- In this blog post, you will learn:
- The difference between active and passive prospecting;
- The importance of attracting sales qualified leads;
- 7 techniques that'll help you generate sales qualified leads.
A company's financial health depends of a constant flow of sales opportunities. But more than a well-aligned strategy between marketing and sales, the "business machine" only works when there's a constant stream of sales qualified leads to be converted into customers.
Just generating leads isn't enough. It's important that these new contacts have a certain "affinity" with the provided service/product. In a scenario where new leads aren't qualified, a company has to invest way more time and resources to make prospects close the deal.
It gets worse: the company spends even more resources trying to convert leads who never had the intention to buy anything. And as you already know, that's what increases the customer acquisition costs (CAC). You might be wondering: "What are the best ways to generate sales qualified leads for my business?". Don't worry: this content will help you!
Un-qualified lead vs qualified lead generation
Before we continue, we need to settle the difference between a common contact and a qualified lead.
While interacting with your website and published content, a lead can fill different forms and landing pages. In this process, they'll provide valuable information that helps a company to find out if that's a good business opportunity. Usually, this analysis is made by both marketing and sales teams:
- Marketing evaluates the lead's browsing information, such as visited pages, content downloaded and read, opened emails and Lead Scoring. If the prospect fits the team's criteria, it means they're marketing qualified (MQL) and must be handed off to sales;
- Sales receive leads and analyze their business information in order to define if they have fit with the provided service or product. If the lead gets accepted (SAL), the sales team will consider it an opportunity and make the approach. Being a sales qualified lead (SQL), the team's objective is to close the deal.
MQL, SAL and SQL mean Marketing Qualified Lead, Sales Accepted Lead and Sales Qualified Lead, respectively.
In the lead generation process, a company can face three negative scenarios:
- Inbound and outbound strategies aren't capable of generating enough leads to the sales team;
- Acquisition channels are bringing enough leads, but most of them aren't qualified and have no fit with the product/service;
- The acquisition strategies are generating sales qualified leads and business opportunities, but not constantly - just through individual actions.
As you could see, in all three scenarios there's a common issue: problems to generate sales qualified leads. In other words, the company must find a way to attract and segment contacts that are prone to buy the solution.
Want an example? Imagine two different groups of leads, where one is qualified and the other isn't. They both fill up the same landing page, at the same moment. Coincidences aside, their customer journeys will run differently:
The qualified leads' journey
The group of qualified leads all work in companies that can get benefits from the product or service that's being offered. To receive an ebook that talks about a subject related to the product/service, they fill their company information in a landing page and open lead nurturing emails. They become interested in the solution, browse through the blog's pages, read some pieces of content, until they visit the pricing page.
According to their behavior, the marketing team already considers them qualified (MQL). Since they've provided information about their companies, the sales team can evaluate if they can take advantage of the solution, and establishes if it's a valid opportunity (SQL). With that, the sales cycle flows faster, because there's interest and fit.
The un-qualified leads' journey
On the other hand, the companies from the group of un-qualified leads' doesn't have fit with the product/service. These leads just fill out the form in order to read the ebook and learn something new. Therefore, they don't open or click email messages, visit just a couple of blog content, and that's it.
As you could see, the website behavior from these un-qualified leads' doesn't qualify them as good leads, because they just filled a landing page and visited the blog a couple of times. The company can keep investing on lead nurturing, but the leads' companies can't take benefit from the solution. If by any means these leads get handed off to sales, the team will lose a huge amount of time trying to sell a solution that wasn't made for them. In other words: many resources are spent in a contact without potential of future.
With only these two examples, it's clear that generating sales qualified leads is way more profitable to the company than bringing in a lot of leads without value. Speaking of lead generation, the maxim that says "quality over quantity" prevails. But of course that a high quantity of qualified leads is a perfect match for a company's revenue growth.
That's why it's so important for the company to attract hotter leads, that flow faster throughout the sales funnel. How that's possible? By investing in effective, targeted acquisition channels.
Acquisition channels for qualified leads
To bring in better business opportunities, the acquisition methods must be improved. That's why I'll show you the main differences between active and passive lead generation before going through the best methods to generate sales qualified leads:
Active prospecting channels
In this lead generation method, the iniciative comes from the company, which acquires information from leads through social media prospecting, corporate events, company websites and even field visits.
