Almost every business needs to keep generating quality leads to sustain growth.
Without a clearly defined lead generation process, you’ll struggle to predict revenue and you won’t be able to accurately forecast your team’s sales performance. You want your sales team spending their time selling—not endlessly searching for leads online and offline.
The right process, tools and templates will help keep the qualified leads coming in, so your sales team stays productive, focused and motivated.
This is your ultimate guide to automating your lead generation strategy and prioritizing the leads you have.
What is lead generation?
Wondering how to generate leads? Although you might not use the term ‘lead generation,’ this task is a vital part of every salesperson’s job.
Lead generation is the process of finding, identifying and attracting potential customers into your sales pipeline so that you can engage them, tell them about your products and services and move them through the funnel.
You can generate leads online in multiple ways and on many different channels. More often than not, however, it won’t mean anything unless you can leverage that awareness into attention.
Why you should automate lead generation
Salespeople are pulled in dozens of directions at all times.
One study revealed that a sales rep’s day is packed with an average of 94.4 activities.
Making and nurturing connections is at the core of any sales job. There are three classic challenges a sales team will continually face:
- How to prioritize which prospects to chase.
- How to nurture prospects.
- How to keep track of your progress.
You can’t afford to waste your rep’s time on administrative tasks. Apart from the cost to the business, this handicap starts to heap pressure on salespeople striving to hit quota.
Here are just a few of the potential consequences that admin overload can trigger for your team:
- A hot lead goes cold: Because a rep didn’t follow up in time, a highly interested lead goes with a competitor solution
- Pursuing a wrong decision maker: Your sales reps could waste days and weeks talking to the wrong person and ultimately lose a sale
- Spending time on a lead that isn’t a fit: An interested lead might decide over time that your offering is not a fit, but a rep still chases it, hoping to turn it back to initial interest
While the best sales opportunities can win you loyal customers, deals made with poor quality leads can still be detrimental to your business with expensive customer service and high churn rate.
But you can counteract this vicious cycle.
With the right approach, you can automate large parts of your lead generation process. When you free your sales reps from mundane admin work, they can refine their sales skills and hone their expertise.
Fewer bottlenecks in your sales pipeline, more conversations with the best prospects and a happier sales team.
The essentials of lead generation
Your lead generation process will result in one of three types of leads:
1. Companies who have explicitly expressed interest in your products or content. For example, they have signed up for a free trial, downloaded a resource in exchange for their email address, or filled out a contact form.
2. Companies who have implicitly shown interest in your products or content. For example, they have visited your website, read your blog, or followed you on social media, but they haven’t provided their contact information or reached out to you in any way.
3. Companies that you know are experiencing a challenge you can solve, but you aren’t connected with. They haven’t shown interest in your offerings or awareness of you in any way, but they have similar features to your best customers and most qualified leads.
What about trade shows, referrals, and other methods of lead generation, you ask?
It’s simple: they still belong to one of the methods above, just slightly modified.
For example, a lead you generated at a trade show has probably filled out a form on a tablet at your stand (or a rep has qualified the lead with a conversation), effectively becoming the first type of lead listed above.
The power of lead pre-qualification
How do you know if a lead is worth prioritizing?
Learn from your best customers.
You should look at your existing customers and your most successful deals to identify commonalities.
Here are some data points to evaluate:
- Company size
- Number of employees
- Annual revenue
- Decision maker(s) persona
Based on this information, you can define criteria for all your sales reps to use when pre-qualifying a new lead. This will help them focus on the best leads instead of blindly guessing which ones are most important and relevant.
Capture web visitors before they bounce
When a response is anything but instant, salespeople are 10 times more likely to lose a lead.
You can’t afford to rely on prospects giving you their information, then waiting for one of your sales reps to initiate contact. Worse still, think about all of the potential customers visiting your website every day only to leave minutes later without a trace.
Sadly, an instant response is easier said than delivered. Most businesses don’t have the luxury of operating a sales call center or a live support team around the clock.
But what if you could use lead gen automation technology to qualify web visitors and feed freshly quality leads straight into your sales pipeline?
