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Business-to-business (B2B) lead generation is the act of sourcing quality leads within other companies in order to sell them business products and services. Effective B2B salespeople or marketers first identify the correct company to sell to and then contact and build a relationship with the correct person within that organization who can make a purchase decision.
B2B lead generation is unique in that you’re not looking for individual consumers to sell to, but rather other businesses. This means that B2B salespeople often have to “swim upstream,” first finding the right companies that fit their ideal customer profile and then identifying the right person within those companies to contact. Sometimes this requires you to reach out to multiple people within the same organization to find that right person.
To do so, B2B salespeople follow a standard lead generation process of identifying your ideal businesses and then, through both inbound and outbound strategies, getting people with decision-making power to express interest in your product or service. Interested leads are marked as prospects and advance to the next stage of your sales pipeline for B2B lead nurturing.
The general B2B lead generation process is as follows:
While the overall process of B2B lead generation is standard, the strategies used to source and engage with B2B leads differ based on your product, service, industry, or process. Common B2B lead generation tactics often include manual sales prospecting such as cold calling, cold emailing, networking, and more. However, it’s also possible to generate inbound B2B leads with the help of a marketing team through efforts like paid social ads and more.
The people and departments involved in B2B lead generation differ based on the organization. Typically, it falls under the domain of either the sales and marketing departments, or both. The salesperson or team usually focuses on outbound lead generation or manual sales prospecting, while the marketing person or team handles inbound lead generation.
Let’s take a look at how both are involved in the B2B lead generation process:
Through inbound marketing efforts like organic and paid social media, B2B marketers generate inbound leads by sending relevant traffic to a website or landing page. There, marketers offer a high-value lead magnet in return for the lead’s contact information. Those who give their contact information are marked as marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and passed to the sales team for further lead qualification and nurturing.
Here’s a look at the types of marketing positions involved in B2B lead generation:
Salespeople serve one of two roles in B2B lead generation. First, they might actively source and contact B2B leads through sales prospecting methods like cold emailing or calling. Second, they might act as the lead qualifier for MQLs generated by the marketing team. In both cases, the goal is to qualify the lead as a sales qualified lead (SQL) or prospect worthy of lead nurturing using a needs assessment or discovery call.
These are the types of sales roles involved in B2B lead generation:
Apart from the direct sales and marketing team, upper management might get involved depending on the company. For example, a VP of sales might leverage their network to add leads to the funnel. And a CEO might ask for referrals. It’s a team effort, even though smaller organizations may only have one salesperson or marketer. Pull in resources from each team to efficiently strategize and determine how to generate leads for your B2B business.
There are many high-level and granular lead generation strategies for both outbound and inbound lead generation. Big picture, these strategies include things like cold calling or cold emailing as well as generating online leads through free and paid strategies. However, for each of these high-level strategies, there are many strategies for optimizing each method.
To help, let's go over each big picture B2B lead generation strategy. From there, we have detailed articles on each method, which include more granular strategies for your chosen approach:
Outbound B2B sales prospecting — or outbound B2B lead generation — is the act of manually sourcing and reaching out to leads who match your ideal customer profile. The most common strategies include cold calling and cold emailing but can also include networking, referrals, and more. Sales prospecting is typically carried out exclusively by a B2B salesperson or team.
Outbound B2B sales prospecting follows a standard process:
For more information on the sales prospecting process, check out our article on the lead generation processes. Otherwise, keep reading for a list of the top outbound B2B sales prospecting strategies for sourcing quality business leads:
Check out this list of the top sales prospecting strategies for B2B lead generation. For more information on each, you can read our overarching guide on sales prospecting below as well as our individual articles on each strategy:
It’s common for businesses and sellers to adopt multiple of these strategies at once. For example, cold calling and cold emailing can happen together. Next, we’ll dive into online B2B lead generation.
Inbound (or online) B2B lead generation is the act of generating online traffic and capturing lead contact information through the use of a relevant lead magnet like a content upgrade, free trial, free consultation, and more. Inbound leads are usually generated by a marketing person or team, who then passes them along to a salesperson for further lead qualification and nurturing.
Inbound B2B lead generation follows a slightly different process than outbound:
For more information on the inbound lead generation process, check out our article on the lead generation processes. Otherwise, keep reading for a list of the top online B2B lead generation strategies for sourcing quality inbound business leads:
Here’s a list of the top inbound or online lead generation strategies, along with links to detailed articles on each strategy. For a more robust overview of the online lead generation steps or strategies, you can also read our ultimate guide on online lead generation below:
Apart from lead generation companies, there are social media and Facebook ad agencies that can help you generate and convert leads through online campaigns. Agencies like these can help you implement any of the above strategies.
