B2B Sales

How to Generate B2B Sales Leads

As a B2B sales rep, you don’t want to step into a big meeting, knowing that this prospect is one of the few in your sales funnel. 

Instead, you want an abundance of leads with whom to meet. That way, you can bring that carefree confidence into every sales meeting. You know you have plenty of chances to hit a home run in the upcoming weeks, even if you strike out on this one.

In this post, we will go over the 9 most effective ways to generate more B2B sales leads.

A lot of articles about lead generation briefly touch on 20-50 ways to generate B2B sales leads. That’s a lot of hats to wear as a sales rep. 

So we intend to do the opposite in this post by zooming in on the most worthwhile techniques only. 

It’s better to master a few prospecting skills than to dabble in 27 of them. 

What is a B2B Sales Lead? 

A B2B sales lead is a person or business that has expressed interest in your product or service. 

A sales can lead can be someone you spoke with during a cold call who said they are interested in a demo. Or, it can be a person who filled out your demo request form on your website and wants to learn more about the product. It can also be a decision-maker you met at a conference who said they liked your idea. 

For the sake of continuity in this article, we will consider “leads” to be qualified—meaning they are known to be a good fit for your service or product. 

For instance, if you sell software that helps companies manage buildings, a qualified lead would be a business that actually manages buildings. 

As an organization, there are plenty of ways to generate a B2B lead, but below we will break them into two main categories. 

The Two Main Ways to Generate B2B Sales Leads 

Let’s start with inbound lead generation.

1. Inbound Lead Generation 

Inbound lead generation is in the hands of the marketing team. Marketers use strategies to attract ideal customers to their product or service through content marketing, SEO, or Linkedin advertising. 

A lead that came in through an inbound call is probably the product of successful inbound lead generation. 

Here is the second way. 

2. Outbound Lead Generation 

In outbound sales, reps make initial contact with the leads. This could be through cold prospecting, social media networking, or reviving old connections. 

Outbound lead generation is usually the job of the sales team. Positions involved in the process include BDRs, SDRs, Account Executives, and others. 

For example, a sales rep who is making cold calls to Decision-Makers at companies that seem like a good fit is involved in outbound lead generation. The sales rep hopes to influence the potential customer to consider exploring the service or product. 

Since you are probably tasked with generating new leads for yourself or other sales reps, this is the type of lead generation we will focus on in this article. 

Now that we are clear on the meaning and creation process of a lead, let’s go over some ways you can generate more B2B sales leads—that is, more opportunities to close. 

Understanding the Framework

Before jumping into the techniques, it’s important to understand a certain outbound lead generation framework that has helped many startups grow like crazy.

It’s called the Predictable Revenue Framework, and it works perfectly if you sell SaaS, marketing services, or any other point-solution product or service. 

Predictable Revenue Framework

Coined by Aaron Ross in his book “Predictable Revenue,” the Predictable Revenue Framework helps salespeople prospect as efficiently as possible by focusing only on their best-fit prospects. 

These best-fit companies are the ones who would reap the most value from your solution. 

You can further define what these companies look like by creating an Ideal Customer Profile: a categorical description of your best-fit customers. 

Example of ideal customer profile (ICP):


Aaron Ross says:

Identify your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) first, angling it towards your top 20% of customers. Train your people and give them the support they need.”

If you know what your target customers look like, you know what they desperately need. Then, you can go out into the market with your solution and only one or two value propositions. 

The Benefits of Predictable Revenue 

That way, when you make a cold call, you are almost positive that the decision-maker on the other end will have the pain points you solve. 

Plus, you know exactly what to say. That combination will have you brimming with confidence. 

Having just a few value propositions also increases the efficiency of your prospecting. You don’t have to change up your message every single time you dial. 

Other Results from Predictable Revenue Prospecting 

  • Shorter sales cycles.
  • Greater lifetime value of customers. 
  • More productive cold calling and emailing.
  • Less wasted time. 

Pro Tip: In the Predictable Revenue Framework, it’s also critical to get to “no” as quickly as possible when prospecting. 

