Generating leads and filling the pipeline is an essential part of sales success, and an area most sellers struggle with.
In our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, we asked 489 sellers from B2B sales organizations to rate their most effective prospecting tactics. Here’s what we found:
- Making phone calls to existing customers/accounts (51%)
- Making phone calls to prior customers/accounts (37%)
- Presenting/speaking at conferences, seminars, or trade shows (32%)
- Sending 1-to-1emails to prospects manually after doing research and customizing the messages (31%)
- Making phone calls to new contacts (27%)
- Communicating with prospects via a pre-planned touch sequence or campaign (21%)
The best B2B lead generation tactics
When it comes to generating quality B2B leads, a few tactics rose to the top:
Phone: Using the phone to generate leads is essential to any seller’s success. Three of the top five prospecting tactics include using the phone:
- Making calls to current clients: Growing existing accounts is a huge, untapped opportunity in many sales organizations, and your clients want to hear how you can help. In a separate research study, we found that sellers who proactively bring ideas to their clients and generate new opportunities have significantly better client satisfaction.
- Making calls to past clients: Reconnecting with past clients is a great way to generate leads. When you consider former clients, don’t just think about the companies you’ve worked with in the past. Think of business leaders you worked with who may have moved on to different companies. Think of connecting with past clients to ask for referrals.
- Making calls to new contacts: Despite what many pundits say, cold calling works. Twenty-seven percent of sellers say making phone calls to new contacts (i.e. cold calls) is a very or extremely effective prospecting tactic. (In our experience, if the sellers had better skills on the phone, this number would be much higher.)
While many sellers say that buyers don’t answer the phone these days, the phone is alive and well and needs to be part of your prospecting plan.
Speaking: Speaking is a powerful lead generator. Whether you’re running your own events, speaking at industry conferences, or presenting at tradeshows, sharing your valuable advice on stage generates leads. When you’re on the stage, there’s implied credibility and trust. You’re positioned as the expert in the room. If what you’re saying resonates with the audience, they’ll want to connect with you and learn more.
Two keys to using speaking to your advantage are to:
- Set meetings at the event itself
- Develop a follow-up plan
If you have a list of attendees prior to the event, you can reach out to set coffee, lunch, or dinner meetings with key prospects. After all, you’ll both be in the same place at the same time.
After the event, create a follow-up campaign to turbo-charge your results. Connect with attendees using the phone, email, and LinkedIn and you’ll get the most out of your efforts.
Email: Every seller has their own preference on how to reach out, but there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to generate leads via email. In our study on Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, 31% of sellers rated sending 1-to-1, customized emails to buyers as effective, and only five percent rated sending 1-to-many emails, without customization as effective (this was the leasteffective tactic).
You must do your research, one by one. Search for your buyers and their companies and figure out what’s important to them. Then, you must craft a message, tailor it based on what you’ve learned, and offer a compelling reason to connect. The sellers who do this get the best results.
Leave the bulk messages and mail merges to marketing and make sure your sellers are focused on 1-to-1 customization.
LinkedIn: While LinkedIn isn’t on this list, we learned in our research that 82% of buyers look up providers on this network before replying to sellers’ outreach efforts.
If you reach out to buyers via cold call, email, or follow-up from a speaking event, odds are they’re checking you out on LinkedIn. Be sure your profile is up-to-date and compelling to ensure you make a good impression.
Filling the pipeline with qualified leads is essential to your business. You need more ‘at bats’ if you want to grow sales. Use these proven B2B lead generation tactics and you’ll consistently put more qualified leads in the funnel.
Mike Schultz is a best-selling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling, Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company that has helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 62 countries improve sales results and unleash their sales potential.
As president of RAIN Group, Mike has grown the company into a global leader, named multiple times as one of the Top 20 Sales Training firms worldwide by Selling Power Magazine.
Mike and the team at RAIN Group have worked with organizations such as Toyota, Bright Horizons, BNY Mellon, BDO, Hitachi, Lee Hecht Harrison, Lowe’s, Agilysys, and hundreds of others to unleash sales performance.
Business Week, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, MSNBC and others have featured Mike's original articles, research, and white papers, and frequently quote him as a leading sales expert.