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Sales lead generation: Tools and techniques to power up your pipeline

Sales Lead Generation
Sales lead generation drives the whole sales funnel
The ideal lead checklist: Which leads are worth your time?
What does good sales lead generation look like?
8 sales lead generation techniques
Final thoughts

When it comes to lead generation, working smart beats working hard.

With the right B2B lead generation strategies and marketing software in place, you can ensure your sales team focuses their time and energy on qualified leads.

In this guide to sales lead generation and the best lead generation tools, we’ll show you how to find warm leads and nurture them through the sales funnel. Then, we’ll share eight sales lead generation techniques you can implement today.

Sales lead generation drives the whole sales funnel

Sales lead generation and qualification is key to generating and maintaining a healthy sales pipeline.

A sales pipeline that’s filled to the brim means that there are plenty of leads to work on, making it easier to hit sales quotas and generate potential revenue.

That said, if your leads are unqualified and don't fit into your ideal customer profile (ICP), they may not be worthwhile to pursue for several reasons:

  • Leads that look good but turn out to be a poor fit for your service could give your sales team false confidence

  • Your sales reps will spend valuable time chasing these leads only to discover they were never going to buy in the first place

  • Your team won’t have time to focus on quality leads, which will dilute their close rate

As a result, sales targets will be missed, morale can crash and, in the worst-case scenario, your team won’t bring in the revenue the company needs them to.

That said, your data may not immediately reflect a misaligned lead generation process. Keep an eye out for early indicators like a drop in performance, a few team-wide missed targets and longer-than-usual sales cycles.

If you do spot these warning signs, audit your team’s sales pipeline and lead qualification criteria and strategy to see if there are wider issues to address.

You can always recognize a healthy sales pipeline when:

  • The leads in your sales funnel align with ICPs and buyer personas

  • Deals move through the sales pipeline at a steady (and expected) rate

  • A predictable number of deals are won

The ideal lead checklist: Which leads are worth your time?

Lead scoring is the process of ranking leads based on predetermined criteria. The more points a lead has, the more likely they are to buy.

A lead-scoring checklist is a great way to qualify newly generated leads.

Start with this checklist and adapt it to your individual situation and goals (such as the industry or company size you’re selling to, ideal budget, etc.).

Basic criteria:

  • Prospect matches ideal customer buyer persona

  • Business challenge aligns with solution

  • You have access to the decision-maker(s)

Bonus criteria:

  • They have come from a customer referral

  • They’re an existing customer

  • You’ve had previous touchpoints (such as through your email marketing, SMS or social media platforms like LinkedIn)

When you know what your ideal lead looks like, your team of B2B marketers and sales professionals can easily prioritize leads and save time, which will lead to enhanced sales performance.

Based on this checklist, here are some areas to further deconstruct in your search for the perfect lead.

What do your best customers look like?

Look at your existing customers and identify any commonalities they have. Ideally, look for customers that have significantly benefited from using your product or service, (e.g. they’ve saved X hours per week which results in $X saved).

Evaluate information and demographics such as:

  • Industry

  • Company size

  • Number of employees

  • Annual revenue

  • Decision maker(s) and main point(s) of contact with your sales team

  • Geography

  • Features they’ve needed and used the most

What does the path to purchase look like?

Evaluate the elements that led to closed deals and what influenced your lead’s purchase decision. Answering these questions will help you define a list of indicators of best leads.

Look for the following patterns in your past successful leads.

  • Attitude towards change

  • Factors that influence decisions

  • Pattern of consideration and decision-making

  • Length of buying cycle

  • Impact of internal influencers

  • Typical roadblocks and objections

  • Year-on-year growth

Do they pass the BANT pre-qualification?

BANT (which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) is a qualification framework that can help your sales reps anticipate objections and questions, understand the potential deal size and gauge their lead’s bandwidth.

Importantly, it can help your team prioritize high-quality leads and focus their lead generation efforts in areas that bring positive returns right now.

