The world of sales is changing. Back in the day, salespeople relied heavily on outbound lead generation—cold calling, dropping by the office, etc.
But over time, these methods have become less and less effective. And today, buyers are spending more than half of the sales process educating themselves about the product. No salesperson is required.
That’s why inbound lead generation has become so crucial for successful salespeople. Instead of reaching out to buyers, buyers come to you. And that means you can scale your success without spending 60 to 80 hours at the office each week.
This guide outlines the 5-Step Inbound Lead Generation Framework—the best way to effectively and efficiently generate inbound leads. Inside, we’ll look at why inbound leads are game-changers, how you can set up your system, and how you can optimize over time.
First Off, Why Do You Need Inbound Leads?
Before we get into the how of building an inbound lead generation system, let’s first tackle the why. And what better way to prove a point than looking at the complex numbers?
Here are a few stats to prove why focusing on inbound leads can be so beneficial.
- Inbound marketing leads cost 61% less than outbound leads (Invesp).
- Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads (DemandGen Report).
- The more inbound lead content, the better. Companies that increase blogging from 3-5X/month to 6-8X/month almost double their leads (HubSpot).
- Companies with excellent lead nurturing programs generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost (Marketo).
- Less than one-fifth of marketers think outbound practices provide valuable leads (HubSpot).
- Inbound and outbound leads are not the same value. Inbound leads give you immediate opportunity, outbound leads cost time and resources before they have any value.
Inbound vs. Outbound Leads
Now that we’ve got the numbers down let’s parse out the difference between inbound vs. outbound leads for a sales team.
With outbound leads, you’re doing all the heavy lifting. You’re sending out the emails, making the calls, and dropping by their offices. You’re reaching out. And essentially, you’re paying for those leads with your own time.
The trap with outbound leads is that you only have so much time to give in a day. And while you can make acquiring outbound leads more successful (we have plenty of frameworks for that), you’re still limited in how much you can scale.
Inbound leads, on the other hand, come to you. No calls. No emails. No time expenditure on your part. Instead, your time is spent investing in a system that attracts those leads. And the better your system becomes, the more leads you attract.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of this type of system.
Inbound Benefit #1: Works While You Sleep
Inbound leads break the cycle of paying for leads with your time. And one of the best benefits of that is your system keeps working without you or help from a sales team.
Attracting and converting leads, from a specific target audience takes time—and lots of it. So it’s no wonder why more than one-third of salespeople believe prospecting and lead qualification are the biggest challenges, according to Pipedrive.
But an inbound lead generation system attracts and qualifies leads 24/7. And that means you can spend more time on closing, developing new skills, or even take a week off, worry-free.
Leveraging an inbound lead generation strategy like what I outline below, that turns valuable content into cash is the future of B2B sales.
Inbound Benefit #2: You Become “Unsackable”
The B2B sales industry is competitive. And if you don’t establish yourself as an invaluable asset for your organization, your career may be in jeopardy.
But by developing your inbound lead generation system, you’re adding one more reason why you can’t be replaced.
See, making cold calls and sending out emails is relatively easy. Almost any salesperson can do it. But when you establish yourself as an authority in the field (key to attracting inbound leads), it shows you’re proactive in your selling.
More than just someone who can read a script, you’re actually a trusted expert in the field. And that’s an asset to any organization.
Inbound Benefit #3: Builds a Flywheel
Finally, one of the best things about focusing on inbound leads is that when you have the right system set up, it can actually run itself.
No more waiting on marketing to provide you with that sweet, sweet sales qualified lead.
This concept is based on the HubSpot flywheel. Essentially, the more you optimize your inbound lead channels and maximize your authority, the more the system runs on its own momentum.
For you, that means you get to bring in leads automatically; no cold calling or emailing is required. Heck, you could even take a vacation—when’s the last time that happened?
The 5-Step Inbound Lead Generation Framework
Inbound leads are far superior to outbound leads. With the right system, they take less work to acquire, are more likely to become paying customers, and will often have a higher lifetime value than outbound leads.
But how do you actually get inbound leads?
There’s not many inbound lead generation strategies out there for B2B salespeople. But we have your back.
That’s where the 5-Step Inbound Lead Generation Framework comes in. With this framework, you’ll have the strategy and marketing assets you need to build your authority and consistently attract leads to your front door.
It takes a bit of work to do right. But when you do, you can start reaping the benefits in as soon as a month or two. You just need to follow these five steps:
- Mission Statement
- Authority Story
- LinkedIn Profile
- End goal: Publishing Industry Insights
Each step is build on the idea that creatibing valuable content and having a machine to get it in front of people allows you to build trust and credibility at scale.
When you build an inbound lead generation system, you’re essentially creating a new business. And what does every business need before opening its doors? A mission statement.
1) Mission statement
The mission statement is a clear and concise summation of who you are and what you do. It’s your goal. It’s the value you add to the marketplace. And it’s what you’re passionate about.
