What is the purpose of this guide?
Anyone who wants to learn how to launch their own B2B sales and lead generation agency should read The Definitive Guide to Launching a B2B Sales and Lead Generation Agency.
This guide will help you understand the costs involved, the processes you need to have in place, as well as the templates and frameworks you will need to get started, whether you're just getting into entrepreneurship or have been around the block for a while.
It's hard to maintain a steady pipeline of clients when you're an entrepreneur or agency owner looking for more work.
Running your own B2B sales and lead generation agency is the perfect opportunity if you have sales or marketing experience or wish to develop core skills such as cold outreach, copywriting, and lead generation.
You can start a sales agency even if you don't have any experience if you follow this guide.
B2B sales and lead generation agencies earn an average of $3.5M per year and employ 17 people, according to LinkedIn.
Alternatively, if your agency made $3.5M last year and had $750K in annual payroll ($17 per hour x 40 hours per week x 50 weeks), your personal share would be $1.5M after taxes.
Getting started with B2B sales, lead generation, cold email outreach, appointment setting, or outbound marketing is not as hard as you might think.
In your definition of a niche, the more specific you can be, the better.
How come? It will gradually become harder for you to tailor your services to one type of client if you do not pick a niche and focus on one specific industry or market segment (e.g. supply chain). By serving only one type of client, you will spend more time catering to individual needs, rather than getting more work done in less time by serving two types of clients.
With time, you'll come to understand what tactics work and where problems can arise in your niche, helping you to do more "quality" work in less time.
It is also important to choose a niche that is unique to your company, since buyers today have more choices. Would your clients prefer to work with a "B2B sales and lead generation agency" or one with experience working with businesses similar to yours?
The first step is to identify your expertise. What are you an expert in? If this sounds like a difficult question, it’s because the answer isn't always clear-cut or straightforward, especially for sales agencies that don't have one specific niche focus.
By using the following template, you can narrow down which type of clients you should be targeting by asking yourself (and your team, if any) questions about each potential target market segment.
Answers should be documented.
In order to begin a B2B sales and lead generation agency, startup costs range from $500 to $1,500. You can use most of the tools covered in this section to reach out to your clients as well as for your agency outreach.
In this section, we will cover the essential tools you need to start your own agency. Depending on your budget and experience, you can pick one or more of the tools listed below.
It's easy to get a matching domain for your agency name for as little as $5. Get yourself a few burner domains while you're at it.
There are a few different extensions you can use, such as your domain.co, yourdomain.io, etc. If these domains and inboxes are connected, you can use them for outreach.
For example, Webflow, Unstack, Squarespace, etc., offer free templates or you can purchase one for less than $100, which is very cost-effective.
At this point, if you don't have any previous clients or relevant content that you have previously generated, it may be wise not to try anything too elaborate in terms of copywriting until some time has passed (to make potential clients/customers think you are knowledgeable).
If you have two lines about what you offer and a brief email form, people can contact you directly if they are interested in what you offer.
You will be using certain features, chrome apps, and integrations later in your outreach process, and Gmail will work best with them.
For outreach, you'll need at least 1-2 Gmail inboxes per burner domain since you'll be getting multiple burner domains. Your outreach will require the Google Workspace-Business Starter.
A prospecting tool helps sales agencies identify the right accounts and shortlist relevant prospects to contact.
You'll gain a deeper understanding of what channels to leverage for your outreach, the relevant value proposition, messaging, etc., once you've defined your ICP (ideal customer profile). Your outreach will be easier with the tools listed below.
Our view is that LinkedIn Sales Navigator should be at the center of your outreach prospecting efforts with more than 500 million users. You can use Sales Navigator to narrow down your ICP based on industry, location, company, job title, and team size.
To help you craft a compelling and relevant message, you also get their complete LinkedIn profile with their contact information and anything else they've made public on their page.
