B2B Lead Gen: How Sales Teams Should Build Their B2B Lead Generation Strategy

How do you build a B2B lead gen strategy? As the founder of a B2B sales intelligence product, I work with sales & marketing leaders every day that are creatively answering this question.

The answer? It depends. Some strategies work for SMB, while not so much for enterprise. Then some for one industry, but not another.

How Sales Teams Should Build Their B2B Lead Generation Strategy

So to keep it simple, I’m going to assume you’re selling to mid-market or enterprise and that you’re in a sales and/or demand generation role at your company. This is how sales teams should build their B2B lead generation strategy.

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1. Align Sales and Marketing

The first step? You need to be working closely with marketing.

Let’s be honest – silos don’t work anymore. Sales and marketing have historically operated in their own way, with their own goals, culture, values, and haven’t always gotten along.

Buyers are now in control. That means our businesses have to follow suit and move beyond this old-school infrastructure.

So to build a B2B lead gen strategy in 2019, you need to get everyone aligned. And this is beyond investing in lead generation companies. When marketing and sales teams unite around a single revenue cycle, they dramatically improve marketing ROI, sales productivity, and, most importantly, top-line growth.

What does this look like in practice?

Marketing is the primary driver of lead generation and takes on the work of buyer personas, lead quality, and creating compelling content that helps great salespeople sell the product.

Standard strategies for marketing include:

  • Content – blogs, case studies, whitepapers, etc.
  • Search marketing – keyword research and optimizing content for SEO
  • Social marketing – syndicating content on social networks to get the widest reach
  • Collaboration – co-marketing partnerships with collaborators, suppliers, and clients

Sales then take on the role of actually using the information that marketing is providing to close the sale. In addition, they continually give feedback and ideas to marketing about what is working and what is not to help with B2B lead gen.

2. Filling the Rest of Your Sales Pipeline

I spoke with the Director of Sales at Tipalti, Geo, where they have seen success in aligning sales & marketing. Geo works closely with marketing to get the right data on prospects, get alerted when key accounts are on the website, and often collaborates with the ABM manager to run targeted campaigns on key accounts.

Even then, with a steady stream of qualified inbounds provided by marketing, that only meets approximately 60% of Geo’s quota. The remaining 40% he has to source himself.

Demographic and Technographic Search

The most basic approach is to search for companies that match your buyer personas. There are a variety of tools such as DiscoverOrg, ZoomInfo, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and Crunchbase for general search by industry, company size, geolocation, or funding status. 

After a general search, there are a number of tools to analyze technographic data – essentially what products and technologies a company is already using. Datanyze and HG Data (now HG Insights) are top solutions in this space and great tools to integrate into your B2B lead gen strategy.

Company Updates

After general buyer persona searches, the next best option is to monitor for company updates for B2B lead gen. This includes recent funding announcements on Crunchbase, company postings and job change alerts on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, or Google Alerts.  This news is used to give the sales reps insights in order to increase their chances of landing a meeting with their prospects.

Intent Data

Company news and insights are great, but this still doesn’t fully solve the sales prospecting conversion pain.  We’ve learned that if we could identify when a prospect is actively researching a company’s solution, and uncover the data that the prospect is researching, this drastically increases the chances of converting that prospect into a meeting.

Pro tip: See Bombora intent data directly in Crunchbase

One option is real-time search data providers such as Bombora and G2 Stack. Both of these tools can show information about what type of products and solutions an account is searching for, great for B2B lead gen.

Add B2B Lead Gen Tools to Your Website

Then there are the accounts that are active on your own site, researching your product. Additionally, they may or may not have reached out yet. Solutions like BigPicture and 6Sense identify web traffic by dynamically converting the IP address of visitors into a rich profile and match it to your accounts in Salesforce. These tools can be used for:

  • Alerting sales of new accounts, or lost opportunities that are back on the website.
  • Provide more context on an account, such as what features or value propositions they are interested in based on their onsite activity.
  • Open the potential for personalized, programmatic outbound email campaigns.

3. Personalization and Automation

Once you have some prospects that match your buyer persona, it’s time to start reaching out. Outreach is a vital part of your B2B lead gen strategy.

Sales tracking metrics are key here – if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Important stats such as the number of emails sent, phone calls made, and LinkedIn connections and messages sent will you help you build a model and start forecasting to meet quota.

As to reaching out, forget about spray and pray. The majority of business buyers now expect brands to anticipate their needs and deliver personalization. Hence why we focus on finding prospects that give us the opportunity to open with a personalized message- it’s all about tailoring the messaging.

What we want to do is personalize at scale, while trying to automate as much as we can. This is where sales engagement tools like Outreach or SalesLoft come in. With features like templated email builders, automated email sequences to handle follow-up, and analytics & engagement metrics to measure performance, they have become standard tools for the modern sales team.

Once you have the core components in place, the opportunities are endless. For example, Segment was able to increase their outbound prospecting conversion by 200% with their automated outbound system.

B2B Lead Gen Strategies To Takeaway

The key takeaway here is to work closely with marketing to take what is known about prospects and create hyper-personalized messages while automating as much as you can.

Yes, it’s a bit more work up front, but the ROI will speak for itself. And it will get easier over time as AI becomes more widely available.

Michael is the Founder and CEO of BigPicture, a sales intelligence startup in San Francisco, and is passionate about bringing the power of predictive marketing and sales intelligence to B2B enterprise and mid-market companies. Prior to BigPicture, Michael was a software engineer at a number of startups, including DemandForce, Wiser Solutions, and Ambassador.

  • Originally published August 1, 2019, updated April 26, 2023