Taking Shots—Lead Generation
Are you an early stage founder trying to unlock your market potential? Check out more insights from the Next47 team, leading sales experts, and founders in our Enterprise Sales Playbook.
After several cycles of founder-led sales, you’ll need to start scaling. This means building a sales machine that has the capacity to expand rapidly in a consistent and predictable way. While conversion is essential in sales, lead generation is a numbers game and your machine must be equipped to handle it. This article will be a how-to guide for building that machine.
There are two main approaches to lead generation: inbound and outbound sales.
- Inbound sales rely on attracting prospects to come to you. This is often fueled by marketing efforts, branding, and sometimes product-led growth.
- Outbound sales involve proactive outreach to potential customers, typically through cold calls or emails.
For this guide, we’ll focus on outbound lead generation, specifically Inside Sales, as the alternative relies strongly on the Marketing team.
Inside Sales has evolved to mean top-of-the-funnel activities, including identifying, qualifying, and handing over promising prospects. The following sections will cover different aspects of this approach.
Embarking on the Outbound Journey: Your Team
The composition of your early sales team is crucial.
These initial team members will need to be full-cycle sales representatives. Candidates at this stage of your company must understand this distinction, as any reluctance to do tasks like cold calling can hinder growth.
Another crucial initiative is having the entire company rally behind customer acquisition. Consider leveraging the network of your entire team to get warm introductions, which typically result in better conversions than cold outreach. At VAST Data, one of Next47’s portfolio companies, any sales team member can have a 10-minute meeting with senior leadership to access their connections.
“This is most effective when there are specific individuals identified as a prospective client we want to engage with. It saves a ton of time and makes the approach to a target more personal,” says John Mao, Global VP of Business Development for VAST Data. “Finally, in a good company, everyone is selling!” adds John.
Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator identify potential leads within the team’s extended network that align with your ICP. Remember, valuable prospects can come from places you least expect. So it might be time for your CFO to reconnect with those old college friends.
The Rise of XDRs
Once you get the ball rolling, establish an Inside Sales Team with Business Development Reps (BDRs) or Sales Development Reps (SDRs). While these terms are often used interchangeably, subtle differences exist:
- BDRs typically focus on creating new business opportunities from both inbound and outbound leads.
- SDRs mainly concentrate on outbound efforts to establish and qualify potential sales opportunities.
These team members typically need thorough guidance. Build a comprehensive Sales Playbook for these teams to follow, which will ensure consistency in their sales pitch, objection handling, and knowledge about competition.
Crafting Effective Cadences
A sales outreach cadence defines the sequence and methods used to contact potential customers. Effective cadences engage prospects through many channels like phone calls, emails, and social media. Cold outreach is challenging; many won’t respond due to disinterest or sheer busyness, but a lack of response doesn’t always denote a lack of interest.
It’s a numbers game, so persistence is key. It often takes more than ten touches before a cold prospect responds. This means your Inside Sales team will have to be diligent with their follow-ups. Vendors like Outreach.io and SalesLoft offer tools and insights to construct, automate, and refine your cadence. They also emphasize the importance of A/B testing to evolve your messaging. At this stage, you must have a stringent CRM usage protocol, ensuring accuracy of your numbers so you can adjust your strategy as needed.
MQL vs. SQL: The Key Differences
Central to the world of Inside Sales are qualifying leads. A sales-qualified lead (SQL) denotes a prospective customer who is vetted and ready for the sales process. In contrast, a marketing qualified lead (MQL) is more likely to become a customer compared to other leads.
While SQLs emerge from the sales team’s vetting process, MQLs are typically the outcome of marketing-driven strategies. Both are essential, but for an Inside Sales team, generating SQLs remains the primary goal.
Diversifying Your Lead Generation Arsenal
Events and Conferences: These serve as high-intensity platforms for networking and prospecting. Offering face-to-face interaction, events and conferences enables sales teams to understand the pain points and needs of potential customers in real time. Sending both XDRs and AEs to these events provides a comprehensive approach: XDRs can qualify leads while AEs can dive into deeper discussions with already-interested parties. Post-event follow-ups can yield impressive conversion rates, as the personal touch often differentiates you from competitors.
Third-Party Lead Gen Agencies: Leveraging external expertise can provide a substantial boost to your outbound efforts. These agencies specialize in creating databases, profiling potential clients, and initiating preliminary outreach. While external agencies are not seen as long-term solutions, many agencies work with their clients to ensure they represent the brand accurately and effectively. Additionally, their pricing models, which sometimes are contingent upon success rates, can mitigate financial risks.
Communities: Both online forums and in-person communities are gold mines of potential leads. These spaces consist of professionals discussing industry challenges, looking for solutions, and sharing recommendations. By ensuring your outbound team is active and visible in these communities, you not only position your product as a potential solution but also demonstrate thought leadership. Being an active contributor rather than a passive observer can enhance credibility and foster trust.
Channel Partners: These are third-party organizations or individuals that can promote and sell your products or services, often through an affiliate partnership. Channel partners already have a client base and trusted relationships, which can be leveraged to introduce your offering.
Referral Programs: Word-of-mouth remains a powerful tool in the sales arsenal. By incentivizing external parties with perks, you can expand your outreach while increasing conversion through warm introductions.
Existing Customers: Your current client base is more than a source of recurring revenue; they are ambassadors for your product. Encouraging existing customers to share their positive experiences and refer peers in their industry can yield highly qualified leads. Consider offering loyalty programs, exclusive features, or discounts on their current subscriptions. Such gestures not only reward them for their advocacy but also enhance customer retention.
Building a lead generation machine is a multifaceted endeavor, demanding precision, persistence, and adaptability. As you embark on this journey, the interplay between the founder, the early sales team, and the tools at your disposal are critical. By understanding, adopting, and refining the strategies outlined above, you can craft a lead generation strategy poised to generate growth and success.
In the next installment of this series, we will release an article that addresses how to build a Sales Playbook. Connect with us on LinkedIn for updates.