February 9, 2017

Finding B2B Sales Leads That Don’t Suck

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Filling your sales funnel with quality B2B sales leads is often at the root of the sales vs. marketing showdown. Sales knows they could sell the product if they had highly qualified leads. Marketing knows they can attract great customers who show interest in the product and want to buy.

The argument persists, however, because sales wants marketing to bring in better, more qualified B2B sales leads, while marketing wants sales to nurture the contacts they’ve already collected. Woe be the smarketer who has to argue with herself.

ALSO READ: Finding and Filling Gaps in Your Sales Pipeline

To fill the gaps between sales and marketing (and sometimes to get a little extra ROI out of a marketing budget) some companies turn to outsourcing their lead generation. Instead of building internal processes and hiring inside sales reps —which can can take months to plan and implement — many companies hire dedicated lead generation teams that use vetted nurturing and calling cadences to produce qualified leads.

Sounds easy, right? Maximum ROI for minimum effort. However, only 12 percent of respondents in a 2015-2016 survey said they use outsourced lead generation to fill their funnels. Instead, most of their leads came from internal marketing or sales nurtured sources. Why don’t more companies outsource?

  1. It’s costly
  2. They don’t realize it’s a thing
  3. They’ve been burned before

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at all three of these reasons for not outsourcing lead generation. We’ll also discuss the many forms lead generation can take, and how to find B2B sales leads that . . . well, don’t suck. This should help your team create the right mix of internal and external support that keeps your pipeline moving and your business growing. 

Fill Your Own Funnel

If you’re a marketer, you already do this, at least to some extent. The DIY approach means filling the top of your funnel with inbound tactics, and then moving those prospects down the funnel to a point where they’re ready to talk to sales.  

Leaky B2B Sales Leads FunnelHow it’s done: Marketing departments build online contact forms, popup forms, email newsletters, direct marketing campaigns, online ads — the whole gamut. When you capture and identify qualified leads, you pass those over to a sales development team, who manages day-to-day follow up and nurturing. Salespeople call and email the leads to find out their level of interest in the product, and then try to set up demos or webinars or whatever it takes to close those deals.

The costs of building an internal marketing-to-sales to conversion funnel can include technology, management, and time to build out your processes. After you put all of that in place, you might still have to purchase contact data to keep your pipeline full. Ancillary costs may include subscribing to a data source, building out the sales process in a CRM, and training sales reps to follow processes. All of this is in addition to paying your sales and marketing reps a salary, benefits, and commission.

ALSO READ: 8 B2B Marketing Myths Debunked

Outcomes: Building and filling your own funnel from scratch pretty much sucks because you’re spending all your time implementing and perfecting systems that aren’t within your wheelhouse. I.e. your SDRs are really good at selling your product, but not good at grooming and nurturing leads. Growing and managing an inside sales department can give your team autonomy from competitors, but can also silo your company and make growth difficult.

Supporting the TOFU

A viable option for a lot of teams is to mix leads from outside prospecting sources with their own nurturing process — in essence, shaving off 50 percent of the burden. Whether it be sales or marketing who does the nurturing depends on how you structure your team.  

How it’s done: Many companies purchase top-of-the-funnel leads (TOFU) when their own prospecting strategies don’t produce enough. If you purchase your TOFU leads from a reliable source, the leads will still be better quality than what you get from a wholesale data center, where you’ll have to do a lot of data scrubbing and enrichment anyway. In this scenario, your company will still build the nurturing process. The TOFU leads you buy can work through your marketing automation system while your sales reps focus on closing the better qualified leads that are farther down the funnel.

Outcomes: These leads are less expensive than other options, but you’re also going to get a lot of waste here, because some of the contacts may be outdated or inaccurate, and the company that provides these leads spends less time vetting them for interest and intent. If you decide that these are the types of leads you want to use, consider using a data enrichment tool or predictive analytics to help you clean up and capitalize on your data. Check out our lead gen tech stack article for some suggestions.

Filling the Middle and Lower Funnel

Sales teams can also fill their middle and lower funnels with qualified leads that are closer to conversion. While it’s nearly impossible to buy BANT quality, these leads have often verified two or three of the most important BANT criteria (budget, authority, need, timing). 

How it’s done: Companies who provide BANT-vetted leads spend a lot of time verifying the contact’s interest before they pass the lead to you. This sort of vetting takes time and human contact, so these leads do not come cheap. Expect the price to rise in direct proportion to how well-qualified the lead is. Raw contact data does not a qualified lead make, so don’t expect simple contact information to cut it here.

Outcomes: These leads will cost you more, but they have a much higher close rate, because the outsourcing company has already nurtured them for you and weeded out a lot of uninterested parties. The leads here are also harder to find than TOFU leads or bulk contact data, but they require less (note: not zero) vetting and nurturing, because they have expressed serious interest and intent. Salespeople vet and nurture these leads through some of the same processes you would go through in-house: opt-ins for marketing materials, call center touches to verify information and gauge interest, and, in some cases, building account-based contact lists.

The big advantage? Your sales team can focus on what they do best: closing deals. Outsourcing keeps your team from having to build a nurture process from scratch.

Where do I Find B2B Sales Leads That Don’t Suck?

funnel cake

A funnel that doesn’t suck.

Working with a professional lead generation services can provide you with qualified sales leads for your team to nurture. Remember, the higher the cost per lead, the more expensive, but the internal trade-off may be worth it for your team.

Companies with larger, more experienced marketing and inside sales teams may want to think about buying TOFU leads to supplement their own prospecting efforts and throw in some bottom-of-the-funnel leads to boost close rates.

Lots of companies can provide you with contact information. You can even look for it yourself, using tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator. While these contacts aren’t necessarily vetted for your product, they can be useful for ABM campaigns and building lists of prospects.

Last Notes

Outsourced lead generation might be cheaper, per lead, than hiring an employee to build the program internally, but cost shouldn’t be the main a factor when deciding whether to do your own lead gen or outsource. Instead, your company should gauge:

  • Current level of marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
  • Ability to expand your TOFU internally
  • Sales expertise with lead nurturing
  • Available human resources to fill each portion of the funnel
  • Available timeline for funnel growth and sales process

Finally, if your team does decide to buy B2B sales leads, discuss with your provider your current sales processes and how your team can re-tool those processes for success.