Prospecting and lead generation: making the most of both

Prospecting and lead generation: Making the most of both

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Before we dive into the benefits of sales prospecting and lead generation, it’s important to note that this isn’t about pitching them against the other. There is no need to pick a winner: we can postpone the prospecting vs lead generation battle. 

Instead, the two can work together in tandem seamlessly. Neither is necessarily better than the other. Your business needs and overall goals determine when and where to use each.

But first, let’s understand what they are:

What is sales prospecting?

Sales prospecting involves developing new sales opportunities by finding and contacting potential clients. It is based on one-to-one outbound marketing activities, such as email, cold calling, warm calling or through channels like LinkedIn.

Prospecting can build on your inbound marketing results, e.g. reaching out to someone who has already shown interest in your brand. It can also function as a separate but complementary discipline, engaging a cold list of contacts that fit your buyer personas. Prospecting is an outbound marketing method.

What is lead generation? 

B2B lead generation involves finding potential customers, engaging them with marketing techniques, moving them through the sales funnel, and ultimately enticing them to become customers.

It is a one-to-many approach involving different marketing tactics and sales strategies to generate interest in your product or services. Lead generation activities usually fall under inbound marketing.

A quick note on lead generation definitions

Given its name, it would be fair to assume that lead generation refers to any activity that…  generates leads. In the Venn diagram of new business development, this view would have a large circle for lead gen, with everything else inside it – inbound or outbound.

And indeed, this is a common view across marketing blogs and the business world in general. We’re not here to say that is wrong. Some people use this inbound/outbound difference, and some don’t. Equally, there are some who think the term refers to spam and cowboys.

In 2023, we asked 359 B2B sales and marketing decision-makers about implementing lead-generation strategies. 71% think of it as a catch-all term to drive new business, and 27% said they thought of spammy bad practice.

Bringing prospecting and lead generation together

Mastering the twin arts of prospecting and lead generation is a game-changer for business growth. It starts with understanding your audience. Knowing where to reach out, leveraging multiple channels, seeking referrals, and crafting valuable content.

These strategies help create a steady flow of potential customers.

With the right approach, prospecting and lead generation become effective at telling the story of what you offer and how it can help your target audience. This paves the way for sustained success in your business journey.

What’s great about using sales prospecting and lead generation together is that they dovetail perfectly all along the customer journey. Let’s make the most of both and dive in. 

A quick look at successful lead generation

Successful lead generation all starts with your inbound marketing efforts. A visitor discovers your business through marketing channels like your blog, website or social media. 

Including plenty of calls-to-action (CTA) throughout your content is integral. Guide prospective clients to a landing page that exchanges something of value for their contact information.

A lead magnet is a free tool, piece of content, or service. You give it away with the sole purpose of gathering the contact details of relevant prospects. Examples of lead magnets include tools, whitepapers, and consultations.

The visitor completes a form on the landing page, and you gain a new lead. Following lead capture best practices ensures this process is effective, seamlessly turning visitors into valuable leads.

It’s at this point that they can be brought into that prospecting funnel. Here, your sales reps can begin to nurture further with personalised messaging. Their outreach tends to be more successful when people have already been exposed to content.

A quick look at successful prospecting

Did you know? 88% of buyers want to hear from suppliers when evaluating their options – this means outbound marketing – reaching out proactively to relevant individuals.

Prospecting begins by understanding your potential buyers, gathering contact information for your ideal customers, and then reaching out to them. These messages generally try to secure a call or meeting to discuss your solution to their business problems.

Being an outbound strategy, prospecting can include email, phone calls, paid adverts, video messages, direct mail, messaging on social media, and SMS/WhatsApp messages.

Here at Sopro, we offer our clients an award-winning multi-channel prospecting service. You can read more about executing the perfect strategy by visiting our in-depth guide. Multi-channel is all about reaching the right buyers in the right place, at the right time and with the right messaging. From harnessing intent data to email, calling and beyond.

Utilising prospecting and lead generation across the customer journey

Navigate the customer buying cycle seamlessly by mastering the balance between prospecting and lead generation.

From initial awareness to final purchase, strategic communication ensures a continuous stream of potential customers. By understanding and optimising prospecting and lead generation, you can guide your target market effortlessly through the sales funnel.

Sales prospectingLead generation
Often owned by sales teamsMostly owned by marketing teams
Largely outbound tacticsMakes the most of inbound strategy
Focuses on finding and reaching out to clientsAims to attract clients
Requires the data needed to reach outRequires knowledge of targeting
Targets qualified clientsCaptures those interested in your offering
Integrates personalised messaging via preferred channelsBrings clients into the sales funnels so sales reps can utilise personalised prospecting

Get to know your audience

The first step in your outbound endeavours is precisely defining your ideal customer profile. Understand prospect pain points, goals, and challenges. This knowledge ensures more effective targeting, minimising time spent on unqualified leads. Utilise criteria such as industry, size, location, budget, role, and behaviour to shape your ideal customer profile.

