They’re targeting cold leads, people who often don’t know a thing about the product or question and definitely aren’t in the market.
But what if you were running on Premium?
Well, your pipeline would be moving faster, and you’d be closing more deals and growing revenue faster.
That’s what happens when you fuel your sales team with warm leads, prospects who’ve already shown at least some degree of intent or interest in your product.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll be walking you through our tried-and-tested strategy for generating warm leads. (At Warmly, it’s been so successful that our inbound meeting calendar is booked up for the next two months!)
But first, let’s set the record straight.
What Is A Warm Lead?
This is one of those questions that has more than one answer.
The simple answer is this:
A warm lead is a sales prospect that has shown interest in your brand, product, or services.
That simple answer provides the clue as to why the question is actually more complex than it appears on the surface.
What Do You Mean By “Warm”?
How much interest does a prospect need to have shown in order to be considered a warm lead? And what do we consider “showing interest”?
Is someone who has signed up for an email newsletter just as “warm” as someone who was browsing the pricing page? And are those two just as warm as someone who just booked a demo?
And what about activities like downloading an ebook?
Is that considered “showing interest” in your product? Or are they simply demonstrating interest in the information inside of that guide?
What About Brand Affiliation?
One important note is that people often forget that "warm" could also mean a strong affiliation with your brand.
If someone has watched your video content, listened to thought leaders in your company speak, or read a solid content article you put out. I'd argue that that person is "warm" to your brand, especially in today's age of sales, where credibility is the new currency.
In the "How Economy," companies would compete to get information in front of the right people at the right time. In the "Who Economy," companies battle for influence.
The golden era of B2B SaaS sales has ended, and the B2B sales funnel looks very different. True influence (and, therefore, conversions) comes from trust. It’s why 91% of B2B purchasers’ buying decisions are influenced by word-of-mouth.
So, for all intents and purposes, "warm," by our definition, is a function of:
- Buyer stage for your product or service
- Level of trust and affiliation with your brand
For all of this complexity, there is no standard across sales teams in different companies as to what a warm lead actually is other than the fact that it is not a cold lead.
Warm Leads vs. Cold Leads
Understanding more about warm leads’ counterpart—cold leads—can help us come up with a better definition.
A cold lead is any sales prospect who hasn’t actively signaled interest in your product or services. They haven’t engaged with your site, social media profiles, or content, and they quite possibly haven’t even heard of your brand before.
You have their details (like an email or phone number) because you’ve bought a list of cold sales leads or done some sales prospecting to create your own.
They may or may not be in the market for your product, nor do you know if they even have a solid use case for it (though you probably have firmographic data to infer that).
Through this lens, we can say that warm leads are categorically better than cold leads. They have a higher chance of closing and come with a shorter sales cycle. Win-win.
Still, not all warm leads are created equal, so it's worth categorizing further.
Categorizing Warm Leads
Warm leads are all prospects that have shown some form of interest or intent (i.e., they aren’t cold leads).
But should every warm lead get the same treatment from sales?
The answer is no, by the way.
Someone who sees your ad on LinkedIn and hands over their email to download a “State of the market” report has not demonstrated the same level of intent as a prospect who has read five pieces of content and checked out your pricing page twice.
Thus, they should receive different treatment from sales and marketing, and go into different sequences.
MQLs and SQLs
Some brands use a simple MQL/SQL (marketing/sales qualified lead) division to action this, others implement lead scoring, and others still use a combination of AI and lead routing to create something close to personalized outreach sequences.
All are valid and not something we’re going to dive into detail here.
The point is, though, that you bear in mind that the warm leads you generate with the five following strategies won’t all necessarily be of the same “warmness” and that your consequent sales tactics should vary accordingly.
Side note: Some sales teams go beyond warm and categorize some leads as “hot leads.” This can be helpful, but like warm leads, there is no industry-wide agreement on what a “hot lead” is.
Again, that’s up to you to determine what the different lead types are.
Our Foolproof 3-Step Strategy For Generating More Warm Leads
Below is the exact strategy that Warmly used to generate warm leads and book sales demos.
In fact, as of writing, you can’t even book a demo with our sales team this month. This warm lead generation strategy has been so effective that our reps are full!
So, take notes!
1. Build A Media Brand
Creating and capturing warm leads is all about positioning your organization (and the key people within it) as trusted experts who provide advice, help, and education to the market.
The best way to conceptualize this is as if you’re building a media company.
Yes, you’re developing, marketing, and selling a product.
