Outbound Lead Generation: How to Build an Efficient Growth Engine

Every business dreams of a pipeline of well-qualified inbound leads that land in their sales team’s laps. The reality, of course, is that go-to-market teams still need to take an active role in pushing their companies to new heights of growth. 

But today’s outbound lead generation tactics are more than just dialing for dollars. Modern GTM teams build on a foundation of high-quality data, leveraging buyer intent data and other advanced signals to begin their outreach when prospects are ready to learn more.

Here’s how to effectively execute outbound lead generation, with examples and definitions to get you started on a new or refreshed strategy.

What is Outbound Lead Generation?

Outbound lead generation is the process of identifying, qualifying, and proactively engaging with prospective customers. The goal is to connect and cultivate buyer interest, screen prospects, and eventually convert them into sales-ready leads. 

Effective outbound campaigns require a blend of tenacity, people skills, and technological precision. Sales representatives need strong communication skills to get potential leads’ attention, convey value quickly, and motivate action. Outbound success also depends on identifying high-intent accounts, building personalized messaging, and optimizing targeting.

What is an Outbound Lead?

An outbound lead is any potential customer who shows an interest in your company, product, or services as a result of proactive outreach. Outbound leads can be:

  • MQLs (marketing qualified leads): Leads who have interacted with your brand in a way that suggests they are open to making a purchase and choosing your product.
  • SQLs (sales qualified leads): Leads who have passed marketing and sales department fit checks, and entered the sales funnel.

Outbound vs. Inbound Lead Generation

The difference between outbound and inbound marketing tactics revolve around how potential customers engage with your company.

Marketers and sales reps generate outbound leads by actively reaching out to prospects. In some cases, these people might never have heard of your brand or product. 

In contrast, inbound lead generation is about attracting buyers through advertising and publishing valuable content. Inbound campaigns ease prospects through the customer journey and down the funnel, so that leads are primed for purchase when they reach a sales rep.

How to Build an Outbound Lead Generation Strategy

Crafting a successful outbound lead generation strategy takes several key components. First, you need the right people.

On the sales side, your roster should contain a mix of the following roles:

  • Business development reps (BDRs): These frontline sales roles spend their time researching markets, companies, and potential prospects to find new accounts or areas of business a sales team may want to expand into.
  • Sales development reps (SDRs): These reps take the lead generation task one step further than BDRs, typically researching accounts, initiating contact, and qualifying inbound leads — on advanced teams, using a combination of intent data and propensity models.
  • Account executives (AEs): At the bottom of the funnel, account executives close deals. They focus on relationship building, problem solving, and winning business.

To generate a consistent stream of outbound leads, most companies will need the following marketing roles:

  • Content marketing specialists: Publishing relevant content for your target audience is an important part of nurturing new prospects.
  • Campaign marketers: To reach potential leads, these marketers run promotional campaigns across email, social media platforms, and in-person events.
  • Performance marketers: With advertising campaigns and brand building, performance marketers extend the reach of individual outbound lead generation campaigns.

The ideal mix of your team will vary depending on company size, the type of product you’re offering, and your ideal customer profile. In smaller firms, certain individuals take on multiple roles.

With a team in place, consider which outbound lead generation methods should be included in your sales and marketing strategy. The most commonly used channels include:

Direct Dials

While many entry-level salespeople dread cold calling, picking up the phone is still an effective way to reach decision-makers. Research by the RAIN Group found that 57% of C-level and VP buyers and 51% of directors across industries prefer a phone call. 

The key advantage of calling your prospects is real-time interaction. Reps can gauge purchase intent and build rapport very quickly. On the downside, reps often need to place many cold calls before getting through.

The secret to making cold calling work? Warm up those phone lines by using advanced buyer intent signals to make sure you’re not wasting everyone’s time.

Email Outreach

In comparison, cold email outreach is much more scalable. While mass email marketing is more impersonal than speaking directly with a prospect, segmentation allows reps to personalize messages in bulk.

Few cold emails will be opened, and the response rate is often low. However, it’s possible to increase views — and the eventual conversion rate — by A/B testing subject lines and other elements of your email outreach.

Remember: Make it relevant, make it personal, and keep it short.

Social Selling

Outreach through social media channels can be much more personal than many other B2B outbound tactics, and platforms like LinkedIn make it easy to communicate through instant messaging. B2B marketers can also gain valuable insights by following prospects’ posts, and serving as topic experts by sharing their own knowledge.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

PPC advertising is a shortcut for outbound lead generation. It allows marketers to target any prospect exhibiting key buying signals, and retarget engaged visitors across multiple channels.

The cost per conversion means it can only be used in moderation. However, marketers can control expenditure by applying a maximum cost-per-click threshold per keyword.

$190.5 billion projected spend on search advertising globally in 2024.

Outbound Lead Generation Tools

To execute a comprehensive outbound campaign, sales and marketing teams need the right tools. While the exact selection will depend on the tactics in play, there are key areas that every company should cover.

Prospecting and List-Building Tools

Outbound lead generation starts with collecting information about potential customers, including contact details. This data can come from specialized providers like ZoomInfo, and through proprietary sources in your company.

Lead data must then be cleaned for use and enriched with information from live data sources — buyer intent data, for example. Some providers, like ZoomInfo, can handle this entire workflow.

