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B2B lead generation cost: How much to pay for leads?

Mariya Delano
Mariya Delano
Michael Maximoff
Reviewed by
Michael Maximoff
Reading time:16 m

There are way too many permutations and combinations of lead generation costs. It’s confusing. But this confusion shouldn’t deter you from making a sound choice.

While a lot of providers hide their prices, we’ve done as much digging as possible so that you don’t have to. We looked at 26 lead generation agencies, 10 lead generation and sales software vendors, and dug up the most accurate pricing information that we could find, in addition to breaking down lead costs by marketing channel, industry, and pricing model.

In our research, we counted six different models of how companies charge for outsourced B2B lead generation. We’ll dig into both in-house and outsourced costs of B2B leads to help you understand the specifics of each pricing model, how much to expect to spend on leads to get desired results and how much lead generation agencies charge for their services.

We hope that by understanding what they actually sell, you can figure out which model would make a better choice for your particular case.

Here’s what this piece will cover:

  1. What are your options for B2B lead generation?
  2. Pay-for-leads model
  3. Pay-for-lead lists model
  4. Pay-for-appointments model
  5. Monthly retainer model
  6. Hourly & project-based model
  7. Commission-based model

What are your options for B2B lead generation?

When looking for an external provider, consider the level of help that you’re looking for — some providers can handle full-service lead generation, others can assist you with specific parts of the process, or you might decide to keep those efforts in-house and pay only for a raw lead list or software.

When discussing the price per B2B lead, we can group providers in three different ways:

  1. By agency type: there are four kinds of vendors based on the levels of involvement or the focus that they have on specific outreach channels.
  2. By pricing model: when you’re outsourcing lead generation, the vendor may charge you per lead, per lead list, or via a flat retainer (among other options).
  3. By industry: certain industries tend to get more sales messages and so are much more discerning in who they engage with.

By agency type

As with any type of business service, vendors offer different kinds of packages, levels of involvement, or support for specific outreach channels.

When looking into lead generation agencies, consider the following:

  • Do they include appointment setting support? Some vendors won’t support the entire process. If they’re only specialized in lead generation, the agency may only build up automation and lead generation processes and generate contacts. On the other hand, vendors who promise appointments tend to be more confident in the effectiveness of their lead research process. Hiring a service without an appointment setting option could risk you wasting money or result in a lower ROI with a lot of leads but not that many calls booked. 
  • Will you be working with an individual BDR / SDR or with a team? Different agencies might provide you with different specializations from their team. You might be getting only BDRs, or a mix of functions. For example, at Belkins your team can include an account manager, an SDR, a lead researcher, a copywriter, and a deliverability expert. 
  • What marketing and outreach channels does the vendor support? Some providers focus exclusively on email, LinkedIn, or cold calling. Others, like Belkins, can support cross-channel campaigns. As lead generation becomes more saturated and competitive, omnichannel approaches are becoming more and more essential for a great ROI.
  • What additional benefits will the service include? Certain providers will include bonus value supplemental to their direct service, like software and tech stack access, an academy with learning materials, a community with potential networking opportunities, etc.
  • What is the type of service that a vendor offers (consulting, building + execution, outsourcing)? The provider's focus might lie fully on execution and manpower supply (classic outsourcing or outstaffing), on strategy and planning (consulting), or somewhere in between (building, creating, and developing campaigns).
  • How many pricing model options does the vendor offer? Many of the larger providers, like Belkins, can support different types of engagements. So you can start with a more defined scope, like a project-based model, and then later on transition to a long-term monthly retainer.

By pricing model

Here are the main distinctions that you need to understand when picking the right lead generation pricing model & vendor for your business:

  1. When outsourcing lead generation: Typical pricing models are monthly retainers, paying per deliverable / on commission, or a hybrid (a retainer base + a per-deliverable or a commission fee based on results). 
  2. When outsourcing appointment setting: Typical pricing models are monthly retainers, hourly, project-based, paying per deliverable / on commission. 

