Digital sales: Modern lead generation in B2B

By Anders Björklund

Digital sales: Modern lead generation in B2B

Face-to-face meetings might be back, but is that what the right customers are looking for? All B2B companies need to update their lead generation approach to become more data-driven and more in line with potential and existing customers preferences. To adapt and become modern, your company should follow the modern B2B playbook:

  • Foster the right team
  • Provide easily consumed content explaining your industry offering 
  • Promote the content
  • Provide relevant leads 
  • Measure the results at multiple levels

At the beginning of 2020, any decent B2B company's sales reps spend the central part of their time transporting themselves and customers. So they would be on a continuous lookout for new contacts and qualified leads through F2F-interactions, taking their potential and existing customers to sporting events, tradeshows and chatting them up at conferences and dinners. 

As a result of COVID-19, this same sales rep travels much less or even not to find themselves with a lot more time but with the same or more significant quotas they need to hit in the next quarter. 

Sales reps may be excited about a more aggressive travelling schedule. Still, it isn't clear that the potential and existing customers want them back as much as before the pandemic or even allow vendors to visit them as much as pre-Covid-19. The central part of B2B decision-makers prefers remote human interactions or digital self-service.

This reasonably new environment presents an obvious challenge: How does a B2B seller find new prospects and customers whose problems they can solve when customers don't want to return to the old way of doing business?

I will walk you through how I suggest that you implement a modern approach to digital lead generation, achieving a high adoption of digital tactics. Finally, I recommend an approach in five steps to support you on this journey towards better lead generation.

What customers want right now 

Instead of telling your B2B sales reps to make personal changes, you must better enable sales to lead generation activities in the new environment.

Now, sales reps are encouraged to spend more time prospecting, chatting with customers through video platforms and hosting online demos, meetings and events. But, while these interactions may help, they aren't enough to allow the seller to close a substantial gap in their pipeline, especially those without the luxury of stable client accounts or steady renewal business.

To achieve more sales leads, your B2B marketing and sales need to meet their potential customers where they are: online and primarily on LinkedIn. 

As part of this effort, you must become recognised as knowledge leaders in your fields and contribute actively to online conversations in new ways — a role previously reserved for those in the company's product, customer success, or professional service arms. And it would help if you used client-specific and industry-focused solution selling, which is more relevant than ever in an online and digital environment.

Most sales reps cannot realise this vision individually. Therefore, it is necessary for you and your company to provide the proper support and tools. 

Sequentially, your sales and marketing managers must create relevant content that your company can bring to the market, including white papers, 1–3-year roadmaps and pitch content and materials. These will allow your sales reps to position themselves as knowledge leaders.

Steps to modern B2B sales and marketing

Foster the right team 

To compete in this new digitalised environment, your company must have a cross-functional team create standard global repeatable processes, which you will use to build go-to-market content using a holistic approach. You must streamline your processes to make no more than three standardised marketing assets for the field that are industry-focused. It is essential to leverage regional stakeholders in the content creation process and incorporate feedback from field sales and marketing teams globally. You need to bring many stakeholders to your content creation process, and you need to start your with sales and marketing at a regional or local level to experiment to find best practice.

Provide easily consumed content explaining your industry offering  

Your cross-functional team's content must be outcome-based and focus on the problems, challenges, and needs that potential and existing customers face rather than the products you want to sell. Your team must set up the needed infrastructure for this content to be housed on internal landing pages and for a subset of the content to be available online externally. Most companies have numerous sales collateral pieces, usually spread across. The cross-functional team must focus on creating sales collateral for just a subset of industries. All collateral pieces clearly articulated customer value, built on unique buying reasons, not just your blurry product specifications.

Promote the content 

Leaders need to communicate the go-to-market program and content across your company widely. After the communication, your managers must ensure the content is easily accessible for your sales reps. And all sales reps must push the content to the targets and the market to leverage platforms for publishing, distribution and possibly sales productivity tools for performance information and tracking.

Provide relevant leads  

Sales and sales reps will gain leads directly through some of their activities and actions, including emailing potential customers with relevant content and posting it on selected digital platforms. However, in some other cases, like when potential customers are led to a website that collects customer data and information, sales leads will need to ensure that information is shared with the field. Otherwise, it will not correctly incentivise the area.

Measure the results at multiple levels

Sales reps in the field must monitor the overall performance of their content, including views and impact on deals. Meanwhile, your company can build on sales content that is doing well and remove collateral that doesn't quickly gain traction. Internal performance metrics for maximising quality content and target leads must be present. This step ensures that your content library only includes sales motions that deliver value to customers and the field.

Build the right lists, focus on authoritative content on critical offerings, post relevant articles on LinkedIn, including some of the standard content, and target some procurement VPs at a few of your prospects. Then shift back to preparing for upcoming meetings for a few hours. Finally, in the afternoon, review information on how your post performed, and you will receive some contacts if you are perceived as relevant and credible. Altogether, these five steps can create a changing experience for sales reps. 

Internally, this should trigger your sales support team, suggesting pre-sales demo resources and architects to prepare for any upcoming customer conversations. 

Including experts ensures the highest levels of topic expertise to support your potential and existing customers buyer journeys from being a contact to closing deals. With leads and experts available, you will be in a better position to hit your quota.

Clear returns on investment

The ROI is real. Your sales reps will quickly adopt your new tactics and get more sales leads. But, at the same time, you and your company are benefitting in several ways. 

There is global alignment and support for sales activities, faster improvements of your offering, less redundancy in go-to-market content, increased content quality, and faster time to engage with potential customers. This amounts to a more significant revenue opportunity and less cost for your company by leveraging a solid and thorough global template.

Implementing this new approach is never straightforward, and it can be challenging, e.g., the high effort required and the differences in located go-to-market content. And the biggest challenge is change management. In the beginning, sales and leaders will be concerned with regional and local preferences and industry-specific needs. 

As a leader of the above-suggested steps, you need to address pride over existing content and lead gen processes to maximise the outcome of the suggested approach. It is a prerequisite for success that prioritise to get leadership buy-in. However, the metrics that communicate progress and point out the needs cause most leaders to move from sceptics to ambassadors. 

Each company is different, but the fundamental challenge remains the same. Sales reps are operating in a new world. If you support them with good lead gen practices, your company can flourish in the changed and ever-changing digital environment.

Once you've acquired these leads, you also need to turn them into customers - and if you want to do that effectively, you need to understand their customer journey. With our customer journey map template, you can better understand how your leads think and behave, and start making them customers and even promoters of your company. 

Start mapping your customer journey

Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about what and how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B. Asks a lot of questions, and knows what to do with the answers.
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