The environment for B2B lead generation is changing significantly. The proliferation of new communication channels and lack of scalability of traditional prospecting tactics can overwhelm sales executives.  This article discusses the challenges of traditional sales channels and how to leverage an outsourced lead generation service to grow your sales pipeline.

Even in this changing landscape, there are new opportunities for sales teams to land more leads that are qualified, properly engaged, and ready to talk.

The Problem: Too Much Reliance on Traditional Sales Channels

In prior decades, business-to-business sales were primarily driven by networking, handshakes and persistent phone calls. Many companies still rely on these methods to generate new business.

However, decision-makers are now using multiple communication channels throughout the day, jumping from email, to LinkedIn, to mobile, to landline.  (We’ve discussed this channel jumping behavior in a previous post here).  Traditional in-person and phone channels are used less, while online and mobile channels have proliferated. Simply getting through to a prospect on the channel they are using at any given time is a major challenge.

As a result, traditional prospecting channels have become unpredictable. Phone prospecting can mean weeks or months of navigating gatekeepers, dealing with individuals who don’t make purchasing decisions, and working through voicemail and “budget cycles” once a decision maker is reached.  This can be very slow and frustrating.

Traditional networking and industry events have become risky, too.  Aside from being at the right place and at the right time, you have to rely on the slow process of being introduced to the right person, then converting that into a potential sales opportunity.  Due to diminishing returns, in-person industry events and business lunches have become less popular for developing new business.

The fact is, traditional prospecting tactics are becoming less productive. To grow your business with new high-value accounts you need to leverage multiple lead generation channels.  This means building those capabilities in-house or hiring a lead generation service partner to get you up the curve.

The Millennial Factor

Millennials are driving the use of technology in communications, and they now consist of 35% of the workforce. This represents the largest labor force in the United States, and they now chair many decision-making roles that affect the U.S. economy.

According to Pew Research, 92% of Millennials own smartphones and 85% use social media.

LinkedIn has not been abandoned by Millennials — its messaging and social publishing features are being used just like other social channels. “Social selling” is familiar ground for Millennials, which means social media (at least LinkedIn) must be included in your mix of outbound sales channels.

Millennials don’t talk on the phone as much as previous generations.  They will use the phone if it’s a mandatory part of their job.  Naturally, mobile phones are their preferred tool because of the control and option to use text, voice recording and video chat easily.  This makes engaging Millennial buyers by phone a unique challenge — one that few traditional sales execs find easy.

Sales Channel Proliferation

The emergence of new communication channels has increased the complexity of B2B sales prospecting.  Gone are the days of “dialing for dollars” on the phone all day.  You have to communicate with your prospects where they’re doing business (which switches often) or you simply won’t reach them at all.  Companies must adopt sales communication channels that reflect how their prospects actually behave.

According to a 2018 Report by Sagefrog, outbound email and social media selling are now the top two outbound B2B sales prospecting channels:

Lead Generation Service - B2B lead source list

B2B companies that don’t use a mix of lead generation channels miss out on important sources of new sales growth that their competitors are likely using. In this case, a lead generation service can help catch up quickly to the competition.

Orchestrating Outbound Lead Generation Channels is Key

New prospecting channels create opportunities, but they pose challenges for companies that don’t have the necessary lead generation systems in place. If your sales executives must spend most of their time figuring out how to implement an effective multi-channel lead generation system, they won’t be focused on closing deals. This is a quick way to create confusion and drive your sales team into panic mode.

Lead generation is a high-activity function that generates lots of data that must be tracked, matched, scored and analyzed.  This data tells the lead generation team which channels have been used to contact a prospect, whether that prospect has been reached, the result of each contact, and the interest level expressed.  This is done using data from multiple channels, including email, phone logs and LinkedIn activity.

Without aggregating your lead generation activity data it is impossible to know whether you’re double-selling (very bad), engaging uninterested or non-responsive prospects (bad) or even existing customers (bad)!  Taking advantage of multiple lead generation channels means a substantial orchestration and data management effort is required.  Otherwise, there is potential to do more harm than good.