But adjacent to that is your media brand, which acts as the fuel for your sales team by attracting a wider audience of not-in-market buyers and nurturing them down the funnel into warm leads.
Customer collaboration platform Aligned provides a great example of how this is done.
They’ve gone as far as giving their media brand a name (Streamligned), and positioning it as a streaming platform.
I mean, it literally looks like a Netflix or a Prime.
Creating a media brand is the perfect response to the shift in the B2B SaaS market from “how” toward “who.”
"It's more important for your company to be known as a thought leader than to be known for its product's technology."
For something like B2B SaaS, I wholeheartedly believe that.
I also believe that building a media brand and consistently publishing quality content is what will ensure your company is known as a thought leader.
It’s the approach we’re taking at Warmly, and it's already paying off.
For us, this has been especially important as we’re also engaged in category design (we’re building the category of Autonomous Sales Orchestration).
So, how do you get started?
The following is a series of tips and best practices for creating and growing a media brand across seven different content types:
- Blog content
- Video content
- Social media content
- Lead magnets
- Playbooks and courses
- Case studies and testimonials
Blog content is the backbone of most companies’ content strategies.
You publish many pieces on various topics related to challenges your audience faces, optimize them to show up in Google search, and distribute them across social media and email.
What’s critical here is that you don’t fall into the trap of mass-producing SEO content that serves only to capture search traffic, pushing up a vanity metric.
Yes, you can make SEO a viable channel, but value should be first and foremost.
Take, for example, our article on Drift competitors and alternatives. It achieves three important goals.
First, it ranks on Google for an important search term, “drift alternatives”:
Second, it provides deep value that helps readers understand the major differences between alternatives so they can choose the most appropriate one for their needs.
This helps position Warmly as a thought leader and knowledge advisor in the vertical.
Finally, it creates an opportunity for us to explain why Warmly might be a reasonable solution and to further educate readers about the category we are designing.
If you’re serious about making blog content a large part of your media offering, you’ll need to build a content factory to support high-volume production.
We’ve got a five-part series on how. Here’s the first installment: Building A Content Factory (Part 1 of 5).
Video is another important medium and one that can cover a variety of different content formats.
For us, video includes participating in webinars, as well as short walkthrough videos like this one from our Head of Revenue, Keegan.
For HockeyStack, video content goes as far as humorous clips:
As well as tactical series featuring industry leaders like Peep Laja:
The great thing about video is that it can be heavily repurposed.
Long-form videos can be cut down into attention-grabbing clips that you distribute on social media or embed within blog posts to create a richer customer experience on the page.
Social Media Content
Social media is a whole-company thing, from the founders down to the sales team.
Take our CEO, Max Greenwald, who is constantly posting, commenting, and sharing on LinkedIn:
Sometimes, that’s simply to distribute a recent piece of blog or video content. Other times, its to promote a job position we have available.
More often, though, it's an actionable and prescriptive piece of advice (the above post is not only a humble brag. It also includes a walk-through video on how our GTM engine works).
For sales leaders and reps, it's all about social selling.
Social selling is the practice of using social media platforms (LinkedIn, X, Instagram) to connect with prospects.
Our Head of Revenue and Operations, Keegan Otter, posts regularly on LinkedIn as a way of engaging with our target audience, spreading the word about Warmly, and creating new opportunities in the form of warm leads.
It's important to note that the above post isn’t selling per se. Rather, it's adding value by providing prescriptive advice that our target audience can use in their day-to-day worklife.
That’s what you should be aiming for with social selling.
The most interested parties will get in touch with Keegan directly via InMail (warm lead = created) or navigate over to our website (where our previous strategy and our next one can play a part).
Learn more about how Keegan’s sales process works: 4 Powerful Omnichannel Sales & Marketing Examples.
Podcasts are another fantastic form of content that your media brand can invest in.
The big win with podcasts is your ability to increase reach through brand partnerships.
We’ll be diving into partnerships in detail in part two (it is that important), but the gist is that you can have others appear on your show while you feature on theirs: a win-win for reach.
Lead magnets are the classic marketing tactic for generating warm leads.
Common examples of lead magnets include ebooks, guides, and webinars.
Basically, they are a piece of online content that, in order to access, the prospect needs to hand over some contact information (usually an email, but sometimes phone numbers are asked for).
The problem with lead magnets is that while they do produce leads, it's not entirely clear that they produce warm leads.
Let’s say that I’m researching my content strategy as I prepare to build a content factory.
I download this ebook from Callbox to research what competitors are saying about predictive lead scoring and its importance in B2B sales.