Your search for prospects can be narrowed down with Crunchbase's extensive database of companies. Insights into competitors, recent funding rounds, investors and board members, and acquisitions make it worth exploring.
In particular, this is helpful when you're trying to identify prospects based on criteria such as newly funded companies or those that have raised over $1 million in the past two years.
All you need are their email addresses so you can send cold emails to your list of prospects. What do you do?
In order to create a final list of prospect email addresses ready for outreach, you will need the tools listed below.
Wiza, you can capture emails from your LinkedIn Navigator prospect search and clean them for validity.
Wiza analyzes your email list once you hit "export emails to Wiza".
Hunter tool makes finding emails from domains easy.
Neverbounce: Upload a list of prospect emails and Neverbounce analyzes them to give you a valid email list.
Keep your list clean and only send to valid emails to achieve the lowest bounce rates.
The role of a sales engagement platform is to help you set up campaigns, automate follow-ups, and start capturing data on important metrics. This data is crucial to continually experiment and improve your outreach funnel.
Inboxes never receive 20% of emails.
Before you start cold emailing, email warm-up is a crucial step that builds a reputation for your domain and improves email deliverability, so your emails are landed in inboxes rather than spam folders.
Warm-ups can be automated in two ways.
Using WarmupInbox is easy, and it comes with all the features you need to monitor your inbox warming.
It is important that everyone knows and understands their own terminology to be successful in any kind of business. This section will cover some basic terms that you might encounter.
Burner domains are bought specifically for cold outreach, and they are used to create different email addresses and inboxes. The primary domain is not affected in the event of any problems with your cold email outreach.
Choose a domain that matches your existing domain but with a different extension, such as .co or .io.
You'll be able to determine the deliverability of your emails by looking at the percentage of them that make it to the recipient's inbox. Emails that don't make it to your recipients' inboxes are usually filtered into spam folders or junk folders, which means they won't be seen by them.
Despite the misconception that marketing and sales are two separate things, there are some significant differences between them. Marketing converts prospects into leads and sales converts leads into customers. The purpose of sales emails is to build relationships with potential clients by providing them with more information about what they offer, how they can help, and why they should work with them rather than another company.
In order to optimize your sales processes and workflows, you need to implement a Sales Engagement Platform. Using it, you can automate administrative tasks that are recurring in your company, reducing time spent and increasing efficiency, resulting in more revenue in less time. It integrates with all of the systems that your company uses.
Your business's strategy for attracting new clients and employees
A phrase that has spread like a virus among project managers and describes the services and outcomes that you will provide to your client.
There are a small number of people who generate most of the results, for example, 20% of salespeople generate 80% of sales.
List builders collect PROSPECTS, not leads. A prospect is a potential customer who meets certain criteria.
In sales, a lead is a prospective customer. Leads can be found anywhere. You can generate leads for your business in a variety of ways, but you shouldn't target just anybody because you need to target potential customers who are interested in your products or services.
The goal of lead generation is to generate interest in your product or service among those who aren't aware of it. This can be accomplished through advertising and marketing campaigns, cold calling, email lists, and more.
Using email to interact with a prospect with whom they’ve had no prior contact.
The art and science of getting emails from a sender all the way to subscribers’ inboxes without landing in the ‘Spam’ Folder.
Is the percentage of people who opened the email when bounces are excluded.
Percentage of people who take the desired action, such as filling out a form, registering, signing up for a newsletter, or any activity other than just browsing a web page.
If an email is invalid it will ‘bounce’. Bounce rate is the percentage of how many emails bounce on any given campaign.
Testing two versions of a webpage, email subject line, landing page, CTA, etc. to see which one performs better.
Call-to-action. The goal is to persuade the reader to perform a certain act immediately. Often the next step of the sales process.
Copywriting is one of the most important skills in advertising and marketing because it's how your message gets to your audience. In order for copywriting to work, it needs to grab your attention in less than 10 seconds or you'll bounce away without looking back.