To orchestrate this activity you need systems, processes, and a lead scoring schema.  This should occur before any lead data is entered into your CRM.  (NOTE: This is a topic for another post, but our opinion is that an qualified lead should never enter your CRM.  There are huge differences between a CRM designed to manage sales pipelines and customers, and a lead generation analytics platform).

Orchestrating multi-channel lead generation campaigns can strain the focus and resources of sales teams. Adding new complex lead generation tasks to your sales team’s duties can lead to sub-optimal results.  You need to reduce the lead generation load on your best-performing closers.  That way they can focus on progressing and closing qualified sales leads. Then you need a specialized team to focus on acquiring, qualifying and orchestrating new sales leads. These two skill sets are very different and should be done by different teams.

Navigating Lead Generation Service Solutions

Before deciding to implement a lead generation system, it’s important for you to understand its components.

An effective outbound lead generation system is designed to reach out directly to a large number of new potential prospects. It should also build brand recognition and authority with high-quality sales content. It is a known fact that combining solid content with B2B sales campaigns can generate increased ROI – if done right.

Successful outbound lead generation campaigns need careful planning, messaging, execution, and performance tracking. This involves aggregating activity data from multiple channels in multiple formats. This can be a daunting task and is why many companies choose to hire an outbound lead generation service.

An effective outbound lead generation system keeps campaigns flowing and organized. Outbound email, voice mail, phone, and LinkedIn are inefficient lead generators if they are not orchestrated and scaled properly.

You can hire different specialists (or outside firms) to work on each of these channels, but a lack of coordination will result in mistakes. For example, if your email specialist sends out an email campaign and a qualified lead replies to it, but your LinkedIn account manager sends a generic message to that same lead 2 days later, how will that make your company look?

Multi-channel outbound campaigns must be well-orchestrated and tracked to ensure the leads are properly qualified and escalated to your sales executives in a timely and organized manner.

Successful Outcomes From Using a Lead Generation Service

A properly run lead generation service will result in significant benefits:

1. Your sales prospecting footprint increases substantially. Outbound lead generation campaigns get your high-quality content and value proposition shared across multiple platforms where your prospects do business.

2. It establishes your company as a leader in your niche.  In many cases, your message reaches new potential buyers who may never have heard of your company or solution before. When your message and value proposition are delivered in an effective way, this automatically “puts you on the menu” when a purchasing decision comes along.

3. It directly engages with potential buyers.  The process of outreach, engagement and qualification requires direct conversations with potential buyers. This creates the opportunity for a deeper value-based conversation in ways that inbound lead generation tactics cannot.

4. Lead generation activity is consistent and continuous.  This is a major problem when senior sales executives are asked to do cold prospecting — their activity tends to be inconsistent and frequently interrupted by deal-closing and customer-related tasks. With a dedicated lead generation service provider the systematic targeted activity needed to drive qualified prospects into your sales pipeline simply happens.

5. You reach many people you haven’t before.  Most sales executives are not multi-channel lead generation experts.  They tend to focus on one or two communication channels where they feel comfortable.  This leaves big gaps in your sales outreach, which means there are many potential buyers who have never been contacted. With multiple outreach channels working together, this extends your company’s reach to potential buyers you never had access to before.

6. You generate tremendous market intelligence.  Because outbound is inherently more high-touch, it provides opportunities to ask questions and hear insights from potential buyers about pains they’re suffering, competing solutions, desired features, pricing, etc.  Inbound lead generation channels typically don’t allow these interactions, which are crucial for high-ticket sales.

7. Your sales staff will talk to better qualified leads (more qualified discovery calls).  This enables them to focus on progressing deals down your pipeline and closing them. They will also have more time to research and engage prospects personally, since they won’t be tied up with lead generation.

Whether you decide to build an internal lead generation function, or hire an outside lead generation service partner, these outcomes can lead to substantial new business growth.

Grow Your Sales Pipeline with a B2B Lead Generation Service

FunnelProfit delivers outsourced B2B Lead Generation Services with a dedicated team.  We leverages high-quality content and multiple outbound channels to grow your pipeline. Learn more about our lead generation service here >