Stop ignoring your best source of new revenue

Remember the Johnny Lee song, “Lookin’ For Love”? The lyrics perfectly sum up the most common B2B lead generation mistakes:

“I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places,
Lookin’ for love in too many faces,
Searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces,
Of what I’m dreaming of.”

Are you looking for your B2B sales leads in all the wrong places? Is your sales team searching too many faces, looking for traces of prospects, instead of narrowing the search to recruit only your ideal clients? 

I bet they are, and in doing so, they’re clogging up your pipeline with cold leads and ignoring their best source of new business—your current customers.  

Do Less to Win More: Strategic B2B Lead Generation

New business is harder and harder to come by. During these uncertain times, there are fewer opportunities and more competition going after the same exact business. How do most companies ramp up their B2B lead generation strategies? They reply to every RFP and win few, if any. They correlate activity with results. Not an encouraging scenario. 

(Image attribution: Elisa Ventur)

There’s a better way, but it takes guts and conviction from every sales leader. 

There’s no better example than Bob Wiesner, managing partner of the Americas for The Artemis Partnership, on how to grab that business. Their clients improve pitch win rates by 30 to 40 percent, spend less money on chasing RFPs, and win 80 percent of their pitches when they work together—all because they’re picky (i.e., strategic) about who they target. How’s that for attracting new clients in a highly competitive market? (I highly recommend Bob’s remarkable book, Winning Is Better. The first chapter, “Pursue Less, Win More,” lays out the math for why pursuing less should be your strategy.)

Targeting your ideal clients is the first step in improving your B2B lead generation. The next step is actually getting them to meet with you. And for that, you’ll need a referral.

Of all the B2B lead generation tools at your disposal, referral selling is the most effective and least expensive. Yet, most companies miss the mark on referrals and instead make these common sales prospecting mistakes.

Why Your B2B Lead Generation Sucks (Reason 1): Your Sales Prospecting Is Off the Mark

You’ve heard the often-quoted statistic that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. It makes sense: You don’t have to spend time and resources going out and finding a new client—you just have to keep the one you have happy. Research from Invespcro shows that existing customers are 50 percent more likely to try new products and spend 31 percent more than new customers.

Just as importantly, existing customers are your best source for new B2B sales leads. They know the value of your product or service, and they can provide referrals that fill your pipeline with ideal clients.

How do you set your team up to receive a steady stream of referrals? By incorporating referrals into every step of your sales process. HBR puts it this way:

“When revenue, net income, and business measures dominate discussions, it’s easy to lose sight of other disciplines that create positive results. To create a sustainable stream of referral opportunities, make each stage of the referral process a priority in your sales organization. The skills of consultative selling are directly transferable to executing the referral process. All that’s needed is leadership attention to keep it front and center. Individual coaching sessions will help to focus your sales team on the process, discuss any challenges sellers are having, and let them know how progress will be measured.”

Bottom line: Your current customers are ripe for new business. They’ll drive new revenue the fastest. But only if your salespeople nurture their existing relationships, get referrals to other divisions in the enterprise, and build customer loyalty.

Why Your B2B Lead Generation Sucks (Reason 2): Prospects Don’t Trust You

All things being equal (and they never are), people choose to work with people they trust. Buyers are putting more emphasis on trust now than ever before. The stakes are way higher, because the risk of making mistakes is greater. There’s no room for error during a recession. 

(Image attribution: Yogendra Singh)

The #1 way to build trust with B2B sales leads is with a referral from a person your prospect knows and trusts. That’s the beginning of an amazing customer experience. It’s your level-set, because you arrive with trust already earned. The trust your prospect has for the person who referred you gets transfers to you. Your conversation shifts. You get insights that you’ll never find anyplace else, and your competition is clueless.

Why Your B2B Lead Generation Sucks (Reason 3): You Give Lip Service to Referral Selling

Referrals are lifelong. Once you close your first deal, you expand your reach by getting referrals to other divisions. Their referral reinforces the positive impact you’ve had on their business. Referrals integrate within the entire client lifecycle. Referrals are the initial great customer experience, and that experience and trust continue through the buying process, as well as the work we do after the deal closes.

Buyers consider referrals an important part of sales prospecting too. Just consider the following:

  • 84 percent of B2B leaders start their buying journeys with referrals, and nearly 75 percent prefer to work with sales pros who were referred (Source: Sales Benchmark Index)
  • 76.2 percent of business buyers prefer to work with vendors who have been recommended by someone they know, and 73 percent prefer to work with salespeople who’ve been referred (Source: IDC and LinkedIn)
  • Leads generated from referrals convert four times better than B2B marketing leads (Source: Influitive) 
  • Referred customers have a 37 percent higher retention rate and are four times more likely to refer more customers (Source: Invespcro)

Yet, 95 percent of companies don’t have a strategic, measurable referral system with accountability for results. 