Now, let’s dive into the specifics. The main B2B lead generation pricing models are:

  • Monthly retainer
  • Pay for appointments
  • Hourly
  • Project-based
  • Commission-based
  • Pay for lead lists
Pricing model Range Brands (examples)
Monthly retainer $1,500–25,000+ / month Belkins
Martal Group
Pay for appointments Packages that start at $400+ / appointment Belkins
Hourly $25 - 150 / hr

Belkins (for enterprises)
Strategic Sales & Marketing (SSM)
Martal Group
Project-based $25,000–200,000  / project Belkins
Sales Focus
Commission-based Starting at 5%  Revit
Pay for lead lists (services) Hard to estimate, potentially starting from $2,000+ Belkins
Pay for lead databases and outreach software $49– 15,000+ / month (With free plan options) Apollo

Breakdown by brand

Then, we broke down the pricing by individual lead generation providers. As mentioned in the introduction, a lot of these brands hide their pricing, so we’ve done our best to dig up accurate ranges using publicly available sources. 

Monthly retainers are by far the most common model, many leading vendors provide options allowing you to pick between retainers, project-based, or pay-per-leads engagements, and some others offer only a specialized service or some kind of hybrid.

Below, you can see the pricing both for lead generation service agencies and for software vendors. 

Lead generation pricing by service agency
Brand Pricing model Pricing
Belkins Monthly retainer

$5,500–25,000 / month

Pay for leads
Hourly rate



$2,500+ / month

Pay per appointment


Pay for lead lists

$10,000+ / month

Monthly retainer

Martal Group

Monthly retainer $5,000+ / month
Hourly rate


Pay for appointments

$8,000+ / month

Monthly retainer
Pay for lead lists
Callbox Monthly retainer N/A
Leadium Monthly retainer N/A
Cleverly Monthly retainer $2,000+ / month
Pay for appointments
ViB Pay for appointments $22,500 / project
Pay for leads
memoryBlue Monthly retainer $11,000 / month
Ironpaper Monthly retainer $10,000+ / month
Levelup Monthly retainer $4,000 – 8,000 / month
SalesHive Monthly retainer $6,000 – 12,500 / month
Smith.ai Monthly retainer $10,000+ / month
EBQ Monthly retainer $5,000+ / month
Lunas Project-based $5,000+ / month
Televerde Project-based N/A (on the higher end)
Acquirent Project-based $10,000 – $200,000 / project
Sales Focus Project-based $10,000+ / project
Upcall Project-based $5,000+ / project
Intelemark Pay for appointments N/A
Strategic Sales & Marketing (SSM) Hourly $75 – 150 / hr
MarketStar Project-based $50,000+ / project
ColdIQ Monthly retainer $5,000+ / month
SaaSBoost.io Monthly retainer $6,000 / month

Now, you can also pay for lead generation by buying software licenses to dedicated solutions. In this case, you’re still getting help compared to finding leads from scratch, but your in-house team has to learn the software and implement it. 

You can also find a more comprehensive list of sales software by category from ColdIQ.

Lead generation pricing by software vendor




Apollo Lead list building $49+ / month
Expandi LinkedIn automation $99+ / month
ZoomInfo Lead list building $15,000+ / month
RocketReach Email contact data $48+ / month
Crunchbase Lead research and email contact data $49+ / month
Hunter Email contact data $34+ / month
Clearbit Traffic identification $99+ / month
Cognism Lead list building $1,000+ / month
Dux-Soup LinkedIn automation $41.25+ / month
Lusha Lead list building $36+ / month
Meet Alfred LinkedIn automation $39+ / month

By industry

We’ve previously looked at the most expensive and least expensive industries, and here is a summary across industries that Belkins works with. These estimates are based on cost per lead (CPL) by industry and by acquisition method (paid, organic, or blended):



Cost per lead (CPL)

Highest blended CPL Financial Services $653
Lowest blended CPL Solar Energy $206
Highest paid CPL Oil & Gas $772
Lowest paid CPL Solar Energy $217
Highest organic CPL Financial Services $555
Lowest organic CPL B2B SaaS $164
Biggest difference Between paid and organic CPL Oil & Gas $270
The smallest difference between paid and organic CPL Staffing & Recruiting -$42 (organic leads are more expensive than paid)

Pay for leads

In B2B pay-per-lead appointment setting, your business would pay based on the number of appointments generated. 