With these information on hands, the opportunities come from cold mails and cold calls, in order to generate interest and offer a solution that provides real benefits to the company. Of course it isn't about sending bulk mailing and calling insistently, but planning a targeted strategy to focus on qualified prospects.
Strong point: the return on investment (ROI) shows up pretty quickly because the sales team is capable of contacting a great number of potencial customers in less time.
Weak point: it's hard to scale this strategy, since the company has to invest in more professionals to expand the team and reach higher results.
Passive prospecting channels
Different from active lead generation, the initiative comes from the lead itself. By using targeted ads, social media posts and SEO-friendly content, the prospect finds out about the solution and gets interested in knowing more about it.
With that, they fill their information to get updates, download valuable content, and after some lead nurturing, decide to purchase or hire the solution.
Strong point: it's a less invasive prospecting method because the interest comes from the lead, that found out about the solution, and has scalable mid-term and long-term results.
Weak point: the initial investment to establish a passive prospecting strategy is higher, making the ROI show up a bit later than active prospecting.
7 best ways to generate sales qualified leads
Now you know why it's so important to have a constant flow of sales qualified leads for your company. To help you generate even more business opportunities, I've brought a list of the 7 best techniques to increase your stream of sales qualified prospects:
1. Bet on long-tail keywords
When creating targeted ads on search engines, content for your website or a landing page with rich content, invest some time in long-tail keywords research. It's a group of keywords very specific to a business and that has more valuable "search intent". The catch is that long-tail keywords typically have less traffic, but people that search for them are more qualified.
For instance: instead of creating a new content explaining the "solution", try using variations such as "what is solution", "how to use solution" or "solution benefits". Using synonyms in these variations are also a good practice to rank higher on search engines. Our tip is to use Keyword Planner for keyword research and Google Trends to identify new keyword opportunities.
Why does it generate sales qualified leads: in ads, the Cost per click (CPC) or Cost per lead (CPL) is usually lower, but the "search intent" is way higher than the generic keyword - in our example, "solution". In organic rankings, the competition and traffic for long-tail keywords is lower, but there are more chances that users will get interested, click and convert on content made specifically for that keyword.
2. Targeted campaigns in social media
Social medias are great channels to create a relationship with potential customers. In businesses where the sales process is complex, it's ideal to invest on acquisition and engagement actions. You can do this through traffic campaigns to relatable content, or engagement campaigns to generate a discussion around your product or service.
Why does it generate sales qualified leads: when you build up an audience that have already interacted with your content, you'll be able to group valuable followers to create highly targeted offers through remarketing. In social media, you always have to provide value - so don't think of asking for something without giving something back. With that in mind, think of targeted campaigns for each buyer journey stage in order to create an everlasting relationship with your audience.
3. Bottom-of-the-funnel content landing pages
Creating landing pages is an excellent method to attract leads to your base. But offering ebooks and infographics aren't the only way to use them effectively. To attract sales qualified leads, our tip is to offer bottom-of-the-funnel content in order to encourage the conversion of leads that are already considering a solution such as your product/service. For example: success cases, specialized consulting, product demos, advanced webinars and software trials.
To increase the effectivity of your landing pages strategy, it's important to use progressive profiling forms - a feature that shows up new information fields to leads that already have filled a form in your website. In other words, they'll never provide the same information twice, and every new content downloaded will enrich their profiles and help with qualification.
Why does it generate sales qualified leads: bottom-of-the-funnel content grabs the attention of both leads, that are already searching for a solution to their pain, and companies, that probably have fit with what you're offering. The best part of progressive profiling landing pages is that you'll acquire more valuable information from leads to gradually qualify them. That helps marketing and sales teams to find out which contacts are more ready for the approach moment.
4. Create feature-based and technical content
Having a content base focused on your solution is always an alternative to grab leads that have the technical knowledge to properly get the benefits from your product/service. I'm not talking about "what is it" content, but the ones focused on your features, implementation and technical stuff.
If you're a SaaS, try creating content to spread the word about your latest features and updates. In case you're offering a disruptive solution, talk about the benefits and direct positive implications of implementing it. Paid ad campaigns are great to publicize this kind of content, thus generating valuable opportunities.
