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What is B2B lead generation?

B2B lead generation is the process of identifying the ideal customers for your product or service, then attracting them to buy. It is an essential activity for B2B sales and marketing teams.

This knowledge hub contains a number of resources that will help to explain the importance of B2B lead generation, and provide practical advice for getting it started at your business today. Use the links below to navigate around this page.

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In 90 seconds: what is B2B lead generation? | Why is B2B lead generation important? | What are B2B leads? | Who conducts B2B lead generation? | How is B2B lead generation conducted? | The importance of data in B2B lead generation | What technology can help with B2B lead generation? | B2B lead generation: influencer insights | More B2B lead generation resources from Cognism | Further reading, links and resources | Contact Cognism today

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In 90 seconds: what is B2B lead generation?

B2B lead generation explained in 90 seconds 👇

Why is B2B lead generation important?

B2B lead generation is fundamental to the success of a business. We have identified several factors that demonstrate the importance of B2B lead generation for sales and marketing teams, as well as the wider business. We have set them out here 👇

What is B2B lead generation?

What are B2B leads?

In B2B lead generation, B2B leads is the term given to those people who have been identified as potential customers for your business. They can be categorised as those who would likely find value from using your product or service.

There are two types of B2B lead:

Marketing-Qualified Leads

Marketing-qualified leads, or MQLs, are leads who are deemed very likely to become a paying customer. The qualification is based on the engagement that the MQL has had with your business’s marketing efforts. 

For example:

  • Repeatedly visiting a page on your company website. 💻
  • Filling out a form, or multiple forms on your company’s website. 📑
  • Downloading a piece of content that your company has produced. 📥
  • Signing up to attend one of your company’s events or webinars. 🎫

Sales-Qualified Leads

Sales-qualified leads, or SQLs, are MQLs who have progressed along the funnel and are deemed to be ready for engagement with your sales team. To be designated as an SQL, the lead must have shown intent to buy your company’s product or service.

This intent can be expressed in several ways:

  • During a telephone conversation with a member of your sales team. ☎️
  • By indicating their interest in an email or LinkedIn message. 📧
  • By requesting more information about your company and offering. ℹ️
  • By asking to be shown a demo of your product or service. 👨‍💼

Who conducts B2B lead generation?

B2B lead generation is a process managed by sales and marketing professionals. They may work alone or more typically in teams.

For B2B lead generation to work most effectively, it is preferable for sales and marketing teams to be closely aligned.


A sales team focused on B2B lead generation is often split into two groups. These groups perform separate, clearly defined tasks.

The two groups are:

  • Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) - this group is responsible for sourcing leads, engaging with them and booking meetings. 👀
  • Business Development Managers (BDMs) - this group is responsible for conducting demos, closing deals and generating revenue for the business. 🤝

There are several benefits to this approach:

  • It creates a solid B2B lead generation pipeline - the SDRs create opportunities for the BDMs to action. ➡️
  • It empowers each employee to focus solely on one responsibility, meaning that they quickly become experts in their roles. 🤓
  • It builds a roadmap for career development and progression - if an SDR consistently hits their targets, they will become eligible for promotion to a BDM. 📈

Sales resources

Webinar recap: How to build a high-performing sales team | 5 skills every SDR should master | 10 questions to ask when hiring an SDR | How to ramp up an SDR in 3 days | Top tips from top-performing sales reps | B2B sales KPIs: what you need to track


In general, there are two categories of marketers focused on B2B lead generation. While their work may overlap, their approaches to marketing are very different.

These two categories are:

  • Demand generation marketers - this group is focused on the entire B2B lead generation revenue cycle. Their mission is to nurture leads, guiding them from simply being aware of your brand to becoming a customer and finally an advocate. ♻️
  • Growth hackers - this group is focused on generating quick revenue growth while spending as little as possible. They typically work at early-stage startups and tend to be more experimental in approach. As a general rule, the activities they undertake are often less scalable. 🚀

Despite their differences, these two groups do have one thing in common - they rely on analysing data and testing to drive their decision-making and they are both laser focused on successful B2B lead generation.

Marketing resources

Webinar recap: B2B growth marketing | B2B marketing KPIs: what you need to track

How is B2B lead generation conducted?

