Research shows that good lead generation practices lead to 9.3% higher achievement in sales quotas. A steady stream of new leads results in more business while a lax lead generation strategy can be the beginning of the end of your business. While business owners know this for a fact, and indeed up to 85% of b2b marketers maintaining that lead generation is a key priority, they also know that lead generation is not an easy process. In fact, majority of businesses have trouble finding new sales leads.
As such, outsourcing lead generation has increasingly become a popular option, in view of the expense involved in generating leads inhouse. Additionally, most companies do not possess the competency to generate leads, a factor that makes lead generation services even more attractive.
This article serves as a guide for b2b lead generation buying. But before we go into that, let’s define lead generation services.
What Are Lead Generation Services?
Lead generation services fall into two categories:
- Major accounts
- Small sales accounts
B2b Lead generation companies that deal with major accounts mainly work with b2b clients who sell “complex” products. The sales cycles for such products is quite long, requiring multiple calls, emails, presentation and demos for months. In addition, contact people/decision makers for major accounts are usually top-level executives within companies. Such leads are usually solution-oriented and focus on long term business strategy. Closing a major account can mean income in the six-digit range and above.
B2b Lead generation companies that work with small accounts typically focus on b2b leads that fall under $10,000. The sales cycle for such accounts is usually short as the product purchase affects a small part of the business. As well, the decision maker for such as purchase is usually one person; a “yes” or “no” usually suffices in such dealings.
Generating leads for major accounts requires a lot more expertise, support and precision due to the multiple touch points involved. When vetting companies that provide lead generation services, it is important to find a company that has expertise dealing with accounts that are like yours.
Should You Hire a Lead Generation Vendor?
Every company could benefit from working with a lead generation vendor; some companies more than others. To answer the question, “should you hire a lead generation vendor”, it is important to first identify symptoms of an unhealthy sales pipeline. Once you conclude that your company could use lead generation services, you can then move on to finding the right vendor to provide such service.
Here are 5 signs that your sales-lead pipeline needs a makeover:
You don’t have any new prospects lined up
Lead generation is a tedious process. Between closing deals and nurturing leads already in the funnel, prospecting for new clients can sometimes take a backseat. Prospecting is an area that is easy to put off, especially because it takes time and doesn’t yield immediate results. Faced with a choice of closing a current deal or finding a new client, most sales reps would rather close a deal and make the commission than spend time prospecting.
Unfortunately, when the prospecting part of your lead generation strategy dries up, this could impede your ability to generate revenue in future. If in the last 4 weeks you haven’t spent time on business development, it means you are losing a lot of possible leads to your competitors.
The bottom line is that, even when busy with existing and new deals, you need to invest in lead generation for new business. If time and over-stretched sales personnel are some of the challenges you are dealing with, it’s time to start talking to companies that provide lead generation services.
If losing an account could interfere with profitability
If your business relies on one big client, this is a sign that you need to find new leads. Even if things are going smoothly with a big client now, you need to prepare for unexpected surprises. A client could pull out for reasons such as: sign up with competition, no longer have need for your service, bankruptcy, etcetera.
You can avoid such surprises by keeping track of all the leads you are about to close and when they are going to close. At any one point, you should have new leads lined up for onboarding.
If the leads you are chasing have stalled
Suppose you have done a lot of work to find new sales leads but then when it comes to converting them, the process loses momentum. This is a sign that the lead you have invested time chasing was still a cold lead; they were not prepared to buy.
For your pipeline to thrive, your business leads must be high quality. As such, to move forward, you should qualify as low quality, any business leads in your pipeline that are waning or showing signs of stalling. Otherwise, you risk wasting time chasing leads that will never convert.
In addition, even leads that were once promising can stall or die. Your lead generation strategy should encompass assessment and evaluation of existing leads, so that you are not stuck with “dead weight”.
When majority of the leads in your pipeline are small and have little long-term value
Small deals are not a bad thing per se. They can in fact be a good thing if you are nurturing the long-term potential of an account. However, small deals can pose several challenges for your pipeline, such as:
- They require time to grow. Small and medium sized businesses do not have months to chase down one lead and need returns asap.
- Too many small accounts can put a strain on your resources, with very little ROI to show for your efforts. Just like large accounts, small deals need time and money to nurture. With overstretched resources, it can be difficult to go after big leads.
