Lead generation can be one of the toughest parts of sales. Studies indicate that 68% of companies struggle with lead generation and that, on average, 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. Salespeople often find themselves wasting countless hours contacting leads who are underqualified (or not qualified at all). By implementing a data-driven lead generation framework you can begin discovering and selling to high quality leads.
A purposeful lead generation strategy can bring your team many benefits including a shorter sales cycle, higher average contract value, and greater revenue. The goal of a methodical lead generation approach is to focus on generating a low volume of high-quality leads rather than a large volume of unqualified leads. In this guide we’ll lay out a five-step framework for creating and implementing a data-driven lead generation strategy.
1. What makes a good lead?
The first step is to identify which traits make a lead right for you. The best way to do this is by analyzing your existing customer base. You should pinpoint four or five of your best customers and identify which traits they have in common. If you’re not sure who your best customers are some key indicators to look for include:
- Low cost of acquisition (CAC)
- High lifetime value (LTV)
- Clear value proposition and realization of product or service value
- Low customer support need
- Chance for upsells, cross-sells, and/or expansion over time
- Brand advocates
- Provide referrals
Once you’ve identified four or five of your best customers consider the following:
- What traits do these customers have in common?
- What was the clear value proposition in these sales cases?
- Why was the timing right/customers were ready to make a purchase?
- What has kept these customers coming back year over year?
2. What makes a bad lead?
A key part of good lead generation is to avoid wasting time on leads who will never buy. It’s useful to identify traits which make a lead wrong for your business. A great way to identify disqualifying traits is to analyze your churned customers. Consider:
- How were they acquired as a customer?
- Why were they a bad fit for your product/service?
- Why did the value proposition of your product/service not align with their needs?
- What was the deciding factor as to why they opted not to move forward with your product/service?
- Why was the timing not right for a long-term purchase?
- What key criteria was missing that would have made this customer a better fit?
3. Create an ideal customer profile (putting it all together)
Once you’ve considered what makes a lead good (or bad) for you, you can use this information to put together an ideal customer profile (ICP). Your ICP will guide your new lead generation strategy. An ICP is made up of three key criteria:
- Demographic traits: these includes things like industry, location, company size, revenue, growth trends, etc.
- Technographic traits: these include understanding which technology solutions power a company’s operations. These traits are most important for those selling SaaS, or other technology-based products which integrate with other softwares.
- Sales triggers: Sales triggers are time-sensitive events which indicate a lead is ready to buy. They might include company expansion, company relocation, new product/service announcement, job postings/hiring, mergers/acquisitions, additional funding/IPO, press coverage, good or bad financial quarter, or increase in costs/expenses.
Using the research you completed in steps one and two, pinpoint specific traits for your ICP. Don’t forget to include disqualifying statements too, so you can avoid wasting time on leads that will never buy.
Here’s an example of a complete ICP:
Source: Hyde Park Angels Blog
4. Identify Target Key Decision Makers
Once you’ve hashed out the details of your ICP, the next step is to determine which key decision makers will drive the sales cycle. You should consider the job titles/roles of the decision makers you should be contacting. For example, when looking at the sample automotive-ICP above you would consider your target decision maker titles “CMO,” “SEO Specialist,” or “Content Marketer.”
Here are some points to consider when identifying target key decision makers:
- In what role would a lead have the power/authority to make a purchase decision?
- Which roles would have the budget to make a purchase decision?
- In what role would a lead experience the pain point(s) my product solves and have the means to purchase a solution?
5. Discover Leads That Match Your ICP
With an ideal customer profile and key decision maker targets in mind, you can get to actually generating leads. Luckily, there are a number of prospecting tools out there that can help you find leads that match your ideal customer profile. Sometimes a combination of good old-fashioned Google and LinkedIn can work. LinkedIn’s search interface includes key criteria that can help you discover leads that match your ICP. Here’s a quick breakdown on how to discover leads that match your ICP on LinkedIn using the example automotive-ICP:
- Navigate to the “search” interface on LinkedIn
- Use the sidebar on the left to input key criteria for ICP including ideal location “Greater Chicago area,” and ideal industry “Automotive”
- Use the “Title” keyword field to input the target key decision maker titles including “Marketing,” “SEO,” “Content Marketer,” and “CMO”
Tip: you may have run multiple iterations of your search to account for multiple variations of the target key decision maker roles you brainstormed in step four.
Tip: try adding filters for “2nd” or “3rd” degree connections to discover leads you can get referred to by those already in your network.
Using this method I was able to generate roughly 600 hundred results in LinkedIn for people that fit my ideal location, industry, and target decision-maker roles.
6. Automate It—Discovering High-Quality Leads at Scale
Developing lists of high-quality leads at scale can be challenging with LinkedIn, Google, or other one-off methods. A more efficient way to do it is to use a lead generation tool designed for ideal customer profiles. These types of tools include advanced search filters like technology stack, company size, and more, to help you hone in on specific ICP traits. They also help you monitor changes in sales triggers and other time-sensitive sales events. To use an ICP-based lead generation tool to discover leads for the automotive-ICP example take the following steps:
- Use the search filters to enter ICP characteristics including ideal location “Chicago,” ideal industry “Automotive,” ideal company size “501-1,000 employees,” and ideal technology, “uses Marketo” and “uses Buffer or Hootsuite.”
- View the results of your search to generate a list of target companies to prospect.
- Add additional filters for target key decision maker titles “CMO,” or “Content Marketer,” or “SEO.”
- View updated results for a complete list of leads that match your ICP and will be key decision makers in the purchase process.
- Save your list of qualified leads and start outreach.
No matter which tools you decide to use, a more strategic lead generation approach can benefit your sales team in many ways. From greater revenues to a shorter sales cycle, to less time wasted on leads that will never buy, implementing this approach today will help you see results. Lead generation isn’t easy, but with a well-thought out strategy and the right tools, you can start maximizing your prospecting efforts.