B2B lead generation is conducted through a variety of sales and marketing activities. In this section, we will provide definitions for each of the most common ones.


In sales, B2B lead generation is carried out through a process called B2B outbound. This process includes:

  • Cold calling - SDRs telephoning B2B leads, explaining the benefits of their product or service, and qualifying the lead for future engagement. Cold calling can be done manually or through automated technology. 📞
  • Outbound email - SDRs contacting B2B leads via email, in the hopes of striking up a conversation. Outbound email is normally managed through email automation platforms. 📨
  • Social selling - SDRs following B2B leads on social media, engaging with them and developing relationships over time. In the B2B space, the major social media network is LinkedIn. 📱
  • Sales cadences - the combination of all of these techniques is known as a cadence. Most SDRs deploy cadences in order to increase the chances of a B2B lead responding. 📞📨📱

The goal of all of these tasks is for the B2B lead to agree to attend a product demo, which is conducted by a BDM.

Sales resources

How to scale your B2B sales lead list | Top cold calling tips | The ultimate cold calling script for B2B sales | 7 tips for building an effective email sequence | 5 sales emails that get responses | How to create an outbound cadence which converts | How to build a winning cadence for sales leaders | How to build a winning cadence for CEOs


For marketers, the process of B2B lead generation is also known as demand generation. There are several tactics that marketers can leverage to generate leads and demand. They are:

  • Growth hacking - this is where B2B marketers or growth hackers deploy unusual, unorthodox techniques to create demand and grow their business quickly. Examples include incentives, contests and free tools. 👽
  • Content marketing - this is where marketers publish relevant, valuable content and promote them to their target audiences. Content can take many forms, including blogs, videos, webinars, podcasts and eBooks. 📖
  • Account-based marketing (ABM) - this is where marketers identify the key decision-makers inside a specific company (or account), and then create marketing campaigns personalised to those leads. 🎯

The goals of these activities will vary depending on where the B2B lead is in the marketing funnel. It could be to attract new leads to the business or to steer existing leads towards making a purchasing decision.

Growth hacking / content marketing resources

What is growth hacking and how can you get started? | Mapping your content to the buyer’s journey | 2020 content calendar template | 3 top tips from 3 top content marketers | 5 top tips for amplifying your content | How to use content to close deals | Content marketing: your guide to measuring success

ABM resources

How to run the perfect ABM campaign | Tracking ABM engagement: what you need to know


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The importance of data in B2B lead generation

The success of B2B lead generation is dependent on the data that sales and marketing teams have. Without good-quality data, B2B lead generation cannot be conducted.

If SDRs have inaccurate or incomplete contact data for their B2B leads, then it becomes impossible for them to cold call or send outbound emails. If demand generation marketers have imprecise data on their target accounts, then it becomes much harder to create and promote content that converts.

Data is also fundamental to analytics and forecasting. It provides the bedrock for KPIs and benchmarks for individuals and teams; it allows companies to measure their output and results. The insights gained from studying B2B data can be invaluable. Business leaders can quickly see if there are any failings in their B2B lead generation process and make adjustments. The most successful B2B companies are those who keep on top of their data and use it in their day-to-day decision-making.

If you would like to learn more about B2B data, we have created a library of resources. You will find the links below 👇

Data resources

B2B data cheat sheet: a simple guide to B2B data | Data sourcing tips for sales and marketing success | Top tips for data enrichment | Total Addressable Market: what you need to know | How to build a B2B data list | 2020 B2B data compliance guide

What technology can help with B2B lead generation?

For most sales and marketing teams, technology is a huge benefit to B2B lead generation. Sales activities such as cold calling and outbound emails can be automated. Marketing activities such as blogging and social media rely on content management systems and the internet.

Interactions with B2B leads can be stored in Customer Relationship Management systems, or CRMs. The data captured in a company’s CRM can be analysed to improve business relationships with customers and drive future sales.

In recent years, there has been a significant growth in sales and marketing technology, especially in the B2B sector. Many tools and solutions are now available and can assist with almost any B2B lead generation task. A high percentage of them are delivered by the software as a service, or SaaS, model. The total number of tools used by a company is known as a technology stack, or tech stack.

