Building an effective lead generation system is going to help engage with your prospects, turn them into qualified leads, and grow your business. 

Sometimes, it’s a challenge — with so many channels and opportunities, which ones do you prioritize?

In this guide, we’re going to show you proven lead generation ideas to help you kickstart your sales efforts.

We’ll highlight why each tactic works, with examples that you can start testing today.

Let’s jump right in.

What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the process of turning your prospects into prospective customers. The main goal of lead generation is to move prospects through your sales funnel: from learning about your business, to educating them on it, and converting them into paying customers.

Lead Generation vs. Prospecting

In this guide, we’ll talk about prospects, leads, lead generation, and prospecting.

These are all similar terms and are closely related to each other. But there are some key differences:

  • Prospects: Anyone that matches your ideal customer profile (ICP) and could be a good fit as a customer

  • Leads: Prospects who have shown interest in your product or service

  • Prospecting: The process of identifying people and companies that match your ICP

  • Lead generation: Turning your prospects into qualified and interested leads

There are differences that it’s important to know, as it’ll help you use this guide more effectively.

Now, let’s look at some of the most effective ways to generate leads.

7 Proven Lead Generation Strategies to Grow Your Pipeline, Fast

1. Start Conversations with Qualified Prospects with Cold Email

After you’ve spent time prospecting on sites like Crunchbase, AngelList, or LinkedIn, you’ll have a list of prospects that match your ICP.

But, how do you put that list to work and start turning those prospects into leads?

Cold email outreach is one of the most effective ways to do that. It’s fundamentally simple: send a personalized and unique email to someone, exploring if there’s potential there.

Here’s how to execute cold email outreach with an automation platform like QuickMail:

Step 1: Writing Personalized Emails at Scale

Firstly, create your email templates. You’ll use these as the foundation for your campaign. Keep your emails short and sweet.

Then, write personalized opening lines for each prospect in your list. For example, if a startup you’re emailing was funded, mention it. Or, if a local business owner you’re reaching out to was featured in the news, let them know you saw it. 

Add your opening line to every template to ensure each email is unique to the recipient. If you want to do this at scale, you can use attributes in QuickMail.

In your prospect list, add a new column titled “Opening_Line”.

Next to each prospect, add your unique introduction.

When you go to send your emails with QuickMail, simply add the attribute to your email:

Email attribute template

Every time you use {{prospect.custom.Opening_Line}} in your template, the unique opening line will be added.

That means you can send 50 emails out at once and have them all unique and personalized to each recipient.

Step 2: How Often Should You Follow Up?

Our data from millions of cold email campaigns found that over half of replies to cold outreach come from a follow-up.

Use your follow-ups to check in with prospects that haven’t replied yet. In many cases, people will skip over your first email if they don’t recognize your name. However, if you prove you care about getting their attention, they’ll value that (as long as your email offers some value to them).

In your campaigns, add 3 - 6 follow-up steps with a delay of 3+ days between each.

Use these to highlight the different benefits of working with you. Mention case studies, ask questions to encourage a response and provide value.

Rather than set yourself calendar reminders or tasks in your project management tool to follow-up, you can automatically schedule follow-ups in your QuickMail email campaign.

A few things to avoid in your follow-ups:

  • Guilt-tripping your prospects into a response

  • Using clickbait content to get more opens

  • Making the email all about your product/service 

With some friendly reminders, you’ll get more replies and have more conversations with qualified leads.

The best part? You’ve handpicked every prospect you’re reaching out to, so you know they’ll be an excellent fit for your business.

Key benefits of cold email for lead generation:

  • Personalized and direct

  • Land in decision-makers inbox

  • Complete control over who you engage with

2. Combine Outreach with Social Selling on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a goldmine for B2B lead generation.

Once you have a Sales Navigator account, you can build your list of prospects matching all the criteria you need them to, such as company size, job title, growth rate, and more.