The BANT checklist is based on:

  • Budget. The size of the business, annual turnover or what your prospect is currently spending on a solution.

  • Authority. The lead’s level of influence. Are the decisions made by a committee or a single head of department/company?

  • Need. Is your prospect similar to any of your existing customers? What are their main goals and challenges?

  • Timing. The prospect’s typical buying cycle and potential urgency of their need

What does good sales lead generation look like?

Lead generation can be sorted into two categories: manual and automated. As with most things, they both come with advantages and disadvantages.

Manual sales lead generation allows your reps to put their vast industry knowledge and research skills into practice.

The downside? It’s time-consuming and may not yield a return on investment.

Automated lead generation is faster and more efficient.

However, it still requires a human touch once it’s time to have qualifying conversations

The best path forward is a mix of both.

When you strategically leverage lead generation tools, your sales reps can then invest their time, energy and sharp negotiation and closing skills on pre-qualified, warm leads that are likely to turn into happy customers.

8 sales lead generation techniques

With the strategy solidified, turn your attention to perfecting your lead generation techniques and activities.

Qualified website traffic

Your website traffic is arguably the most untapped source of highly qualified leads for your sales team.

This is because the people who make the effort to sign up for your free trial, ask for a demo or download a resource only make up a tiny percentage of visitors to your website. The rest, no matter how interested they might be, simply leave and possibly never come back.

However, this doesn’t make everyone that visits your website a marketing qualified lead (MQL).

Those who visit a single page and leave after 10 seconds probably aren’t as interested as someone who spends 25 minutes reading your blog posts or comparing your pricing plans.

In other words, although many of your visitors don’t leave a trace (such as filling out a contact form), they still reveal their interests and current pain points with their behavior on your website. Their actions and choices during their visit should tell you something and it’s best to listen (you could even use website heat maps to find out what people look at and what they ignore).

Our tool of choice for sales lead generation from website traffic is Leadfeeder.

To generate leads from your website traffic, all you need is Google Analytics along with Leadfeeder, a tool that matches your traffic with company information.

With the Leadfeeder plugin, you can see a feed of companies whose employees have visited your website.

Leadfeeder also pulls company information that’s available online, such as:

  • Company size (number of employees)

  • City and country

  • Industry

  • Website

You’ll also see the source of that visit (Google, other search engines, SEO marketing, social media, etc.), the number of pages visited and the length of the session.

This means you can create custom feeds and filters to see:

  • Leads that have visited specific pages (so you know what they’re looking for)

  • Visitors that spent a long time on your website (so you know who’s really interested in your brand)

  • Visitors in specific locations or industries

In short, you can have a hyper-qualified list of leads sent right into your Pipedrive dashboard without any extra work by simply plugging Leadfeeder into your analytics and setting up the right filters.

Check out the Leadfeeder and Pipedrive integration to get started.

A website chatbot

With a chatbot on your website, you can engage leads on your website 24/7.

You can personalize the conversation options to help visitors navigate the site and answer frequently asked questions. Plus, chatbots work as effective exit intent popups when visitors go to leave your website.

A good chatbot will also qualify leads for you, as you can tailor it to ask specific questions about your lead’s interest in your website. For example, if you’re in real estate and selling property you can set your bot up to get location, price range, property type and contact details from website visitors.

Your salesforce will then be able to contact the customer armed with this key knowledge, saving time for both parties. They could even have some potential options prepared before the initial call.

Our tool of choice for sales lead generation from chatbots is LeadBooster.

Pipedrive’s fully customizable Chatbot, part of the LeadBooster add-on, can be put on any page of your website to ask visitors qualifying questions and send hot leads to the right salesperson.

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.

Once qualified, you can tell Chatbot 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. 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.

It also includes Live Chat functionality, so you can set up conversation flows and notifications to include reps in real time when a human-to-human conversation is needed.