We have published more resources on the topic of B2B technology. You will find the links below 👇

Technology resources

What are the benefits of a B2B technology stack? | How to buy tech the right way | The ultimate B2B sales tech stack | The ultimate B2B marketing tech stack

B2B lead generation: influencer insights

Several thought leaders in B2B sales and marketing have contributed to our content. You will find more B2B lead generation insights here 👇

Flip the B2B marketing funnel: thoughts from a SaaS founder

Alex Olley is the co-founder of Reachdesk. He explores how to make B2B marketing more accurate and effective, by turning the traditional marketing funnel upside-down.

Flip the B2B marketing funnel

10 things every new SDR must do

Nigel Dunand is the Director at Sandler Training. He shares the top 10 things every new SDR must do when they start a new job.

10 things every new SDR must do

How to align sales and marketing: Part 1 & 2

Michael Levy is the Principal at GZ Consulting. He delves into the strategies used by B2B and SaaS companies to align their sales and marketing teams.

How to align sales and marketing - Part 1

How to align sales and marketing

Top tips for sales forecasting accuracy

Rory Brown is the co-founder and CCO at Kluster. He reveals his 5 top tips to help B2B sales teams improve their sales forecasting accuracy.

Top tips for sales forecasting accuracy

How to succeed as an SDR

Karen Muldoon is the UK Sales Leader at Zendesk. She spoke to us about her experiences in B2B sales and how to find success in the industry.

How to succeed as an SDR

More B2B lead generation resources from Cognism

We have collated our B2B sales and marketing webinars, whitepapers and playbooks. Scroll down for more 👇


B2B Outbound: How to create a scalable and repeatable engine

Cognism CRO Nazma Qurban discussed how to kickstart outbound sales with James Ski, Founder at Sales Confidence and Neil Ryland, CRO at Peakon.


ABM: Beyond The Hype

Cognism Head of Marketing Alice de Courcy moderated an exploration of ABM with Nick Mason, CEO & Founder at Turtl, Owen Steer, Account Strategist at Punch and Joe Birkedale, CEO at Project36.


B2B Outbound: How to build a high performing sales team

Cognism CRO Nazma Qurban and Inside Sales Director David Bentham talked about how to build a successful B2B sales team with Collin Waldrip, Sales Development Manager at SalesLoft.


Scaling Sales: Key lessons from our journey from 2.5M to 7M in 2019

Cognism’s Sales Directors Jonathon Ilett and David Bentham shared the tactics that contributed to our business’s immense success last year.


B2B Growth Marketing: Hacking your way to predictability

Cognism Head of Marketing Alice de Courcy discussed growth hacking tips and tricks with Charlie Taylor, EMEA Marketing Manager at G2 and Karla Rivershaw, Head of Marketing at Turtl.


Whitepapers and playbooks

8 Ways to Improve Your Cold Calling Strategy

Find out how to breathe warmth into your cold calling strategy without slowing down the process. Featuring top tips from Cognism’s sales team.

8 Ways to Improve Your Cold Calling Strategy

The Complete ABM Playbook

A comprehensive guide to launching an effective ABM campaign. Featuring contributions from ABM experts at Turtl, Punch and Project36.

The Cognism ABM Playbook

Scale Your Business: The Ultimate Playbook For Building Your Ideal Customer Profile

Step-by-step instructions to create the perfect Ideal Customer Profile for your business. Includes a template as used by Cognism’s sales and marketing teams.

The ultimate playbook for building your ideal customer profile

Cold Calling Objection Handling Playbook

Learn how to handle objections on your B2B cold calls. Includes real-world examples of the most common sales objections and how to resolve them.

Cold Calling Objection Handling Playbook

Further reading, links and resources


Josh Braun | Cognism Sales Academy

Growth Hacking

GrowthHackers | 10X Factory | r/GrowthHacking

Demand Generation

Neil Patel | Drift Demand Generation Learning Center | HubSpot Blog

Contact Cognism today

If you would like to see how Cognism can revolutionise your B2B lead generation strategy with high-quality, globally-compliant data, get in touch with us today. Simply register your interest at the link below 👇

Request your demo now