Get Piping Hot Leads Delivered 24/7
Time to capture, qualify and feed those website leads online to the right place without having to lift a finger.
Conversational chatbots, like the one available as part of Pipedrive’s LeadBooster add-on, enable businesses to automatically qualify and talk to more leads, book more meetings and close deals faster. You just need to install the bot on your website and configure it according to your lead qualification needs—then watch the qualified leads roll in 24/7! Find out how to set up a chatbot in our article on website AI.
Chatbot 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.
How does Chatbot work?
Whether you want to generate more leads, book more meetings, or route qualified leads to your sales reps, you can choose from three, ready conversation templates.
Automatically qualify customers
Chatbot allows you to build branches in the chat according to your questions and guide your prospect to the point where they are expertly qualified according to your sales team’s specifications.
Allow leads to schedule a call
You can even prompt your prospect to arrange a call, meeting or demo within the chat sequence. Chatbot integrates seamlessly with Pipedrive’s Scheduler, allowing the lead to check the relevant salesperson’s availability and set up a time slot that suits.
Route hot leads to the right reps
As a final step during set-up, you can select whether a lead is qualified or not, based on their answers. 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 also set the owner of the lead and control who is allowed to see it.
To discover more great Sales Lead Generation Tools and Techniques, read our article.
Smart tactics for finding the right lead information.
45% decision makers said they’re more likely to engage with a sales professional when they mention information relevant to their current job.
Source: The State of Sales 2017, LinkedIn
Capturing the right sales information helps salespeople establish trust, demonstrate knowledge, and prove deep understanding of a prospect.
So how do you capture and keep track of this information?
Ask the right information in web forms
The more specific your web forms are, the higher the quality of your leads. You don’t have to ask many questions, only the right ones for the content. For example, an in-depth whitepaper download implies a narrow area of interest, while your main contact form acts as a catch-all channel of lead generation.
Use LinkedIn to identify decision makers and number of employees
When you’re the one reaching out to a cold prospect that seems like a fit, check out the employees of the company on LinkedIn. For example, if you sell into HR teams and the majority of your customers have 200+ employees with around five HR reps, then leads with 50 employees and a single HR person might not be the best fit.
Research revenue and funding
Use online resources such as Crunchbase or industry-specific publications and magazines to keep an eye on company news, such as funding rounds, hiring sprees and other growth indicators.
Other automation tools that make lead generation a breeze
Some sales information is generated automatically, such as through contact forms and whitepaper downloads, while some requires manual effort from the sales rep.
Luckily, there are tools and features you can use to remove all the mundane tasks, freeing up your sales reps to focus their time and effort on the most impactful research.
Automate lead generation with landing pages
A landing page is exactly what it says on the tin: a page your prospects land on when researching an answer or a solution. Landing pages can be focused on anything from free downloads to product feature pages and beyond.
With a tool like Wishpond, you can easily create topic-specific landing pages, offer irresistible resources and send your leads straight to your CRM.
Turn your traffic into leads with Leadfeeder
What about those visitors who don’t fill out the form on your landing page? They almost certainly have a high interest in the specific challenge that led them to your website, but they got distracted and left without leaving a trace.
Your website analytics contain a mountain of data that simply needs to be unlocked. With Leadfeeder, you can easily see which companies your website visitors come from. You can automate your lead generation by setting filters such as visit frequency and number of pages viewed. When a visitor passes the filter, they go straight into your Pipedrive dashboard as a new lead to work on.
Enrich your new leads with Smart Contact Data
When a new lead is automatically sent to your Pipedrive dashboard, you know little about them beyond their behavior on your website.
That’s where our Smart Contact Data feature comes in. Pipedrive uses your new lead’s email address to retrieve profile data and build a clearer picture of your potential customer. Instead of Googling each new lead, data from Google, LinkedIn profiles, web listings and other public online sources will wait for you in your dashboard.
Track specific information with custom fields
There’s no need for sticky notes or extra spreadsheets to keep track of your leads’ custom data, such as job title, number of employees, or annual revenue. You can easily add customized fields to any lead to filter and prioritize which leads to work on.
There are times when using lead generation software might not be best for your business, however.