Catch more hot leads before they bounce

Want piping hot leads delivered 24/7? You need this Guide to Automating Lead Generation.

Lead forms

Visitors that do leave a trace on your website often fill out a form and leave their contact information.

Leads will usually do this through forms that:

  • Take them to a product demo

  • Have a ‘request a callback from sales’ purpose

  • Prompt them to ask specific questions

The key to high-performing forms is to make them as specific as possible.

A generic contact form can still result in good lead gen, but it will appeal to your target audience a lot more if it’s tied to a particular pain point or topic.

For example, if you have multiple products or pricing tiers and they each have their own product page, you’ll attract more sales-qualified leads (SQLs) if each of these pages has its own lead form and call to action (CTA) compared to one generic form on the contact page.

Our tool of choice for sales lead generation from lead forms is Pipedrive’s Web Forms.

Our web form builder is fully customizable (they can be static or popups) and forms are easy to set up.

Once you start generating inbound leads with them, they’ll send all the information you need straight to your Pipedrive account so your reps have all the right details, including potential customer and company names, email addresses, phone numbers and any custom information.

Your marketing team will also benefit as those who fill out the lead form can also opt-in and become subscribers to your email campaigns.

Lead magnets and landing pages

Instead of relying on your leads getting in touch with you, you can offer something of high value to them in exchange for their information.

From ultimate guides and original research to practical tools like checklists, templates, and worksheets, there’s plenty that you can offer leads.

This is another scenario where specificity pays off. When you can solve a specific and painful problem rather than just touch on a dozen, you’ll attract people who are more willing to select and pay for an equally specific solution.

Our tool of choice for sales lead generation from lead magnets and landing pages is Wishpond.

With the Wishpond landing page builder, you can easily create landing pages tailored to topics and pain points that matter the most to your audience.

Wishpond has an intuitive, drag-and-drop landing page builder with 100+ mobile-responsive templates, which means you’ll always find something that fits your industry, goals and lead generation campaigns.

Instead of spending time wondering if your landing page will perform well, you can invest your time nurturing the highly interested leads that it generates and sends directly to your Pipedrive account.

The ease of drag-and-drop editing and the flexibility of customization will help you keep your sales pipeline healthy.

Check out the Wishpond and Pipedrive integration to get started.

Live chat

A chatbot is great, but sometimes you need a human touch.

Live chat on websites has been around for a while, so it’s easy to forget what makes it so valuable.

38% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company if they offer live chat support, and 79% of businesses say that offering live chat positively affected their sales and revenue.

Live chat gives your potential customers immediate access to you and provides a safety net for when they have concerns.

It also plays into their immediate intent. If someone is looking at your ecommerce pricing page and starts a live chat conversation with you, they’re probably more interested in buying your solution than if they were on a blog post.

You can improve sales conversations in both situations with live chat, because whether someone visits your blog or pricing page, it reveals their immediate interest and helps you tailor the conversation.

With Pipedrive’s Live Chat feature, your reps can go online and engage leads who are interacting with your Chatbot in real time.

The Live Chat tool comes in handy when your Chatbot identifies any potential high-value leads that you want to put into contact with a sales rep immediately.

Partnerships and co-marketing

If there’s a company that serves the same audience as you do but doesn’t compete with you, there could be a perfect opportunity for your marketing team to build relationships and form win-win partnerships.

This partnership could include anything from co-created white papers and ebooks to joint webinars, Wordpress articles and any other co-branded content you’ve added to your content marketing efforts. Partnerships could also take place offline as trade shows often provide an excellent opportunity to team up.

By running these marketing campaigns, you’re exposed to your partner’s audience. This boosts brand awareness, provides extra value to your existing audience and attracts more leads than you could on your own (particularly useful when growing a small business).