Particular groups of people/businesses that our advertisement is directed to.
Refers to searching for businesses within our target market.
Finding specific people/job titles to contact within each business
An Account is just the actual business or company, and the Contact is the person – the same person from the Lead
The person who is responsible for all communication with the client.
The US laws that are related to sending emails.
List of companies/people/cities we do not want to send emails to.
The European privacy laws have some impact regarding sending emails in Europe.
Describes the initial steps that are necessary to ensure good email deliverability
Describes the way spam filters rate your domain. If all of your emails land in spam your reputation is poor, if all land in inbox then your reputation is good
Dividing the prospect list up based on common criteria. Eg: Industry, team size, revenue, etc.
Specific domain-related items have to be configured to ensure good email deliverability.
Setting goals for cold email outreach is crucial at the start of an engagement. While prospecting goals will differ per client remember that cold outreach is about starting conversations with relevant prospects, not for closing deals.
Once you’ve defined the outcome of the campaign it’s going to help you generate relevant ideas, focus on the right prospect, craft the right message, set up relevant follow-up message sequences, optimize your funnel, and communicate with your clients more effectively.
Many people get confused when it comes to the differences between outbound and inbound.
Outbound is more about cold contacting a prospect, while inbound is all about generating leads through SEO, content, marketing, social media, etc.
Outbound requires that you work on generating interest from scratch with each contact while inbound leads are already interested as they've come to you for information on what you offer.
Cold outreach is the act of contacting someone you don't know for the first time. Ideally, a successful cold outreach leads to you nurturing them through your sales funnel, leading them to take an action.
Cold outreach could include one or all of the following:
Cold emailing is the process of starting a cold conversation with a prospect, lead, or customer. It is a great way to generate leads quickly and as you must have gathered this guide places a lot of emphasis on cold emailing over social and cold calling.
We believe cold emailing should be at the foundation of any outreach process and cold calls and social outreach can be implemented at a later point. Why?
1) It's easy to get started- Launching your first campaign should take you just a few hours
2) It's low cost- you can launch an effective cold email campaign for less than $100
3) It's a great way to test assumptions- It’s a fast way to test your assumptions around prospects, value prop, messaging, etc. to help you make a data-driven decision.
Cold calling is another great way to start generating leads for your business.
Much like cold email, the effort you put into personalization is going to help you get higher-quality conversations going.
Depending on the type of product or service and cadence you are observing, hiring an SDR/BDR to start making cold calls could be beneficial for you, or as a value-add for your clients.
Social media is a really powerful tool for prospecting. Focusing on the channels your prospects are most active will help you gain a deeper understanding of the problems, pain points, and messaging,
Choosing the right channel and timing are crucial with social media. Follow groups, hashtags, pages, and accounts that your clients are engaging with.
Deep dive into your market and make sure you are consistently providing value.
Email is still the primary way of communication for many people and companies and the initial hurdle that most cold email outreach programs must surpass is deliverability Send too many emails in a short period of time, and you'll find yourself in the spam folder and your domain being blacklisted or blocked.
Email deliverability is about a lot more than just following the rules of email marketing best practices. Email Warmup is a crucial process to ensure that your emails are hitting the inbox and getting enough eyeballs. Here's an in-depth article we've written on what you need to know about deliverability and cold email warm-up.
Cold emailing is the process of sending an unsolicited message to someone you don't know. This person may be an influencer or decision-maker in your industry, and cold emails are often used as an effective lead generation tool.
Done right, this can help you grow your business and increase sales. But are they legal? Yes, as long as you follow a few rules. The rules can vary to a degree depending on the country you operate in and the location of your customers.
Read our Legal Breakdown of Cold Email Outreach for a primer on regulations you need to be aware of and what they mean for your cold email outreach.
When you are prospecting, especially on behalf of a client, it can be challenging to keep up with all these needs. An Ideal Customer Profile allows you to think, communicate, and align on who the recipient of your cold email would be.