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How to create a B2B ideal customer profile

Creating an ideal customer profile for your B2B business can focus marketing, increase sales and reduce churn. Here’s how to create one.

Explore the guide

Once your ideal customer profile is established, determine the most effective outreach channels for the awareness stage. Multi-channel outreach is the way through. Experiment with different channels, measure their performance and prioritise those yielding optimal responses and conversions.

Communication during the awareness stage requires a clear and concise value proposition. Tailor it to address your prospect’s specific needs and situation. Avoid excessive sales language that can be a turn-off.

Consistent nurturing is essential until prospects are ready to progress. Employ a mix of channels, stay in touch through various touchpoints, and provide relevant, valuable information. 

Building your brand in the Awareness Stage

During the awareness stage, potential clients aren’t ready to purchase. They’re just becoming acquainted with your brand. This is where your inbound content strategy is paramount. You should focus on establishing industry expertise and building trust. 

Key content types for this stage include blog posts and articles that provide informative content. SEO-focused content enhances visibility on search engines, expanding audience reach.

Then you’ve got social media marketing, which aims to create a brand community, demanding creativity to stand out. Uniquely showcasing products or services distinguishes your brand in a sea of competition.

Videos, particularly “how-to”, educational content, and brand films humanise your brand, making it more approachable. 

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Upgrade your lead generation with great content

Understand how to create high-quality content and the best way to distribute it.

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The awareness stage sets the foundation for the subsequent buyer’s sales process. emphasising the need for thorough research to establish effective strategies. These strategies, integrated into content creation, propel lead generation and website conversion goals.

Negotiating the Consideration Stage and beyond

In the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, a synergy of inbound lead generation and lead nurturing can be complemented by active sales outreach to help close the deal. At this stage, potential buyers are evaluating options, and so a shift in your approach is needed.

Lead generation continues, but content focuses on bottom of the funnel content. Lead nurturing actively maintains engagement through targeted content, delivered via email newsletters or sales development teams. Meanwhile, sales prospecting identifies potential clients within the consideration stage and starts personalised sales-focused interactions.

Great content overcomes objections and demonstrates social proof. Effective lead nurturing builds trust, guiding prospects towards informed decisions. Strategic prospecting tailors outreach for optimal impact, and encourages people into the buying process.

Closing deals involves handling objections, pivoting towards solutions, and instilling confidence through social proof. Navigate objections with resilience, showcasing success stories to boost credibility. Be solution-oriented, emphasising how your product meets specific needs. Forge a trusting relationship by understanding client concerns. 

Every rejection is an opportunity to refine your approach. Building a more robust foundation for successful sales prospecting and lead generation. Your prospecting and lead nurturing strategies should always be open to adaptation.

Not one without the other

In our latest annual whitepaper, 68% of 377 B2B senior decision-makers thought prospecting (especially email) complemented inbound channels well.

So why not use them both, as part of a joined-up strategy?

Sales prospecting, executed by sales teams, is a focused, personalised effort involving one-to-one communication and nurturing. In contrast, lead generation is a more expansive approach. Aimed at creating product demand and attracting numerous warm leads over an extended period.

While distinct, these strategies can complement each other effectively. Sales prospecting’s personalised touch builds immediate connections and addresses individual needs. Simultaneously, lead generation establishes expertise and trust from a border presence. 

When harmonised, these tactics create a dynamic, comprehensive approach. Combining the immediacy of prospecting with the sustained impact of lead generation for optimal sales and conversion.

Achieving a harmonious balance between lead generation and prospecting hinges on fostering a unified approach between sales and marketing.

What makes us the experts?

So, we’re the prospecting experts. We’ll build a live audience of your perfect clients. We then harness technology and an expansive knowledge of buying behaviour to deliver campaigns across multiple channels. We reach your buyers at the right time with the right message, in the right place. 

What does that mean in terms of lead generation? Well, we were our first clients! 

When we first began in 2015, we had to get our message out there. And we initially only used our own prospecting service. In time, we grew our marketing team and added inbound into the mix too.

So, when it comes to understanding how sales prospecting can complement your in-house lead generation efforts, we’ve got you covered.

Right person. Right message.
Right time. Right place.

Discover how our multi-channel outreach service helps hundreds of businesses sell more.

Multichannel prospecting