The results for this model depend on how you or your hired agency define a lead, typically a prospective customer showing some level of interest (what criteria they set for an MQL vs. SQL, and so on). 

The most common model available on the market is a monthly subscription that guarantees a certain number of appointments booked. For example, you might pay around $2,000–2,500 a month for 8–10 appointments, equating to around $200–300 per appointment booked.

This model is particularly favored by businesses new to lead generation, as they need to build up larger sales pipelines and so find it easy to justify the associated costs.

Different kinds of leads

You need to clearly define what a “lead” actually means. Different definitions imply a different level of engagement and relevance to your business, and would have a ripple effect on your final sales outcomes. 

So, here are four common ways to classify business opportunities:

  1. Lead: Any contact in your database. However, merely having a way to contact a person within an organization doesn't necessarily translate to value. Many contacts might not fit your target customer profile, be ready to purchase, or even want your products and services.
  2. Marketing qualified lead (MQL): Contacts that fit your target customer profile and have entered a buying journey for solutions like yours. Although they might have interacted with your brand and its properties, they haven't yet shown a readiness to engage with you again or make a purchase anytime soon.
  3. Sales qualified lead (SQL): Contacts that match your target customer profile and have expressed a specific interest in your products or services. Their interest could be demonstrated by initiating contact with your sales team, (like an inbound email inquiry, filling out your contact form, or signing up for a phone call or a demo. SQLs are typically actively interested in moving forward with a purchase.
  4. Appointments: Contacts that not only qualify as SQL but have actually agreed to and scheduled a sales call with your company. These are the most valuable types of opportunities since they are already actively seeking out your products or services, and you have a specific time to speak with them.

📚 Relevant reading: What are business leads and how do they impact a company?

As you might expect, different lead generation providers tend to qualify leads in different ways, affecting their costs and pricing models. Some vendors focus on the quality of leads provided (with narrow targeting criteria and multiple engagement touchpoints), while others might focus on volume (with a type of spray-and-pray approach).

📌 Keep in mind: No vendor will charge you for “leads” in the abstract. Instead, you will need to agree if the agency is going to charge you per MQL, SQL, appointments, or opportunities generated.

How it works

Pay-per-lead models tend to work like this:

  1. You and the agency agree on a lead definition (MQL, SQL, appointment, or opportunity).
  2. The agency calculates the cost of acquiring a lead using your agreed definition (depending on your target industries and outreach channels).
  3. You and the agency agree upon a set number of leads that you’d like them to generate, and they charge you a flat price for the appropriate package.
  4. Your business then pays based on lead volume created, while the agency will focus on meeting its targets and generating the required volume as efficiently as possible.

The cost varies based on factors like the complexity of the target market, level of customization, and volume of leads needed. Prices can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars per lead, catering to organizations of all sizes.

Companies outsource to pay-per-lead providers to align costs with measurable outcomes. However, the issue is that vendors using this model can resort to mass mailing, spam, and low-quality offshoring, limiting personalization and lead engagement depth.

Pay-per-qualified lead

B2B pay-per-qualified lead services add another layer of complexity, with a specific definition of what counts as an acceptable lead. It’s similar to the previous model of paying for leads, but now you will only pay for leads that are actually qualified by sales.

These lead generation providers will typically use strategies like targeted outreach, cold calling, and email campaigns to engage and qualify prospects based on predefined criteria. They tend to have well-developed processes for figuring out your ICP and build out detailed reports on your industry and target market.

The sales team from your hired vendor will typically focus on talking to relevant leads rather than taking random meetings, and pre-qualifying accounts before proceeding to the next step. Since the vendor is assessing potential contacts in more detail upfront, the resulting close rate from those opportunities will typically be higher than with a pure volume-based approach.

Sometimes, vendors using this model may still overlook important factors like the specifics within ICPs, tailoring personalized pitches, and building sustainable pipeline infrastructure. 

Pay for lead lists

Unlike the other models we discussed, these types of services don’t include actual outreach efforts. Instead, when you pay for a lead list, you’re outsourcing data scraping and research efforts to then pursue sales outreach yourself.

A B2B lead list comprises potential contacts for your sales efforts, typically consisting of companies matching your ideal customer profile. 