Here are some examples to help you brainstorm options for your marketing strategy:

  • A web design agency can partner with a copywriting agency and offer complementary solutions and/or create content to collect leads together

  • A platform for selling software can partner with a churn-prevention tool as both target SaaS businesses, which is exactly what Churn Buster and Paddle did when they joined forces for a webinar on reducing churn

  • A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software platform, like Pipedrive, can partner up with other SaaS providers it integrates with so they can promote each other in their marketing (or on a specialized Marketplace)

Referrals from your network and customers

Happy, loyal customers can be one of your best lead generation channels for sales opportunities.

If you haven’t tapped into your network of connections, partnerships and customers to explicitly ask for referrals, now is the time to seriously consider it.

You’ll receive the best referrals if you…

  • Ask for qualified referrals. Don’t ask to be referred to everyone, just to the company profiles and job titles that fit your ideal customer profile.

  • Overdeliver on your commitment to customers. If you develop excellent customer relationships and they’re blown away by your company’s product or service, they will often recommend you before you even ask.

  • Create a referral process. Diligently track the progress and success of your customers to identify the best timeframe to ask for referrals (usually after they see success from your products).

Our tool of choice for sales lead generation from lead forms is Pipedrive’s Web Forms (again).

One of our customers, 360 Payments, told us about the effectiveness of referral-based lead generation and the way they use web forms to make it happen.

They have external partnerships that frequently send them referrals, and every partnership has a different sales rep assigned to it. If the partner allows it, 360 Payments places a Pipedrive web form on their website tailored specifically to them.

Once the form is filled out, it’s instantly sent to the sales rep that looks after that partnership so the rep can react in a timely fashion.

360 Payments gets more than 30 such referrals each week, and more than 80% of the accounts they onboard are from these partnerships.

Think about your strongest connections and your best customers and list some ways you can ask them for referrals. If possible, your marketing team could also ask for testimonials which can be turned into case studies.

Cold prospecting

By this point, you’re probably basking in the revelation that your team no longer has to spend dozens of hours every month trying to fill up the top of their sales funnel through manual outreach.

Here’s the thing, though: When using software tools, cold prospecting can still be a lucrative activity for your B2B sales reps because of all the automated lead generation you’ve put in place.

The reasoning is simple:

Because you now have systems in place to automatically bring you new leads that are already more likely to be qualified, your reps can intentionally look for companies similar to these leads based on the earlier-defined checklist.

These can be companies with features such as:

  • Similar geographies

  • Similar team size or employee number

  • Common industry sector

  • Proximity in annual revenue

A combination of these will give you a list of highly prospective companies to reach out to.

Our tool of choice for sales lead generation from cold prospecting is Prospect.io.

When a sales manager has a list of companies that are likely to be of huge value to their organization, they want their team to spend as little time as possible looking for details.

They want them to be cold calling on the phone and sending cold emails to various email lists (don’t forget to use the A/B testing, segmentation and workflow features in your email marketing tool to ensure you always send the most effective emails).

This is where a tool like Prospect.io comes in handy. You can use its Google Chrome extension to find email addresses from any website or professional network and quickly add them to your CRM platform.

It’s as easy as that.

Check out the Prospect.io and Pipedrive integration to get started.

Final thoughts

You don’t have to make a start on all the techniques we’ve listed to see quality leads come in.

Choose one or two that appeal to you the most, pair it with your CRM, and see how long it takes you to see results.

Make sure you have a CRM in place to help you manage all your newly generated leads and keep track of the contacts you make and the actions you take.

Pipedrive is a CRM marketing platform built for minimum input and maximum output. With the right management tool and integrations in place, your sales team can dramatically improve their lead management and spend their time on valuable conversations instead of admin and data entry.

Try it free for 14 days with an easy trial setup. Remember to add the integrations for the sales lead generation techniques you’ve read about in this guide when you use your free plan!

Lead generation automation ebook

Catch more hot leads before they bounce

Want piping hot leads delivered 24/7? You need this Guide to Automating Lead Generation.

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