Leads coming from different sources are VERY different, even if they're technically the same people...
If you haven't heard about what makes inbound leads different from everything else you're feeding your sales team, this is for you... especially if you're considering bringing in an agency to generate inbound leads or you already have the inbound machine in place but aren't getting the desired results you initially anticipated.
There are many versions of how to generate leads in sales, and I narrow it down to 6 of the most common and most meaningful... and in my opinion, the ones that create the most rewarding user experience.
Outbound Lead Generation:
Examples of outbound lead generation include any kind of lead that you pay for, where the lead doesn't give you permission to reach out to them, and they may not even know you exist.
They come in several forms:
- Purchased email lists
- Appointment setting services
- Black voodoo magic - technology that pulls website visitor data without their permission
Then there are the leads that your salespeople dig up through their own prospecting. One of my favorite methods of doing this was in LinkedIn. While I was working for an accounting service provider that helped businesses secure R&D tax credits, I spent hours combing through LinkedIn to find qualified opportunities, and to build context for my sales calls the next day.
R&D credits are only exciting when 2 tests are met: profitability (paying taxes) and employing employees or contractors (and thereby taking on the risk) who engage in technical design and experimentation.
So, I would look at one of our customers on Linkedin, and start digging through their employees... What title do they hold today? What are their job duties? Most importantly, where did they work before, and who else are they connected to?
By the time I was finished with my researched, I had a list of businesses that very likely qualified, and I had the ability to prove that in my 30-second elevator pitch.
So, go ahead and add "Sales Prospecting" to that list.
Inbound Lead Generation:
As a hired outbound salesperson, my job was always very clear - bang on doors (via phone) until somebody peeked outside, then cram my elevator pitch in their face, in hopes that something would stick. What made me great at my job wasn't how polished my pitch was, but rather, my ability to pivot in the moment based on the feedback I received.... and, of course, my attention to context. (see above)
I did more research than the average bear, and leveraged social media outlets to find answers prior to making those calls, so my pivots were very well-rehearsed. However, the call was still stone-cold, because they weren't expecting to hear from me, and usually had no idea who I was, nor did they have any valuable knowledge about the company I was representing or services we offered prior to calling.
But that's not the case with inbound leads online... whether you're a b2b SaaS consultant, selling a freemium product, staffing agency account exec, or startup looking to go to market with a splash ... Quite the contrary, actually... They at one point gave my company their contact information in exchange for access to something. So, when I called, there was a certain familiarity. And, if I called within that 5-minute window of them downloading bottom-of-funnel content (or their 3rd piece of TOFU content), my company was top of mind.
It just so happens that my sales & marketing tool stack (which you can see here) provides real-time information about the most important leads coming through.
When it comes to inbound lead generation, there are two main examples: Organic & Services
- Organic - you own the leads because you own the process that generates them. It includes:
- Attracting visitors through PPC ads, SEO, blogging, and social media
- Converting visitors to leads through offers, calls-to-action, and landing pages
- Nurturing leads with emails
- Alerting sales of buying signals
- Services - You get leads sent to you with context, but you don't own anything because:
- Landing pages are not hosted by you
- Content is not hosted by you
- You pay per lead
- Everything shuts off
I originally went into these calls thinking that cold-calling was sooo much harder because it was such a brutal environment. So, how hard could it be to sell to somebody already thinking about us?
That's the thing! They're still challenging but in a different way. Inbound leads don't want to be pitched. Cold leads either, I suppose, but with these inbound leads, there's a certain level of trust placed into our company when they hand over their contact information, and if we don't approach them with that in mind, we betray that trust... instantly.
Now, despite all of that, if you do catch them in that 5-minute window, your chances of getting them on the phone are significantly higher than if you wait, so in that regard, it's heads and shoulders easier to work an inbound lead than a cold lead. And, even if you don't, they're still more likely to pick up, call back, and even be qualified...
When I call now, I introduce myself, remind them of why we know each other, then ask how I can help. We have a TON of educational marketing resources available, and when somebody is still hovering in that top-of-funnel/awareness mindset, I offer the next step, not a conclusion or consultation. And because I can track their history and movements, it's not difficult to pinpoint where they are in their own personal journeys.
No matter what source you invest in for lead generation, it's important to have a game plan that specifically addresses them. Inbound leads require inbound selling. Outbound leads require a lot more pitching and pivoting.
Learn more about executing an inbound lead generation campaign by downloading this free lead generation strategy guide: