Following Your Leads: A Sales Guide to Converting Contacts to Customers

Today’s enterprise marketers and sales teams face tactically different, yet similar end-goals.  How does a brand cut through the clutter and attract the attention of those who fit its buyer personas?  Moreover, once you have their attention, how is it monetized?  Interestingly enough, one of the most classic avenues for this journey is still the most effective – the inbox and outbound lead generation.


What is outbound lead generation?

Whether it’s being called outbound marketing, content syndication, or B2B lead generation, these companies operate in a robust ecosystem that blends content, software, and data to create business leads for brands.

The basic premise is to deliver brand messaging – typically in the form of a white paper or ebook – to members of that brand’s target market.  Those contacts who engaged with the broadcasted content are verified and passed on to the client in exchange for an agreed upon price per lead.


What is the output?

It’s critical to the success of the effort that brands stop and consider what they have.

We do know

  • These contacts meet demographic parameters of your target market.
  • These contacts have indicated interest in information relevant to your brand.
  • Multiple verified channels through which these contacts can be reached.

We don’t know

  • The familiarity of each contact with your brand and offering.
  • Whether each contact has a legitimate need for your product or service.
  • The intent or ability for each contact to purchase.

The leads produced by outbound lead generation are early stage, often called top-of-funnel.  In other words, outbound gives us a good start, but we need more information before leads are ready to be pitched.


What are the next steps?

The goal for these leads is to collect more information, confirm purchase ability, and confirm purchase intent.  The only way to collect the required information is to continue the dialogue with your leads through educational, organic means.

This can be done through:

  • Lead nurturing programs in marketing automation systems
  • One-to-one emails and additional content from your internal subject matter experts
  • Social media outreach

Marketing Automation

Companies like Marketo, HubSpot, Pardot and more are pioneering the most technology-focused option for lead follow-up, marketing automation.  When a brand participates in outbound lead gen, they should aim to tell a broad, industry relevant story that is authentic and resonates with members of their target audience.

When a brand utilizes marketing automation to nurture leads, they should aim to match content to their contacts and slowly pull contacts down the sales funnel by sharing more specific stories.

For example, a brand may begin a nurture process by sending the contact a new video or on-demand webinar they may have.  This allows the contact to consume that content at their leisure, while simultaneously educating themselves on the topic and also on the brand’s product/service solution.

A few days later, this contact may receive a topic-specific white paper.  The brand keeps the relevant content coming in a proper cadence and aims to start an organic conversation with the lead.

These systems are built with vigorous logic and triggers – so certain behaviors will mean certain steps are implemented, repeated, or even excluded.  As the name illustrates, this is the fully automated way to handle lead follow-up with the end-goal of a lead requesting a sales call or a demo.

It sounds nice and easy to put data into a system and have demo calls be spit out the other side – but it requires increased technology costs, a diverse portfolio of pre-built content, intimate knowledge of your target audience, and finally, a sensible and comprehensive lead-scoring system in place to properly push contacts to the next level.

One-to-One Emails

Do cold-calls make your sales team sweat?  As a sales guy, I can tell you they’re not fun for anybody involved.

Many see cold-calls as the only alternative to marketing automation, but this simply isn’t the case.  Rather than the traditional cold-call, marketing qualified leads should receive a “cold-email”.  Advantages of this technique include: less intrusive, less time sensitive, and the contact won’t feel like a character in George Orwell’s 1984.

Having leads engage with your content is a huge benefit, one that shouldn’t be washed away by a sales call two days later.  A common approach here is to have a subject matter expert on your team reach out to leads.  Perhaps they can add additional insight to the topic at hand, deliver a supplementary piece of content, or research the contact’s company and open the dialogue with a strategic reason for reaching out.  These tactics make the communication feel natural and far less imposing than a cold-call from a rep.  From here, there is always room to keep the conversation going with the eventual goal of a 15-minute chat.

Social Media

Social media, specifically LinkedIn, can also be a fruitful avenue by which to develop your newfound contacts.

The first course of action here is to ensure you have an optimal profile.  Does your profile contain relevant industry terms/buzz words/technology systems that may be of interest to your leads?

Reach out to your lead, not mentioning them being the result of a lead generation campaign, but stating that it is apparent you have common business interests and you’d value their connection.  If accepted, leave a ‘thank you for connecting’ message that very succinctly mentions what your brand does.  Because the lead should fit your target audience, pose a question and ask if a 15-minute intro conversation would make sense down the road.

This social contract results in engaged, proactive conversations – rather than blindly reaching out and getting defensive replies (if any at all).


Final Thoughts

These three tactics give you a range of options to vet leads, calculate ROI, and build business rules on the most effective lead follow-up.  It’s important to note that downloading a white paper does not mean someone is ready to buy.  It means your content piqued their interest – and that’s a wonderful starting point to have.  Continue to tell your brand’s story through rich, diverse mediums of content. Speak to the lead organically, and finally, don’t give up after a few touches.  Personalizing the channel and the cadence of content for a lead will always result in the most fruitful outcomes.



Let us know what you think:

  • Do you purchase outbound leads?
  • What do you do to follow-up with your leads?
  • Do you use a marketing automation system?



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