Some examples of grand mission statements are:
- To put a personal computer in every home. — Bill Gates
- To make selling simple. — Yours truly, Will Barron
- To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. — Warby Parker
- To create a better everyday life for the many people. — IKEA
The Goal of Your Mission Statement
Your mission statement has two sides and thus, two goals.
- It should help you focus and understand how you define success. If an action does not match your mission statement or contradicts it entirely, you shouldn’t do it. Simple.
- It should tell your buyers who you are and what you do. After reading it, they should know if you can help them specifically and how you can help them.
If both of these goals aren’t fulfilled after creating your own mission statement, keep tweaking it until it does.
But don’t over-complicate this step either.
Your mission statement is designed to nudge you in the right direction and to give your buyers a high-level overview of who you are, and to add a layer of professionalism. It’s not there to pigeonhole you or hold you back from any future adventures.
Crafting Your Mission Statement: 4 Considerations
If you’re feeling stuck, it can help to come at it from a couple of different angles.
Take into consideration the following to get your wheels spinning:
- What’s most important to you? What do you care about more than anything? And which of those cares intersect with what you do professionally?
- What are your most important goals? Long-term, short-term, personal, career-oriented. List them out.
- What do your peers think? What do they find most fulfilling about their jobs? What keeps them inspired?
- What legacy do you want to leave? What do you want friends, family, and colleagues to say about you after you’re gone?
2) Crafting Your Authority Story
Next up, it’s time to tell your story. A great origin story is key to building rapport and trust with your buyers.
As humans, we’re wired for storytelling. Back when we lived in tribes, a stranger’s origin story was the quickest way to decipher if this new person was a friend or a potential enemy.
A great origin story immediately sets the foundation for a great relationship with buyers. But a bad one does just the opposite and could be the first reason why leads don’t get in touch.
So the question is, how do you create a great origin story that builds authority?
What Your Story Is & Isn’t
Your Story Is…
- The reason why you show up to sell your product
- What motivates you to do your best every day
- What types of buyers find value in working with you and why
- A relationship-building tool
- A concept that underscores your entire platform
- Direct, real and conversational
Your Story Isn’t…
- A long-winded, five-paragraph essay about the company you work for
- A blog post
- Something isolated, boring or artsy
- A fragmented view into your life
- Something reserved for the marketing team only
- A PR stunt, viral video or tool to manipulate buyers
The Hero’s Journey
Of all the different story structures, I’ve found the single most effective is what’s known as the hero’s journey. Here’s a quick breakdown of what that looks like.
- The Ordinary World – The hero’s everyday life is established.
- The Call of Adventure – Something changes.
- Refusal of the Call – The hero is reluctant to take on the challenge.
- Meeting the Mentor – Our hero meets someone who prepares them for what lies ahead.
- The Travel – The hero steps out of their comfort zone and enters a ‘new world.’
- Almost at the Battle – The hero gets close to their goal. Luke Skywalker reaches the Death Star.
- The Ordeal – The hero meets (and overcomes) their greatest challenge yet.
- Reward (Seizing the Sword) – The hero obtains something important they were after, and victory is in sight.
- The Road Back – The hero realizes that achieving their goal is not the final hurdle. In fact, ‘seizing the sword’ may have made things worse for them.
- Resurrection – The hero faces their final challenge: a climactic test that hinges on everything they’ve learned over their journey.
- Return with the Elixir – Having triumphed, our protagonist returns to their old life, but they are now a changed person.
3) Building a Homepage
Now that we’ve got a mission statement and an authority building origin story, we need somewhere to put them. We need a hub—a centralized location where prospects can go to learn who you are and what you do.
We need a homepage.
Luckily, building a homepage for yourself has never been easier. There are plenty of services that make this process simple. And if you’re more of a DIYer, you can build your homepage from the ground up all by yourself.
No matter which route you take, your homepage should include your mission statement, your story, your latest insights and blog posts (more on that later), and your contact form.
Why You Need One
There was a time when B2B relationships existed entirely over the phone and in person. Buyers would learn about products through the salespeople. And as a result, selling was a collaborative process.
But these days, buyers are increasingly doing product research on their own. In fact, 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally, according to Forrester. What’s more, Gartner found that just 17% of the buyer’s journey is spent meeting with potential suppliers. The rest is all research and meeting with stakeholders.
It’s important, then, that you are putting out regular content that your buyers can engage with independently. And your homepage is the perfect place for just that.
Get Your Own Property
It’s worth noting that you should focus on buying your own online property.
The goal of your homepage is to give you a home on the internet that you and you alone control. LinkedIn and other social media platforms own the content you post on them. And they could shut you (and your content) down at a moment’s notice.
But when you have your own website, you are the sole owner. And the only person that can shut you down is, well, you.
4) Setting Up Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn—it’s where business is done.
In the professional world, LinkedIn is like a bigger, more robust business card. And if you don’t have an active profile, buyers are going to find themselves wondering why (“what are they hiding?”).
Creating a strategic and informative LinkedIn profile is an essential step of this framework. It helps you connect with buyers. It showcases your authority. And it’s where you’ll be publishing your content insights—in addition to your homepage of course.