A lead list can contain several data points, such as:

  • Company name and size
  • Industry
  • Key decision-makers
  • Contact names and titles
  • Links to social media profiles
  • Contact details (email, phone, etc.)

Of course, some lead lists are far more detailed than others and could include information that we haven’t listed above.

What constitutes a quality B2B lead list?

Not all leads are made equal. Simply buying a prepared lead list could be a mixed bag: you don’t know how recently that information has been updated, how relevant the companies listed might be for your business, or get enough context to prioritize your outreach.

So, whether you're constructing or procuring lead lists, setting standards for a high-quality list is key. Here are the key elements that define one:

  1. Leads quantity: A larger pool of prospects could lead to better results even with a lower response rate. 
  2. Structure: To use a lead list for outreach, you have to be able to navigate it. 
  3. Data sources: A good lead list has accurate information and is typically gathered from a variety of sources.
  4. Data type: A truly great B2B lead list should extend beyond the basics and include additional data points like company structure, tech stack, and annual revenue.
  5. Accuracy: Lists that have been verified and regularly updated are going to have a higher hit rate than lists that don’t get maintained.
  6. Targeted lead data: If your business is at all specialized, then you must ensure your leads actually fit within your target market. 

Buying a lead list from a vendor

Buying a lead list might seem easier and cheaper than hiring a full-service lead generation vendor. After all, you aren’t paying for the manual labor of crafting outreach messages, managing responses, and setting up appointments.

But when you’re buying a lead list, make sure to vet the provider. Many top lead generation agencies offer a list building service option, so you can get the benefit of an experienced lead research team without needing to pay for a full-service engagement. For example, at Belkins we guarantee higher lead quality since we use the same list-building process as we do for our full lead generation services.

Pros Cons
✔ Affordable ✘ No quality guarantee
✔ Addresses short-term needs ✘ May not address long-term needs
✔ Rejuvenates stagnant pipelines ✘ Potential reputation damage
✔ Less labor-intensive ✘ No guarantee of success

Pros and cons of building your own lead list

Sometimes, you might decide to take matters into your own hands and build a lead list yourself.

This approach can be best for B2B companies with long-term sales strategies or ones who operate in niche markets. 

Nevertheless, compiling, verifying, and enhancing data on your own is quite time-consuming. You might also incur unexpected costs, as your company would have to buy all necessary software yourselves, rather than letting an agency eat up those costs and spread them across their customer pool.

Pros Cons
✔ Good for niche markets ✘ Expensive 
✔ Higher conversion rates ✘ Time-consuming
✔ Quality assurance ✘ No quick results
✔ Better long-term value ✘ Requires entire outbound infrastructure
  ✘ Risk of low ROI
  ✘ Risk of low deliverability / your emails getting marked as spam
  ✘ Risk of damaging domain reputation

📚 Relevant reading: Should you buy lead lists and how to build your own


Contact lists vary in cost, ranging from $300 to $600 per thousand contacts. These lists are typically procured from brokers, data companies, or events and tradeshows. Lists obtained from events tend to be pricier due to their tailored targeting towards specific audiences.

At Belkins, we offer lead research services to craft custom, well-researched lead lists specific to your business needs.

Thanks to our hyper-focused lead research and data enrichment, we make sure that our clients benefit from a high conversion rate and lower customer acquisition costs. We collect a wide variety of lead data and sales intelligence to streamline your appointment setting and ensure your lead lists match your targeting criteria.

Pay for appointments

As with paying for leads, an agency can price their services based on the number of appointments that they generate for your business. You cannot purchase individual appointments à la carte, but you can buy a pack of X appointments that the vendor will aim to book for you.

In theory, a cost-per-appointment pricing model could be the most efficient option, since you pay directly for results. 

However, this model isn’t particularly common or successful. Even if the vendor can do everything perfectly, your own actions still influence the outcome of lead generation campaigns. Your value proposition, website, and sales processes need to be compelling and effective enough for the vendor’s efforts to bring in an ROI. Because of this, most vendors will price based on work completed (rather than guaranteed results) with monthly retainers, project-based, or hourly pricing.


Typically, the "per appointment" price is higher than paying per MQL or SQL. Leads who convert into booked appointments are further along the sales funnel, and typically more qualified, requiring more effort and often converting to sales at a higher rate.