Getting a clear rejection keeps you from wasting time on prospects that view your solution as a”nice-to-have” and therefore have a small chance of buying.  

Understanding this framework will help you succeed in each of these B2B sales lead generation methods. 

9 Ways to Generate More Leads From Outbound Sales

1) Cold Calling 

Cold calling is when sales reps call potential decision-makers at companies that might need their product or service. 

A cold call aims to get a potential customer interested in your service, thus creating a lead. 

If they are intrigued, you will end the call by setting up another sales meeting to go more in-depth into the solution and their business needs.

Many people ask if cold calls still work.

According to this study, 57% of C-level buyers prefer that salespeople call them. Cold calls still work. They just have to be done right, consistently. 

People often ask this question because the idea of interrupting a stranger to drum up business can be scary. 

If you are worried, check out this prospecting mindset, created by Mike Weinburg, author of “New Sales Simplified.”

“You are not an annoyance, you are a value creator. Your prospect likely has a need for which you have the solution. Make the call! The prospect is probably stuck in some suboptimal situation. You are not calling to bother them; you are calling to help!”

Steps to a Cold Call

  1. Put together a list of contacts that fit your Ideal Customer Profile – try business database software for this. 
  1. Research the contacts – Find information that you can use to open a call. This could be work responsibilities, recent news about the company, or something you two have in common. 
  1. Make the call – It’s best to open your cold call with a brief introduction so they know who is contacting them and from where. Then, lead with the reason for your call. The reason should refer to some problems that companies like theirs are facing. Say that you wanted to see if they had the same problems, which you can solve. 
  1. Follow-up – If you couldn’t close a meeting, keep trying. Follow-up with some more calls or emails. Be sure to provide value in every follow-up, whether it’s case studies, an invitation to a company event, or a new feature they might like. 

Around 50% of contacts never receive a second cold call. You can stand out with persistence. 

There is a lot of mystery around what makes a cold call a solid one. If you want to learn more about cold calling, check out Cold Calling Best Practices.  

2) Cold Emailing

Cold emailing refers to sending emails to decision-makers at companies that would benefit immensely from your solution.

Of course, these prospects are bombarded with emails every day, so it’s best to make sure yours stand out. 

Here are some tips to make sure your cold emails are read and responded to. 

  • Your first sentence should be about the prospect. This will capture their interest and start them on what famous copywriter, Joseph Sugarman, calls the “slippery slide”. If they read the first sentence, they are more likely to read the second, and so on. 
  • Next, mention problems. You want to come across as a problem-solver, not a spammer. Describe a couple of problems you solve for companies like theirs and let them tell you if they have those problems.
  • Have a Call-to-Action. Okay, maybe they need a little bit of a push to tell you about their problems. A good CTA will be asking for a meeting or asking if they have those aforementioned problems.

Of course, the first cold email isn’t the only one you will send. Most prospects won’t respond until your second or third email. 

According to Yesware, if you don’t get a reply on the first email, you still have a 21% chance of getting one on the second.  

Since it’s so important to stand out, be happy that only 30% of those competing for your decision-maker’s attention will send a second email. 

email follow up stats

Be sure to follow-up using these email techniques.  

3) Leverage Social Media

Social selling is becoming more popular these days, as millennials become B2B buyers and sellers. According to Linkedin’s data, social selling leaders create 45% more sales opportunities.

Why’s that?

Because selling over social media enables you to make a connection with someone at a place they feel comfortable: the social hangout in their phone. 

For example, maybe you comment on an article that one of your potential leads shared, and they reply. Now you have built some rapport, helping you schedule a meeting with them. 

There are a ton of platforms to use, including Twitter, Facebook, and Hootsuite. 

However, the single best social media tool for B2B prospecting is LinkedIn, thanks to its abundance of prospect information. Additionally, it is already known as a place for business. 

Here’s an overview of how to use it.

Passive Lead Generation through LinkedIn

First off, it’s important to write a value-packed headline. Make sure it’s obvious what types of businesses you help and how. 

