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What Is Lead Generation in Sales?

what is lead generation in sales

The lead generation process looks very different to someone in the sales department than it does to someone in the marketing department. While the end goal might be the same, the tasks and responsibilities involved are quite different.

So, what is lead generation in sales? The sales team at a typical company is involved in a few different steps in the lead generation process:

  • Outbound lead generation
  • Lead qualification
  • Lead scoring

To learn more about how the sales team can help generate leads, read on.

Marketing vs. salesMarketing vs. sales

Most businesses have two departments involved in the lead generation process: marketing and sales.

The marketing team usually handles the bulk of the lead generation work, as many lead generation tactics take place near the top of the sales funnel when potential buyers aren't ready to talk to a salesperson.

Although marketing usually handles lead generation, the sales team needs to be heavily involved in the process for a few reasons.

  • They sometimes need to help with outbound lead generation.
  • They need to help marketing with the lead qualification process.
  • They need to tell marketing how well certain types of leads are converting.

Finding leads

The task of finding leads is usually the responsibility of the marketing department. However, there are some circumstances in which the sales team would be responsible for finding leads.

Inbound lead generation

Unless you have a small business where employees fill multiple roles, inbound lead generation is almost exclusively handled by the marketing team. They are in charge of content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and other inbound strategies that bring in leads.

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Sales might help acquire leads if the inbound strategy involves asking prospective leads to call the business. In that case, a salesperson will usually be tapped to answer those calls.

The marketing department may also tap the expertise of the sales team to help them create their marketing materials. If the sales team has insights into buyer pain points or communication styles that the marketing team isn't aware of, this information can be vital to the success of the lead generation campaign.

Inbound lead generation

Outbound lead generation

If your business generates leads via outbound methods, there's a good chance the sales team will be involved in the process. Many outbound campaigns involve making phone calls to initiate contact and set future appointments with prospective leads.

As the members of the sales team are typically the best conversationalists in the company, they will often assume the point role in outbound lead generation campaigns.

This isn't to say that the marketing team doesn't play a role, though. If an outbound lead generation campaign has a focus on ads, marketing will be in charge of that. Sales only comes in when the lead generation strategy involves phone calls or emails.

Qualifying leads

What is lead qualification?

What is lead qualification?

Lead qualification is the process of determining how likely it is for a lead to make a purchase.

How can lead qualification help your business?

The better your lead qualification process, the more efficient your sales team will be.

This is because many leads aren't in a position to make a purchase.

  • Some can't afford your product or service.
  • Your product or service might not be compatible with a company's infrastructure.
  • Some don't have the authority to make a purchase decision.
  • Some are merely performing market research and may take months or years to be ready to purchase.

Whatever the reason is, it's essential that these low-quality leads be identified and weeded out before they reach the sales team. If they aren't, the sales team will waste valuable time attempting to convert someone who isn't in a position to buy.

How to qualify a lead

At the center of most lead qualification methods lies something called lead scoring.

Lead scoring is a process that assigns a numerical value to prospects who at the top of the sales pipeline. This value indicates how likely the lead is to make a purchase.

The lead score is often given before anyone from the sales team even reaches out to the lead. Depending on how insightful your data is, you might be able to apply an accurate lead score before even making a discovery call.

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While the data that goes into lead scoring will change from company to company, there are a few data points that are nearly universal.

  • Company industry. Knowing which industry a company is in can instantly qualify or disqualify their representatives as leads. If you know a business does work that your product or service won't help with, you can throw them away immediately.
  • Company location. Depending on your industry, the location of a company may impact how likely they are to buy. If a foreign company has to jump through a bunch of legal hoops to buy from you, they may opt for a domestic competitor instead.
  • Company size. Knowing the size of the company your lead represents can tell you a lot of information off the bat. You'll know whether the lead has the power to make a purchase decision, the kind of budget the lead might be working with, and the number of people that will likely be involved in the sales process.
  • Website behavior. How a prospect interacts with your website can provide a clear indication of how serious they are about purchasing. Promising indicators of intent to buy are frequently visiting your site, viewing sales or demo pages, and numerous downloads of lead magnets.
  • Email behavior. Many people who sign up for your email list will have zero interest in buying. A large number just wanted your lead magnet and want nothing to do with whatever you're selling. To differentiate the interested from the uninterested, check the open rates and clickthrough rates provided by your email marketing service provider.
  • Social media behavior. High engagement with your social media posts is a promising indicator that a prospect views your company favorably. And while it's not a great indicator of purchase intent, it should still positively impact a prospect's lead score.
  • Form behavior. How a prospect fills out your lead magnet form can provide an insight into how serious they are. Someone who fills out a form with lowercase letters or a Gmail/Yahoo email address instead of a company email is less likely to buy than someone who uses proper capitalization and is representing a company.

While the data that goes into lead scoring will change from company to company.

All of these factors should go into your lead scoring process. If you can turn lead scoring into an efficient and seamless process, the number of leads you end up selling will skyrocket as the sales team gets to focus on the people most likely to convert.

Sales team lead generation tips

If your sales team has been tasked with generating qualified leads via cold calls, here are a few ways you can make the process easier.

  • Outsource prospecting. Many companies need to make thousands of calls to generate an acceptable number of leads. Instead of forcing your sales team to make each of those calls, outsource the introductory call to a telemarketing group.
  • Develop and optimize excellent scripts. Leaving your sales reps to wing every call is a recipe for disaster. To maximize lead conversions, create a script that instantly captures attention, clearly explains the value, and closes with a call-to-action. You'll also want to A/B test and refine this script as you get additional data.
  • Coach your reps. Even if you develop a killer script, your reps need to deliver it properly for it to work. Listen in on some of their calls and provide constructive criticism.
  • Keep your reps happy. Telemarketing is a stressful job with a ton of turnover. Do everything you can to keep your reps satisfied with their jobs. If you don't, their boredom and displeasure will come through when they're talking to prospective leads.
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Shawn Manaher
Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of Ignite Marketing. He's one part local business growth specialist, one part campaign strategizing ninja, and two parts leader of an awesome nerd pack. He won't eat pancakes unless you call them flat waffles.
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