the best leads in your pipeline 
  • Purge cold leads from your pipeline
  • Assess when a marketing lead is qualified enough to send to the sales team
  • Know the activities that need to be completed before a lead is moved to the next stage of your pipeline
  • Measure the average length of your sales cycle and the time leads spend in each stage

In other words, a clearly defined lead qualification process is the foundation of scalable sales.

Are your sales reps currently spinning their wheels and jumping from one lead to another, hoping that something works?

Lead qualification will help them focus their time on leads and tasks that matter.

Use data and insight, not intuition

Ever heard one of your sales reps say something like: “I just had a sales call and I feel it went really well?”

Here’s the thing: most successful sales teams don’t count on their gut feeling. 

They look at prospects through the characteristics they have in common with existing customers.

They have a clear definition of how a good lead responds to qualifying questions and how fast they progress through the sales funnel.

They know they can’t rely on instincts; they draw insights from real data about their prospects, such as company size, annual revenue, job titles and current solutions.

Decisions of best sales reps and teams are based on the prospecting equation:

Data + Insight > Intuition

As soon as a prospect enters your sales rep’s pipeline, the lead qualification process should begin.

This should be defined by:

  • The right lead definition. You won’t be able to nail this the first time around, but the more leads passing through your pipeline, the better you’ll get. The best lead definitions are based on demographics, activities and behaviors that resemble your best customers, so it’s the ideal place to start.
  • The right questions in your process. You need to uncover the right information to get the right leads to the next stage quickly. This process should be clearly defined, predictable and measurable, so ensure you bake these questions into the team-wide qualification process.
  • Fine-tuning the process. Each month, meet with your team to analyze the top 10 wins and losses. Discuss why leads that were initially “hot” fell through and see if your lead qualification process needs to be tweaked month-to-month.
Activity Based Selling

Adopt the activity-based selling mindset

There are two ways you can look at selling.

The majority of sales teams focus on results rather than their actions. At first thought, this makes sense: if you don’t bring results and achieve sales goals, there’s no revenue and your entire company’s sustainability is at risk.

However, focusing on results means you’re consistently dependent on other people’s actions and decisions. You can’t predict the results or plan your time accordingly.

In other words, both you and your sales reps turn into a ball of stress.

The solution to this is activity-based selling. With it, you and your team keep your focus on your actions. This doesn’t mean you disregard results altogether, they’re just not your main area of focus.

As a result of activity-based selling, you direct your attention to metrics you’re in control of: your actions and your process.

The desired outcome of closed deals will follow because your reps have done the right tasks at the right time. Activity-based selling gives you clarity on these tasks by:

  • Simplifying your process
  • Helping you focus on the KPIs and data that really matter
  • Prompting the rep with what to do at each stage of the pipeline to optimize success

KPIs and activities that power up your pipeline

For an activity-based selling approach to work, well-defined sales funnel stages are crucial. This will mean that you will lose fewer leads during the process, so that your B2B lead generation efforts will be worth it.

Each sales funnel stage should represent a set of questions that move the lead to the next stage. It should also clearly identify the activities required on the rep’s part to make that happen.

For example, one stage might include a phone call with a decision maker, while another may depend on a follow-up email or a sent proposal.

Once your sales reps work from a clearly defined pipeline, make sure you always keep track of the following key performance indicators (KPIs):

  • The number of deals in your pipeline
  • The average size of the deals in your pipeline
  • Your close ratio: the average percentage of deals closed  
  • The sales velocity: the average time it takes to close a deal

Your sales team can simply look at their current KPIs and know which activities they need to focus on to reach their sales quota (instead of worrying about the outcome of a deal they ‘feel’ will be huge).

Numbers give sales reps power.

You can make these key actions attractive and enjoyable by rewarding activity-based sales efforts such as:

  • Call attempts
  • Demos
  • CRM usage
  • Referrals gained
  • Proposals written

The key is to explicitly define what constitutes a lead at any given stage of your pipeline. Your lead definitions can then directly translate into the activities that are part of your KPIs.

This will make it easy for anyone in your team to decide where each lead should be placed in your sales pipeline and which actions to take at any given moment.

Activity-based selling and KPIs will ensure no hot lead goes cold and unnoticed. It will also prevent wasting time on unqualified leads.

Unite Sales Marketing Teams

Unite your sales and marketing teams

The age-old tale of sales and marketing not getting along doesn’t stand true in successful companies.

In those that are struggling, however, you’ll hear complaints such as…

“Marketing isn’t delivering good online business leads to sales.”

Or...

“Sales doesn’t make the most out of the leads they receive from marketing.”

Everyone blames the other for not doing enough.

This is an easy trap to fall into, but with a little bit of work, you can bring your lead generation marketing and sales teams in sync and align them for long-term success and better B2B lead generation.