If you can’t define this, you’re going to have a tough time finding prospects even with all the tools mentioned in this guide.
If you’re starting out, start with the ICP you identified within your niche and add in more fidelity to that information using the ICP Framework template given below.
" It is important to define your ideal customer in a way that you can identify ~100 prospects that match that criteria. Once you run a test campaign to these users, you will see for yourself what the best responses are. This way you can craft an Ideal Customer profile that is data-driven & more accurate for your outreach." -Jasper Vanuytrecht (Founder of SniPro Leads)
How you position your B2B sales and lead generation agency is going to determine how you communicate your services, the sales pitch, and your growth plan as you start focusing on scaling your agency.
While the ICP focuses on who your Ideal Customers are for prospecting, positioning is focused on how you want this demographic to perceive your agency.
For now, think about positioning to determining how to pitch to your ICP. The first step towards that is…
Do you have a clear value proposition? Do you know what your sales agency does better than anyone else in the world - and why your customers should hire you for it?
A lot of businesses don't, agencies in particular. In fact, many are unclear on their purpose entirely. They often get overwhelmed by all the possible things they could do for clients and end up doing nothing at all or saying yes to everything...and that's not good for business or your sanity.
This is not an excuse to delay launching your business. Coming up with a value proposition shouldn’t take you more than 20-30 min of brainstorming.
Use the PAS framework below to help you get started
The Problem-Agitation-Solution framework is a tool that helps you capture your problem, explore potential solutions to the problem, and state which solution should be chosen.
The competitive analysis involves identifying key competitors and gaining a high-level understanding of the company, target customer, product/service, messaging, and positioning.
Comparing competitors' data can help you determine who would be an ideal prospect for cold outreach and come up with better copy and strategies to test with your cold outreach
We’ve created a template to help you get started with your competitive analysis.
Once you’ve picked your ideal niche & ICP and identified the tools you’ll be using for outreach, it’s time to bring it all together.
The process you build is the foundation of your agency. Combine with a good experimentation strategy and you’re off to the races!
Refer to your ideal niche and using your prospecting tool of choice you can build a list of prospects of any size. Comparing competitors' data can help you determine who would be an ideal prospect for cold outreach and allow you to come up with better copy and strategies to test with your cold outreach.
" A piece of advice on list building. Do not purchase list from a listbroker. This is someone who compiles a list of leads from a v arious data sources. Sounds like a shortcut, but here’s the dark underbelly; those leads are stale and have been passed around multiple times." - Alicia Glenn (Founder of ProspectUp)
If you’re using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to build your prospect list you can use their advanced search filter that helps you build your prospect list and narrow your searches for new leads by company, title, industry, region, and more.
You can save lead searches, account searches, and share lead searches with your colleagues directly in Sales Navigator. Experiment with different filters, keyword boolean operators, and exclusions as well) to get to that ideal first batch. You can read an in-depth article we've written on how to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator here.
Now that you’ve gotten the prospect list ready? It’s time to…
Cleaning your prospect list has two elements to it, finding an email ID connected to your prospect and more importantly ensuring that the email address is valid.
If you’re using LinkedIn Sales Navigator for building your prospect list, we recommend using Wiza.
Once you’ve narrowed down your prospects, simply hit export emails with Wiza.
Wiza then finds a list of emails associated with the prospects and gives you a breakdown of the quality of emails found. Make sure to download the valid emails for your cold outreach.
Using a tool like Wiza(highly recommended), makes it easy to capture email IDs directly from your LinkedIn Sales Navigator search (up to 2,500 prospects each time) and upload them into the Wiza platform that then analyzes and provides you with “valid” emails.
If warmup & deliverability have been followed correctly you should be seeing a 20-30% open rate on your campaigns at the very least.
Now, copywriting is your moneymaker.
