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How to generate outbound leads in B2B

Precious Oboidhe
Precious Oboidhe
Reading time:15 m

At Belkins, outbound lead generation is our bread and butter. Here’s our scorecard:

🤝 Clients: 1,000+
📅 Appointments scheduled with leads: 201,000+
🏭 Industries covered: 50+

We aren’t the only ones who think outbound lead generation works!

Our survey of 2,500 experts revealed outbound is the most reliable and cost-effective sales channel for B2B brands. Even HubSpot, the pioneer of the inbound sales methodology, has always used outbound marketing. Its co-founder, Dharmesh Shah, says, “HubSpot has been doing outbound marketing ever since HubSpot has been around.”

If you’ve ever struggled with outbound marketing, this article will show you how you can start generating outbound leads for your B2B company. We’ll also share the outbound lead generation framework we’ve used to generate incredible results for hundreds of happy clients.

Quick note: If you’d like to outsource lead generation to an experienced outbound lead generation agency, feel free to check our results or to get started right away.

What is outbound lead generation?

Outbound lead generation is the proactive outreach to potential customers who may not know your company. Leads acquired using cold calls, cold emails, advertising, and trade shows are examples of outbound leads.

People often describe outbound lead generation as intrusive and irritating. This distaste stems from one primary factor — generic and mass-produced outreaches. These outreaches usually lack personalization or relevance to the recipient’s needs. Such outreaches suggest the sender prioritizes hitting their sales quotas over solving the prospect’s challenges.

But don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater. Targeting quality prospects and personalizing your outreach can help you generate outbound leads with high lead-to-deal potential.

Core benefits of outbound lead generation for B2B

Decision-makers who buy high-ticket products of over $10,000 barely have time to consume articles online or even scroll their social media feed. Why? They are often busy. This is where outbound shines. Below are 4 benefits of outbound lead generation and how it compares with inbound:

1. Quick results

Outbound lead generation is the way to go if you want fast results. With an effective outreach process, you can run an ad or email campaign, analyze the feedback, and start generating leads within a few weeks.

Inbound marketing can sometimes produce fast results. But most times, it takes 6–12 months to really get moving.

2. Easier to scale

Building an inbound marketing program is challenging. It involves ongoing production and distribution of high-quality content, hiring and managing a team of writers, and so on.

Outbound is much easier to scale. You can write 1 case study or make 1 video commercial and use hyper-targeted digital ads to push it to a large audience. 

3. Easier to test

Outbound lead generation strategies often have a short feedback loop. They let you quickly get feedback and refine your strategy until you find what resonates with your target audience.

4. Relatively inexpensive

According to Dekker Fraser,

"The cost of outbound marketing is often grossly overestimated. … This misconception exists because people think outbound is about spending millions of dollars on, say, TV ads."

With outbound, you pay only a small amount to run ads on digital platforms. If you’re doing cold email outreach, you only pay for the B2B sales tools you need. 

And if you decide to outsource your outbound marketing, the return on investment could be upwards of 10:1. Take Sekisui Products LLC, for instance. They invested thousands. Got millions.

What makes an effective outbound lead generation process?

Building an effective outbound lead generation process requires many moving parts. This 5-step process helps:

1. Create your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and buyer personas

“Who are my ideal customers?” 

This question is the foundation for a successful outbound lead generation process. If you’re vague about who your ideal customers are, you’ll inevitably waste resources by chasing low-quality leads. For instance, I recently got this message from the founder of an AI company:

“Hi Precious, concerned about data privacy in AI tools? Try our secure chat & knowledge base, in compliance verification for peace of mind. Your data stays yours. Curious? You can find more information under.”

As a marketer, I have zero concerns about data privacy in AI tools. What happens if this founder assumes people like me need his solution? No results. To avoid the same fate, create your ideal customer profile and buyer personas. An ICP is a detailed representation of your perfect customer and your buyer persona to help you zero in on the decision-makers in your target companies.