Read our guide on Lead Generation Software: When to Use It and When to Avoid It to find out more.
The advantage of customer referrals
Want hot leads? Turn your happy customers into happy referrers, and you’ll have a goldmine of highly interested and relevant leads.
In fact, customer referrals could significantly improve your team’s sales process and close rate. Influitive report that:
- 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral
- 70% of B2B companies report that referrals convert better and close faster than other types of leads
Your current customers’ experiences are a powerful lead generation tool.
“The sale is not complete until the customer is so happy that he or she confidently makes referrals.”
John Jantsch, the author of “Duct Tape Selling”
About 47% of top performers ask for referrals consistently, every day or with every person, versus only 26% of non-top performers.
Trust has a huge impact on the decision-making process, and referrals are the proof your leads want when looking for the right solution to their problem.
Upsells are another valuable way to look at your existing customer base for sales opportunities. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are any of our customers looking to scale their businesses?
- Are they hiring quickly?
- Is there another department that could use our solution?
If you have a solution for more of their challenges, your loyal customers are more likely to spend more money with you and further invest in your products.
The strategy for contacting new leads
If you automate your lead generation, but nobody contacts these leads, were they even generated?
Thought experiments aside, your leads will never convert into customers unless you take the right action.
The key is to be compelling, relevant, and thoughtful of the prospects’ time. Whether you’re emailing or calling, make sure you’re going in with the following in mind:
1. Sales calls emails aren’t about the caller, but about the person on the other side. Sales reps should try to get the prospect to talk about their needs, rather than rambling on about the product they’re selling.
2. It will take several touches before you get a response. Prospects are busy, so if you don’t hear back the first time, don’t give up before you follow up.
3. If your pitch isn’t persuasive, it doesn’t matter what format you’re using to contact your prospects. You need a well-thought-out script. Also, if you’re just copy-pasting bad emails and blasting them out to everyone on your contact list, you’re not going to get a response.
You need to focus on the lead’s familiarity with you and your offering (or lack of it)in order to make your call or email relevant.
Let’s go back to the three types of leads we discussed earlier, and think about how to make messaging relevant to them.
Email scenario 1: Leads who have explicitly expressed an interest in your products or content
This person has downloaded a resource, filled a contact form, connected with you over live chat, or signed up for a free trial. Use the actions they’ve taken to customize this template to their needs.
I have worked with organizations like [CUSTOMER IN THE SAME INDUSTRY] who have had the same problem. With [YOUR PRODUCT] they were able to solve it and [SHARE RELEVANT STATISTIC].
Here is an example of a project I produced for [CUSTOMER]: [LINK].
Would you be interested in something similar?
I made a demo for you to show you what it could look like in less than two minutes: [LINK].
Is this something you would be interested in?
Email scenario 2: Leads who have implicitly shown interest in your products or content
Even though this person showed interest in your offering—and you know that thanks to Leadfeeder—they haven’t explicitly provided their information for you to use.
That means that this is still cold email, regardless of their interest in you.
Tailor this template to the high-level category they’re interested in (based on the pages they visited on your website) and end with a call-to-action specific to your products.
People like you are super busy, so I’ll keep this short.
I work with companies like [CUSTOMER IN THE SAME INDUSTRY] to help them [SOLVE PROBLEM]. What our clients like the most about us is this: [USP].
I’d love to give you or a colleague a 20-minute demo. Would next Tuesday or Wednesday work for you?
Email scenario 3: Companies that you know are experiencing a challenge you can solve, but you aren’t connected with
These are companies that have key commonalities with your best customers, but probably don’t know about you yet. Customize this template to the key benefits and outcomes they’re likely to be looking for based on your knowledge about your customers.
My name is [X] and I am the [JOB TITLE] of [YOUR COMPANY]. We have helped companies like [CUSTOMERS IN THE SAME INDUSTRY], achieve [BUSINESS BENEFIT].
We [PRODUCT FEATURES MOST RELEVANT TO PROBLEM].
Can we get 10 minutes in your diary to look at whether this would be valuable to you?
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out more of our follow-up email templates.