Does this signify that I’m at all interested in purchasing a solution like Callbox?
Or consider a less extreme example. I am in the market for a solution like that, but I’m right at the start of my journey.
Often, lead magnets like this are considered the end of marketing efforts and the perfect time for sales professionals to reach out. I’m a “warm lead,” after all. But this is jumping the gun. There has been no buying intent demonstrated.
This doesn’t mean that you should do away with lead magnets altogether. Use them as one of your many marketing strategies, but don’t consider them a tactic for filling up the top of your sales funnel.
Instead, follow this playbook:
- Potential customers who download your lead magnet are synced to your CRM software and then enriched with firmographic data (something Warmly can help with)
- They are then entered into email drip campaigns with additional relevant and valuable content (with personalized content based on the data enrichment from the previous step)
- You measure interaction with your email marketing campaigns and direct traffic back to your site (where you can jump into strategy 3: conversational chat)
Templates are another form of lead magnet and one that tends to provide a lot more immediate and actionable value.
HockeyStack (again) has this one nailed:
This is a fantastic way to generate new sales leads, as the templates are literally built within HockeyStack.
Potential customers can jump into the template, take a look around at the product, and start embedding themselves into the product. Then, sales (or account management) can run upsell or cross-sell plays.
Playbooks and Courses
Keeping in line with the “help, don’t sell” methodology, perhaps the ultimate form of media you can create to create and capture warm leads is a format that your audience can put into action right now:
Playbooks and courses.
For example, on the Warmly media page, we’ve created a series of short videos showing how GTM teams can get immediate value out of our solution:
HockeyStack’s Academy page takes this to another level:
Each of these modules contains a series of powerful, prescriptive, actionable episodes, some of which include using HockeyStack products (but, importantly, not all).
Case Studies and Testimonials
Finally, for customers right at the bottom of the marketing funnel, you’ll want to create some media celebrating your current customers in the form of case studies.
Case studies follow a common structure:
Check out our case study with Basile Sensei, CRO at Arc, for an example of how this structure works.
It’s a good practice to keep these customer-focused. Yes, you are, to a degree, promoting your product here, and it is a bottom-of-funnel tactic.
But the article shouldn’t be a duplicate of your sales landing pages. It should frame the use cases and benefits of your solution in the context of a real-life customer: yours!
Check out how Aligned keeps their case study with Deel focused on the common problems their client faced
P.S. Using hard data (“I have cut my sales cycle by 30%!”) in case studies is critical for creating an authoritative resource.
2. Create Brand Partnerships
As you get your media operation up and running, you should simultaneously be investing in brand partnerships.
Here, we’re not talking about just influencers (though that could be a reasonable tactic in certain industries).
We’re talking about finding like-minded leaders and marketers at companies that occupy a similar space to you but aren’t direct competitors.
They need to be like-minded in that they, too, are building a media brand and focusing on creating warm leads through demand-generation activities. This aligns incentives.
They need to be in a similar industry but not competitors, as this will mean that you’re communicating with the same potential customers but not fighting over the same share of wallet.
For example, one of the brands that Warmly partners with to create educational content is Sendspark.
They’re a personalized video recording tool and one that we actually use as part of our omnichannel sales program.
We have similar customers (broadly speaking, GTM teams), but our tools do very different things, so they aren’t competing.
Intel, Intros, and Influence
Reveal is one of our favorite tools for fruitful partnerships.
With Reveal, you can bring partner data across into your CRM to identify new opportunities and ask for referrals from partners to generate warm leads.
For instance, I can see that Salesflow has over 1,800 customers that aren’t already in my CRM.
Now, maybe not all of them are going to fit our ICP, but we at least know that they are in the market for GTM tools since they’ve bought Salesflow.
I can then review this data, identify which accounts fit our ICP and that I’d like to target, and then reach out to my contact at Salesflow for a warm intro.
Because those customers already know and trust Salesflow, that “warmness” is extended to us when the introduction is made.
Referral programs as a tactic for generating warm leads is one that’s often neglected in small businesses and startup sales, and typically only adopted by larger retailers.
This presents an excellent opportunity for startups to scale using a tried and tested growth method, one which very few competitors will likely be taking advantage of.
Email marketing platform Woodpecker provides a good example of how to do this well.
By simply referring a potential customer to Woodpecker and getting them onto a trial plan, clients (and even non-clients) can earn recurring commissions on those that convert to paid plans.
This is a quality warm lead generation strategy for Woodpecker, who doesn’t have to do anything except pay out commissions.
You’ll want to follow suit when designing your own referral program. That is, don’t pay for leads; pay for customers that close.
