Did you know that over half of sales teams believe selling was more difficult in 2023 than in previous years? Or that one in six sales pros said their biggest barrier to success was a lack of high-quality leads?

Sales challenge graph.

Sure, building a consistent pipeline of leads who match your ideal customer profile (ICP) is tough.

But you stand a far better chance of getting it right if you optimize your B2B lead generation process.

What Is B2B Lead Generation?

B2B lead generation is about finding potential customers who fit your ICP and persuading them to learn more about your product or service

Sales professionals use various strategies to attract leads and guide them through the sales funnel until they’re ready to buy, including:

  • Reaching out to prospects via email, LinkedIn, SMS, or cold calling

  • Asking existing customers to refer people in their professional network

  • Running paid ad campaigns on search and social platforms

And that’s just for starters — we’ll give a detailed overview of the most popular lead generation strategies later in this article.

Inbound vs Outbound Lead Generation

There are two broad categories of B2B lead generation: inbound and outbound.

  • Inbound lead generation is about attracting potential customers through passive methods like SEO and content marketing. Prospects find you on their own, then reach out to learn more.

  • Outbound lead generation uses active methods like cold email outreach and cold calling to target prospects.

Let’s consider the key benefits of each approach:

Inbound Lead GenerationOutbound Lead Generation
No need for prospecting — leads come to you!Requires less investment in marketing programs
No need to employ a large sales teamQuicker to scale (just increase your activity)
Generate leads passively with no sales activityLower volume but higher quality
Easy to generate high volumes of leadsPuts you in control of the sales conversation

Types of B2B Leads

There are also two different types of B2B leads: marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads

Marketing-Qualified Leads

Marketing-qualified leads are potential customers who have been reviewed by the marketing team, designated as “likely to buy”, and passed along to the sales team. Often, they’ve performed an initial action like:

  • Downloading a lead magnet

  • Signing up for a newsletter

  • Returning to a website several times

Of course, none of those actions display much buying intent.

This is likely why 43% of sales professionals say they need higher-quality leads from marketing.

Sales-Qualified Leads

Sales-qualified leads have displayed some sort of buying intent, such as:

  • Booking a product demo or consultation

  • Asking a sales rep for product information

  • Requesting a price quotation

So they’re far “warmer” than marketing-qualified leads, which makes them more likely to buy.

3-Step B2B Lead Generation Process

Whether you’re selling SaaS, stationery, or security, the goal of your B2B lead generation program is to reach and engage people who might buy from you. Here’s how to do it:

1. Identify Your ICP

Before you can fine-tune your lead gen process, you need to identify and define your ICP — the businesses or individual buyers who are most likely to purchase and get value from your product or service.

The more specific and data-backed your ICP, the better. It should incorporate demographic and firmographic information like:

  • Industry

  • Location

  • Company headcount

  • Buyer pain points

  • Annual revenue

Not sure what your ideal customer looks like?

Start by analyzing your existing user base. Look at your most loyal, high-spending customers and try to pick out shared traits. Perhaps they tend to buy at a certain time of year or are based in a specific country or region.

2. Work On Your Offer

Next, work on the messaging that’ll convince your ICP to buy from you.

This is the time to focus on your value proposition and customer pain points. What problems do you solve for your customers? And why would they choose you over a rival?

Of course, we can’t tell you exactly what your “offer” should look like. But we can tell you that, typically, buyers choose products or services that help them accomplish one or more of the following goals:

  • Make more money

  • Reduce costs

  • Increase productivity

  • Improve employee satisfaction

3. Find & Reach Prospects

The final step in this simplified process varies depending on whether you’re planning to generate leads through inbound or outbound activity.

If you’re running an inbound lead generation program, this is the point where you’d create a bunch of content tailored to people who fit your ICP, then promote it through channels like:

  • SEO

  • Paid ads

  • Organic social media

Alternatively, if you’ve gone down the outbound route, you’d find prospects using a platform like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, then reach out to them via:

Learn more in our guide to CRM lead generation.

8 B2B Lead Generation Strategies That Work

There are a lot of ways to attract and engage potential customers. But which is best for your business?

To help you choose, we’ve rounded up (and explained) eight of the most popular B2B lead generation strategies:

Cold Email

Three in four B2B buyers prefer to be contacted by email. That’s more than twice as high as any other channel.

So it’s easy to see why so many businesses rely on cold email outreach to bring in a constant stream of leads.

However, new rules for bulk email senders make it more important than ever to avoid getting flagged as “spam”. To do that, you need to craft emails that feel personalized to each individual recipient.

It might take a single sales rep an entire day to write just a handful of truly personalized cold emails. 

Or you could use a tool like QuickMail, which lets you build automated cold email sequences including custom attributes like…

  • Prospect name

  • Company name

  • Location

  • Job title

  • industry

…and much more besides.

an example email campaign step in quickmail

So your reps spend less time writing introductory emails and more time nurturing warm leads.

Learn more: 24 Best Cold Email Software - Pros, Cons, Pricing (2024) 

2. LinkedIn Outreach

LinkedIn outreach is kinda similar to cold email. Both involve writing messages to prospects — the big difference is that you’ll be sliding into their LinkedIn DMs rather than landing in their email inbox.

With LinkedIn, you can also attract the attention of potential leads by viewing their profiles and sending connection requests, so it’s a little more varied than email outreach. But on the downside, LinkedIn imposes strict limits around the number of messages and connection requests you can send, so it’s far less scalable than email.