Effective copy is what’s going to help you to achieve:
1) Higher open rates- more eyeballs to your sales pitch
2) Higher conversion rates- Even a 100% email open rate is effort wasted if prospects aren’t taking the desired action to help you achieve your prospecting goal.
A few choppy sentences can do the charm when done correctly(in fact in some cases, they perform even better).
Here are a few best practices for you to keep in mind while copywriting:
You’ve landed in your prospects inbox...hurray! Now how do you get them to open your cold email?
The most persuasive cold email isn’t going to get you a client if they don't open the email.
You have ideas about what subject lines would best work to get you higher open rates. Write them all down(at least 5-10) and prioritize them.
Remove the ones that sound scammy(call a few people within your network to get it reviewed if needed).
Your subject line needs to communicate what your prospect should expect using the least amount of words possible.
Having at least one variable like first name, company name, job title, within the subject line helps to personalize the subject line better. While personalization is great, you need to be able to replicate it at scale depending on how granular you get with your experimentation.
Always A/B test with your subject lines, review results, iterate, and keep experimenting till you see a 60-80% open rate or the result you desire.
Personalization can sound like a daunting task but it really doesn’t have to be that difficult or time-consuming.
Jasper Vanuytrecht from SniPro Leads has the following to say:
The more you personalize and the more relevant you are to your prospects...the better chances you have of starting a conversation with them. You have to know what they care about.
If you have a team of SDRs & BDRs in your own organization. You can afford yourself to hyper-personalize with them. That is personalization at scale.
However, if you have a smaller team, with a few reps that need to do a high volume of outreach than you need to use some automation tools to scale and be efficient.
Leveraging frameworks like AIDA, Before-After-Bridge, PAS, etc. to write copy for emails will help you templatize the process towards personalization. Here’s a couple of examples of what that would look like:
Assuming that the following email is being sent to BDRs and SDRs of SaaS companies and their website has a “book a demo” mentioned as CTA.
Assuming that the following email is being sent to founders of SaaS companies and with a team size between 1-10
Facilitative Questions are the opposite of interrogatory questions. They focus on what's going well in a conversation and encourage the person to keep talking. These types of questions make people feel at ease, which can lead to more open dialogue that will allow for greater insights into their business needs.
Salesperson: What are the challenges you're facing with this product?
Client: We don't have enough budget for it right now.
Salesperson: What would happen if we found a way to make it work within our budget constraints?
Asking facilitative questions in your cold email copy will help your counterpart find their own answer. These "open-ended" questions can be used in a wide variety of contexts.
The goal is to get at what the other person really wants or needs, rather than what you think they want or need.
By including facilitative questions through your cold email sequence, you’ll be creating a funnel, where the prospects self-identify themselves by their need and helping you achieve higher conversion rates.
Sales Engagement Platforms make it easy for you to set up sequences with multiple steps.
You can set up 2 different variants for your step 1 to A/B test both responses and subject line performance.
Choose the duration between successive emails to a prospect. Make sure you have the necessary copy ready and the prospect list uploaded before you start setting up your sequence.
When starting a campaign, it’s a good idea to start with setting your send rates.
We recommend starting with 20 emails and increasing the send rate by 2-5 every 2-3 days till you hit your desired daily send rate, as long as email warmup and deliverability are not affected.
Finally, preview the sequence once and proofread for unwanted spaces, punctuation, grammar, length, etc. Before you launch the sequence and go live.
LinkedIn Outreach is an excellent way to Reach Decision-Makers and probably the most popular B2B marketing strategy in 2021. This could be a great addition to your outreach process.
Here are a few scenarios where you can use LinkedIn outreach:
Invalid/Risky emails- After cleaning your LinkedIn Sales Navigator prospect list, you get a list of invalid. Hit out on LinkedIn.
Warm-up a prospect before outreach - View their profile or add them on LinkedIn and follow up with an email sequence. This could also help personalize your email outreach further by including a message like “sent you a connection request a few days ago” in your email/subject line.
