The Internet changed the Sales Lead Generation Process by introducing new options for attracting potential clients and turning them into customers. These tools became a powerful addition to the prospecting practices and boosted sales.
However, lately, we’ve seen a notable content imbalance in how lead gen is perceived and represented. We hope to fix this inconsistency by providing an insight into the process from the perspective of an effective sales development team, working across hundreds of customer accounts.
Sales lead generation process
The sales lead gen process is strongly associated with Marketing practices, namely Inbound. Check the Google’s SERP page for this keyword. You’ll find blogs and articles fully dedicated to content marketing, blogs, SEO, social networks, newsletters, etc. Few of them mention sales development teams efforts aimed at attracting customers.
This imbalance is no surprise. Marketers are prolific at writing content. They create stories and thus shape the way we see and perceive things. That’s why when it comes to sales lead generation process most marketers get most of the credit. Countless articles and influencers claim that cold calling is dead and all your business needs to succeed is a good content marketing strategy.
But before you invest in costly campaigns, think about this. According to the Marketing Agency Growth Report by Hubspot, 60% of marketing agencies representatives the majority of the survey's respondents were CEO/Owner/President (51%), VP/Director (14%), and managers (15%) acknowledged “finding new clients” their biggest pain point, while 33% aren’t sure about their ability to generate new leads.
Such statistics might seem strange coming from marketing experts, but in our opinion, it signifies that marketers may need to change their mindset. Marketing is a really powerful discipline, but not omnipotent, especially in a highly competitive environment. You can’t succeed by just waiting for the right prospects to find your impeccable content and good position in Google SERP’s. You need to hunt!
Outbound prospecting remains a highly effective lead generation practice for B2B
We have a separate blog post to discuss back up this statement5 Outbound Prospecting Myths (RAIN Group Study), so, we won’t discuss it here. What we really want to talk about is optimizing your sales lead generation process and how to organize it.
CIENCE bases its lead gen on outbound prospecting. We also create and conduct successful campaigns for our clients. In other words, we have deep and relevant experience with these processes. Here’s a model for evaluation, taking what we’ve learned so far from our own experience as well as the market’s best practices.
When we describe any process, we think of its structure in several dimensions:
We divided the Sales Lead Generation Process into eight stages basing on the actions, and contributors.
Stage 1. Analysis and Planning
Contributors: CEO (business owner, president), VP Sales, COO, VP Marketing*, Head of HR
*This VP participates to provide valuable marketing research data as well as to make sure that Marketing (MT) and Sales(ST) teams work in alignment. It’s also important to clearly outline the responsibilities and tasks to each of them so that they don’t conflict. Though emails are considered the responsibility of marketing team, in the majority of companies, outbound prospecting is the part of the sales. Also MT can “lend” their copywriter to ST.
1. HR. Set the number of people for each position, you’ll need at least one email copywriter, full-time researcher, and full-time Sales Development Representative (SDR). Note that one SDR can “feed” several Account managers. Consider the promotion opportunities for your SDR.
2. Analyze and outline budget for outbound prospecting team:
- Salaries + Bonus
- Ongoing Training
- Consider acquiring CRM, Sales Engagement Platform, Calendar, Softphone/Dialer (based on your budget)
- Research and Data subscriptions detailed below
- Expenses (mainly hardware)
3. Research your market and competitors
- Create Ideal Customer Profile (Demographic, Firmographic, Technographic details are table stakes)
- Note trigger events, elements of personalization, and potential paths to referrals
- Compare competitive landscape (prepare for objections)
4. Analyze your potential clients
- Create your buyer personas* (2+ at a minimum)
- Mark their pain points, desires, and ambitions
- Understand how your product/service can address their problems
*A buyer persona is important at every stage of Sales Lead Generation Process. Make it brief, easy to understand and as precise as possible. Put it down in one document and then hand it to your researchers, copywriter, and SDR.
- Set the campaign launch date and its duration
- Take into account the time necessary for your SDRs to ramp up
- Outline the schedule for your SDR, researcher, and content manager
- Define which software you’ll be using, apart from a CRM. Don’t forget about the leads database
- Specify how the prospects are “handed” to SDRs from researchers and then from SDRs to your Account managers
- Outline your email campaign (quantity of sequences, the time between them)
- Set weekly and monthly quotas for your researchers and SDRs (make sure they are real!): 200 leads per week for a ramped up SDR is the fine quantity-to-quality ratio
- Define the goals: qualified leads or appointments or both
- Establish working cadence, make sure to put weekly and monthly reporting into it
- Determine “effectiveness analysis points” (the time, when you analyze the results of research, email campaign, calls) along with the criteria of productivity
8. Resolution. Put down everything in one document and make all the contributors sign it.
As soon as stage 1 of Sales Lead Generation Process is over, you might want to spend some time on recruiting people, if you don’t have them yet. Make sure you considered it when setting the date of the campaign launch.