Why does it generate sales qualified leads: by having direct contact with technical and practical knowledge about the solution, the chances are qualified leads will perceive value on what you're offering and make contact to know more about it. That's because it allows them to have a taste of how it'll help their business. You can also mix up this strategy with targeted social media campaigns to reach a higher audience of potential buyers.
5. Active prospecting in professional networks
Professional networks are a great source of sales qualified companies, once it's possible to have access to important information about its industry, market and number of employees. Some examples of these websites are LinkedIn, AngelList and F6S, where professionals, startup founders and decision-makers can connect and find partners.
Our tips is to use these professional networks to make segmented searches, according to contact's industry, location and even number of employees. It'll help you prospect qualified leads that have fit with your business. Besides that, it's possible to contact influencers, decision-makers and even CEOs that have higher chances of perceiving the value of your solution.
Why does it generate sales qualified leads: segmented contact research in business networks makes it easy to contact people responsible for purchasing and implementing a solution. To prospect even more leads, you can use tools such as Skrapp and Hunter.
6. Co-marketing campaigns and partnerships
Having partnerships with companies from the same market as you is common in the business world, usually between tech companies and SaaS. It's a strategy where two or more companies co-produce a specific material, content or event targeted to an audience that can take benefit from solutions that are being offered.
For instance, two companies from the B2B technology market can create a partnership to produce a complete webinar talking about the best practices to optimize content marketing workflows. Each company spread the word in their social media, reaching different audiences, prospects and valid opportunities to the other company.
Why does it generate sales qualified leads: with co-branding marketing campaigns, it's like both companies "share" their own contact lists to the other, because usually the campaign is sent through newsletters and targeted emails. When new leads sign up from the partner's contact lists, chances are these prospects have already been qualified by the other company. In other words: the sales team gets better opportunities from educated leads.
7. Sponsor or attend to events, fairs and conferences
Another example of active prospecting to reach sales-ready leads. Attending or sponsoring corporate/business events and conferences is great for a company's market presence and positioning. More than that, networking can be a great opportunity to grab contacts that might have a pain your solution can solve.
That's because corporate event attendees are more prone to discover new methods, techniques and products that'll improve their processes and increase their numbers. Knowing that, discover if there are good events around you. If not, create your own meetup or event! Start small, with just a few dozens of attendees: it's great to build up your brand and acquire valuable leads (and partners)!
Why does it generate sales qualified leads: corporate events are famous for grabbing the attention of influencers and decision-makers. Some sponsorship tiers allow you to send messages and exhibit your solution to a qualified base of attendees. With that, they can be encouraged to visit your website and find out more about what your company offers.
Attention to the Customer Acquisition Cost!
In this content, I've brought you great active and passive prospecting techniques to generate new quality leads. But you need to pay attention to the customer acquisition costs (CAC), that should follow the sales process used in your business.
For instance: for companies where the ticket is lower, such as self-service SaaS, investing everything in active prospecting might not be the best idea since the investment will be high if compared with the revenue that'll be generated. Besides that, since the sale doesn't requires a sales professional, passive prospecting is more indicated to make qualified prospects sales-ready through targeted nurturing.
The same logic applies for enterprise sales, where the ticket is higher but the sales process is complex. In this case, your company needs active lead generation strategies in order to achieve a good ROI faster when closing the deal. For transactional sales, where the ticket is higher but the sales process is not that complex, a good practice is to mix passive and active prospecting strategies. That way, cold leads will be educated and qualified, while you find sales qualified leads ready to sign the contract.
Ready to invest in qualified lead generation?
Did you notice how much qualified lead prospecting is crucial to keep the "sales machine" working? The 7 techniques I've shown you can be used together, in order to respect your own planning and conversion goals. Besides that, they can be easily applied to different kinds of businesses.
So that these techniques work properly and help you achieve better qualified leads, it's important to have a well-aligned sales & marketing management and a Service Level Agreement (SLA). That way, teams will be able to develop projections and have a better control of lead generation results, in order to achieve MQLs and SQLs goals easier.
Do you already use one the strategies above to generate sales qualified leads? If yes, which results you've achieved with it? Share your experience and strategies with us in the comments below!