How to Generate Sales Leads on LinkedIn; Content Strategy for ROI
Why use LinkedIn for Lead Generation?
If you’re a B2B marketer looking to generate hyper-qualified leads for your sales team, LinkedIn is the most effective and cost-efficient place for near-term results. By a long shot.
It’s the only channel that provides you on-demand access to the precise decision-makers and stakeholders who can grow your business.
But then why is there so much “funk” about using this channel to generate leads?
It’s true. Many marketers have tried their hand at LinkedIn lead generation and failed. Badly. That’s usually because
They try to sell too early instead of building relationships with their prospects;
They use the same tired messaging tactics as countless other marketers;
They give up too early in order to move on to the next tactic / channel of the month.
It’s critical to understand that “flash-in-the-pan” tactics won’t produce results, especially in the B2B sales cycle.
However, with persistence and the right process, your work will pay dividends.
This article is going to teach you this process: an engine that consistently generates 3-4 digit ROI for our team and our clients.
The approach is all about building 2 core “levers“ into your system and testing them; the levers are TARGETING and MESSAGING.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
Lever 1 - TARGETING: How to find your most valuable prospects on LinkedIn;
Lever 2 - MESSAGING: How to systematically build relationships with your prospects using content;
How to Track KPIs: A clear line-of-sight into your LinkedIn lead generation system;
How to Analyze Your Campaign: Fix bottlenecks and pull the right lever to move the needle in the right direction.
Before we begin: #ProudPlug - If (after reading) you want the exact strategy, process, tracking system and automations we discuss in this article, we’re wrapping them all up in a box and giving them away to a limited group of beta users. You can apply to be a LinkedIn Sales Engine beta user at the bottom of this article.
Target your Ideal Prospects on Linkedin
know your ideal prospect
The first “lever” in your LinkedIn lead gen system is targeting.
And the first step to good targeting is understanding your ideal client “avatar.”
You need to know the qualifying demographics (job title, level in the company, industry, region etc.) and understand their business problems, roadblocks and key motivations.
If you need some help defining your prospects avatar, you can follow the process using our free template here:
Once you’ve defined your avatar, you’ll need a way to reach your prospects.
Build Your prospect database
If you’re serious about generating a high volume of qualified sales leads, springing for a paid version of LinkedIn Sales Navigator is the move.
The advanced lead search feature is 99% of the reason why we use LinkedIn Sales Navigator internally. If you’re not familiar with it, it allows you to build and save groups of target prospects by industry, job title, region and any other account information.
Depending on your business and the services you offer, you may have many different avatars. You may also want to test different target segments and see how they respond to your campaigns.
We use Sales Navigator’s advanced search feature to build our targeting buckets and keep track of each target group via a Google sheet.
Once we’ve built the initial database, it’s time to invite prospects into our tribe!
2. Use Content Marketing to Build Relationships with Your LinkedIn Prospects
lead with content and value (not sales)
The second lever of your lead gen engine is MESSAGING.
The biggest mistake marketers make when it comes to LinkedIn outreach is “going for the jugular” too early in the relationship.
Never ask your prospects to jump on a sales call right away.
That’s the equivalent of walking up to a stranger at a bar and starting the conversation by asking for their number.
Yeah… you’ll just sound “thirsty.”
Instead, you need to build the relationship by leading with real value. Do this in a selfless way so that you’re providing help without asking for anything in return.
We’ve found that the best way to do this is to leverage great content marketing.
Schedule Your Messaging Campaign
Here’s an example of a general system we use to build relationships with our prospects:
1. Connection Request;
2. Provide Value (e.g. Invite to industry group where you post valuable content regularly);
3. Provide Value (e.g. Link to niche-relevant article content);
4. Provide Value (e.g. Link to video content);
5. Request a call; networking, strategy session, consult…
If you only have ½ an employee dedicated to sales, you should drip this out in batches of about 50 prospects spaced out 2 weeks apart between messages. With these parameters, the output of a solid outreach campaign should be at least 10-15 calls per month.
If you have a sales team and prospect pool large enough to support more calls, you can go for bigger batches. Bigger batches are also great because they will give you more data and better insight if you choose to A / B test your messaging.