Alice Heiman puts it perfectly in her blog, “Customers for Life: The Art of Keeping Your Best Clients,” where she outlines the four pillars of customer retention—from onboarding to turning clients into referral sources. She writes: “The best thing about customers for life is they are loyal. Loyal customers will partner with you, give you feedback and best of all give you referrals.”

Yes, yes, and yes!

Why Your B2B Lead Generation Sucks (Reason 4): You Flunked Customer Retention

Henry Bruckstein, CEO of Campaign Stars, hosted several “Think with a Drink” virtual conversations. During one of these sessions, Justin Keller, vice president of marketing at Terminus, gave a presentation called “Retention is the New Acquisition.” He shared tips for B2B marketing and explained, “In a down economy, retention quickly has higher revenue impact than acquisition.” 

Think about that. Your customer retention strategy is your ticket to acquiring new business. It’s your #1 B2B lead generation strategy. Makes sense. Instead of chasing new logos, now is the time to:

  • Elevate the customer experience
  • Expand your reach within the enterprise by getting referrals to other divisions
  • Continue to provide insights and trends 
  • Take care of customers long after the implementation is complete
  • Cement the trusted relationships you initially created
  • Ask for referrals from every single client

When you combine a leaky bucket where customers are churning with shrinking budgets to acquire new customers, you must focus on retention. The more customers you preserve, the more sales prospecting opportunities you have. Not only can you earn more revenue directly from existing customers, but you can ask them for referrals to your ideal client. 

According to Zippia’s research, 65 percent of a company’s business comes from existing customers, and boosting customer retention rates by just 5 percent can help you increase profits by up to 95 percent. Yet, only 18 percent of businesses prioritize customer retention over customer acquisition.

That’s a problem—but it’s an easy one to solve.

(Image attribution: fauxels)

Why Your B2B Lead Generation Sucks (Reason 5): You Forgot to Engage with Personalization

Henry Bruckstein, founder at Campaign Stars, says the best way to engage your customers is to create a personalized experience much like what they’re used to from Netflix and Amazon. The statistics don’t lie; personalization is the key to creating winning customer experiences:

  • 78 percent of prospects will only engage with outreach that has been personalized to them
  • 75 percent of prospects are more likely to buy from companies that personalize their engagement and will give them preference over the competition
  • 63 percent of prospects are “highly annoyed” with the way businesses continue to rely on the strategy of repeatedly blasting them with generic messages
  • 63 percent of prospects think more positively of a company if it gives them experiences that are more valuable, interesting, or relevant to their interests

I was appalled when Henry told me that, based on his experience, “less than 7 percent of customer success teams run these personalization programs.” We’re ignoring what works. Why?

Your B2B Lead Generation Action Steps

Ready to refocus your lead generation strategies on what actually works? Here’s where to start:

1. Reframe your sales KPIs to drive increased business with existing clients, instead of chasing new logos. Consider a revised compensation plan to support this strategy.

2. Build an action plan to solidify relationships with your existing clients. Ensure there are many touchpoints from your company to individuals within each client company.

3. Analyze your B2B marketing strategy. Position your company as a trusted advisor by providing personalized insights and trend analysis to your current clients. Engagement is the name of the game. There’s no substitute for relationships in sales prospecting.

4. Commit to adopting a referral system to get referrals from your existing clients and build loyalty. They’re your most overlooked revenue stream. Here’s what it takes to integrate referral selling into your sales process:

  • A company culture that makes everyone part of the sales team
  • Methods to track and measure referral activities and behaviors
  • Written referral sales plans for each individual and for the company
  • Building a referral-selling skill set and learning how to ask for referrals
  • Accountability for referral results — new clients, new revenue, new targets
  • Commitment to coaching and reinforcing referral behaviors

The research is overwhelming. Tap into your existing customers with the same tenacity and elegance of approach as you do with your new account pursuits. Your current customers will likely provide referrals to new divisions, open up deeper relationships, and brainstorm new ways to expand with your product! No cold calling necessary.

Ready to boost your B2B lead generation with a referral selling strategy that works? Let’s talk. Schedule a 30-minute chat with me today to find out how No More Cold Calling can help. CTA?

(Featured image attribution: Mike van Schoonderwalt)

(This post was originally published on June 25, 2020 and updated April 27, 2023.)