What is B2B Lead Generation? How to Find B2B Leads

Beth Bagley
February 20, 2024
What is B2B Lead Generation? How to Find B2B Leads

A main indicator of a strong marketing strategy is successful B2B lead generation. This article covers exactly what B2B lead generation is and how you can turn your marketing efforts into a focused strategy that keeps your sales team busy and your boss happy. 

What is B2B Lead Generation?

B2B lead generation is the strategic process of identifying and attracting potential business clients or customers to generate sales opportunities and foster long-term business relationships. 

Unlike B2C (business-to-consumer) lead generation, B2B focuses on the needs, interests, and challenges of individuals who make purchases on behalf of, or for, their organization, making it a more nuanced and complex process than the B2C sales process.

Lead generation is one of the core drivers of B2B sales and should be one of the first things a team addresses if metrics are down. A steady flow of new clients is essential for sustaining and growing a business. 

By effectively identifying and engaging these potential clients, businesses can more efficiently allocate their resources, tailor their marketing efforts, and ultimately, close more deals.

Classifying B2B Leads

Understanding how to categorize leads is important for effectively addressing their concerns and guiding them through the sales process until they make a purchase. B2B leads are typically sorted into two categories: 

Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs)

MQLs are prospects that have shown interest in your product or service through their engagement with your marketing activities but are not yet ready to make a purchase. Identifying MQLs typically involves tracking specific behaviors or engagement metrics, such as:

  • Website Visits: Frequent visits to your website, especially to key pages that indicate buying interest.
  • Content Engagement: Downloading or consuming high-value content like ebooks, whitepapers, or attending webinars.
  • Email Interactions: Opening, clicking through, and responding to marketing emails.
  • Social Media Engagement: Interacting with your brand on social media platforms through likes, comments, or shares.

These activities suggest the lead is interested in learning more about your offerings but may need more information or time before making a buying decision.

Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs)

SQLs are leads that have moved beyond the initial interest phase and have shown clear signs of purchase intent, making them ready for direct sales engagement. Transitioning an MQL to an SQL involves a more detailed evaluation of their actions and readiness, such as:

  • Direct Inquiries: Submitting contact forms, requesting product demos, or asking for pricing information.
  • Engagement Level: Showing a high level of engagement with sales-oriented content or activities.
  • Sales Conversations: Participating in preliminary sales discussions or meetings that indicate a readiness to discuss specifics about a purchase.

The main differentiator between SQLs and MQLs lies in their demonstrated readiness to engage in the sales process, indicating they are potential customers.

Sales and Marketing Work Together

The lead generation journey should not be siloed to sales or marketing alone. For the best results, your sales and marketing teams need to collaborate and maintain consistent messaging throughout the entire pipeline. Strong coordination will empower your teams to boost demand, attract more qualified leads, and successfully close deals.


Marketing teams concentrate on the upper segment of the marketing funnel to increase awareness and address initial questions from users. By prioritizing top-of-funnel activities and beginning the lead qualification process, marketers set the stage for sales to efficiently close deals by providing a steady flow of MQLs.


The role of sales teams encompasses the lower segment of the pipeline. Their focus should be on nurturing MQLs, converting them into SQLs, and finalizing those deals to establish lasting customer relationships. 

How the B2B Lead Generation Process Works

To increase B2B lead generation, you need to understand the process and what department is responsible for each step:

Marketing: Identify Your Target Audience

Identifying your target audience early in the lead generation process is key as it guides your marketing and sales efforts towards those most likely to find value in your product or service. 

Analyze your current customers for common traits and needs, including demographic details, industry sectors, and specific challenges they face. Market research and competitor analysis can further clarify who your ideal customers are. Knowing your target audience helps tailor your content and strategies effectively, making your lead generation more efficient and enhancing your return on investment.

Marketing: Build Awareness

To best lay the groundwork for B2B lead generation, you need to have clear channels of awareness with carefully curated CTAs and the next steps to move the user through the funnel. 

There are several strategies businesses can employ to uncover potential leads through awareness, and HubSpot shares the three best B2B lead sources are SEO, email marketing, and social media, together making up 39% of all leads generated.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Investing in SEO is worthwhile as the same Hubspot study shows 12% of B2B marketing budgets are being spent on SEO while 14% (16% for companies in the tech industry) of leads generated are coming from SEO channels. 

Because the sales cycle is often longer and the purchasing decisions are more complex in B2B, being found online through organic search can significantly impact the lead generation process. Businesses conducting research for potential vendors or solutions are likely to start their journey with a search engine. Therefore, appearing in top search results for relevant queries can position your company as a top contender in their selection process.