Craft Your Messaging content Playbook
The creative execution of your messaging campaign can take many different directions. The truth is that the exactly right sequence will be different for every business.
Don’t make the mistake of using some LinkedIn guru’s boilerplate template that 100s of other marketers are already using. Your prospects have seen it already… So be original!
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the content in your messaging campaign needs to actually give your prospect something they want and need.
If you’re able to produce your own original content, articles, tools etc., this will go a long way in positioning your business.
Think about what you can offer your prospect. Are you funny? Are you inspiring? Do you have something to teach or a tool you know they’ll benefit from?
If you have the budget but can’t produce your own content, consider outsourcing. If you don’t have a budget, you can always leverage third party “curated” content, but it still has to provide real value.
We keep track of all of our messaging separated by campaign, objective, message number and message variation for easy reference in our Google Sheet Tracker.
If you’d like to see some more depth on the topic of messaging copy, check out the full guide on B2B Lead Generation.
Like any growth marketing initiative, the most successful LinkedIn campaigns test many variations, learn, iterate and improve targeting and messaging over time.
The next section will give you the tools to do just that.
3. Track the Best KPIs for LinkedIn Lead Generation
Knowing a few KPIs and setting targets for each of them will give you a clear line of sight into your campaign. This is the only way to optimize and grow.
There are 2 overarching data questions that your KPIs need to answer.
Question 1 - Are you generating Sales Qualified Leads (SQL’s) Effectively?
The goal during the “upper funnel” or early stage of your LinkedIn lead generation campaigns is to generate appointments.
The visuals in this first dashboard below show if we’re doing that properly:
Notice that each module of the dashboard includes a KPI, broken down by our key “levers” so that we can see which TARGETING (industry) and MESSAGING (campaign) work best.
Here are the most important “top funnel” KPIs you need to track and why:
New Connections - Set a target for the number of new connections you want to achieve per set time interval (week, month, quarter…). This will keep you on track to achieving your initial outreach goals.
Appointment Acceptance Rate (Appointments / Requests) - This great KPI will tell you how well your messaging content is warming up the prospects. Typically, if your AaR is 8-10%+, your messaging is getting the job done.
Sales-Qualified Leads - Set a volume target for the number of SQLs per week, month, quarter based on how many your team can handle. If you’re not hitting that goal, you A) aren’t messaging enough people or B) your “levers” need to be reworked.
Question 2 - Are you Closing Deals Effectively?
This next question ventures outside lead generation and delves directly into sales. But we’ll touch on it nonetheless!
The dashboard below gives you insight into your “bottom funnel” (sales):
Here are your bottom-funnel KPIs;
Proposal Rate (Proposals / Conversations) - This metric will tell you if your initial conversation(s) (and conversation follow-up) are driving enough interest for your leads to want to see an official proposal.
Contract Rate (Contracts / Proposals) - This metric tells you how well your proposals (and proposal follow-up) are converting your leads.
Average Lifetime Value (LTV) - This metric delves outside sales and ventures into service delivery, but it’s important to understand your campaign ROI. It will tell you how well you’re retaining, upselling and cross-selling your clients.
ROI (LTV / Campaign Cost) - Your KING KPI! Take the LTV, and divide it by all the associated costs (sales and marketing team hours etc.).
Analyzing Your Campaign and Fixing the Bottlenecks (A Real Case Study)
calculate campaign roi
The example data I’ve provided in the screenshots above is an early read on an actual LinkedIn campaign we ran.
The business investment for this campaign totaled $5K. Since the campaign generated $35K, the ROI was 600%.
6X ROI certainly deserves pats on the back. But our work is far from over at this stage as there’s massive room for improvement.
identify the bottlenecks
The example dashboard below gives us a clear line of sight into the results of the LinkedIn sales engine, so we can review regularly, compare performance against targets and course-correct as needed.
Like we mentioned earlier, it’s important to set targets for all of your KPIs. The orange lines in this visual represent the KPI targets of this business.
You can see in the table above that the Appointment Rate is significantly better than the target (+40%). So we can assume that the messaging campaign playbook is doing the job well enough and doesn't need to be fixed.