Second, share content that prospects will find helpful. Think of some common questions your prospects ask and write up some posts to share. 

That will establish you as an expert and someone to look to for help in your niche. 

Active Lead Generation

The LINK Method is a 4-step process for turning potential connections into interested leads. 

1. Find the Prospects 

First, build an ICP, so you know what an ideal customer looks like (size, revenue, industry). 

Then use LinkedIn’s filtering (or a lead generation software like Soleadify) to build a list of decision-makers from companies with attributes that match your ICP. 

2. First Contact

Put a message in your connection request. 

Make sure the message brings up something about them that you learned from reading their profile. Give them an actual reason to connect. 

Here is an example of a content marketing agency reaching out.

“Hi {Name} – I saw that you used to be a SaaS Account Executive before switching to the marketing side of things. Same here! 

Now, I manage blogs for a couple of SaaS companies like {their company name}. Do you ever work with marketing agencies? 

3. Engage in Dialogue

If they agree to connect, send them a welcome message focused on forming rapport. Don’t ask them for anything just yet. You can ask a question, but don’t ask for a meeting or call. 

4. Send Helpful Content

The next phase is about building the relationship. Share content relevant to their specific type of business.

Next, take the conversation offline. 

Now that you have successfully built a relationship with your prospect, ask for a meeting. This could be a demo of your solution or a phone call to learn more about their business needs. 

Following these steps will result in a considerable bump in your leads. And the longer you have been consistently making connections and posting content on social, the more success you will see. 

4) Reconnect With Old Clients

Your list of old clients is a reservoir of potential leads. If they needed you once, who is to say they won’t need you again? 

Maybe they left because you failed to offer a specific feature or integration, which you now have. Or maybe they canceled in an effort to improve cash flow, but are now swimming in it and have new growing pains you can solve. 

It’s always worth it to try again. 

Here’s a template email for reaching out to old clients. 

“Hi {Name}, I was just going through our list of clients and I chuckled when I remembered the good work we did together. 

It’s been a while since we caught up. How are things going over there at {Company Name}? Is there anything we can assist with? 

I’d be happy to send you an e-book, make an introduction, or hop on a call and see if we can provide you with anything. 

Just let me know!” 

Pro Tip: Make it even more personal by mentioning some specific moment you two shared, whether it was a laugh you had together or something they taught you. 

5) Circle Back With Lost Opportunities

Circling back with prospects who came close to buying but ultimately said something like “not now” is similar to reconnecting with old clients. 

These people are the perfect targets. According to “Influence,” by Robert Cialdini, someone who raises their hand once is more likely to do it again. 

Their situation could have changed. For all you know, their head of purchasing could have left the company, leaving your old internal champion in charge. 

Maybe something changed on your end. Perhaps you price differently now or have a better solution. 

You never know when the stars might align. A lot of success in sales comes from being in the right place at the right time, which can only happen if you put yourself out there. 

How to Reconnect

The first thing you need to do is get them on the phone and ask why they decided not to go with your solution. 

Sometimes, they will give you an answer that doesn’t apply anymore, or won’t even remember the reason. Whatever the case, ask if they’d be open to seeing the improvements you’ve made to the service or solution. 

It’s also a good idea to share some case studies to demonstrate the power of your solution. 

6) Follow-up With Webinar or Event Attendees

If your company hosts an event or webinar, always follow up with the list of attendees. You can generate some sales conversations with people already familiar with your brand.  

The first email should include three components: 

  1. A “thank you” for attending. 
  2. Useful information relevant to the webinar. (blog posts, e-books, industry articles)
  3. An ask. Ask them if they have any interest in learning more about how you help companies like theirs. 

Make sure to connect your value proposition to the content of the webinar or event. If the webinar was about helping companies automate email marketing, include that in your value proposition. 

And if you don’t get a reply, simply send another quick follow-up email. 

Whatever happens, you will have successfully warmed up some contacts, so they might turn into leads down the line. 

7) Network

B2B sales are all about building relationships and entering as many industry conversations as you can. You never know who is going to need your company’s help. 