Stage 2. Research
Contributors: Research team and their manager, VP Sales, VP Marketing
1. If you’ve just hired researchers, make sure to conduct some preliminary training. Teach them:
- How to analyze buyer persona
- Where to look for leads
- How to work in the database
- Look for leads and their contact information
- Fill in the database (e.g. a spreadsheet)
- Hand the database to SDRs
Stage 3. Message
Contributors: Copywriter, VP Sales, VP Marketing*
* It’s important that the copywriter worked in alignment with your company’s marketing and sales strategies. That’s why a supervision of VPs is necessary, especially in the beginning.
Writing emails based on particular buyer persona.
Most clients of CIENCE want their first email to be highly personalized. In this case, our SDRs perform additional research on each prospect, and in cooperation with the copywriter write one paragraph fully dedicated to the addressee. It increases the response rate at the expense of time. It takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes for an experienced SDR to look for specific information about a prospect and up to 5 – 30 minutes to write a personalized paragraph based on it.
This stage of Sales Lead Generation Process is pretty similar to what marketing teams do, so you’ll need their experience and help.
Stage 4. Email Sequences
Contributors: SDRs, VP Sales
1. If you’ve just hired people, spend some time teaching them how to:
- Use a CRM, Sales Engagement Platform
- Research more information about prospects
- Work with the database
- Create reports
- Qualify leads
- Write follow-ups
- Manage rejection
- Talk over the phone
- Keep the working cadence
3. Work with the auto responses and bounces
4. Writing follow-ups – to the prospects, who opened the email, and to those who responded. The only “red flag” is “unsubscribe request.”
See a detailed description of a typical day in the life of an SDRA Day in Life: SDR at CIENCE with valuable tips from our best employees. Use it as an inspiration to build your own timetable.
Stage 5. Phone calling
Contributors: SDRs, VP Sales
Please note that stage 5 and stage 4 usually take place almost simultaneously. As soon as you send the first sequence and see its results in your CRM, you can begin phone calls.
Depending on a campaign, phone calls can be arranged either after or instead of a follow-up. Note that it’s best to answer an email as soon as possible. A dedicated SDR can send follow-ups even at the leisure time. However, calling is strictly limited to the working hours.
Note that not every Sales Lead Generation Process includes this stage. At CIENCE, we have clients who prefer that our SDRs contacted leads only via e-mails. It depends on specifics of the industry, and that’s why market research is important during analysis and planning.
Stage 6. Lead qualification
Contributors: SDRs, VP Sales
1. Depending on the model, SDRs either:
- qualify the leads they worked with and define if they’re worth the attention of their Account Executive (AE),
- schedule an appointment between an AE and a lead
2. Hand the lead to AE
Stage 7. Reporting
Contributors: VP Sales, VP Marketing, SDR team, Research team, Copywriter
You must’ve already seen that we included reporting almost in every stage. It’s because people tend to quickly forget things, especially if they have a big workload or stressful job like the one SDRs have. That’s why employees need to fix every result they receive as the part of their work. It’s much easier to specify the response of a prospect in a database, as soon as you receive it, rather than look for it in your mailbox.
So what’s this stage is for? All the reports are gathered into one for the purposes of the next stage. What to put down in the general report:
- leads researched
- time spent on research and average time per one prospect
- email templates
- emails sent
- auto responses
- emails opened + open rate
- the rate of opened emails per sequence
- emails that have never been opened + rate
- “unsubscribe me” requests
- positive responses + rate
- negative responses other than “unsubscribe” + rate
- follow-ups + time necessary to write them
- calls + average time
- conversations per dials rate
- appointments and/or qualified leads
- qualified leads accepted by AEs
- conversion of appointments/qualified leads into closed deals*.
* Note that some lifecycles are too long, so it might happen so, that you’ll initiate the reporting stage before any deals actually close. Also, please keep in mind that sometimes this indicator shows the poor ability of your AE to sell, so you need to take into account other factors as well.
Stage 8. Analysis and Planning
As you can see stage 1 and stage 8 are similar. You return to where you began. You initiate the process once again and repeat the actions. However, they shouldn’t be exactly the same. If you haven’t learned anything from the previous experience, you have no future. Stage 8 enables you to see what worked well and what went wrong. You have an opportunity to find the source of your failures and the opportunities for your development.
From above this scheme might seem a circle, but in reality, it’s a spiral. Similar to the Earth rotating around the Sun and never coming back to the initial point in time and space… that’s a lead gen process constantly moving forward. And just like any spiral, it can become wider or narrower. It’s up to you if it grows or declines and in which direction it goes.