Here are examples of an ICP and buyer persona for a high-ticket CRM company:

Ideal customer profile



Employees 100+ 
Industries Healthcare, software development and IT services, fintech, ads and marketing, manufacturing, and construction
Title Founder, Chief Marketing Officer, Head of Marketing, Head of Sales, and VP of Sales
Company revenue $5 million+ annually
Company growth rate Steady growth at 10% annually
Pain points Low performance of internal outreach efforts, not enough leads for the sales team, lack of leads with high lead-to-deal ratio, not enough resources and knowledge to set up an effective lead generation process
Challenges Costly and time-consuming lead generation process, inability to focus sales team on their own core competency — closing deals
Company strengths Team of expert closers, an in-demand product with product-market fit
Company weaknesses Wasted time due to chasing low-quality leads
Location USA, Canada, European Union, and Australia
Media consumption patterns Industry webinars, sales and marketing conferences, B2B SaaS platforms
Brand interactions Attends annual sales and marketing conventions, frequent LinkedIn engagements, prefers email communication
Purchase decisions Collaboration between VP of sales, CFO, and CEO for budgetary approval, ensuring that this move will help hit their annual targets

Buyer persona



Name Stuart
Job Title VP of Sales at a $50 million tech company
Responsibilities Set achievable sales goals, ensure sales team is equipped to hit set goals
Biggest Challenges Had a stagnant quarter, not sure outsourced lead generation works
Goals Wants a predictable flow of high-quality leads for his sales team, considering outsourcing appointment setting
Preferred method of communication

LinkedIn and email

🎥 Related video: Deep Dive into B2B ICPs: A Comprehensive Review 

2. Build a large lead list

A B2B lead list is a compilation of potential leads you can reach out to. It includes companies aligned with your ICP and contains info like company name and size, key decision-makers, and contact details.

It’s essential to have a large lead list as this increases your chances of getting responses and setting appointments. 

If you have a small sales team, building your lead list yourself can be a challenge. In such cases, consider buying lead lists. But keep in mind that buying leads is a gamble. Although it can save you time and money, it raises concerns about quality since you’re unsure about how the vendor sourced the data.

3. Develop your personalized messaging strategy

Impersonal and mass-produced outbound outreaches are common. With personalized messaging, you stand out instantly. Below are 3 things to figure out when developing your personalized messaging strategy:

  • Lead segmentation: We love hyper-personalized outreaches. But they’re impractical if you’re targeting hundreds or thousands of people. It requires a lot of manual effort, making it hard to scale. Now, the question is this: How do you add a dash of personalization to high-volume outreaches? First, divide leads into distinct groups based on shared characteristics, behaviors, or demographics. Next … 
  • Create unique messaging for each lead segment: Develop a clear and compelling message that’ll resonate with prospects in each group. We employed this approach when doing cold email outreaches for Burch Energy Services. After segmenting our client’s prospects, we ensured every email contained an industry-tailored value proposition and social proof. The outcome? 60% email open rate and 15% reply rate.
  • Choose your outbound vehicle(s): Decide how you’ll reach out to prospects. Common channels include cold emails, cold calls, social media ads, or a combination of these channels. We’ll delve deeper into each of these in a later section.

🎥 Related video: Closing Deals in a Recession: Revamp Your Value Proposition 

4. Build your data-driven lead nurturing workflow

According to the 95:5 rule, only about 5% of your prospects are “in-market.” Put another way, most of your leads and potential customers aren’t ready to make an immediate buying decision. So, if you focus on selling to the in-market audience only, you miss a lot of revenue opportunities. 

Even if your leads are ready to buy, converting them to customers often requires multiple touches. That’s why you need a lead nurturing workflow

Lead nurturing is a sequence of activities that move leads down the buyer’s journey. It helps you convert more in-market leads into appointments and deals. It also helps you stay top of mind for leads who are out-of-market now but might be in-market later.

There are 4 broad ways to build your lead nurturing workflow:

  • Capture your lead’s email.
  • Encourage leads to follow you on socials so they become exposed to your marketing assets.
  • Leverage ad retargeting to remind leads about your brand and your products.
  • Create an email nurture series that builds trust and sends them to your leads periodically.

5. Set up relevant tools and automation

Sales tools help streamline your process and increase your effectiveness. Without them, your lead generation process will be challenging. Not sure where to start? Consider drawing inspiration from our arsenal. Below are the 12 tools currently in our sales kit, sorted into 8 categories:

  • Sales prospecting tools: We use lead generation software like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Hunter.io, and Apollo.io to do lead research and lead generation, check buying intent, and hunt verified emails and social accounts of our prospects in a way that’s GDPR-compliant. We also use BuiltWith when we need to target companies with specific technologies. BuiltWith accurately reveals the technologies companies use for their websites. 
  • Mass cold emailing tools: GMass lets us send an unlimited number of emails daily, although we set the cap at 1,000 daily emails. Reply.io helps with personalizing our sequences.
  • Email validation tools: Though Reply.io does email validation, we use a dedicated tool like QuickEmailVerification to hit our goal of 95-99% every time. We’ve been using it for over 5 years, and it has never disappointed us. 
  • Email deliverability tools: You don’t want your emails bouncing back or landing in the spam folder. We built Folderly in 2019 to improve email deliverability and prevent emails from entering spam. Today, 150+ companies use Folderly.
  • Meeting scheduling tool: We use Chili Piper for appointment setting. Calendly is also a fine alternative. 
  • CRM tool: This is the home of your prospect data and the base for your outreach efforts. You need a CRM that offers flexible customization options via API or third-party integrations. We use HubSpot, but there are several alternatives out there.
  • User behavior tracking tool: Tracking user behavior and buyer intent helps you boost your personalization and lead nurturing efforts. With Hotjar, you can analyze user behavior on your site with heatmaps and session recordings.
  • Customer success tool: You need a tool that helps you monitor customer health and gauge customer satisfaction. We use Planhat for that. It tracks payments, projects health scores, finds upsell/cross-sell opportunities, and more.