Warm-up script for cold calling
If you’d rather approach your new leads on the phone, here’s a simple, but powerful cold calling script to warm up your prospects and kick off the sales process.
As with any script, tweak it based on the past interactions you may have had with the prospect.
Hi, [PROSPECT’S NAME.
My name is [NAME] from [COMPANY], hope you’re doing well.
The reason I’m calling is that I noticed you were [RELEVANT ACTIVITY YOUR PRODUCT CAN ASSIST WITH]. You’re most likely [EXISTING SOLUTION AND WHY IT’S INFERIOR], and I wanted to let you know we offer [PRODUCT] designed to get your current team more [BENEFITS].
It would be worth a 10-minute chat to see if we’re a fit before you take your next interview. We can even show you how you can [PRODUCT FEATURES MOST RELEVANT TO PROBLEM].
If you’re looking for more inspiration on how to generate leads, check out more of our cold calling scripts.
Prioritizing your leads for highest impact
Develop a bulletproof lead qualification process
After establishing a connection with your lead, it’s time to develop lead qualification questions to use in your emails and phone calls.
Step 1: Who are your best customers and why?
Your best customers are those that spend the most, cost you the least and stay the longest.
To find what makes them loyal and why you’re the perfect fit for them, answer these questions:
- How did you find your best customers?
- How did they find you?
- Why did they choose you?
- What are their specific pain points?
- Why are they still customers?
- How long was the buying cycle?
- Who is involved in negotiations and decision-making?
- What were some typical roadblocks and objections?
Some of these you can answer yourself. For others, reach out to your best customers and ask them.
Step 2: Define each stage of your sales pipeline
What are the stages of your pipeline? The more explicitly you define them, the better questions you can ask in each of them, from lead forms to phone conversations.
Stages may vary depending on your market, but they might be:
- Contact made
- Needs discovered
- Proposal presented
- In negotiation
Identify the questions you need to be answered to move a prospect to the next stage.
Questions about decision makers will move the prospect from ‘idea’ to ‘contact made.’
They will progress into the ‘needs discovered’ stage once you’ve understood their key pain points and timelines to solve them.
The ‘in negotiation’ phase requires you to ask questions about their objections and reasons for pushback, such as budget and implementation.
Based on your best customer insights and a detailed sales pipeline definition, write a set of questions the entire sales team can use to qualify each lead they work with.
Beware of bad leads
By now, you’ve defined what makes a good lead.
They look like the customers that are already succeeding with your product.
They move through your pipeline at the pace you expected them to.
They also have the authority and means to implement your solution right now.
However, not all leads are that good. And when your team works hard to get them into the pipeline in the first place, it will be hard to let some of them go.
71.4% of sales reps say that only 50% or fewer of their initial prospects turn out to be a good fit.
Source: Salespeople Perceptions and Top Performance Study, Marc Wayshak
If as much as half of all your leads aren’t likely to convert, wouldn’t you want to drop them as early as possible?
Some red flags to keep your eye out for are:
- Lack of budget for your solution
- Lack of fit with your product
- Avoiding your calls and ignoring emails
- Lack of power to make a purchase decision
If they don’t have the budget, you might be tempted to offer discounts. But the more you do this, the more revenue you lose.
If they like your product, but need you to add multiple features just for them to purchase it, they probably aren’t the best fit.
If they’re ghosting you, there’s a chance they don’t like to say ‘no.’ If you’ve tried sales objections tactics to restart the conversations and they’re still quiet, you should drop the lead—at least until the next quarter.
Finally, if they don’t have the power to actually buy your solution, you can look for decision makers in the organization, but there’s no need to keep pursuing this particular person.
Dropping leads can be difficult, but the more time your team can spend chasing quality leads, the less of these bad leads they’ll miss.
Read our article on B2B Lead Generation: Choosing the Best Online Business Leads to Work On to make sure you find those decision makers who are most likely to buy.
The art of identifying the decision maker(s)
When you’re looking for a decision maker in the organization you’re selling to, you’re not searching for someone who just makes the final call or signs the check.
