According to a 2016 study by the Content Marketing Institute, 85% of B2B marketers claim that most of their efforts go towards generating more leads. This number has done nothing but increase over the past few years. More and more people have realized how crucial lead generation is for their business to thrive.

Though it is the first and most critical step of the sales process, companies and websites more often than not fail to understand what a sales lead is and how to convert them into customers.

The LaGrowthMachine (LGM) software prides itself in enabling you to not only target the right prospects, but also to enrich their details and convert them in a timely manner. It has helped boost more than 4000 different lead generation campaigns and amounted to 3.5 times faster conversion times.

What are sales leads? Why are they important? How can you generate more qualified leads?

In this guide, we will answer these questions and set the topic of converting B2B sales leads to rest once and for all.

Source: US Chamber of Commerce

What is a sales lead?

A sales lead is someone who sits at the very beginning of a sales funnel. It’s someone you deemed your product may be the solution to their problems. They, in turn, are scored by leads by those who have a higher probability turning into customers.

Ideally, you have information about these leads like their industry, their job title, who their clients are, etc. This will help you determine their pain points and how much your product conforms to their needs.

Marketing Qualified Leads vs. Sales Qualified Leads

Before diving into what makes sales leads so crucial, let’s first make a very important distinction between a Marketing lead and a Sales lead.

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): These are people who have just been introduced to your business in a meaningful way through marketing efforts. As a business, you need to define what constitutes a meaningful interaction.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL): These are leads who typically have already been vetted by your Marketing team as showing interest in your particular offering.

At its foundation, the main difference between the two terms is that an MQL becomes an SQL once your team has nurtured them sufficiently and they are ready to move forward in your sales funnel.

The different stages of a sales lead

It’s at this stage that you’ll typically hear about things like cold, hot, or warm leads. These are the three levels that qualify a sales lead. You’ll likely find different interpretations of these lead types depending on the size of your company, the product or service you’re providing, etc.

Nevertheless, here’s a broad definition for each of these stages:

Leads’ Level of Engagement

Cold leads sit at the very top of your sales funnel, they may have never heard of your brand and they are not ready to engage in a sales deal right away. You need to familiarize them with your product/service.

Warm leads are a little bit down the sales funnel. These are people who have at the very least heard of you or even used a free trial of your product. They may be looking into the market to acquire what you’re offering.

Hot leads are basically your next customers. These are people who are not only interested in your product/service but also have the budget to engage with you in a sale. Your goal is to get your leads to be at this stage.

Still, the name of the game is information. Your goal is to either correct, enrich, or add to the information you already have and engage with them further. Building relationships this way will increase your chances of converting them.

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Why are sales leads important?

That’s the million-dollar question!

Well, looking for and knowing your sales leads helps you avoid targeting people without knowing whether they actually need your product.

The benefits of doing this have a wide range, so we’ll try to condense them into a digestible list.

  • Maximize growth. Having an organized funnel that you drive your leads through means having more customers over time, which means more growth.
  • Increase number of sales. You are more likely to grow sales by converting leads into customers, which is the whole point of having SQLs. This will increase the profit margins of the business.
  • Boost your ROI. Since your efforts will be focused on people who you know are interested in your brand, you will automatically optimize your ROI.
  • Reduce wasted resources. Aligned with the previous point, by having SQLs you won’t be contacting people aimlessly and wasting money, time, and effort.
  • Collect better quality information. You’ll be able to inform yourself about your target audience in detail. Gather important details about what they need from you as well.
  • Build an extensive and scalable database. We’ll never stop saying it, information is key. Having close to a complete database is akin to having a goldmine. The only difference is that this goldmine will provide you with a profitable client base and sustainability.
  • Develop a better relationship with your customers. Having better information also enables you to adjust certain — if not all — parts of your sales process. Work on it to fit each and every one of their needs.
  • Ease of access. Having a clearly defined funnel allows you to interact more smoothly with your prospects, nurture your leads more effectively, receive feedback easily, etc.

Though this is not a complete list, all these advantages benefit the bottom line. Qualified leads give you a much higher chance of converting them into returning customers.

So: increase the awareness of your brand, increase your profit margins, decrease wasted resources, etc. Need we say more?

How to generate more qualified leads

We’ve gone over the definition of a sales lead and explained it’s important to generate and nurture them. And all of that is great, but how do you actually generate more qualified leads?

Well, that’s tricky, and there is no “one size fits all,” but we’re here to give you the best guidelines and strategies to start getting more qualified leads. In fact, there are many ways to generate more leads. Just of few of which are:

  • Organic & paid strategies
  • Social media strategy
  • Get referrals from your own network
Source: iStock by GettyImages

Develop organic & paid marketing strategies

The very first thing you need to do is make sure that your business is found when people search for features you offer. Be it through organic (SEO) or paid (SEA) means.

These methods will drive traffic to the landing page of your choosing and therefore increase your inbound sales lead generation. This is further backed by the fact that 43% of Marketers surveyed reported that Search is their top lead generation strategy. (Source)

Develop a social media strategy

This step may seem obvious to some, considering the abundance of sponsored content we come across every day through every social media network. But there needs to be a plan.

Study your target audience and understand where they are in their buyer’s journey and where they consume most of their content. For B2B, most of your lead gen strategy should be focused around LinkedIn as it is reported that 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn.

Find sales leads through your network

In our humble opinion, this is the most underrated step you can take to generate leads. Your network is a goldmine of leads waiting to be approached and nurtured.

Ask your network for referrals, identify potential prospects, host content on their website/blog, etc. There are several ways you can utilize your network and have mutually beneficial deals.

