Consistent success rarely comes from random acts of brilliance. To use a sporting metaphor, the teams that win most often are usually those with the best gameplan.

The same applies in your sales and marketing departments. Having a clearly defined lead generation process is essential for driving sales — even if you have the LeBron James of cold calling at your company.

But what does a good lead generation process look like? And how do you create your own? In this guide, we’re going to answer these questions and many more.

What Is Lead Generation?

Let’s start with an easy one. Lead generation is the process of attracting potential customers, gauging their interest, and making them ready for your sales team.

According to one HubSpot survey, generating leads is the number one priority for most marketers — and for good reason.

If you don’t generate leads, your sales team will have to reach out to random people in the hope of landing occasional deals. That is not a game plan for big numbers.

On the flip side, there are many different ways to attract potential buyers: outreach, posting ads, SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and even hosting live events.

Choosing the right options from this list is important. But no lead generation strategy is going to work unless you execute it well. And that requires a great lead generation process.

The Lead Generation Process: 5 Key Parts

You’re probably now wondering, “What does a great lead generation process look like?”

Well, you came to the right blog post. Here’s a closer look at the key components of any successful lead gen process:

1) Research and Planning

Before you can attract new leads, you need to understand them — who they are, what they want, how much they have to spend, and so on.

In practical terms, this means doing research on your typical client, or the type of client you want to do business with. The more data you can gather, the better. You can then use this information to start building some ideal customer profiles (ICPs).

building your buyers personas

ICPs help your marketing staff to visualize the kind of person who is likely to become your customer, or the type of company that is worth pursuing.

These buyer personas can also inform the rest of your lead gen process. As you plan out individual workflows, your ICPs can guide you towards the right approach and methodology for your target audience.

2) Lead Acquisition

As we mentioned previously, there are many different ways to acquire leads.

No single approach is objectively better than any other. It’s all about finding the best route for your business, while taking into account factors such as:

  • Sector
  • Location
  • Price range
  • Typical customers
  • Brand authority

The kaleidoscope of options can be sorted into three main categories: prospecting, inbound marketing, outbound marketing,

Prospecting is where your sales or marketing staff get in touch with people directly and try to convert them into leads. This might include cold calling, cold emailing, direct mail, and networking in person.

Inbound marketing involves publishing content that is appealing to your ideal customer, and then drawing them towards some kind of sign-up or landing page. Once the prospect has shown interest and left their details, you can follow up.

Outbound marketing is an approach where you reach out to potential customers who wouldn’t otherwise find you. For instance, you could run paid ads, host trade shows, set up seminars, and so on. Note that this isn’t the same as prospecting, because you’re not contacting individuals directly.

Most companies pick and choose from these categories, but the cocktail will only turn out well if you can get all the ingredients working together.

3) Nurturing Leads

After you figure out that someone might be interested in your product or service, the next step is to strike up a conversation. Literally, if possible.

You see, people buy from people. Leads are far more likely to consider making a purchase if they have some kind of working relationship with your sales reps. Building this kind of trust is one of the key aims of the nurturing stage.

stages of lead nuturing

Of course, you might not have the resources to call every lead individually, especially when you consider that B2B marketers have to make contact 8 times on average to make a sale.

So, many companies use automation to increase engagement in a cost-efficient way. A common example of this would be a dynamic email sequence, where the actions of your lead dictate which email they receive next. Chatbots can provide similar engagement via live messaging.

Effective lead nurturing should also kick off the next stage in the lead generation process.

4) Lead Qualification and Scoring

We often talk about leads in terms of raw figures: lots of leads is good, only a few leads is bad.

But in reality, the quality of the leads you generate is just as important as the quantity.

What do we mean by lead quality? Well, high-quality leads are very likely to become customers. Their needs sync with your offer, and they have both the authority and necessary budget to make a purchase.

In contrast, low-quality leads are relatively unlikely to buy from you, because they are missing one or more of these key ingredients.

Lead qualification is all about figuring out who goes in which basket. It’s usually based around subtle tests, built into both your lead acquisition and lead nurturing stages.