This will mean a zero cost to you until the point where you actually close a customer and start seeing revenue.
3. Engage With Prospective Buyers
The final stage in our three-part playbook is capturing the warm leads that you've generated.
That’s where you (as the CEO, revenue leader, sales rep, marketing manager, etc.) engage with potential buyers across the various channels in which you’ve been publishing content.
That covers everything from replying to comments on social media posts to capturing high-intent buyers who are browsing your website and initiating a sales conversation.
Social Media Engagement
The first stop is to jump onto whatever social media platforms you’re using to distribute content.
A good rule of thumb here is that more engagement is better. Here are some of the most important activities to nail:
- React or respond to every comment in your own posts
- Share or repost content from others in your company, and from those in your partnership network
- Ask questions to learn more (a great way to discover customer pain points you weren’t aware of)
- Browse relevant groups and comment on posts where your expertise allows you to provide helpful advice
This kind of social media engagement is also an effective way to understand how customers determine what is quality content. Measure engagement across your different posts, comments, and interactions. Then, double down on what appears to be working best.
Deanonymize Website Traffic
One of the most important components in building a warm lead-generating machine is identifying who all of the people on your site actually are.
With Warmly enabled on your website, you’ll be able to uncover 15% of contacts that visit your site and 60% of companies (without you doing anything). And if you’re sending outbound emails with Warmly, you’ll be able to identify even more.
For the visitors identified, Warmly will tell you which pages they’re visiting, how long they’re spending, and how often they’re coming back.
This is crucial data for building outreach sequences, especially for companies with multiple products.
When we identify a website visitor, the email outreach campaign we put them into will depend entirely on the content they’re engaging with.
Chatbots have become a standard piece of equipment for marketing teams.
But most brands don’t go much beyond a plug-and-play chat solution that is entirely reactive and largely serves to take some of the load off of support.
But AI sales chatbots can accelerate pipeline generation and play a huge part in the generation of warm leads.
Take Warmly’s AI chat system.
Using the traffic de-anonymization we discussed in point one, Warmly knows exactly who is on your site and what content they’ve been engaging with.
Our AI chatbot can then create personalized messaging based on this browsing behavior and hold a full conversation right up until a meeting has been booked.
But it doesn’t all have to be AI.
If a given prospect is showing a high level of purchase intent, Warmly can automatically notify the relevant sales rep via Slack to jump onto the chat and take over the conversation (without the customer realizing that a switch took place).
Third-Party Intent and Job Change Data
The best engagement happens when you can deliver personalized content to a qualified lead.
For this, you need data.
Website deanonymization tells you who the visitor is, and when coupled with third-party firmographic data, can give you important data such as contact details.
To really lift conversion rates, though, you need to capture intent.
Warmly partners with best-in-class data suppliers (like Bombora) to deliver timely information about a target account’s buying intent.
We can tell when a given prospect is poised to buy, so your sales reps can jump in with personalized communications based on that specific person’s engagement history.
Job change data is another powerful signal that Warmly can provide, and is an effective way to generate warm leads.
Whenever your champion or contact at a given account jumps to a new company, this is identified as an opportunity.
You’ve built trust and positive brand affiliation with that champion, and they’ve already demonstrated intent by buying previously.
With timely job change data on hand, you’ll be the first to reach out to congratulate them, then segway into a sales conversation.
What’s Next? Converting Warm Leads Into Buyers
As we’ve discussed in detail here, the concept of “warm leads” is a contentious one in sales circles.
While we can quite clearly describe what a cold lead is—and, therefore, what a warm lead isn’t—defining what a warm lead is ends up being something that comes down to the individual sales team.
Our take is that warm leads are a function of two things:
- Buyer stage for your product or service (are they ready to buy or close to?)
- Level of trust and affiliation with your brand (do they know who you are and trust your advice.)
However you choose to define them, Warmly can help you capture more of them:
- AI prospecting to help book meetings for you on repeat
- Best-in-class third-party buying intent data
- Website de-anonymization and intent signals to discover who is on your site and what content they’re engaging with
- Job change alerts to capitalize on hot opportunities
- AI chat to engage web visitors and convert them to leads routed directly to your CRM and sales engagement sequences
Discover how Namecoach created 26 new warm leads in their first 6 months using Warmly.Sales teams run on leads.Without fresh leads, reps have nothing on which to run playbooks, nobody to send email outreach sequences to, and nothing in the pipeline with which to report back to their sales lead.Leads are our fuel. But most sales teams are running on Regular.