But just because you’ve identified your prospects, they’re not going to suddenly want to buy from you.

You’ll need to work to turn those prospects into qualified leads. Here’s how.

1. Connecting and engaging with prospects at scale

There are a variety of tools for LinkedIn lead generation, like Dux-Soup, We-Connect, and Prospect Maximizer. Keep in mind that using these can put your account at risk, so do your research before starting.

With these, you can import your prospect list, and create a sequence of messages to send to prospects, just like with your cold emailing.

Make your message as natural and personalized as possible. If you send generic messages to thousands of prospects you’ll get ignored, and you won’t generate any leads. 

Over time, you’ll end up connecting with decision-makers in your industry and start conversations.

Most good automation tools let you see detailed reports on how your LinkedIn campaigns are working, such as the example from Zopto below. You can track how many people you’re connecting with, how many invites you’ve sent, and more.

Source: Zopto’s reports

You’ll build your network, engage with decision-makers, and generate leads on autopilot.

2. Social selling with high-quality content 

Once you’re connected with your prospects on LinkedIn, you can continually prove to them that you’re an expert in your field by regularly posting high-quality content.

If you visit your LinkedIn feed right now, you’ll probably see examples of people doing this well.

There’s a reason: it works. 78% of sales reps using social selling say they outperform their peers. It’s a powerful way to build trust with your prospects and nurture them into leads.

Even if you post once or twice per week, it’s a perfect way to stay top of mind and ensure you’re the first person your prospects think of when they need help with a problem you can solve.

Key benefits of LinkedIn for lead generation:

  • Combine direct outreach with social selling and nurturing

  • Stay top of mind without needing to focus on selling

3. Cold Call Your Prospects and Have Real Conversations

If you’re staring at your prospect list and unsure of how to approach it, keep things simple.

Cold calling is often avoided because it can be time-consuming and scary (both true, at first). But, because most people avoid cold calling, it means you have an opportunity to use cold calls and get results.

It’s particularly effective if you have something in common with your contacts, for example:

  • You run a business in the same city

  • You’ve attended the same networking events

Prepare your cold call script, and start reaching out to your potential customers, one by one.

If you don’t want to call a stranger without having engaged with them before, then you can always use calls as an extra step in your cold email campaigns.

For example, after you’ve sent several emails without a reply, you can add a call step in your cold email campaign.

You can add talking points so you or anyone on your team knows exactly what to cover.

cold call script sample

If they don’t pick up, you can always move on and keep them on your existing email campaign.

To make your cold call workflow smooth, you can always integrate your Aircall account with QuickMail to ensure you have all of the information you need on prospects, as well as enabling you to log your calls to track your productivity.

Key benefits of cold calling for lead generation:

  • Have a real conversation with your sales leads

  • Integrate it as part of your cold email workflow

  • Get instant responses, rather than waiting for replies

4. Use Upsells and Lead Magnets to Grow Your Email List

If you’re publishing blog posts, case studies, podcasts, videos, or any other type of content for your audience and customers, make sure you’re making the most of them.

Lead magnets are a powerful way to generate more leads and gather the email addresses of potential customers while they’re actively looking to solve their pain points.

Brian Dean of Backlinko added lead magnets to his blog and it increased conversions from .54% to 4.82%. This can work for anyone.

Source: Backlinko’s free checklist lead magnet

A simple framework to come up with lead magnet ideas is to identify the content your audience is enjoying the most. 

For example, let’s say you run a SaaS company with a webinar platform. One of your most popular articles is a how-to guide on running webinars for companies that have never hosted one before.

In that post, add a lead magnet. This will be a valuable offer or resource readers will be interested in, such as:

  • A recording of how you set up your own webinars

  • A webinar setup checklist

  • A free email course on running successful webinars

Whatever type of gated content is hiding behind your lead magnet, it needs to be genuinely useful. When someone enters their email in exchange for your free resource, it needs to be a worthwhile exchange.

