B2B lead generation basics for startups

by Steli Efti

lead generation fishers with nets

How should you source your leads for your outbound sales campaign? I see a lot of people getting this wrong—they take the most obvious, easiest and least intelligent way, and it hurts their business.

There are several providers that will sell you lists of names, emails, titles and other contact information and business data:

Highest quantity/lowest quality: Buying lists

If you buy from these providers, you should expect that a certain percentage of that data will be outdated. (It's been a couple of years since I last use any of these companies, but back then about 30%–40% of the data I bought was outdated). 

Consider this will cost you twice: once the money you spend acquiring the bad data, and then the money (time/resources) you invest in reaching out to those unqualified leads.

High quantity/low quality: Web scraping

An alternative to buying lists is to make your own list by scraping websites, which means you extract contact data from a website with a little program/script.

It's a bit of a gray area, and you should check if the website you want to scrape allows that. 

If you target a very specific niche and there are highly targeted websites, this can be a successful approach.

Low quantity/high quality: Outsourced lead gen team

Hire a company that manually finds leads for you, based on the criteria you establish with them.

Lowest quantity/highest quality: Create customer profiles

Look at your current 5 most successful customers. Successful in this context means: a) they get the most value out of using your product and b) you profit greatly from them being a customer. (Look for the strongest win-wins between you and your customers).

And then try to identify the core DNA of your most successful customers. Ask a lot of questions about these companies and look for common denominators:

  • How big is the company?
  • How many employees do they have?
  • What other software tools do they use?
  • What are the titles of all the employees?
  • What kind of social media platforms do they use?
  • Where are they located?
  • What's their average deal size?
  • How long have they already been in business?
  • How did they hear about us? How did we acquire them?
  • Etc.

You'll have to ask a ton of questions and then filter out those that they have in common and that are most relevant.

Based on that you'll then create a very specific customer profile.

And then you go and find another 5 to 20 businesses that have the same core DNA (sometimes you can start with their closest competitors. ;)

You don't need thousands of shitty names. You just need a handful of really great ones. [Tweet this!]

Reach out to those and strive to create high-quality sales conversations. Try to maximize response and conversion rates. Gain deep market insights that you can then leverage to make more sales and close better deals.

Find out what works best for you

You can probably tell from my answer that I personally prefer the highest quality, lowest quantity approach. But I encourage you to experiment for yourself. In some industries, for some businesses, the "spammy" high quantity/low quality approach works best.

Referral sales

In addition to that, the most valuable source of high-quality leads you have is your current customer base. Check out our B2B Referral Sales System post for specific advice.

Recommended resources:

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