We can also see that the LTV is solid compared to the target. This is a win. It means that the business won more value from its client by delivering well on its service.
The bottlenecks in this campaign are the proposal rate and the contract close rate. Both are much lower than the target.
In order to understand the cause, let’s drill our leads down by their “deal stage.”
optimize THE BOTTLENECKS
In the case above, we can see that 15 out of the 25 appointments have not resulted in a sales call or a proposal.
There are a few things we should investigate further to resolve this and hit our goal of converting 30%+ of the appointments into proposals and 25%+ of the proposals into contracts;
The Appointment: The first thing we investigate comprises the actual calls. How is the sales team handling the calls? If you have a script, are they following it properly? If you’re using a CRM, it’s a good idea to have your team record the calls there for later review.
The Call Follow-Up: As we do for the initial campaign, we create a messaging playbook for the follow-up process. We recommend 3-5 messages to get your prospects to agree to a sales call, during which you’ll submit your proposal. Each message should add more value.
Target Segments (Client Avatar): Analyze performance across your target buckets. If there’s an avatar that hasn’t been interested in hearing your offer, it might be time to reassess that group for product-market fit.
The Proposal: If proposals are being rejected, it’s because the prospect doesn't see the ROI for your service. It’s your job to find out why.
Proposal Follow Up: We use a 3-5 message sequence to follow up on unanswered proposals. As always, each message should add value (preferably with content).
In this example, it became clear that the bottlenecks were at number 2 and number 5 above - THE FOLLOW UP!
The majority of prospects and proposals here are in “limbo” - they haven’t responded with a hard yes / no answer. This indicates a potential problem with the follow-up sequence.
Follow-up is possibly the most common bottleneck in sales. Eighty percent of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the meeting, but 44% of sales reps give up after just 1 follow-up!
We found that, in this case, the sales team was not following up enough times after the initial call. When they followed up, their message provided no additional value, just a simple “Hey, just following up to see if you’ve decided.”
These prospects still need to be nurtured, and, just like the initial outreach campaign, a good follow-up sequence can add more value for them in every message through content.
Let’s reflect on what you’ve accomplished up to this point:
We targeted our ideal clients using LinkedIn Sales Navigator;
We connected with a significant number of prospects and warmed them up by dripping valuable content to them on a schedule.
If you’ve done this according to the plan, you will have built a sizeable database of prospects in very little time.
They won’t all be ready to convert right away, but every prospect in your database is still too valuable to let go.
As I mentioned, unless a prospect has given a hard “No” response, they need to be nurtured.
So don’t let your database go to waste!
Instead, I recommended that you implement a unique email sequence to follow up with three types of prospects:
Prospects who have been run through the 5-message LinkedIn campaign but haven’t responded;
SQLs that have talked to sales but haven’t seen a proposal yet;
SQLs that have been sent a proposal but haven’t responded for a set length of time.
I also recommend that you migrate these prospects to a CRM (customer relationship management) platform and a solid ESP (email service provider) that can handle advanced automations. I recommend HubSpot and / or ActiveCampaign; both have solid solutions for both functions.
You can also stay ahead of your prospects and continue to move them down funnel by leveraging LinkedIn advertising.
We’ve run out of space for this post, but the next steps are the perfect topic for another day. :)
Want the full SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and the exact tools and templates we used in this article so you can implement the system to the T yourself?
⚙️ Want to Build Your Own LinkedIn Lead Generation and Sales Engine? ⚙️
This all seems like a lot of work. Luckily, our team is about to launch a DIY solution that you can manage yourself to offload a ton of the manual work and streamline this ENTIRE process!
Want to replicate our EXACT system to generate hyper-qualified leads for your business or sales team?
Build out your client avatar and streamline the process of finding them on LinkedIn.
Schedule engaging messaging and content with our proven strategy and customizable templates.
Follow your prospects through the funnel and track your KPIs automatically with always-on data dashboards.
Drill down the data to focus on your most profitable targeting segments.
Automatically migrate prospects to your CRM / Email marketing software of choice, when they’re ready.
Unlimited access to step-by-step, spoon-fed video walkthroughs of the entire process.
Private slack channel where you can ask me anything you like.
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