The way vendors implement this model varies. Some agencies will charge you a fixed fee for each confirmed appointment, while others might price on a commission basis, charging you a percentage from successful deals.

As with other models, the cost for pay-per-appointment services varies considerably based on complexity, lead qualification, and provider reputation.

📚 Relevant reading: B2B appointment setting costs and pricing models explained

Monthly retainer

Monthly retainers are by far the most popular and advantageous pricing model, employed by the vast majority of lead generation and appointment setting vendors.

Monthly fees can range a fair bit both from one provider to another and even within project tiers from the same provider. The prices can range from $3,000–$25,000+ per month, typically based on your company size, the expected number of appointments generated, the number of outreach channels used, and any additional services you need.

The popularity of the monthly retainer model is in part thanks to its predictability, both for the vendor and its clients. You know exactly how much you’ll need to spend on the service, and your provider can allocate resources most efficiently for any given stage within your campaigns.

These types of engagements are easy to budget — you know exactly how much you’re paying, and can expect a relatively full-service treatment from your outsourced provider.

However, it's crucial to ensure that you engage an agency with proven expertise in the field; otherwise, you could end up paying month after month with no tangible results.

This pricing model is employed by agencies that focus on long-term lead generation services, with contracts typically spanning from three months to two years.

How it works

Here's how the retainer model works:

  1. The agency determines the cost of one month's worth of work for your business via a custom price or a pre-set plan, including a profit margin.
  2. The agency will enter into an agreement with you, typically including some kind of onboarding or one-time setup fee.
  3. The agency will execute between 1–3 months of work.
  4. You will pay for completed services, either upfront, at the end of each month, or quarterly.

Remember: you need time to set up a proper retainer arrangement, so expect the amount of leads to be lower in the first 1–2 months within a new campaign.


Basic retainer agreements can start at around $3,000 per month. For more comprehensive services, including strategic planning, extensive research, continuous testing, and sophisticated email campaigns, pricing could range from $5,000 to more than $25,000 a month.

At Belkins, we offer a transparent pricing structure tailored to each client's specific needs. While we can't speak for other providers using a retainer model, here's how we operate, allocate resources, and deliver results.

Since 2017, we have kept the same monthly retainer model. However, we’ve updated our actual pricing to start from $5,000 / month as we’ve continued to make the service more valuable and worth it to our clients. 

The reason for our price increases has been an associated increase in costs to provide the best quality B2B lead generation services. We’ve been adding more tools for data gathering, campaign management, and outreach; adding processes to ensure quality of our results, and improving team structure for better client experiences.

Under our retainer model, our clients benefit from a team of five dedicated professionals, each specializing in different stages of the appointment setting process. This team includes an account manager, SDR, lead generation and research specialist, email deliverability specialist, and expert copywriter. 

Using monthly retainers allows us to focus on efficiently delivering results to our clients. The constraints of a set budget incentivize us to optimize our spending and focus our efforts on the most impactful work. As email deliverability requirements become more complex, we adapt accordingly to maintain our track record with delivering leads.

Implementing a retainer model requires establishing strong relationships with our clients. We need to understand their ICP and KPIs and continue to align with their goals throughout our lead generation campaigns.


Project-based pricing might seem lucrative, but it doesn’t work for every business or situation. 

Project-based lead generation can only be viable for your business if you have a very defined scope of work for a defined period of time. Your agency’s team can then execute on that scope and you can pay them a fixed fee on that project regardless of the outcome. These are typically 6-month or 12-month long contracts.

One basis for your lead generation project can be an Account-Based Marketing approach (ABM). For example, at Belkins we have another agency within our group called ClickRoads, with whom we partner for ABM projects. 

How it works

When your vendor decides on the project scope, they’ll tell you a flat fee, the amount of months that they expect the project to take, and the approach that they’ll work with. 

You’ll likely agree on the number of personas, the strategy used for outreach, and the channels that will be leveraged to convert them into leads for your business. 

Challenges to consider

The outcome with project-based engagements is typically less certain — you may want to try this engagement structure when you’re testing a new ICP, market, or product offering. Even though you might not get a predictable number of appointments, you’ll have a tested strategy and some benchmarks to use for future lead generation campaigns.