“But what if I don’t have a network?” you ask. Well, build one!

There are a plethora of online and offline events happening every day you can join like:

  • Webinars. Check out sites like Eventbrite, GoToWebinar, BrightTalk, Meetup, etc.
  • LinkedIn lives
  • Offline conferences/ seminars
  • Online and offline events organized by Slack communities

These are all amazing opportunities that allow you to interact directly with your potential leads. At the very least you can acquire some contacts, which is always a plus.

Other great tips to complement your lead generation efforts

We went through a ton of ways to generate sales leads, but there are still other possibilities that may better suit your preferences.

Here’s a shortlist of ideas that will spark ideas on which you need to elaborate further in order to optimize your efforts:

  • Host your own events and webinars
  • Retarget cold leads (sometimes “no” means “not yet”)
  • Create/optimize a newsletter
  • Partner with other brands to reach their audience
  • Introduce a free trial or a giveaway system

Now that we’ve been through the different methods to generate more leads, let’s dive into the conversion from prospects to customers part.

How to convert sales leads into clients

You have your SQL definition disentangled and you’re set on a strategy as to how to generate more qualified leads, congrats! But it’s not over just yet, it’s the time to convert them.

To convert your sales leads into customers, you can go through several methods:

  • Using the right channel to target your sales leads
  • Get a great lead management process
  • Apply the right strategy (lead scoring, lead nurturing, automation, etc.)
Source: iStock by GettyImages

Use the right channel to target your lead

Normally, salespeople use the information gathered on leads to then communicate their ‘sales pitch’ through various channels. Here are some examples:

  • Cold calling: This is a method still considered by many to be an essential part of sales prospecting because it gives a more personal touch and builds trust. However, it’s arguably an intrusive method for a number of reasons, chief among them being privacy issues.
  • Cold emailing: As a much less invasive outreach approach, emailing can be very effective at getting leads interested in your product or service if done right. Sales emails are more organized and can demonstrate exactly what your business brings to the table.
  • LinkedIn: Prospecting through LinkedIn is the new star of the B2B world. Especially with tools like Sales Navigator having such a huge impact on the industry. It allows you to have that personal touch of a call (using your profile) with none of the drawbacks.

Get a proper vision of your lead management process

Once contacted, qualifying your lead is the hard part. It depends on things like the depth of information you have on them, its accuracy, their response (interested or dismissive), your messaging, etc.

For this, you have to go through a number of steps. Let’s dig in:

  • Create a conversion process. Even though it’s more or less an obvious step, we cannot stress enough how important of a step this is. Everything else rests on it. Define and develop your process thoroughly in order to have a clear path for your prospects to go through.
  • Organize your database(s) and follow your leads’ needs. This will help you align your strategy with your client’s pain points. Verify that you’re communicating with them where they are the most present instead of them coming to you.
  • Identify each of your client’s actions and assign a level of importance to each. How do I know that a lead is ready to negotiate a deal? What actions do they go through before exhibiting this specific behavior? These are questions that you need to ask to clearly define your lead stages.

These are generic first steps that are indispensable to starting your lead conversion process. Now let’s go into actual strategies that you can apply.

Apply the right strategy

Now you know your leads’ behaviors like the back of your hand and you’ve developed your conversion process. You’re ready to start strategizing on how to actually go about converting these leads.

Some of the most pertinent strategies for conversion are:

  • Lead Scoring. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you score your leads’ actions using a point system. By organizing this way, you’ll be able to prioritize higher-scoring leads more efficiently.
  • Automation. Since you now understand your clients’ actions and you’ve categorized them based on different levels of intent, you can easily automate their path. This not only saves you huge amounts of time, but it scales very well.
  • Lead nurturing. This can be done through multiple tactics, but we’ll focus on emailing here. By sending different emails for different actions taken by your leads, you’ll add to the value you’re already providing. Two very crucial details here: 1. Make sure you personalize your emails (at least add their name) and 2. Always offer valuable information through each email.
  • Leverage your existing client base. Put testimonials, reviews, or any kind of feedback in an accessible spot on your website. This acts as a nudge for prospects to make the buying decision. At the very least, it encourages them to think more seriously about it. It’s called “social proof” and you should exploit it.
  • Keep a constant stream of communication. Be it through a newsletter system or other outreach techniques, always be there. With our attention span being ever so limited, it benefits you greatly to remind your leads that you’re there to help them and resolve their pain points.

Sure this is a lot to process, but remember, the key takeaway you can’t leave without is this: Lead conversion is not a ‘one solution will solve all your problems’ deal. It’s a constant process that you need to iterate on and adapt with every step so you can perfect it.

Once you choose and apply the strategy that aligns with your goals the best, test out different steps. You will get a lot right, but you will also get some things wrong at first, and that’s okay.

LaGrowthMachine: Automatically convert your leads and more

After reading this article, it’s understandable if you’re hesitant as to whether you can actually move on and start targeting leads. We covered a ton of information.

Well, worry no more! Our software is an all-encompassing solution that automates basically every strategy we covered previously. With LaGrowthMachine, you can create multi-channel lead generation campaigns at scale, which is proven to be 3.5 times more efficient than mere emailing campaigns.

Use our catalog full of templates created at various levels of complexity to fit your specific campaign. You will have the option to address your prospects and customers on Twitter, LinkedIn, or by email via automated data enrichment scenarios.

And just like that, you’ve saved up to 40% of your work time while building the most effective lead generation campaigns.

So, what are you waiting for? Now that we gave you the steps, it’s time for you to get to generating your leads!