Published: August 1, 2017

In an ideal world, marketing would feed sales an endless stream of quality leads to keep our pipelines teeming with opportunities just waiting to be capitalized upon.

Of course, in reality, this is not the case. We all recognize that in every industry and every company, there are invariably peaks and valleys in the landscape of lead generation. If we are completely reliant on marketing to provide them, those valleys can leave us high and dry.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The best way to overcome these inevitable lulls is to take matters into our own hands. Today’s most effective salespeople are mastering the art of self-sufficient lead generation, employing a proactive approach to ensure they are never left in the lurch.

This will serve as your guide to uncovering sales leads and continually filling the gaps, so you’ll always have a well to draw from when you need it. We will incorporate concepts from social selling and inbound marketing, as well as touching on digital tools and automation breakthroughs that can assist your efforts.

Above all, we will keep it simple, with a focus on efficiency. Because in an ideal world we would have no shortage of time to spend on supplying our own pipelines, but in reality, days are short and many other matters constantly tug at our attention.

So follow along as we chart out the paths, shortcuts, and waypoints in your roadmap to lead generation self-sufficiency.

Alec Baldwin holds a stack of sales leads in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross

"They're sitting out there waiting to give you their money. Are you gonna take it? Are you man enough to take it? What's the problem, pal?"

What is Lead Generation? The Game is Changing

“These are the new leads,” announced Blake, the notoriously smug sales pro portrayed by Alec Baldwin in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross as he attempted to motivate a struggling team. “And to you, they’re gold.”

In 2017, leads don’t often come in the form of physical paper stacks tied together with a fancy bow. Much has happened in the quarter-century since Glengarry hit theaters; most notably, the advent of the internet. With access to this vast resource at our fingertips, each of us now has the power to find and connect with potential buyers. We don’t need to deal with some heavy-hitter from downtown dangling leads over our heads. We can go and get them ourselves.

This is not to say we should all be on an island, trying to singlehandedly create, nurture, and convert every opportunity, but maintaining consistent top-of-funnel activity requires an all-hands-on-deck effort across all departments.

Luckily, lead generation in the modern market doesn’t require the same level of time and energy output it once did. Cold-calling is mostly dead, and these days you won’t often see salespeople going door-to-door making intros and pitches.

The Internet can be a cost-effective lead generation machine, especially in the B2B space, if you know how to use it for such purposes. We’re here to help you dial it in and keep it humming.

Why Sales Lead Generation Techniques Matter

“Developing and maintaining a fanatical prospecting mindset is the ultimate key to success in sales. This mindset keeps you focused, persistent, and driven to open doors in the face of inevitable setbacks, challenges, and rejection. When you adopt a fanatical prospecting mindset, you’ll grow in the face of adversity rather than shrink before it.” - Jeb BlountFanatical Prospecting

Mr. Blount knows a thing or two about the importance of constantly generating leads, and a fanatical prospecting mindset -- at the center of his book excerpted above -- has aided his ascent in becoming an industry influencer and best-selling author. The mantra that Blount preaches is one that any sales pro should take to heart.

In order to keep the numbers rolling, we need to keep that pipeline flowing. Doing so requires vigilance on multiple fronts. “Always be closing” was the memorable catchphrase from Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross, but the proper spin on this A-B-C imperative today is “Always be connecting.”

Are you taking steps everyday to forge new valuable relationships? Are you identifying new prospects and finding relevant ways to reach them? Are you making yourself discoverable so that qualified leads are coming to you? Are you laying the groundwork to foster referrals?

These are the vital pathways in the roadmap to self-sufficient lead generation. Let’s explore each of them in detail.

The 3 Pillars of Sales Lead Generation

When it comes to stoking your sales pipeline, there are three core foundations you will want to build around: finding qualified buyers, helping qualified buyers find you, and crafting a finely tuned referral engine that regularly converts.

1. Find Qualified Buyers

Where are your buyers? The answer can vary based on industries and demographics, but no matter where you operate, your prospects are most assuredly congregating on social networks. According to Pew Research, 69 percent of American adults now use some form of social media, up from 5 percent 12 years ago.

But generating leads on social media is tricky territory. If you use Facebook or Twitter for leisure, then you know how obnoxious it can be when you’re bombarded on the platforms with ads and promotions.

The key is to not treat social selling like cold calling. Instead, treat it as a way to build strategic relationships. Most people are accustomed to interacting with strangers on these channels, so as long as you make warm intros and avoid coming out of the gates with a salesy pitch, it shouldn’t be too difficult to engage in quality conversations.