The key benefit of this is that because you’re providing clear value to someone upfront, they’ll trust you and be receptive to you reaching out to promote your product or service.

Key benefits of lead magnets for lead generation:

  • Build trust with leads because you’re adding value

  • Grow an email list of prospects you can nurture into customers

5. Offer Free Consultations and Sales Calls to Qualify Leads

Offering a free call or consultation is a popular — but effective — lead generation tactic if you know your customers regularly want to learn more before they pull out their company card.

For example, if you run a lead generation or SEO agency, you can offer a free call to anyone interested in your services. During the call you can walk them through your processes, how you compare to alternatives, and what your leads can expect from you.

This works for both service and product businesses, but makes most sense if you typically charge a relatively high amount for your product or service.

Not everyone who books a call with you will become a customer, but despite that, it’s a fantastic way to build relationships with people in your market.

There are a few key ways you can make your free consultations and sales calls work for your business.

Firstly, ask leads to fill out a form before booking a call with information on their company and needs. For example, software company ClickUp asks anyone who wants to book a sales call to answer a set of questions. Based on the replies, their sales team will instantly know if the person booking a call is qualified.

ClickUp contact sales image

Next, set expectations. Tell your leads exactly what they can expect on your sales call. Will you walk them through your process? Use the time to learn all about their business?

Finally, prepare a simple script to use in your calls. This helps you stay in control of the call and remember key talking points. Remember, always leave room for your leads to ask their own questions and don’t stick to a script word-for-word.

Key benefits of offering consultations for free:

  • Show leads that you’re an expert before they need to commit any financial resources

  • You can qualify leads on the call

  • Build relationships with leads

6. Be a Guest on Podcasts Your Audience Listen To

Podcasts are still growing in popularity. If you can get featured on podcasts that your audience listens to, it can be a powerful tool in your lead generation strategy.

Source: Podcast listening growth, InfiniteDial

Rather than needing to source your prospects, your podcast host already put in the work to grow their audience.

For example, if you sell software for real estate agents, you can reach out to anyone with a podcast focused on the real estate industry. If they’d be willing to have you on, you’ll be listened to by a large pool of potential leads.

One effective way to encourage people to take action is to offer a special deal to the listeners of the podcast. For example, give them a unique code they can use for a discount on the first month of using your software.

Key benefits of using podcasts for lead generation:

  • Access to a pre-qualified listener base

  • Share your unique views on the industry and build trust

  • Create evergreen content that you, your host, and listeners all get value from

7. Use Social Proof to Nurture Prospects into Leads 

Your prospects won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you. 

To ensure every person that engages with you trusts you as an expert, create a library of case studies and social proof.

You’ll need to have had some success with past customers to make this a reality.

Considering 87% of buyers say they actively read reviews, it’s more important than ever to show off your wins.

Once you have testimonials and case studies, you can incorporate them into all of your other lead generation efforts. For example, you can name drop a well-known client in a cold email and highlight the results you generated for them:

“We worked with [company] and helped them increase their Facebook ROAS by 3x in our first month working together.”

Anyone who receives your cold email will immediately trust you a little more than if you’d only talked about how you can help them without results to back it up.

Key benefits of using social proof to turn prospects into leads:

  • Demonstrate proof of your competence

  • Get more replies to your cold emails and LinkedIn outreach

  • Use case studies as sales and marketing material 

Wrapping Up

These lead generation ideas will help you kickstart your sales efforts and convert more prospects into paying clients.

There are no shortcuts to generating high-quality leads: you’ll need to execute at a high level and deliver real value to your audience and potential customers.

The key with all of these ideas is to focus on engagement over direct sales. Rather than cold calling and pitching someone on the phone, you’ll aim to book a follow-up meeting with them.

If you’re ready to start ramping up your lead generation efforts, use QuickMail to automate your email outreach and start more conversations.