If after conducting an objective audit you conclude that you need to keep your small accounts, find b2b lead generation companies to help you shore up the size of your future deals so that in the end, your deal size averages out.
If your leads represent a small segment of the market
Inadequate leads in the pipeline is yet another sign that your lead generation strategy needs work. When you only have few top-of-the-funnel leads, you need to close a high percentage of them. It’s important to note that even if a short list of customers has worked for you in the past, the risk of stagnation is great in the end should the dynamics of your small target segment change. There is also the risk of overmarketing when dealing with small segments.
To prevent this, consider hiring lead generation services to help expand your lead generation into vertical markets.
How to Hire a Lead Generation Company
There are many factors to consider when investing in a lead generation company. At the end of the day, you want to choose a vendor not just to provide you with one-off lead generation services, but one who will make a good long-term sales partner. Below are some factors to consider prior to engaging the services of an outsourced b2b lead generation partner:
Experience and expertise in your industry
Generating leads differs from one industry to another. Therefore, you should only hire a lead generation vendor who understands the fundamentals of your industry. Suppose you find a vendor who has experience generating leads for b2c. While they might excel at their job, it might be a challenge translating such experience into the b2b sector, due to the complex-sales process and the unique clientele involved.
Even within b2b, the lead generation process is nuanced. For instance, if you sell SaaS products, you need a vendor who has provided lead generation services to SaaS companies in the past. As a rule, avoid companies that claim to be good at all things; the leaner a vendor’s focus, the better.
Hire a company that makes realistic promises
You know for a fact that business can be very unpredictable and therefore a cautious approach is always prudent. You should expect the same approach from the b2b lead generation companies you interview. While it might be very comforting to hear a vendor’s guarantees of immediate or fast results, the reality on the ground is that complex sales doesn’t have guarantees and fast results are quite rare.
If you interview a vendor who makes guarantees that sound unrealistic, ask the question “How”. “How, in an unpredictable and complex sales environment will you guarantee that I get sales that close in the timelines that you promise?”
In addition, only work with companies whose compensation model is structured around high-quality leads, not lead volumes.
Good b2b lead generation companies have a reliable and transparent way of measuring results. Your lead generation vendor should send you status reports on
- Number of calls being made daily
- Quality leads generated per day/week
- Companies contacted and those in scope
If an approach is not working, it should be clear in the reports that the company is adjusting its approach to improve results.
Social proof, in the form of case studies, reviews and testimonials serve as a strong reference for the quality of work, customer service levels and results to expect. Although every agency has its own unique approach to how it provides lead generation services, any vendor you engage should be able to demonstrate how their efforts play a role in generating opportunities.
As well, the execution of said efforts should demonstrate efficiency, speed and a respect for customer needs.
Continuous support and training
A good lead generation company shouldn’t abandon you at the end of your engagement with them. Instead, engagement should continue even after you get your list of business leads. Without the necessary training, you may not know how to take full advantage of your new leads. As you shortlist lead generation companies, find out if they provide any sales support. For instance, if you don’t know how to make sales calls, how can they help?
Lead generation is more than just cold calling in the hope that you will finally land on interested leads. It’s also about ensuring that your first calls generate as many warm leads as possible into your funnel. To achieve such a result, you need guidance on how to create and retain the right momentum every step of the way. You need an appointment setting company that is not just a company of cold callers, but a strategic partner with whom to collaborate on your current and future campaigns.
Bottom Line: Ask the Right Questions and You Will Find the Best Lead Generation Company
To find b2b lead generation companies that possess the qualities described above, ask the following questions:
- What is your research methodology? What kind of insight about my target audience will your research uncover? How will those insights help me to achieve my goals?
- Do you have experience working in my industry/niche? Can you demonstrate that you understand my customer personas? Can you find any unexplored business opportunities within my niche?
- How long will it take to ramp up the project?
- Will I work with a dedicated project manager or have access to an outsourced team?
- What channels do you have in place to ensure effective communication between my team and yours?
- What KPIs do you have in place to help me know that your efforts are working?
- Do you have A/B testing processes in place to track changes in perceived value among my audience or prospects?
- Do you have any tools to track performance and help me optimize my campaigns?
- Will I receive reports of results, tests, optimization processes and recommendations? May I see a sample from previous campaigns?
- Do you have case studies from your past work?
- I need a multi-channel lead generation strategy. Can you provide a campaign strategy that focusses on phone, email, social networks (LinkedIn, twitter, FB and others if necessary)?