For instance, you can create content that is aimed at people with pain points that your products can resolve. And during the nurturing stage, staff can enquire about the budget that each lead has to spend.

Ideally, you should have a lead scoring system. This assigns points to leads based on whether they fit with your offer. For instance, having the necessary budget would be worth big points.

lead scoring

This kind of system has two benefits. First, you can decide who counts as a qualified lead — in other words, which leads are actually worth nurturing. Second, your marketing team can rank leads in terms of priority. If a lead has a high score, they should get your full attention.

5) Referrals, Recycling, and Review

If all goes well, the stages mentioned above should siphon loads of high-quality leads into your sales funnel. Your sales team will then convert those individuals into high-paying customers, and the rest is history.

Right? Hmm, not necessarily.

The buyer’s journey doesn’t always end when you make a sale. In fact, the most successful companies recognize that striking a deal often opens the door to future success.

Any good lead generation process should take into account repeat customers. You need an action plan for how you’re going to re-engage with them, and put them back into the sales funnel.

Another important part of lead generation is following up on referrals. Happy customers can bring in a lot of business. Not only do they identify likely buyers in their network, but they also facilitate an introduction and provide social proof.

The very last part of your lead generation process should be to review your performance. Look at the data and ask yourself:

  • Are our ICPs up to date?
  • Are they accurate?
  • Which kinds of content are pulling in leads?
  • Which CTAs (call-to-action) are performing the best?
  • Are we attracting enough high-quality leads?
  • Are we losing leads during the nurturing phase?
  • How can we convert more existing customers?

The answers to these questions can then inform any improvements you make to your lead generation process.

stages of lead generation

How to Improve Your Lead Gen Process

If you already have a lead gen process in place and want to improve it, we have some pointers that should help you along the way:

Document Your Process — It’s pretty rare for startups to strike upon the perfect lead generation process. More commonly, it takes time to figure out what works and what definitely doesn’t.

Once you find a system that delivers consistent results, be sure to document it. The outline you create can jog the memory of existing staff, and make onboarding much easier for new hires.

Get Your Hands on Better Data Data is a vital component in effective lead generation. Just paying attention to your website analytics can reveal key information, and collecting demographic data helps you build better buyer personas.

If you’re getting a good stream of inbound leads, get your salespeople to do some research on the hottest prospects. Tools like Datanyze can help.

As any rep will tell you: knowledge is power.

Experiment With Content — Many businesses create webinars, infographics, and white papers, only to be left disappointed with their return on investment. They then assume that these types of content simply don’t work.

In reality, content marketing is a very powerful tool — but only if you publish relevant content in the right format for your target audience. To discover what that format is, you may need to experiment and take a few losses along the way.

And remember, your return on investment isn’t always super direct. Even if someone doesn’t download your lead magnet or join your email list, they may take value out of a resource and remember your brand.

Make Engagement More Personal  Whether you want to generate more sales-qualified leads or improve your conversion rate, it’s worth thinking about how you’re engaging with potential customers. The more personal you can be, the more likely you are to build that all-important trust.

Even if you’re embracing marketing automation, make sure to auto-insert the name of the recipient in every email and consider how you can make your content more interactive.

Upgrade Your Tools — Perhaps the easiest way to optimize your lead generation process is by adopting dedicated lead generation tools.

top lead generation tools

Say you want to collect more data about leads through research. You can either have your team combing through search engines, looking for company information — or you could use Datanyze and get the relevant info in seconds.

Improve Your Lead Gen Process With Datanyze

This isn’t the only benefit of using Datanyze.

Our free Chrome extension allows your reps to collect accurate contact information for anyone on LinkedIn. With over 120 million professionals on our GDPR-compliant database, you should find what you’re looking for. It works on company websites, too.

All the leads you research are added to your online account, which is accessible for your whole team. From here, you can easily export phone numbers, email addresses, and lots of other data to your CRM.

Want to give it a try? Sign up today to get your free 90-day trial and instantly improve your lead generation process.