📚 Related post:  The 12 Best B2B Sales Tools (+ Belkins Toolkit)

Cold email — a powerful tactic for outbound lead generation 

From our experience, cold email is the best lead generation tactic for B2B brands. Our experience aligns with the findings from our State of Outbound report. The report found cold email is the most reliable and cost-effective sales channel. The 2023 Sopro State of Prospecting report also shows 77% of B2B buyers prefer communication via email — that’s over double the next most preferred channel. 

Here are a few other B2B cold email stats worth noting:

  • Email outreach helps you reach decision-makers who are harder to reach via other channels. (Sopro)
  • It takes approximately 306 emails to get 1 lead. (Belkins)
  • The average open rate is 36%. (Belkins)
  • The average reply rate is 7%. (Belkins)

To keep your email metrics on the positive end, here are some best practices we recommend you follow:

  • Write a click-worthy subject line. Your subject line primarily determines if your email gets opened. Do the following to improve your email open rate:
    • Ensure your subject line delivers a clear benefit.
    • Keep it under 10 words or 60 characters.
    • Personalize the subject line using the prospect’s name, company, and so on.
    • Watch the video where Joshua Pratt, our outreach expert, does a teardown of 25 subject lines.
  • Hook prospects with your opening line. Email apps typically display the first few characters of your email body in the recipient’s inbox. Use a strong opening line to build on the interest your subject line generated. See some examples of good and bad opening lines in this video.
  • Use personal names in the first line. Doing so humanizes the outreach and makes it easier for prospects to connect with your brand.
  • Use social proof to establish credibility. Share social proof elements like testimonials and results of work done in the prospect’s industry. It’s an effective way to warm up a cold lead and get them interested in your offer.
  • Don’t pitch in the first email. It’s like a man asking a woman to marry him on the first date. It doesn’t work. Instead, ask a low-pressure question like “Would this be useful to {{Company}}?”
  • Check for spam words. Spam words send emails to spam folders. Use a tool like Folderly’s free Spam checker to ensure your email is free of spam words.
  • A/B test. Don’t underestimate the difference a minor change can make. At Belkins, we have dedicated copywriters whose job is to create, measure, and A/B test our outreaches. We recommend the same. 
  • Do mailbox warm-up. Instead of sending hundreds of emails from day 1, start with 10 emails per mailbox. Then, increase the limit by 10 emails daily. This warm-up exercise increases the chances of your email going into prospects’ inboxes.

🎥 Related video: How to do Email Outreach: Do’s and Don’ts 

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Other outbound lead generation tactics 

Below are 3 other lead generation tactics to consider using:

Cold calling

According to Joshua Pratt, our outreach expert, cold calling has one distinct advantage over other channels: It provides a human touch in the sales process. This allows for deeper interaction and rapport building.

However, you can only call so many people in a day. Plus, if your ACV is less than $10,000, hiring full-time callers can be expensive, which makes it hard to scale. This is the biggest drawback of cold-calling. Yes, finding a call center partner is an option. But training callers to understand your product is also time-consuming. 

📚 Learn more:  Cold Calling: What It Is & How to Do It Right

Pay-per-click (PPC)

PPC is an online advertising model where you pay a fee each time people click your ads. PPC is sometimes used interchangeably with paid search — ads placed on search engines like Google and Bing. 

It’s vital to recognize that search engine ads have characteristics of both inbound and outbound marketing. Inbound because the ads display in response to user-initiated search queries and outbound because they are paid advertisements presented to a broader audience. Social media platforms offer some form of PPC advertising too. 

Google Ads and Microsoft Ads (formerly Bing Ads) can be expensive. However, they’re effective if you’re trying to capture an audience that’s actively looking for a solution. But if you’re doing outbound demand generation — i.e., building awareness with out-of-market buyers — social media in-feed ads are usually cheaper and more appropriate.