This alignment should be based on the agreement on topics such as:

  • What characterizes a good, qualified lead?
  • What does an unsuccessful lead look like?
  • What are the red flags to look for in leads?
  • What sources seem to produce the most qualified leads?
  • Which website forms, lead magnets and pages have the highest level of interest (and thus require immediate follow-up from sales)?
  • Which ones can be a lower priority?
  • What threads come up in sales conversations that the marketing team should be aware of?
  • What was it that compelled the lead to become a customer?

Answers to these questions will help marketers correctly assign their efforts and budget to the highest quality channels and strategies.

In turn, salespeople will be able to better direct their sales conversations and target more specific pain points.

Enable your sales team to leverage marketing collateral

Another benefit of a dream team made up of sales reps and marketers is the advantage of using marketing collateral.

Marketing teams usually have a library of content mapped out to topic categories, pain points, buyer’s journey, or a combination of these.

They already use this content to drive demand for products your sales team is selling. This is an invaluable arsenal of tools to close deals and bring the marketing and sales team together.

Your sales team can use content created by the marketing team, such as:

  • Original reports
  • Data roundups
  • Whitepapers
  • Explainer videos
  • In-depth blog posts
  • Case studies

When content that drives initial brand awareness is followed by content that helps convert a lead into a customer, the result is increased brand loyalty and higher value of each customer.

Win-win!

Good Lead Bad Lead

How to prioritize good leads and drop bad ones

The most efficient prioritization of online business leads will be the one that, over time, starts happening automatically.

We’ve covered lead qualification, the activity-based selling mindset and the importance of synergy between your sales and marketing teams. It’s time to find ways to quickly and easily determine the leads that are worth your reps’ time, as well as those that definitely won’t convert and aren’t a fit.

Quickly evaluate your leads (and focus on the best) with lead scoring

Lead evaluation starts with an agreed definition between sales and marketing on what makes a good lead.

The next step is implementing a lead scoring system.

Lead scoring is the process of assigning values to your online business leads. Lead scoring often takes shape as numerical points and includes multiple attributes.

These attributes can be anything from public information about the company your lead is from to how they’ve interacted with your website, emails and social media ads. Understanding what makes a lead more valuable will help your sales team react quickly to hot leads and your marketing team generate more of those leads.

Ensure that both teams are on board with the lead scoring system you implement and use it as the foundation for prioritizing their work.

The lead scoring criteria can be divided into two distinct categories.

1. Best fit

Best fit score is based on demographic and company information about your lead. It’s focused on the similarities between your lead and your ideal customer from the lead qualification process we mentioned earlier.

Make sure you gather crucial information through tools such as contact forms, landing pages and live chat. You can also use a tool like Leadfeeder to analyze your traffic and find hot leads, as well as Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data to pull publicly available information from Google and social media to enrich your leads directly inside your CRM.

Find out what other tools could help you generate more sales leads in our article on tools and techniques to power up your pipeline.

2. Level of engagement

Level of engagement score is based on behavioral data, which can reveal interest and eagerness to make a purchase.

The data that matters here is the lead’s interaction with you: website activity, resources they’ve downloaded, your emails they’ve opened, ads they’ve interacted with and so on.

To make this happen, you can automate data enrichment with Lead Score by Zapier. It lets you run every new prospect through workflows that scour the internet for publicly available info, building up a profile for each lead and scoring it.

With this data you can build a database that you can further sift through for connections to existing customers, matches throughout other products, or you can feed it straight into your CRM.

Even when a lead is already in your system, Zapier can make sure to keep them updated with all the new information that happens elsewhere—so new orders, transactions, or other information updates keep you in the loop and ready to capture every opportunity.

Use LeadBooster to qualify leads 24/7

Pipedrive’s new website chatbot LeadBooster will also help you to qualify leads. The fully customizable tool can be put on any page of your website to ask visitors qualifying questions and route hot leads to the right salesperson.

LeadBooster can qualify leads based on the criteria you set, then assign quality leads to the most relevant salesperson based on things like location, availability, experience level or expertise.

LeadBooster Gif

Once qualified, you can tell the bot how the information should be stored. Pipedrive will create a new contact as well as the associated deal information. You can set the owner of the lead and control who is allowed to see it.

You can even prompt your prospect to arrange a call, meeting or demo within the chat sequence. Leadbooster integrates seamlessly with Pipedrive’s Scheduler, allowing the lead to check the relevant salesperson’s availability and set up a time slot that suits. Read how to set up chatbots like LeadBooster in our article on website AI.

Read our article on when you should and shouldn’t use lead generation software to find out how you can best utilize this great tool and others.

What to do when a lead is not a fit (at least right now)

The answer is pipeline purging.

You might feel terrified to ever remove a single lead from your pipeline. The more leads you have, the better the chance to reach your team’s sales quota, right?

Not quite.