To nurture them- Follow up with prospects who have been qualified as TOFU after an email sequence conversation
Priority connections - to connect with a high-value prospect (timing-based opportunity, decision-maker for the key account, etc.)
Manual LinkedIn outreach can be difficult and requires a fair bit of effort to track and manage prospects, understand where they are in your sales funnel, and follow up with them within LinkedIn itself or email if you are dealing with steps 2 or 3 above.
Luckily tools like Expandi or MeetAlfred make it far easier to manage, automate and monitor all aspects of your LinkedIn outreach.
Here’s how to begin:-
Now that you’re a bonafide outreach expert, it’s time to get your first agency client.
You should have about 100-200 prospects in your prospect list after cleaning it for your first cold email outreach campaign.
While you can launch multiple campaigns or even conduct outreach to 1000s of prospects, the goal of your first campaign is to test your assumptions and get data in. The real gold is in optimization.
There are many ways to set the goal of your outreach campaign. However, we recommend starting with experimenting with booking a meeting for your agency.
Outreach to your niche
Once you have come up with a few different copy versions for the steps in your campaign. It’s time to outreach to your niche. Make sure to follow the best practices from the copywriting(<----link to)section when creating copy for your outreach campaigns.
Your outreach campaign is designed to start a conversation.
Jasper Vanuytrecht is the Founder of SniPro Leads and said:
In our experience, I recommend not going straight to the meeting in the first email. If the first email does not receive a response, you can be more straightforward in the follow-up steps of your sequence. Test out different variants to see what works best for you.
Your first email should have a reply. Of course, you don't want any reply...you want an interested or positive reply! You want to spark someone's interest. You should ask these people to ask you additional questions to find out more. And once you have their attention the goal is to get the meeting,. You don't want to sell anything in the first call- it should just be a discovery call.
If you're looking for a great way to start your sales process, consider sending prospects an email with a free discovery call offer.
For just 10 minutes of their time, you'll be able to find out if they are interested in your products or services and what type of information they need from you.
This strategy works best when targeting groups that collaborate closely on projects, such as businesses in the same industry.
Over the call, you want to capture as much information as possible to understand:
Refer to the questions template below. We’ve highlighted the questions we feel need to be covered over the email conversation & discovery call.
Use your wise judgment and pick a few to cover on the call, and take notes! Don’t shy down from asking clarification questions and going back to the basics as needed to ensure clarity on everything.
When you have a good understanding of your client's expectations, goals, and desired outcomes, it's time to introduce yourself, and the team involved, and provide insights on any or all of the following:
-Experience with similar clients
-Your approach to delivering maximum value to your client.
In response to objections, address any concerns they may have and if asked about the budget, provide a range that you think may be appropriate.
Here are a few tips for people who have never worked with clients before.
End the call by defining the next steps.
Refer to the notes you made and build a proposal & contract.
If you haven’t built one before, use the template below. Make changes to fit your client’s specific needs.
Your proposal should be saved in a separate folder under [clientName] in your Google Drive.
The purpose of this is to serve as a central repository for all information that needs to be shared between parties.
Your clients will receive an email with the proposal's drive link.
A bonus is to mention you've added some useful resources to the drive, such as a separate "resources" folder with 2-3 documents (best practices, flowcharts, or e-books).
If you can, please schedule some time here "Insert Calendly Link" for us to walk you through this proposal next time.
Review the proposal with your client over the phone.
Ensure that they have read the proposal, address any objections they may have, and ask questions to gauge whether they have read it.
After you receive verbal confirmation, set up a payment gateway, onboard your client, and get things started.
Your B2B Sales and lead generation agency is now in business!
It is a Definitive Guide e-book series for anyone wanting to start a B2B sales and lead generation agency and to provide you with up-to-date and practical information on how to do this. You'll soon be able to find out how to manage and scale your B2B lead generation and sales agency in our next two e-books!