If you’re a newer sales manager looking for help with lead generation, you’re likely wondering what goes into automating it. Is it worth the investment in software? Can it be done manually?
Manual lead generation is an option, but the time it takes to research prospects and enter their data into spreadsheets can be prohibitive. If your budget allows, and your team is prepared to convert the extra leads, automated lead generation can boost your sales pipeline by allowing reps to focus on higher-value tasks such as nurturing a relationship with a potential lead.
To show what automating your lead generation efforts can do for your business, we’ll discuss the basics of automated lead generation, then walk you through some Gartner research-backed benefits and use cases of lead generation software. Then, we’ll cover the most important features and capabilities so you know what to look for in a lead generation automation tool.
Automated lead generation refers to systems and processes that help you get leads without sourcing them manually. It’s often associated with inbound lead generation, where leads contact you through your website, social media, or referrals. But you can also automate outbound lead generation through features that help your team initiate that contact such as email management.
Whether inbound or outbound, you’re going to need lead generation software to automate your lead generation process. The image below shows an example of one of these platforms.
A lead generation tool helps your team target the right audience with the right message. Instead of contacting random people, you’ll have access to data about leads who have shown interest in your services through an online channel such as email, social media, and or a landing page.
The most obvious benefit of any automation tool is the time it saves your team on tasks they’d otherwise perform manually. Lead generation tools pack the additional punch of arming you with data to optimize your lead generation strategy and maximize pipeline performance. Here’s what else you can expect when you automate lead generation, plus ways to leverage those benefits.
Almost a third of reps surveyed by Gartner  named alignment between marketing and sales as a challenge impacting lead quality. Lead generation tools help achieve this alignment by ensuring both teams’ efforts are informed by the same data. One way to leverage this benefit is by tracking lead sources to identify which marketing campaigns are successful and which aren’t.
Another Gartner survey  identified organic web traffic as a top channel for inbound lead generation. Lead generation tools increase your ability to attract qualified leads to your website by collecting customer data. You can use this data to refine your target customer segments; then, you can create personas for these segments to tailor website messaging and content .
Lead generation tools enhance user experience (UX) by meeting customers’ needs at any hour of the day or night. One way they do this is through chatbots, which Gartner  recommends using in addition to live chat with a sales rep. As an added bonus, chatbots often come with analytics capabilities that help you make data-driven decisions to improve UX even further.
To build a stronger sales team, Gartner  recommends that new sales leaders familiarize themselves with metrics that gauge their reps’ performance. These include upsell numbers, feedback on quality, and average lead conversion time, which is shown in the image below.
By automating tasks such as data entry, lead generation tools reduce the potential for error while helping you measure and track your reporting metrics. This way, you can more confidently report on your sales data to stakeholders in ways that highlight your team’s progress.
We’ve already touched on a few common features of lead generation software, such as source tracking, customer segmentation, chatbots, and reporting and analytics. Here are a few more features that you can expect to find in a lead generation tool:
Contact database: A contact database allows customer data to be accessible across teams. The image below shows an example of this feature within a lead generation tool.
Lead capture: This feature allows you to automatically identify and save the contact information of a potential customer.
Data import/export: With this feature, you can import and export information and reports to and from your lead generation software.
Landing pages/web forms: These features allow you to capture new lead information through online forms, as shown in the image below.
Lead qualification: A qualified lead is someone who is likely to buy based on behaviors such as need, budget, and trust in your brand. Your software’s lead qualification feature scores leads for you so they can move through the sales pipeline more quickly.
Prospecting tools: These features help you identify potential leads based on predefined criteria and add them to your sales pipeline.
Before you adopt a lead generation tool, make sure it offers these three capabilities:
It’s scalable. Lead generation is responsible for boosting sales, and as your sales grow, so will your business. Many lead generation tools charge on a per-user basis, meaning you can add seats as your sales team expands as well.
It can integrate with a CRM, or it offers its own CRM functionality. Your lead generation tool should work with your CRM or offer its own CRM functionality to help you capitalize on marketing campaigns and not let qualified leads slip through the cracks.
It offers reporting and analytics capabilities. Ensure that your lead generation tool not only gathers data, but also helps you analyze your target audience and what drives them to your business.
Automated lead generation is the most effective way to boost your sales pipeline, and its benefits, such as improved cross-team alignment and better insights, are significant. But there are a few things you’ll need to have ready before investing in a lead generation tool:
A budget for new tech. Most lead generation software is priced on a per user, per month basis and can be divided into three tiers based on their starting price*: $9-$20, $21-$83, and $84 and up. These prices reflect base plans of most lead generation tools. Premium versions with additional features such as client license packages will be more expensive.
A training process that both familiarizes your team with your new software and incorporates the tool into your sales procedure. You may need to onboard reps in phases to minimize interruption to your workflow.
A way to manage the data that your lead generation tool will collect, since you’ll be bringing in a much higher volume of leads than you would generate manually. You’ll be at an advantage if you already have a CRM, but if you don’t, you’ll need to find a lead generation tool that has CRM functionalities.
*The pricing included is for the entry-level/lowest-priced offering that was found on vendor websites on April 5, 2022. These ranges correspond to the 25th, 75th, and 100th percentiles of pricing information gathered from vendor websites of sample products.
Note: The screenshots of applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.
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