Remember, project-based engagements require a very clear scope. So you’re likely limiting the number of buying personas or industries targeted, timeframe, desired outcome, and resources. 


Project-based pricing is typically the most custom. Rather than placing you into a contract with a flat monthly fee, the vendor will determine a set campaign length and scope before providing a custom quote. 

Typically, projects are also the most expensive option, costing more than retainers or alternative pricing models. 

Several factors influence this model, including project complexity, the number of required appointments, and the level of customization. 

Package costs vary from basic options to comprehensive tailored solutions. Since the pricing is often custom, you probably won’t know the exact scale of your expected investment before consulting with the vendor’s sales team.

Hourly rate

Some B2B appointment setting is charged on an hourly basis, often by agencies that also provide services like virtual assistants (VAs), and so charge per billable hour of work completed. 

Think of these vendors as classic outsourcing providers. In practical terms, you’re hiring a part-time or full-time external BDR. That person will be working with your company as if they are an employee, and you will pay them based on the number of hours that they work.

Challenges to consider

Some providers that charge using this model might also offer virtual assistants for other tasks. In those situations, the provider might not be as specialized in sales as a pure lead generation or appointment setting provider, so you need to vet them for their level of expertise. 

Another limitation to consider is that typically this classic outsourcing model functions like a traditional call center and so isn’t frequently offered for more modern lead generation channels like LinkedIn.


Hourly rates for appointment setting depend on factors such as market complexity, appointment volume, and expertise level. Rates typically range from $25 per hour for basic services to $60 per hour or more for specialized industries requiring high expertise.


Commission-based pricing combines a base retainer fee with a variable cost structure. This variable cost can be a commission fee dependent on results, or a pay-per-appointment charge based on performance.

For example, Revit provides a commission-based option where they charge a flat $2,500 / month fee in addition to a percentage commission from closed deals.

Revit's Pricing Example

In this case, you benefit from the predictability of a monthly retainer, but your vendor is also incentivized to deliver consistent results as they are directly tied to their additional compensation. 

Skip the headache with a full-service lead generation partner

As you’ve seen today, the price for B2B lead generation services can vary quite a lot. Your budget will depend on the industry of your target contacts, chosen marketing and outreach channel, your tech stack, and the pricing model of your chosen external vendor.

So if you want to skip the headache of evaluating individual solutions, perhaps you may want to consider partnering with a reputable, full-service lead generation agency like Belkins.

Our offering stands out as one of the best solutions on the market, with a particular focus on mid-to-enterprise level B2B companies. With Belkins, your business can expect top-tier appointment setting services that cater to your specific needs and campaign objectives. 

Our expertise and track record make Belkins a trusted partner for companies seeking to maximize their sales efforts and drive business growth. We take pride in our commitment to delivering results, the quality of our lead research, and our modern technical setup to ensure our clients’ success with lead generation.

Here are several options and free resources that will help you get started on your outbound sales journey:

  • Hire Belkins: If you want to discuss your current business goals and how we can potentially help you achieve them, contact us.
  • Belkins’ case studies: Gain insights on how we’ve generated 4,760,850 leads and millions of dollars for businesses of all sizes. Read their stories.
  • Belkins Growth Podcast: Get to know our co-founder Michael Maximoff as he interviews professionals on market challenges, effective sales practices, and business perspectives in various industries. Listen to the Belkins Growth Podcast.
  • Belkins webinars: Become a member of our community. Subscribe to unlock access to exclusive insights.

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Mariya Delano
Mariya Delano
Content strategist & founder of Kalyna Marketing agency
Mariya is the founder of Kalyna Marketing. Beyond her client work, she is a contributor to Search Engine Land and writes a newsletter titled Attention Deficit Marketing Disorder (ADMD). Mariya is originally from Zhytomyr, Ukraine and is currently based in New York City.
Michael Maximoff
Michael Maximoff
Co-founder and Managing Partner at Belkins
Michael is the Co-founder of Belkins, serial entrepreneur, and investor. With a decade of experience in B2B Sales and Marketing, he has a passion for building world-class teams and implementing efficient processes to drive the success of his ventures and clients.