Decluttering your sales pipeline regularly—as in, removing leads that you know won’t convert soon—has a few advantages:

  • Your entire team will save time. When you learn to disqualify a prospect, it means you can dedicate focus on leads that are the best fit for your products and offers right now.
  • You will gain a clearer vision of your pipeline. Having bad leads in your pipeline presents a risk of false confidence. You might feel like you’re on track for the month, when in fact your pipeline is full of stale, unresponsive leads.
  • You will raise your response rate. Breakup emails can spark a reaction from your lead. This can be simple relief on their part, but they could also kick off a conversation and restart the talk about the fit between their needs and your offer.

Let’s make this clear: bad leads can be worse than no leads.

They can cost you and your team significant effort before you realize they’re not worth your time. While they might have the need and the budget to buy in the future, they are a waste of your team’s valuable hours, energy and attention until then.

Flushing out your pipeline can be done:

  • Once a week
  • Once every two weeks
  • At the end of each quarter
  • Whenever suits your typical sales cycle and velocity

What is the best way to identify cold leads? Look for those clogging up the pipeline for longer than your typical sales cycle and move them elsewhere.

As you’ll see in our breakup email tips section below, you don’t need to necessarily get rid of these leads entirely if there was some initial fit with your products.

Instead, you can put them on a future cycle’s pipeline or a callback list for a specific date in the future.

Use this process to remove any uncertainties. For example, once a lead is identified as bad or cold, the process can be as follows:

  • Flag for future follow up or for purging entirely
  • Send breakup email
  • Assign next actions (if any) along with dates and notes
  • Set automated reminder so the follow-up action doesn’t fall through the cracks

Breaking up with your prospects

So when is the right time to break up with your leads?

First things first, don’t give up after one failed attempt. Everyone’s schedules are simply too crazy and it’s easy to catch someone at the wrong moment.

It might feel weird to let a lead go. Your team works hard, so why would they just drop a potential sale from their pipeline in the first place?

Ditching prospects that aren’t likely to convert will help your sales reps focus on hot deals and close more deals in the long run.

Here are some scenarios that might indicate it’s time to let the lead go:

  • They’re not answering your questions. It’s that lead that never has a clear answer on pain points, timelines, budgets, decision making, or anything else. Their answer is ‘I don’t know’ almost always. This is an indicator it’s probably time to move on!
  • They’ve disappeared off the face of the Earth. There were some productive conversations and things were looking good, but the lead stopped replying to emails and taking calls. They might be busy—or they just don’t want to buy. At some point, you have to make a call on moving onwards.
  • They don’t have the budget. No matter how much your prospect loves your product, if they can’t afford it, they can’t contribute to your sales goals and your company’s bottom line.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you have to break up with these leads forever. You don’t!

The above signs indicate that right now just isn’t the time for your lead to move forward.

Sometimes you’ll get the reasons why (such as budget restrictions or structural changes inside the company), but often the lead will simply ghost you.

You can always stick to a follow-up strategy for the next sales cycle, especially if there were any signs that the lead might be a better fit in the future.

However, right now, it’s time to break up with them.

Top tips for crafting your sales breakup emails

Keep your email short and to the point. Especially if your lead isn’t taking the time to respond to you in the first place, make the email as succinct as possible and simply convey the reason you won’t be following up with them for the time being.

Use your breakup email as a reminder of the value you can provide. If there was a definite fit between their pain points and your product, highlight this connection and you may spark further conversation and potentially convert this lead into a customer (or make it easier to follow up in the future).

Get creative with your subject lines. Eye-catching, compelling subject lines can be a great teaser and entice your lead to open the email. That’s the whole point of this email, right?

Share a valuable resource. Even though you’re breaking up for the time being, leave your lead with a practical resource—a blog post or an ebook they’ll find useful even if they’re not using your product for the time being. You’ll come across as simply helpful with no immediate benefit to you, and maintaining a connection for any future interactions.

Set clear expectations. Your breakup email should explicitly state whether you’ll be following up, even as a rough timeframe (for example, in one or two quarters’ time). If you won’t be following up at all, let them know that the ball is in their court now. Whichever option you choose, stick to it and be upfront about it.

All of these breakup email tips will help you communicate transparency and honesty to your lead. If you leave things off on good terms, your lead might remember you and reach out once their budget increases or needs evolve. Staying professional and positive will pay off.

Move deal to Won

The right sales habits lead to high performance

If your sales team manages their time poorly and spends hours on any lead that comes their way, they won’t be closing many deals.

If they choose to work on the best sales opportunities and purge the rest, results will follow.

With the right lead definitions, questions, and tools from this guide, your sales team will spend their time on the best online business leads that come your way and turn them into loyal customers.

For more guidance, read our article on Lead Generation.

Previous article:
Lead Generation: Automating Your Lead Gen Strategies
Next article:
Sales AI: How to Use a Mix of Bots and Humans in Sales