Content Marketing

An effort hand-in-hand with SEO, content marketing is creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and engage a clearly defined audience. This approach establishes your expertise and can attract potential leads looking for the solutions you offer. This often includes industry insights, case studies, white papers, and how-to guides that establish your brand as a thought leader and trusted resource.

ABM Campaigns

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) focuses on targeting high-value accounts with personalized marketing strategies. ABM campaigns do not follow the typical marketing funnel structure and are more of a collaborative and strategic effort done by marketing and sales. These campaigns are super valuable in B2B marketing as the sales cycles are typically longer and deals are bigger. 

Sales: Nurturing New Leads

Once a user becomes an MQL, your team needs to capitalize on their awareness and continue outbound efforts. Here is where cold-calling, emails, and ad retargeting are all appropriate to continue adding touch points to the user and keep your company top of mind.

It's important to strike a careful balance between keeping your brand top of mind and avoiding overly aggressive tactics. Being too pushy can deter potential leads, so be sure to navigate this fine line with sensitivity and strategic planning.


While email marketing falls into generating awareness, once you have an MQL, the sales team can reach out to specific prospects for an added touch point. This involves sending targeted, personalized emails to a curated list of potential leads. This strategy can be highly effective in nurturing leads through the sales funnel.

Cold Calling

Despite being considered traditional, cold calling remains an effective strategy when done correctly, although success rates vary depending on the industry. It involves contacting potential leads directly, often with personalized pitches.

Sales: Qualifying Leads

Lead qualification is an essential process that helps your sales team concentrate on leads with the greatest likelihood of converting into customers. This involves evaluating leads on several key factors: their need for your product or service, their budget, their decision-making authority, and their purchasing timeline.

Active engagement from leads is a positive indicator that justifies continued investment of resources. This engagement can be in the form of responses to emails, participation in calls, or any interaction that shows interest in your offerings.

If leads become inactive or stop interacting with your outreach efforts, it's a signal to reallocate resources away from them. Focusing on leads that have gone dormant can drain valuable resources; instead, it's more strategic to direct attention and effort toward leads that demonstrate a higher likelihood of closing.

Sales: Turning Leads into Deals

Closing a B2B lead involves moving a qualified lead through the final stages of the sales funnel. This can include providing tailored solutions, addressing any remaining concerns, and negotiating terms. The key to a successful closure is to thoroughly understand the lead's requirements and convincingly show how your product or service is the best solution.

If you notice a high volume of incoming leads but a low rate of deal closures, it could signal that your sales team is underperforming.

B2B Lead Generation Tools

Leveraging the right tools is essential for enhancing your B2B lead generation efforts. These tools can help automate processes, provide valuable insights, and streamline your lead generation activities. A couple of tools we recommend checking out include:

  • HubSpot: A comprehensive inbound marketing, sales, and service software that offers a wide range of tools for lead generation, including email marketing, CRM, and content management features.
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator: Specifically designed for sales professionals, this tool enables users to find, understand, and engage with potential B2B leads on LinkedIn, the world's largest professional network.

Utilizing these tools can significantly expand your ability to generate and manage leads, making your B2B lead generation efforts more efficient.

Increasing Demand Generation

If you have a great product and sales team but still aren’t seeing the amount of leads you want, you need to focus on increasing demand gen. In the B2B marketing world, the old tried-and-true strategies have grown tired-and-not-true. Buyers are constantly bombarded with ads and sales pitches as soon as they open their devices– and they’re sick of it. 

The future of demand generation is providing your audience with real value, not just a thinly-veiled sales pitch. 

Position your company as a go-to source for industry expertise. This approach not only elevates your brand's visibility but also expands your pool of potential customers at the awareness stage, leading to a higher conversion of top-of-funnel visitors into leads.

So, how can B2B companies revolutionize their approach to sales and demand generation? The answer lies in creating a media brand. By doing so, companies can transform the traditional sales dynamic, engaging their audience with valuable content and establishing themselves as thought leaders in their industry.

What exactly is a media brand?

A media brand operates independently from a company's products or services, focusing on creating and distributing content to engage and inform its audience without directly promoting sales. These brands are versatile, supporting corporate and personality brands by discussing product values while maintaining a distinct identity. 

The primary purpose of a media brand is to build brand affinity and trust with the audience, expanding reach beyond immediate potential buyers. 

By positioning themselves effectively in the market, media brands can establish thought leadership, offer value beyond their products, and foster genuine connections, leading to growth and broader audience engagement.


At the end of the day, successful B2B lead generation efforts come down to two things: the effectiveness of collaboration between your sales and marketing teams and the success of your demand generation efforts.

You can take your demand generation to the next level by starting a media brand with Sweet Fish Media. It’s time to take your B2B marketing strategy to the next level. Learn more about media brands today.