There are plenty of software and tools that can help you meet your lead generation goals. They enhance your social selling, capture more website visitors, or give you lists of quality B2B leads to reach out to and manage. Three of the best B2B lead generation tools to consider are lead capture software, B2B lead databases, and lead management platforms.
Lead capture software is an online plugin that helps salespeople collect the contact information of leads via online forms. It’s best for sales teams or businesses looking to generate leads through their website by creating a form for leads to enter and submit their information. The top features offered by lead capture software include web forms, web page surveys, performance analytics, and integration capabilities.
A B2B lead database is searchable software that sellers use to collect, search for, and engage with new leads. This kind of tool is best for companies looking to gather B2B corporate leads through targeted outreach efforts. Key features of the best B2B lead databases include email finding and verification, lead qualification functionality, and the ability to integrate with your existing sales CRM.
Lead management software is a tool that salespeople use to track, engage, and nurture their leads to a close. It’s ideal for sales teams and businesses with a large number of leads that they need assistance managing. The top lead management software is often B2B CRM software that offers features like sales pipeline visibility, email tracking, third-party integrations, and customer reporting and analytics.
These tools will help you not only collect but also qualify and engage with leads more efficiently. There are several providers to consider for each type of tool we’ve mentioned above, depending on your specific industry, business size, or goal.
There are companies out there dedicated to helping businesses create and enact B2B lead generation strategies. You pay them and they send you pre-qualified leads. Using one is great if you want to skip out on financing a lead gen team, or if you want your sellers to spend their time talking to leads, not finding them. Some of the best B2B lead generation companies in the market are Callbox, CIENCE, and EBQ.
Callbox is a B2B lead generation company that provides full service offerings internationally. They help build out a lead generation process to begin funneling in high-quality leads. With their lead generation and appointment setting services, you get high-value contacts, sales appointments, metric visibility, and access to a variety of integrated sales tools. Callbox only offers customized pricing, so book a consultation directly to get a quote.
CIENCE is a lead gen company and platform that helps B2B brands generate leads using their in-house SDRs. They create contact cards full of high-value leads and engage them through multiple outlets, including cold calls, emails, and social media marketing. CIENCE offers three tiers, a free GO Show tier, then GO Platform, and GO Platform + Services. As you upgrade tiers, more intent data and scheduling features become available.
EBQ is a full service sales and marketing company that offers scalable CRM and account management. Their sales teams help you develop your customer profile and then create net new records to bolster and engage with ideal customers. You’ll receive personalized B2B telemarketing data lists. EBQ offers three pricing plans. The first two are 30-day programs for $3,000 and $6,000, then a 60-day program for $12,000.
The typical core offerings from B2B lead generation companies are inbound marketing, lead scoring functionality, reporting and analytics, CRM integration capabilities, and more. These four services ensure you’re able to receive and monitor high-quality leads as they enter your sales pipeline.
Implementing B2B lead generation into your sales process can bring a multitude of benefits to your business. This includes sourcing high-value leads, saving money, and increasing your general brand or solution awareness. Below, we'll dive into those three benefits in even more detail.
Since B2B lead generation requires you to define exactly who you’re looking to target and what is considered a highly sought-after lead, the more you practice B2B lead generation, the more high-value leads you’ll funnel in. When you know exactly who to target, you don’t waste time engaging with leads who wouldn’t qualify for your solution and sales process.
The top B2B lead generation strategies are relatively cost-effective and don’t require an extensive budget to start implementing. Methods like cold calling, cold emailing, or just showing up to local networking events are affordable opportunities to reach your target market.
No matter if you’re using inbound or outbound strategies for B2B lead generation, your goal is to get your business or solution in front of as many targeted prospects as possible. When B2B lead gen is done correctly, there’s an expected increase in your overall brand awareness, whether it's through business networking events or just over social media.
Keeping these benefits in mind can make your approach to B2B lead gen more pleasant.
The main difference between the two is that B2C lead generation caters to individual consumers, while B2B lead generation caters to other businesses and companies. Unlike in B2C, where everyone has purchasing power, in B2B this power usually resides in upper management. The market is, therefore, narrower. Plus, it can be tricky to find the right decision maker(s) at each new company.
The buyers in the B2B space just care about improving their business. They listen for terms like “higher profit margins” and “efficiency.” Meanwhile, B2C buyers care about improving their personal lives. They’re also more impulsive.
Also, since the price points trend higher in B2B sales and the implementation is a big time commitment, B2B buyers are usually more rational when deciding whether to enter into a sales cycle. So B2B lead generators have to do a better job of educating and nurturing the lead before they’re ready to move into the next phase.
To generate B2B leads, you have to find people (often strangers), engage them, and get them interested in your product or service. Luckily, there are various strategies for doing so, from outbound ones like cold calling to inbound ones like content marketing. Next, check out the top B2B lead generation tips from sales experts to learn more ways to get quality leads through online and outbound strategies and business networking.