📚 Learn more:  The Ultimate Guide to PPC Marketing


According to the LinkedIn’s Ads Blog, over 61 million LinkedIn users are senior-level influencers, and 40+ million are decision-makers. 

Running paid ads is one way to use LinkedIn for your outbound lead generation. We like to combine LinkedIn with email marketing to strengthen connections with prospects.

For instance, we may send a connection request so a prospect can put a face to the email they received. This is effective for getting more emails opened and strengthening relationships with leads.

Outbound lead generation best practices

Give outbound time

Outbound lead generation strategies do not produce overnight results. It takes time. For instance, with cold email, you can’t determine when a client responds. Even PPC isn’t a set-and-forget tactic. You need to analyze your ad performance to tweak your strategy regularly.

Use the sales multithreaded approach

Sales multithreading means building relationships with multiple decision-makers within an organization. For cold email outreaches, the ideal number is 2–4 people, based on our analysis of over 11 million B2B emails. When you email 5–10 contacts in the prospect’s company, the average response rates drop to as low as 2.5%.

Think beyond the bottom of the funnel

Many outbound campaigns are overly focused on the bottom of the funnel. It’s all about getting the prospect to book a 30-minute conversation or a demo. A better approach is to remember that a lead may not be in buying mode, so lead nurture flows that move prospects down the funnel become ideal.

Be wary of the creep factor

Hyper-personalization efforts can sometimes come across as creepy. And there’s no hard and fast rule on how to avoid this. Our recommendation? Respect professional boundaries. Also, avoid the overuse of personal information or the making of assumptions that seem intrusive.

Outbound lead generation strategy in action (example)

Now that you know how outbound lead generation works, it’s time you see an example in action. 

Case in point: Driveline 

We helped Driveline generate 93 appointments and $1.5 million in closed-won deals through outbound lead generation.

Established in 1947, Driveline is a U.S.-based company that provides analytics-powered merchandising and retail services. Though they had a solid client base, they wanted to expand their reach through retailers with 250+ locations U.S.-wide. They also wanted a predictable and regular flow of leads every month. 

The challenge? Despite having a workforce of over 10,000 people, Driveline had only 2 employees working on their business development strategy. These employees didn’t have much experience with cold outbound, so they brought Belkins onboard.

Here’s what we did to help:

  • Lead segmentation: To do personalized outreaches, we split Driveline’s ICP into 2 segments — retailers and brands. Then we separated previous clients from new ones.
  • Testing and tailoring: Finding the right decision maker wasn’t easy since we were dealing with large retail chains. To nail this, we tested 17 different messaging approaches for different titles and departments including merchandising, marketing, store development, procurement, and sales. 
  • Tracking results: To optimize the campaign for maximum conversions, we monitored the email open and reply rates.

See the results:

  • 20,000 leads from retailers and brands with 250+ locations all over the U.S.
  • 50% email open rate for new leads with a reply rate of about 9% 
  • Over 60% open rate, 10% reply rate, and multiple calls booked for past clients
  • $1.5M in closed-won deals and more contracts with an expected revenue of $3M

Want similar results? Contact us to get started right away or read more of our success stories


What is the difference between inbound and outbound lead generation?

Outbound lead generation involves proactively reaching out to prospects who haven’t indicated interest in your product, while inbound involves attracting potential customers by creating content that aligns with their needs.

How do you automate outbound lead generation?

You cannot completely automate the outbound lead generation process. But having a reliable process and relevant B2B sales tools can help streamline your process. If you don’t have the bandwidth for this, consider hiring an outsourced B2B lead generation agency like Belkins.

Are there any industries where outbound doesn’t work?

Outbound marketing is less effective if you sell a product or service that’s only important at key trigger events. For instance, consider a cybersecurity company that specializes in data breach response. 

The company’s potential customers do not have an immediate need for data breach response. Therefore, this company might have limited success with outbound marketing strategies like cold email or PPC. However, once the threat arises, the affected company needs a prompt response. In this case, they might jump on Google to research reputable data breach response companies and make a hurried decision.

In this scenario, it’s more effective to prioritize inbound and brand awareness marketing so you can catch potential customers as they come in-market. 

How does data impact outbound lead generation?

Data is the key to qualifying your leads and personalizing your outreaches. Without relevant data, outbound lead generation is like throwing darts in the dark — hitting the bull’s-eye will be hard.

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Precious Oboidhe
Precious Oboidhe
B2B Content Strategist & Writer
Precious develops content marketing strategies and frequently blogs for the well-known B2B players. HubSpot, CoSchedule, EngageBay, and Foundation Inc. — this is only a small part of the MarTech brands Precious collaborated with.