How to choose the right company to outsource lead generation
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Over 85% of B2B decision-makers note a positive impact of outsourcing their lead generation, and 71% of them highlighted that the external team performed even better than the internal.
While an outsourced team can be a cost-effective extension (or replacement) of your own, choosing the right one can be challenging. Do they know your domain? Is their strategy effective? Sales executives and business owners must weigh these and other important questions when deciding on the right lead generation contractor.
To select the most reliable partner for your lead generation, check out this comprehensive guide that includes key factors to consider.
5 things you should look for in a lead gen company
A lead generation agency should have these crucial characteristics to help you build a predictable sales process, grow your business, and get what you pay for. In fact, you can apply these criteria to evaluate other vendors you consider, including software providers, B2B sales outsourcing agencies, etc.
Channel-focused expertise and industry knowledge
Companies without experience in acquiring leads from your niche or particular channel will hardly succeed in bringing them to you. To be able to commit and deliver results, an agency must have a proven track record of lead generation in your industry and keep its focus on 1 channel, 2 at the most.
Why? Different industries have their own specifics just as channels do.
For instance, the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are heavily regulated, and companies targeting them can’t use all the acquisition channels (healthcare and medicine are on Google Ads’ blacklist). Overall communication should be reviewed for compliance, too, not to mention professional jargon. Finally, it’s often hard to get to the decision-maker, especially in large organizations or healthcare systems.
Also, results can vary even within one channel. Take cold emails as an example: Recipients from marketing agencies are more likely to open emails than those from healthcare organizations.
Source: Top Email Benchmarks Every Marketer Should Follow in 2023 (93 Industries Covered), Belkins
To be able to boost those results, the company you choose for lead generation should understand the reasons behind the numbers and be able to adjust the strategy accordingly.
While metrics, methodology, and tactics differ from channel to channel, your provider must know how to measure and improve them because what works well for cold emails can be useless for cold calls, and vice versa.
By focusing on a single channel, the agency can build effective processes that bring predictable results and are easy to scale.
Social proof: Can an agency support its claims about performance?
References equal reputation. Does the agency you’re considering have some good ones? To ensure you see real testimonials, check external review sites like Clutch and G2.
Also, study the company’s case studies. It is important to note that they should contain actionable insights, not just “here’s what we’ve done.” And by “contain actionable insights,” we mean that they should highlight the challenges and their respective solutions as well as include key results delivered.
Through this simple framework, you’ll see how the agency approaches problem-solving and how they make decisions.
Strong transparency in their methods
Continuing on the topic of visibility, pay attention to what extent the vendor of your choice is open with its techniques, processes, and approaches. Do they just publish marketing materials like how-to guides and checklists? Or do they show real-life examples of what they do, why they do it, and how they do it?
This is also about expertise and insights they are ready to share. Look up some tips, templates, screenshots, videos, and any other type of content that can demonstrate their openness in processes.
Let’s say you’ve signed a 6-month contract with an agency that costs you $5,500 per month. They brought you 7,500 MQLs, 10 of which converted into clients, and you received $250,000 in revenue from them.
Your marketing cost will be 5,500 * 6 = 33,000. Next, deduct it from your profit: 250,000 - 33,000 = 217,000.
Now divide 217,000 by the marketing cost — 217,000 / 33,000 = 6.57 — then multiply by 100 to get the final percentage. Your ROMI is 657%, which is considered good.
Overall, if your ROMI is higher than 100%, then your marketing efforts are worth it.
If we take lead generation through appointment setting, there’ll be additional factors that influence return on investment:
Industry. It’s no secret that some industries like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, banking, etc. are more reluctant to change or try something new than others. The sales cycle and acquisition expenses can double on companies coming from these industries.
Company size. Similar to the previous point, the conversion rate from targeting enterprises will be lower because it’s harder to get in front of the decision-makers and win them. However, the average deal size there is higher.
More metrics. Other factors like the number of prospects covered, lead-to-appointment conversion, and closing rate also come into play.
As you can see, engagements — not impressions — matter most in appointment setting. Still, the real question is whether you can convert them into calls or qualified leads and then into sales.
If an agency has all the introductory info from you and still can’t do the math and commit to measurable KPIs — it’s a no-go. ROMI is about predicting, not guessing. Keep an eye on the guarantees they can (or can’t) give you and how they deliver on those guarantees.
The team and its culture fit
The team itself might be a less obvious factor, but it is no less important than previous items. You choose the company, but you work with the people in it. Their mindset, values, and principles determine whether your collaboration will be a win-win or failure.
To evaluate this, we recommend you ask who’ll be working on your project. Take into account the following info about the agency’s employees:
Professional background. How long have they been working in the current company, where have they worked before, and what have they achieved?
Loyalty to the company. What do they say about their employer, how much they like working for this agency, etc.?
Ownership. Do they have the freedom to make decisions on their own? In other words, can they solve your problem without someone else’s approval?