That’s why we always recommend combining email and LinkedIn outreach into a single, multichannel campaign.

For instance, in this imaginary campaign, we built in QuickMail, you can see the first two sequence steps are to view the prospect’s LinkedIn profile then send a connection. Then we follow up at step #3 with a cold email:

campaign steps in quickmail linkedin and email automation

The more channels you use to reach prospects, the more likely they are to notice you (and reply). It’s a numbers game!

Learn more: LinkedIn Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide for Generating Leads

3. Cold Calling

Cold calling gets a bad rep, but it’s as effective and relevant as ever.

In fact, the average cold call success rate increased to 4.82% in 2024, up from just 2% in 2023. So for every 100 calls your reps make, you’ll end up with roughly five confirmed meetings. Not a bad return given that the average B2B salesperson makes 35 calls a day.

The big downside to cold calling is that it’s hard to automate, so the only practical way to scale up is to hire more reps. Which is expensive and time-consuming.

So, once again, we recommend using cold calling as part of a multichannel B2B lead generation strategy that also includes channels like email, LinkedIn, and SMS.

That’s why QuickMail lets you add call steps to automated outreach sequences.

Learn more: Cold Email vs. Cold Calling: Which is Best? 

4. SMS

SMS messaging is more commonly used in marketing campaigns than for B2B lead generation.

In part, that’s because it’s harder to find a prospect’s mobile number than it is to track down their email address, LinkedIn profile, or business contact number.

But don’t count it out, because there’s a lot to like about SMS outreach. Not only do text messages have an average open rate of 98%, but three-quarters of recipients respond to texts within 15 minutes.

Average SMS response time graph.

So you could say texting combines the immediacy of cold calling with the convenience of email.

It’s a lot more expensive than email, though. For the most cost-effective results, use QuickMail’s Twilio integration to add SMS steps to your multichannel lead gen sequences.

5. SEO Landing Pages

An SEO landing page is a dedicated landing page built to target a high-intent keyword.

For example, digital marketing platform Semrush uses the following landing page to reach prospects searching for the term “SEO competitive analysis tools”:

SEMRUSH tool website screenhot.

So how does this strategy help Semrush generate B2B leads?

Simple: the page contains a bunch of CTAs, which use actionable language like “win the competition” and “find your keywords” to persuade visitors to sign up for a Semrush account:

SEMRUSH CTA buttons screenshots.

Pro tip: You can create opt-in lead capture forms with QuickMail. Not only that but when someone converts via one of your forms, we’ll add them straight to one of your QuickMail campaigns so you can reach out to them immediately.

6. Lead Magnets

A lead magnet is something free that you can offer to prospects in exchange for their email address (and maybe some other details). Lead magnets come in all shapes and sizes, but common examples include:

  • E-books

  • Trial subscriptions

  • Product samples

  • Free consultations

  • Webinars

You’ll often see these types of offers promoted on LinkedIn. For instance, SaaS platform LucidLink advertised a webinar on improving your creative workflow:

Lead Magnet example screenshot.

Clicking the Sign-Up button takes you to a lead capture form, where you register for the webinar by handing over your name, location, job title, company name, and work email address.

7. Customer Referrals

When it comes to providing prospects with information they can trust, one sales channel stands head and shoulders above the rest: customer referrals.

In fact, 89% of buyers trust recommendations from people they know.

So it makes sense to ask your existing customers to put you in touch with people in their network who might also benefit from your product or service. For best results, give them an incentive for each successful referral, like a discount on their subscription or a voucher to spend on entertaining their team.

8. Paid Ads

Paid search and social ads are a quick and highly scalable way to reach potential customers.

With platforms like Google Ads and LinkedIn offering a wealth of placement and targeting options, you can build laser-targeted campaigns that hone in on prospects who fit your ICP perfectly.

For example, retail SaaS platform Brightpearl uses Google Ads to target brands searching for a retail-specific ERP alternative:

Google search result screenshot.

But there’s a problem: paid ad campaigns can be super expensive if you’re just getting started (especially if you’re in a competitive industry with a bunch of big advertisers).

For that reason, it’s best to trial your ad messaging via cold outreach channels first. That way, you can understand what resonates with your audience without burning through your ad budget.

5 Essential B2B Lead Generation Tools for Your Tech Stack

Choosing the right software tools is essential to building an efficient, high-converting lead gen process. Here are some of our favorites:

ToolUse It To…Price
QuickMailHit more inboxes and get more replies from cold outreach.From $49 per month
LinkedIn Sales NavigatorFind the right prospects from 1+ billion members using 14+ account filters.From $99 per user per month
UnbounceBuild high-converting landing pages without writing any code.From $74 per month
NeverBounceVerify prospects’ email addresses and clean up common errors (like typos).From $10 per month
MailFlowImprove email deliverability by “warming up” your new email addresses.Included as standard with all QuickMail plans

Learn more in our article that covers the best B2B lead generation tools. 

Generate More B2B Leads With QuickMail

Sure, we’re biased, but we truly believe QuickMail is the #1 B2B lead generation solution.

With our platform, you can:

  • Build multichannel outreach campaigns spanning email, LinkedIn, SMS, and cold calling

  • Save your reps time by creating automated outreach and follow-up sequences

  • Personalize your outreach using custom attributes

And that’s just scratching the surface.

See for yourself by starting your free trial!