Although the decision itself might come from just one person, they will, to some degree, consider others’ opinions. Other people involved might be:
- The person who initiated the research and buying process
- The end user of your product
- The person or team that manages finances
- Other departments that work directly with the end user of your product
64% of the C-Suite have final sign off, but so do 24% of those not in the C-Suite.
Source: Google study on B2B purchase habits
Even more interestingly, it’s the latter that have the most influence on purchase decisions.
To make sure you’re not overlooking anyone in the decision process, ask your lead the following questions:
- Who will be using this product day-to-day?
- Will any other departments be using the product?
- How long have you been researching these solutions, and when did the process start?
- Who made the decision that a new solution was needed in this category?
- Who else should we invite to the conference call or product demo?
- How can I help you to win buy-in for this purchase?
As well as helping you get in touch with all the right people as early as possible, these questions also show that you care.
How to merge lead generation with sales productivity
Now that you and your team are in full speed, what’s the best way to split everyone’s time between prospecting, closing deals, onboarding, upselling and reducing churn?
The key is to focus on activities rather than outcomes.
You can’t control whether or not someone will decide to buy. Relying on the outcome of every sales proposal will lead to a stressed, unfocused and exhausted sales team.
Instead, focus on what you can control: a systematic approach to the actions you take daily.
Activity-based selling keeps your reps doing the things that yield results in your sales process, which will progress leads and help to keep confidence and productivity high.
The most efficient way to focus on activities instead of outcomes is a reliable sales toolkit, starting with a CRM.
The smart approach to sorting your leads
A great sales CRM will help you organize leads in a way that ensures they are all followed up, with none slipping through the net. If you followed our earlier tips on (pre)qualifying your leads, you just need to take a few simple actions to keep your pipeline neat and pretty.
Implement lead categories
If your pipeline stages are designed based on your sales cycle, make sure your CRM reflects that.
Go through the contacts in your sales pipeline about once a week or so. If you find a prospect who has been clogging your pipeline for longer than your typical sales cycle, create a separate category, such as a future pipeline or a future callback list, and move your prospect there.
Make sure you create a reminder to follow up with these prospects so you don’t have to manually check all the time.
Maintain your pipeline
Instead of waiting until your pipeline gets clogged before cleaning it, build a regular routine. By setting up productive habits, with the help of an effective CRM tool, you’ll stay ahead of the game.
“Set aside at least 30 minutes a day to go through your CRM and recheck and backfill information from the day. Make it a ritual,” says Olivia Henkel, sales manager at Grovo, a New York-based learning technology company.
She recommends you create a list of questions to ask yourself after each sales call and meeting, such as:
- Did I log all of my notes in the correct place?
- Did I log the activity in my CRM?
- Did I mark my next steps in my calendar so I don’t forget to follow up?
- Are all stages and forecast categories set correctly in the system?
By taking focused action, your pipeline will stay clean and you and your team will always know what to work on next.
Your toolkit to generate highest-converting sales leads
Some CRMs require you to invest a lot of time and money into training and setting up.
You don’t want to have to do that. You want to sell to happy customers.
Pipedrive requires minimum input while enabling maximum output. You can optimize your sales process and kill unnecessary admin dead in its tracks.
Instead of wasting your time on admin, hoping a prospect will be a fit for your offer, or waiting on someone to make a decision, you can:
- Automate lead generation so you don’t have to manually scour every corner of the internet
- Pre-qualify your leads without moving a finger thanks to Leadfeeder and Smart Contact Data
- Prioritize hot leads based on their behavior on your website
- Drop cold leads and time-wasters as early as possible in the process
In other words, you can focus on taking important and valuable actions (that you have full control over) instead of stressing out over outcomes (that you have no control over).
You can move fast and simplify your sales process. You can keep track of all the data you need at your fingertips.
Most importantly, you can focus your sales team’s skills and talents where they’re most impactful, with less pressure and better results.
How do you set up your lead generation engine?
Get full access to all of the lead generation, qualification, and management capabilities of Pipedrive with a 14-day free trial. The trial includes access to Chatbot so you can plug it into your website right away. You’ll find out how 80,000+ sales teams use Pipedrive to slash admin time, pump up their pipeline and focus on what they do best.