Another essential thing to notice is how those people approach their daily operations. Do they take ownership of what they do, including mistakes? How fast do they work?
If you’re used to quick approvals and your team always takes responsibility for what they do, will you be OK with a company where a salesperson delays closing a deal with you for a week or more? In contrast, if a person shows you are their top priority in a clear and timely manner, they will most likely treat your clients the same way.
Having growth as the core value at Belkins helps us focus on results, act fast, own our decisions and mistakes, and go the extra mile our clients need. How can we reach 120% and even 140% KPIs? We treat each project like it’s our own business, and that’s why we can exceed expectations.
Michael Maximoff, co-founder of Belkins
Now that you know the criteria of a great lead generation company, time to put your knowledge into practice and search for partners you can trust. To make the right decision, we recommend choosing 3 to 5 agencies and gathering as much information about them as possible.
Where can you find a reliable lead generation agency?
The answer partially lies in the social proof section above. You can go several ways.
Among the independent review sites, Clutch has held the No. 1 position for years. Clutch’s main advantage is that they publish verified reviews, which means they are unbiased.
You can easily filter companies by services offered and industry specialties, as well as their average fee. Yet sometimes it’s tough to choose the best among the good. For that purpose, Clutch has the Leaders Matrix, which lists the top companies with the best ratings from verified clients.
Yet not all the top-listed companies are going to be the right fit for you. Some of them may focus on too many services at once, while others may lack positive customer reviews or have a mediocre ability to deliver.
We’d advise running a check against all your criteria. You can also compare reviews on other platforms like G2, Better Business Bureau, GoodFirms, etc.
A huge plus of sourcing suggestions from fellow professionals is that you can engage with the recommender to get more details and specific insights that go beyond what you can read on review platforms.
Questions to ask to make sure you’ll match
Assembling several lead generation companies is only the beginning. Now it’s time to filter out those that might not be good fits. To understand what your future collaboration may look like, ask them a number of questions. It’ll help you see any red flags before it’s too late.
For your convenience, we’ve divided these questions into several major categories: expertise (including processes, methodology, etc.), guarantees, cost-related, and other questions.
Expertise, methods, and approaches
Have they worked within your industry? If not, they’ll hardly know how to approach your potential clients. They should study your domain, analyze competitors, and run several tests to find the best-performing approach.
What lead generation tactics do they use? Should you choose cold emails or cold calls? Are you comfortable with what they do? Because they’re going to use those tactics while working on your project.
What process will they use to accomplish your goals? Why? When talking to a company representative, check whether their processes are clear, documented, and detailed enough. Do they have a responsible person for each part of the process? You can also ask what they usually do if something goes wrong. This will show how they manage risk and whether they are proactive or reactive. Also ask about reporting and how they do it.
What is the approach/methodology they are using, and why is it effective? Note if they are open to talking about that, and if yes, ask why they believe it’s working. Can they support their claims with successful case studies?
What technology do they use? For example, a couple of years ago our email open rates dropped. It was critical for us as an agency specializing in cold email outreach to troubleshoot immediately. We analyzed the reasons, fixed the issues, and understood others could benefit from our solution too. This is how Folderly, a stand-alone AI-based platform for improving email deliverability, appeared. Now, over 150 companies use Folderly to boost the performance of their email campaigns.
How do they ensure lead quality? Can you convert the leads they bring? From their previous experience, the company can forecast results with relative proximity. To do that, they’ll need to study your ICP in detail and do preliminary research on your current market.
How do they guarantee it’ll work out? Once again, they can show you playbooks or similar cases relative to your industry. Also, their processes can tell you a lot about how they’ll secure each stage of your project to achieve maximum results.
What is their pricing model? If the company offers you fixed pricing before getting acquainted with your project, it’s a bad sign. Though there’s no single pricing benchmark, the cost should depend on multiple factors. To provide you with a quote, the lead gen agency should take into account your goals, industry specifics, target market, etc. Based on these, the final price may vary, likely starting from $5,000 per month.
What is the contract structure? It should include the KPIs or goals they commit to, a list of services, the length of the contract, ownership, confidential information processing, etc.
Other questions to consider
Where do they search for the leads? It’s about the mix of sources, tactics, and tools they use to discover people who match your ICP.
Do they qualify leads? Note whether they just gather contacts or verify them too. Obviously, irrelevant leads won’t result in appointments, not to mention deals. That’s why they need to double-check them. If the agency doesn’t have a clear lead qualification process, they’ll just waste your time getting in touch with people who are not interested in your products or services.
Of course, even asking all these questions isn’t a cure-all, and you need to use some common sense. Observe how they communicate with you: Are they flexible and open to discussion?
Top 3 mistakes to avoid when outsourcing your lead generation
If this is your first time looking for an outsourced lead gen vendor for the first time, here are things you want to avoid doing.
