On this page you will go step-by-step through the process of generating sales leads.

It includes:

  • Cost of generating sales leads
  • Short lead targeting manual
  • Inbound sales lead generation
  • Outbound sales lead generation
  • Difference between inbound and outbound leads

For more general information about leads and lead generation, check out this lead generation guide.

Lead generation can be simple, but as your company grows it becomes a complex strategic effort to seek new leads and stay within budget.

Put some work into your strategy and it should work eventually. To achieve results quicker, don’t be afraid to hire third-party companies or consultants to help you.

Cost of generating sales leads

Let’s tackle an important question: how do you avoid needless lead gen spending?

The process of generating leads takes time. It’s a strategic, long-term process that makes us vulnerable to the “sunk cost trap”.

According to a definition from Investopedia, the “sunk cost trap” is a “tendency of people to irrationally follow through on an activity that is not meeting their expectations because of the time and/or money they have already spent on it.”

For example, it says on this blog that it takes at least 6 months to see results of content marketing. For companies that can’t hire an agency, it will take longer, as they will have to learn in order to execute at all.

6 months is a long time to wait for results. How do you keep going for so long without losing faith in your lead generation process?

Prepare a strategic lead generation plan

Compare CAC to LTV

  • Analyse your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – here’s how to calculate CAC
  • Analyse the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your customers – here’s how to calculate LTV
  • The potential revenue (represented by LTV) from your customers should be higher than what you spend on lead gen (represented by CAC)
  • On a tight budget, LTV dictates how much you can spend on lead gen

Remember that lead generation takes time

  • …but a good strategic plan will provide long-term results
  • The more your customer has to spend, the longer it takes to sign a deal
  • If your average deal closing time is over a month, you won’t see an immediate increase in sales with your new lead gen process – be patient

Short lead targeting manual

Find a target audience that needs your product or service and can afford your prices. Even if you can target thousands of companies around the world, segment your target customers by:

  • Company size (0-10, 11-50, 51-200, etc.)
  • Company type (SaaS, Agency, Studio…)
  • Potential budget
  • Location

It’s easier to personalize your message to a defined segment of customers, and better appeal to the varying needs of different potential customers.

Targeting should help you find a hook – a point of mutual interest between you and a whole group of potential customers. Your target is flexible – if you can’t find customers that fit your customer profile, then change the profile and look again.

inbound sales leads

Inbound lead gen usually starts and ends on your website. Your site is where leads will come to learn more, confirm or reject the need to buy and contact you. The key inbound lead gen elements for your website are:

Value proposition and strong CTAs

Your website has to clearly state what you’re offering, who should be interested and how to become a customer – if you’re not sure, test different value propositions. If you want pages to guide visitors somewhere (demo request, product page) then use strong CTAs (“try it now” will probably generate more clickthrough than “demo request”)


When your content is valuable, inbound leads come to you through sign-ups, follows and social media connections.
Collect email sign-ups with:

  • Free downloadable content
  • Limited access pages on-site
  • Newsletter subscription
  • Demo or trial requests
  • Etc.

Collect social media follows:

  • Add SumoMe to website, install Share and website visitors will be able to share your content easily
  • Add plugins like the FB Like Button to your site
  • Track who shared / liked / followed you
  • etc.

Optimize on-site content:

  • Your on-site content means all content on your website.
  • Minimalistic design is your friend, keep your website simple and informative – the worst thing you can do is add too much.
  • Website users should be able to navigate your website without checking the source code.
  • Follow the link for a clear and comprehensive guide from Google – Webmaster Guidelines, where you’ll find general guidelines on how to help Google find and understand your site, how to help visitors use your pages, as well as external links to other guides and specific cases to avoid.

Hubspot says that “the holy trinity of inbound lead generation is search engine optimization, business blogging and social media promotion”. But let’s get a bit deeper.

Inbound lead generation can be described as a repeatable process that requires you to:

Learn about potential customers

  • Talk to them, ask for feedback, see what problems they have.
  • This means that you must be communicative – respond to messages, emails and comments, and

Create content

  • Regularity is key – building an audience with a random publishing schedule is hard.
  • Value – help solve the problems you learned about, entertain, inform
  • Type of content – articles, infographics, webinars, vlogs, ebooks, etc.

Broaden your reach

  • Content is nothing without distribution.
  • The effects of your content depend on how many people will see it – which depends on how well you promote it.
  • In a nutshell – try to reach your customers directly through social media (regular posting, paid promotion) and look for alternative ways to show your content to a lot of people (for example ask influencers/journalists for shares)

Analyze metrics

  • Observe how your content performs – how many people have read it, how many sign-ups / likes / follows / shares you’ve collected.
  • You can do it by using Google Analytics, or using third-party analytics software to measure how your content performs.
  • Experiment with different types of content and create more of the type that shows the best results.


  • Any inbound strategy could be broken down into the 4 points above.
  • But the really crucial factor here is repetition.
  • Learn about your customers regularly, update your content according to what you learn, reach as many people as you can, watch how your content performs – and keep repeating the process.
outbound sales leads

Outbound lead generation means approaching customers that don’t know you yet, through any available channel:

  • Call
  • Email
  • Social media message

We don’t mention “direct mail” here because it’s too old-school and time-consuming. Your goal in outbound lead generation is to make the best possible first impression.

What do you need for generating outbound sales leads?

If you’re calling,

you need a lot of time (or salespeople), a list of relevant phone numbers and research information about the people you’re calling.

If you’re sending emails,

send them from a new account, campaign emails will be separated from your own messages. Don’t use nicknames, make sure you include at least your full first name. The safest bet (and most trustworthy) is (first name).(last name)@domain. You’ll also need email automation software (when you’re sending more than 50 new emails per week), and a bit of copywriting know-how. Check out our email templates and follow-up ideas.

If you’re using social media,

you can send personal messages on most sites, all you need is to have a good account on them. Don’t message B2B customers on Facebook, it’s not very professional – stick to LinkedIn, Twitter and industry-related sites. Outbound strategies are a way of grabbing someone’s attention – but the key to acquiring a lead from this process is to direct potential customers towards a more personal way of contacting you (Skype call, meeting).

As mentioned above, your goal is a great first impression. Some don’t organize outbound lead gen campaigns without any unique content to share or refer to.

Reaching people is just the start – instead of explaining what you do to all of them, it’s easier to send links to great content and focus on the bare essentials in your outbound messages.

The bare essentials are:

  • Presenting your value proposition in a comprehensive way
  • Building trust and avoiding the “annoying salesperson” impression
  • Call to action – encouraging potential customers to contact you again and providing easy ways to do so

Outbound strategies are great as an additional boost to other tactics. For instance, one of our signature moves is a cold email campaign before a networking event. It increases your chances to meet the right people at such an event and get real value from it instead of walking around drinking coffee and achieving nothing.

Similarly, outbound strategies can serve as a great way to promote your content – a solid email campaign can be great for media outreach, finding bloggers willing to do a guest post or asking to syndicate content from other sites on your own website.

Difference between inbound and outbound leads

The main difference between inbound and outbound leads lies in the way that you generate them, and it’s important to remember when preparing your lead gen campaigns.

Inbound leads are already in the market for a product like yours and they’re doing research – they’re more informed and if your content is good, then they might already trust you.

Outbound leads might not be in need of a product like yours, and sometimes unaware that it exists (if you’re in a niche market) – they’re less informed, and you have to focus on building trust first.

For more information, see infographic below or read more about the difference between inbound and outbound leads here.

how treats your sales leads

To sum up…

To generate a lead for sales, you can use inbound, outbound or combined process. The general process of generating sales leads is presented in this guide.