How can you reach people through social selling? Try these methods:

Set up alerts to notify you when certain hashtags or specific terms appear on social channels, and reach out in helpful ways when people discuss pain points. Mention is a slick app for real-time monitoring.

Join LinkedIn groups within your niche, and demonstrate your knowledge in the discussions.

Read the mentions of competitors on Twitter, and seek out opportunities. An unhappy customer is often just waiting to have another solution on the table.

Favorite tweets and like LinkedIn posts from potential buyers. This is a very non-invasive way to get your name in front of them.

Follow the influencers. Identify and track top authorities in your field to stay on top of what they’re talking about, and who they’re talking to.

Streamline your efforts with Sales Navigator. This tool automates and optimizes the task of finding the right prospects and leads on the world’s largest professional network.  

Run paid social media ads, even with a modest budget. It is generally a lot cheaper than paid search, but can still provide highly targeted results.

2. Get Qualified Buyers to Find You

Given the habits of the modern B2B buyer, this is a crucial consideration. It might go against the traditional principles of selling, but letting yourself be found is the best path to piling up qualified leads.

Here are some statistics worth chewing on:

  • 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their purchase research online. (Source)

  • Only 12% of buyers want to meet in-person with a salesperson, and only 16% want to discuss options with a rep on the phone. (Source)

  • 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions. (Source)

  • Those salespeople who respond to inquiries within 1 hour get 7x the conversion rate. (Source)

It’s a simple fact that in the age of digital, customers want to handle most of their own research. We should embrace this, and frame ourselves as conduits in the process. To do so effectively, each individual salesperson ought to adopt the same inbound marketing strategies that companies are using on a holistic level.

Tips for Marketing Yourself Online

  • Create a personal blog and write weekly thoughtful posts on subjects relevant to your audience

  • Optimize your social media profiles, so that your expertise will quickly become clear to any reader

  • Post frequently about your industry on Twitter and LinkedIn so people searching these topics can find you

  • Comment on popular blogs and online publications covering your field

  • Write guest posts for well-trafficked sites, and save the self-promotion for the very end

  • Offer valuable gated content and collect email addresses in exchange for downloads

  • Make sure you rapidly catch and take action on every buyer outreach event

3. Get More Sales Referrals

Referrals are where it’s at. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 84% of B2B buying decisions start with a referral

  • B2B buyers are 5x more likely to engage when introduced

  • Referral leads convert 30% than other types

  • Referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value

These statistics should not be surprising to anyone, regardless of which space you operate in. We trust the recommendations of friends over strangers. As human beings, we thrive on familiarity and we are often guided by social proof.

Referrals tap into these core psychological attributes. They are, as Baldwin’s character would say, gold.

So how do we get more of them? There’s a delicate balance when closing a sale because no one wants to push too far. But if you are providing a great experience, don’t be shy about asking buyers to spread the word. For some pointers worth keeping in mind, consult this checklist:

Sales Referral Checklist

  1. Make a habit of providing referrals for others
  2. Ask for personal introductions rather than blatantly seeking more business
  3. Create a formal referral program within your company
  4. Use referral software and tools such as Ambassador
  5. Incentivize people to spread the word
  6. Provide buyers with a pre-written script they can use to refer others

Tying the Lead Generation Roadmap Together

Let’s recap the primary points we’ve covered, with some actionable advice you can take forward:

1. Cold calling is no longer effective. Digital lead generation strategies provide far better results, while also consuming less time and energy.

2. Always Be Connecting. A mindset that drives you to continually seek out and welcome new connections will greatly assist your efforts in facilitating lead generation. Dedicate your free time to expanding your network, and remember that even someone who doesn’t profile as a prospective customer can be valuable to know.

3. Seek out qualified buyers. This doesn’t mean unleashing a barrage of unsolicited outreach, but rather taking subtle steps to get in front of potential prospects. Liking social media posts, joining LinkedIn groups, and utilizing prospecting tools like Sales Navigator are among the best ways to do so.

4. Help qualified buyers find you. Modern salespeople should embrace the principles of inbound marketing, using content and social media to draw leads toward you and your solution. Since most buyers now prefer to research online on their own, make yourself a destination in that journey. Blogging and participating in communities centered on your industry will help make it happen.

5. Rev up your sales referral engine. Don’t be reluctant to ask for introductions, and give people incentive to spread the word about your great service.

By following this roadmap for B2B lead generation, you can ensure you’re actively working on all fronts to keep the opportunities coming in, reducing your reliance on others to deliver them.

Then, it’s simply a matter of doing what you do best: bringing it home.