Outreach and Engagement

Next, outbound marketing teams need to engage with prospects. This process should be managed through a CRM. Specialized tools, such as phone dialers and email marketing software, can be integrated to provide extra features. 

Automation tools are important here. For example, ZoomInfo allows marketing teams to set up campaigns triggered by buyer intent signals and other data points. There are many automation tools to choose from, but any platform you select needs to work with your CRM.

Analytics and Optimization

As with inbound marketing, the best outreach campaigns build upon previous efforts using analysis and optimization. 

Response metrics can guide both current and future campaigns, while predictive analytics anticipate the needs of potential customers. 

All-in-one marketing platforms have these features built in. Alternatively, you can use specialized analytics platforms, or the analytics suite in your dedicated outreach tools. 

Operations and Monitoring

Monitoring outbound sales processes is vital to maximizing conversion rates. Outbound marketing teams need access to tools that assist with internal operational tasks. 

A prime example of monitoring is conversation intelligence. Tools like Chorus record phone calls and video chats, allowing sales managers to glean insights without listening in directly. Leaders can use this information to inform SDR training and guide GDPR compliance processes.

ZoomInfo's operational tools help outbound sales teams deliver value.

Many operational tools used by outbound sales teams deliver value through automation — from sequences to task management. As long as workflows don’t become overly complex, outbound teams can safely adopt many of these solutions.

The Importance of Buyer Intent

Establishing whether a prospect has a genuine interest in your product, and the authority to make purchase decisions, is vital when pursuing new leads. 

The difficult part is sorting the signal from the noise. Understanding the tiers of intent data, and learning how to apply the insights, allows marketing and sales leaders to optimize the outbound lead generation process.

Types of Buyer Data

Buyer intent refers to signals that indicate a prospect’s propensity to make a purchase. There are three main tiers of intent data, each with varying levels of sales readiness:

Tier 1: Champion Moves

When is a decision-maker most likely searching for a new solution? Right after they take a new role. If that person happens to be a champion for your product, such a move becomes even more significant. 

ZoomInfo stays on top of these “champion moves” by tracking millions of job title changes every month. In addition, ZoomInfo has open-sourced a GTM Play that triggers automated outreach whenever an external move occurs.

Tier 2: Known Intent

While a change of role is a good early indicator, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your target prospect is ready to buy. 

A stronger sign is direct communication of interest, projects, or problems related to your product. This is called “known intent,” and it can reveal invaluable insights.

Some buyer intent can be gleaned through conversations with prospects. But to extend intelligence gathering further, ZoomInfo surveys millions of companies to learn about upcoming projects and challenges. This data is used to provide over 1 million “Scoops” per year — strong indicators of sales readiness.

Tier 3: Inferred Intent

Prospects won’t always show their hand, so behavior is as important as what is said. “Inferred intent” relates to behaviors that imply an interest in your product or brand. 

Many companies miss the first two tiers of buyer intent data, and focus only on inferred intent. While tier three is certainly important, a mix of data types tends to paint a much more accurate picture, and reveals subtle clues.

ZoomInfo combines its own proprietary data with partner sources to build a complete picture of buyer intent. 

Champion Moves, Known Intent and Inferred Intent make up the 3 tiers of buyer intent data.

Buyer Intent in Outbound Strategy 

To fully capitalize on intent data for outbound lead gen, you need to operationalize buyer intent signals in your outbound lead generation process. 

Integrate Intent Into Workflows

For intent to play an actionable role in your sales process, it must be baked into your workflow. 

A good starting point is building triggers that alert reps of intent signals within your CRM. For instance, ZoomInfo can alert you when a prospect is browsing solutions in your niche on G2.

Sales managers can integrate intent data into dynamic lead scoring, and automate entire outbound campaigns when spikes in intent data are detected. 

Enable Personalized Engagement

The insights you gain from analyzing buyer intent can help tailor outreach messaging, and ensure that marketers are creating relevant content for potential buyers. This has a positive effect on inbound lead generation as well. 

With ZoomInfo’s account-based marketing platform, you can manage your multi-channel campaigns and integrate data insights in one place.

Continuously Optimize Outbound Efforts

Buyer intent isn’t only useful ahead of time. The same data can later gauge the sales pipeline impact of specific campaigns and refine audience segmentation.

Outbound sales strategies that convert a high number of leads that showed purchase intent should be repeated. When conversions don’t follow the buyer intent data, it becomes obvious that the approach wasn’t quite right.

Capturing and Measuring Leads

Intent data is a critical component of multi-touch attribution. Marketers can pinpoint key conversion points during the buyer’s journey, including where deals were won and lost. This information can be used to improve conversion rates and sales cycle velocity.

Buyer intent data is also an indicator of lead quality. Potential leads who show strong buying signals can be prioritized.

Embracing Outbound Lead Generation

Outbound marketing is not always easy to effectively plan and execute. However, success is possible if you leverage buyer intent data. Prospects exhibiting active interest signals convert at far higher rates when pursued through outbound channels. 

Extracting necessary insights requires combining intent data from multiple sources for a complete picture. This is where ZoomInfo shines. 

Our integrated platform delivers comprehensive intent intelligence to fuel your outbound efforts. By tracking signals across the buyer journey, ZoomInfo helps your team identify the highest-quality leads, uncover emerging projects, orchestrate multi-channel campaigns, and much more. 

Request a free trial today to experience our intent data and outbound solutions for yourself.