For instance, at a networking event, you could accidentally strike up a conversation with the CEO of a target company. That’s a great relationship to have. You can help the CEO’s company solve some problems, or they can recommend you to other potential clients. 

During the COVID era, when many events are canceled, companies are improvising by creating virtual events. These are sure to stick around long after the pandemic. 

Online events and conferences cost less to organize and have lower barriers to entry so that more people can attend. 

If you decide to start attending some online trade shows, here are some networking tips to use as your virtual self. 

Set Goals

There is no chance of bumping into a prospect at a virtual event. Serendipity doesn’t exist at online trade shows, so you have to make your own luck. 

Set goals like: 

  • Introduce myself to 5 new people
  • Trade emails with 15 attendees
  • Talk with 10 people on my contact list

Search Through the Attendee List

Most events will provide attendees with lists of all the participants. Search through to look for potential prospects and make a point of connecting with them during the event. 

The events also usually have an online messaging platform where you can interact with people.

It might seem awkward at first, but remember that people in your industry are attending these shows not only to absorb valuable info from the presentations, but also to make connections with insightful, friendly people like yourself. 

Get Active on Social

During the presentations, post your thoughts on the presenters’ points. This will demonstrate your expertise. 

Also, be on the lookout for potential leads to interact with.

8) Ask Clients for Referrals

If one of your clients tells a peer about your fabulous service, you have already overcome the most difficult part of prospecting: earning credibility. This makes getting a meeting a lot easier.

Also, the leads that come from referrals are usually more valuable to your company. 

According to The Wharton School of Business, a referred client has a 16% higher lifetime value than a non-referred client. 

That’s probably because the client will only refer you to people who genuinely need what you offer, yielding a perfect match. 

You can also be proactive and ask your client if they know of anyone who might need help. 

Which Clients Should You Ask?

Your happiest clients! To find your advocates, you can ask your account managers which clients love you the most. 

Or, you can take the more technical approach – using a Net Promoter Score. NPS is a customer loyalty metric that helps you gauge how happy a customer is with your solution. 

Companies usually get their NPS by sending out a 1-question survey to their clients. You have probably received one before. The survey asks: “How likely is it that you would recommend the service to a friend or colleague?” 

The client then answers on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 10. 

Once you have found clients that answered 10, you can send them an email asking for a referral. Here’s an example. 

“Hi {Name},

I wanted to say it’s been a real pleasure working with you and your team. Your feedback has been valuable as we continue to develop our solution. 

Since you have found our solution helpful, I was wondering if you knew of anyone in your sphere who might need help with {whatever problem you solve}. 

If not, that’s okay too! I just want to make sure we can help as many companies like yours as possible.” 

If the company knows of someone, hopefully, they will connect you. From there, it’s best to do a discovery call to learn more about the new lead’s business, frustrations, and desires. 

9) Lead Generation Software

A lead generation software will provide you with lists of decision-makers from companies that would receive tremendous value from your service. 

How do they do it? 

Well, Soleadify, for example, acts as a search engine for business information. 

You can type in the attributes of the companies to whom you want to sell, and receive lists of decision-makers and their contact information for you to start cold calling and emailing. 

Like this one:

For example, if your ideal customer is a small or medium-sized business in the finance industry that lacks a fintech solution, you can plug that data into the software and build a list of great leads. 

This is crucial for sales reps, since the number one activity they need to focus on is selling, not scouring the web for leads and contact information. 

The Best Prospecting Technique: Humanity 

Trying to generate new B2B sales leads is a tough gig. 

So, to lighten things up and stand out from the crowd, don’t be afraid to share your humanity with potential prospects. 

Laugh at yourself on a cold call when you say something out of the ordinary. Use some light humor in your email copy. When a prospect brings up something non-business related, like their kid’s soccer game, ask them about it!

You don’t always have to be the cutthroat, suave salesperson from the movies. Let your error-prone, relatable humanity pull some more leads into your sales process, and make some friends along the way. 

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