Not meeting the team. Liking the initial sales representative doesn’t mean you will like the rest of the team. To make sure the collaboration will be mutually beneficial, get acquainted with the people you’ll be working with.
Focusing more on the process than on the result.This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the agency’s processes. But it does mean that you shouldn’t substitute results with processes. Their work approach, research, playbooks, and deep dive matter, no doubt. However, what’s even more important is the number of hypotheses they test that have positive outcomes and the speed with which they test those hypotheses.
Choosing companies without proprietary technology. If they rely strictly on external tools and tech and the latter crash, the agency will have little to no influence over it. If the technology is their own, they’ll at least be able to estimate when they can fix it.
And here’s a general piece of advice: Run as fast as you can from the companies that constantly promise you results “tomorrow” without showing them today.
ROI you can expect in 3, 6, and 12 months
If we take a benchmark for appointment setting, the number of meetings within a 12-month time frame normally demonstrates around 20% growth.
The chart above shows both best- and worst-case scenarios, but the latter is truly not always “worst.” As we mentioned previously, average customer acquisition cost (CAC) in some industries can be higher as it’s harder to win each potential client. Regardless, the average 20% monthly growth is still attainable, even if the industry you operate in is highly specific and demanding.
Best companies to outsource lead generation to in 2023
To help you navigate through the numerous lead generation agencies, we’ve analyzed a bunch of them and picked the top 5 for you to consider.
Belkins is a B2B appointment setting agency that’s been operating since 2017. To schedule appointments, we use a mix of highly personalized cold emails and LinkedIn outreach. Depending on industry, this approach can bring up to 376 appointments in 14 months with an average deal size of over $100,000.
Belkins has the highest rating on Clutch and is listed as the No. 1 agency on their Leaders Matrix. The customers appreciate our services, specifically our high commitment, solid results, transparency in processes, and timely and friendly communication.
Cleverly focuses on LinkedIn lead generation by reaching out to your potential clients via the largest professional network. They use a complex approach to maximize results and help you optimize your company’s LinkedIn profile, build your audience, and deliver custom messages to them.
Cleverly can get you from 34 to 153 replies per month depending on the industry you’re operating in. Their clients value their dedication and ability to deliver.
Upcall provides cold call services to engage with your leads and book demos. Their distinctive feature is strong transparency in what they do. You can monitor campaign results on a real-time dashboard as well as listen to any call recording for a quality check.
Upcall can bring you around 85 demos per month with a show rate of up to 80%. Most customer reviews praise the agency’s openness and effectiveness.
CIENCE specializes in appointment setting and a number of multichannel outbound activities. The agency calls itself a People-as-a-Service company, providing an extension to your sales team and utilizing telemarketing to boost clients’ revenue.
Intelemark’s core expertise lies in cold calling aimed at scheduling appointments with prospects for your sales team. The company works with healthcare, technology, education, and other industries.
Intelemark’s clients highlight their outstanding communication skills and clarity in processes.
Frequently asked questions
Finally, here are some questions you might still have.
What is the average cost of a B2B lead?
Depending on the industry and acquisition channel, the cost per lead (CPL) can vary. Some channels like paid ads are more scalable than others, but they are more expensive, and the lead quality is sometimes questionable. On the other hand, outbound channels bring better leads and result in higher conversion rates, but the sales cycle is usually longer.
Well, if something looks that simple, it means that your competitors can easily do it too. What’s more, it’s highly unlikely that this sort of list will contain your ICPs. This means conversion will be poor, and you’ll be wasting your time doing something that doesn’t bring results.
Is location important when hiring a lead gen company?
If you’re looking for a cold call provider, the answer is yes. Reaching out to prospects in the USA? Better find the call center in the U.S.
With cold emails or LinkedIn outreach, it doesn’t make any difference and can even be more cost-effective to choose a vendor outside the United States. At the same time, it’s important to mind cultural differences, so you’ll have to double-check the track record of the lead gen agency to make sure they can work efficiently with the American market.
To wrap it up
Picking the right lead generation company to outsource can give a significant boost to your sales and result in multimillion-dollar deals. The wrong choice can cost you not only time and money but also your reputation.
To get the most out of your future cooperation with a lead gen agency, identify and evaluate 3 to 5 of them. Pay attention to their core expertise, check the reviews, examine their processes and approaches, meet the teams, and interview them to see which is the best fit for you.
We at Belkins know how important it is to get predictable results and have crystal clear communication. That’s why we’re using the best industry practices in cold email outreach to land you appointments with warmed-up leads. We’re always open to any of your questions and keep you posted about each stage of our ongoing project.
Want to get 100 or more appointments each year? Get in touch with our sales experts to find the optimal solution to reach your goals.
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Sales Team Lead at Belkins
Richard is a sales professional with a strong track record and experience in driving enterprise-level customer relationships and leading cross-functional teams. Since 2015, he consistently maximizes sales opportunities across SaaS, Software Development, Ads and Marketing, Engineering, and other sectors.
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