If you’re one of the few salespeople who hasn’t yet set up a LinkedIn profile, don’t worry. It’s easy.
Elements to Include
LinkedIn reports that users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through the platform. So take the time to fill out yours as completely as possible.
Here are some crucial elements you’ll want to be sure to add to your page.
- Your mission statement
- Your authority building origin story
- A descriptive header (not just your job title)
- Skill endorsements from other professionals
- Skill assessments taken through the platform
- Plenty of testimonials from colleagues and clients
- Services you offer
- Your contact information
- Link to your website
Optimizing Your Presence
To get the most out of your LinkedIn presence, you’ll want to be sure your profile is as optimized as possible. You’ll also want to engage with the platform frequently and consistently. There are a few ways you can do this.
- Comment on content. Make sure your comments add value to the conversation. And always, always read the content from start to finish. You don’t want your comments to be a negative reflection on you.
- Follow relevant influencers in your industry. Not only will it help populate your feed with interesting content. But it will also give browsing buyers more context for who you are and what you do.
- Be genuine. People hate buzzwords and business jargon. It rarely adds value to your profile. And it doesn’t give potential buyers a clearer picture of you and your story.
- Make asking for endorsements and testimonials a part of your process. These are both social proof gold. And they make attracting and converting leads ten times simpler.
5) Publishing Industry Insights (It’s All for This!)
With the four elements of your inbound lead generation platform created, it’s time to tackle the final step—publishing your industry insights!
This is where everything comes together to truly skyrocket your authority and start bringing inbound leads to your front door. When you publish insightful, industry-relevant content, you’re creating more opportunities to spend time in front of your buyers. The more (and better) content you have, the more you stay at the top of their mind.
Added to that, the more and better content you have, the more likely you’ll be found both on LinkedIn and Google.
For context, one new insight post a month is more than enough to have an impact here. The goal with your insight content is to create an excuse to reach out to new potential buyers and keep in touch with people who didn’t buy from you the first time around.
Types of Insights
There are two main types of insights you’ll want to focus on: personal insights and company insights.
- Personal Insights – These insights should showcase why you’re an authority in your field. Ask yourself what changes you’ve seen in the market? What are your buyers’ biggest fears? What sales objections do you face each day? These are all great places to start a post from.
- Company Insights – Ask your sales manager and marketing manager for comments on what trends they’ve been noticing. These individuals can often offer another interesting point of view of your industry. Then, share their answers with your followers.
Post Structure & Styles
Every insight post has four key elements.
- Title – Grabs attention and makes a promise (which needs to be fulfilled by the end of your post).
- Introduction – Hooks the reader, draws them in, and sets up the post.
- Main Body – Works through a logical sequence of points, holding the reader’s attention.
- Conclusion – Ends the post decisively and calls the reader to take action.
There are plenty of different post styles to choose from. But I’ve found that two styles, in particular, are the most effective.
- List Posts – A list of insights around a central theme that the buyer will find valuable.
- Round-Up Posts – Bringing together experts to share their insights around a specific topic.
I go over these post types in more detail in my Selling Made Simple Academy. But for now, try putting together one or two of these insight posts each month. And then, publish them both on your website and LinkedIn and watch as the leads roll in!
What To Do When You Get an Inbound Lead
So now that you’ve got an inbound lead generation system in place let’s go over a few things to know when you do get contacted by an inbound lead.
How Quickly Should You Contact Inbound Leads?
A buyer has reached out over LinkedIn or through your website. So when do you get back to them? Do you wait and make them squirm? Or do you risk sounding desperate and respond right away?
As it turns out, the faster you respond, the better. Don’t worry about coming off as too hungry here.
Research shows the optimal inbound lead response time is 5 minutes or less. For example, Revenue.io found that you are 100 times more likely to get in touch with an inbound lead 5 minutes after they’ve contacted you versus 30 minutes after.
Use Content to Keep Building Your Authority
When they do get in touch, use your own content to continue building your authority.
For instance, if a lead reaches out and has a question about a topic you’ve covered, give them an overview and then send them a link to your insight post. That way, they can dive deeper into the topic on their own and get more familiar with your brand.
Never Stop Learning
Responding to leads quickly and boosting your authority with content can both be the difference between a lost lead and a new client. But there are plenty of other strategies you can take to increase your chances of success. And that’s why it’s critical that you never stop learning.
Dedicate 15 or 30 minutes a day to refining your sales skills. Take online courses to expand your selling techniques.
And browse through Salesman.org to keep that spirit of learning alive.
When you create an inbound lead generation system, you’re breaking free from the endless cycle of cold calling and emailing. Instead, you’re developing a process that creates its own dividends over time. And the bounty is qualified, quality leads that come to you, not the other way around.
This five-step inbound lead generation framework takes a bit of work on your part to set up. And true, you have to be consistent. But when you put in the effort, you’re going to start seeing results in as little as a month.
Best of all, the flywheel nature of the framework means once you’ve built up momentum, the process practically runs itself.