How to generate high-quality leads in business development

May 25, 2019
How to generate high-quality leads in business development

Finding high-quality leads is one of the most daunting tasks in business development. Read our practical tips to fill your pipeline with quality leads.

Lead generation is by far one of the most stressful tasks for business developers. Most of us are required to find as many contacts as possible and initiate conversations. Now, to be fair, finding leads is not that complicated.

We have plenty of tools and strategies at our hand to fill very long lists. The problem is that these lists very often contain a small number of high-quality leads. This also means that probably you or your team are wasting precious time and money chasing the wrong people.

In an ideal world, you want to have a short list of highly qualified leads. It’s a daunting task, but not impossible once you know what you should be looking for.

So, how do you generate high-quality leads for you or your team? Before diving into the practicalities, let’s first get some basics straight.

What makes high-quality leads?

Just to be sure, let’s give a general definition of a lead. We can define a lead or any contact we could potentially sell our solution. You can have leads finding you and asking for info (inbound) or you can proactively reach out to people you consider relevant (outbound).

The tricky part is that not all leads are made equal. Some of them are better than others and what really makes the difference is how likely they are to buy from you.

So, generally speaking, we can refer to a lead as high-quality, when we actually manage to convert it into a paying customer. Obviously, this can change consistently from one company to another.

However, there are some universal steps you can take to help yourself identify high-quality leads early on.

Relates article: The Business Development Guide

Look at your current audience

The first important step as a good business developer is to deeply understand your audience. Whenever you start working in a new company or you have new team members, start by analyzing your audience.

If you are an established company and did your homework, you probably already have many insights and ideally a buyer persona. If not, you should do it as soon as possible.

Before starting to build any leads list, take the time to review your current customers and do it mindfully. Refrain from using assumptions or simply checking their website. That won’t really help you in the long run.

You should instead dive deep into your customer base and gather information. Some key data are the channel they came from, what convinced them to buy, and what was the problem they were trying to solve. And of course, demographics, geography, and so on.

If you don’t manage to find this info in your CRM, ask your colleagues, or even better, just give your best clients a call. There is nothing more powerful than having them tell you why they chose you over someone else.

Create a criteria checklist

Starting from user research has many benefits. The most important is that you will be able to find patterns and indicators that can predict the success of that lead.

When you start writing down details about your audience, you will notice that most of your customers have things in common. On the surface, probably they have the same job title and they work in the same industry.

But when you go deeper, you might find out that your customers are usually within a certain age range or geographical area, and they might have the same taste in terms of music.

If you combine this data together, you can start building a checklist of criteria you want to see in your potential leads. This will help you create the so-called Ideal Customer Profile which will serve as a reference for the leads you will approach.

Looking for high-quality leads

Now that you have your criteria in place you can start building your list. There are many ways to generate leads. You can quickly run a Google search or maybe use LinkedIn or any other social media platform.

But again, if you want to focus on high-quality leads, you can’t waste your time looking in the wrong pool. Not every channel will bring you the same quality level and if you shoot randomly, you will end up with a list of equally random contacts.

One of the questions you should ask yourself is what channels delivered you high-quality leads so far. You might find out that networking events are the best channel for you, so you can stop chasing after Facebook leads.

Rank your channels based on where you get the best leads from and intensify your efforts on those. Of course, feel free to open up new channels and explore new ways to generate high-quality leads.

What about inbound?

When you work mainly outbound, you have more control over the leads you approach. You can precisely go after the leads you think will convert faster, based on your criteria. It’s a different story when we talk inbound.

As business developers, we don’t often have control over lead generation made by other departments, marketing for example. They might have systems in place, however, most likely they will try to reach out to as many people as possible.

This will guarantee you a long list of leads to pursue. However, this comes at a cost that you will also end up with a lot of junk contacts. The main risk is that you can fall into the temptation of chasing those leads at any cost.

It’s quite appealing to suddenly have hundreds of contacts to choose from. My advice is to refrain from doing so and still take the time to scan these leads. In the case of inbound, there are quite some indicators that can help you filter out high-quality leads.

Again, keep your checklist at hand and make research on these leads. But in addition, watch out for certain indicators which most likely say that those are not good leads.

Among these indicators, we can include the use of a personal email address rather than professional one. In these cases, a good practice is to still research the lead and find out more. But you shouldn’t be spending more than 2-3 minutes.

Another indicator is if the lead comes from a very random geographical region, that you’re not really targeting. Some low-quality leads also tend to not give much information about themselves or use random emails or phone numbers.

As a general rule of thumb, with inbound leads: research them quickly, check off the criteria if they meet them, and if so, pursue them. Otherwise, reject them.

Remember that in any case, is better to have a few high-quality leads, than large numbers of useless contacts.

Reiterate, automate, and predict

Now, the beauty of business development is that you don’t have to stick to one thing forever. You can experiment, test, try new channels or messages, and then reiterate what works.

When you run experiments is always important to keep track of what you do, so you can learn from the data. This will also allow you to automate some parts of your processes and ultimately, predict your success.

Once you have enough data to better identify high-quality leads, you can consider using tools to automate your lead generation process. Most of these tools are called sales acceleration platforms. They basically allow you to automatically generate leads starting from your input.

For example, you can tell the software that you only want a Head of Sales of insurance companies based in Italy. The tool will automatically give you a long list of contacts. Some tools go as far as integrating messaging tools to help you reach out to make you more efficient.

The interesting fact about these platforms is that you can integrate them with other tools that will enrich the data. And at that point, you can use machine learning to predict the future of your pipeline.

This will help you build a lead scoring system that will automatically suggest you which leads are worth pursuing based on data. Now, this is just the last stage, and it usually comes after years of trial and error. Simply because it requires a consistent amount of data and technical skills which usually are not present in the early days of a company.

However, if you are at this stage, you should consider using a lead scoring system and make your team more efficient.

So to recap, if you’re looking for high-quality leads, make sure you equip yourself with enough data. Observe what’s around you, look for patterns, and start testing. We all aim at working only with amazing leads, but this doesn’t come overnight.

It’s actually a long process and you need to commit yourself to kissing a lot of frogs, before finding your prince.

Keep reading our articles to find more insights and consistently improve your day-to-day job. However, if you’re impatient to boost your career, our intensive course might just be all that you’ve looking for until now.

If you manage a business development team and need help making them more effective, visit our corporate training for teams.

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