Do not fall into the trap of believing that sales prospecting consists solely of making cold calls, followed by sending a semi-personalized email campaign, and then making even more cold calls.
With the advent of cutting-edge tools, the age-old practice of prospecting is constantly being revolutionized. It helps sales representatives save time and work more efficiently.
If you’re considering a new prospecting strategy or looking to improve an existing one, keep reading.
This prospecting guide will cover the following:
- What is prospecting?
- Who qualifies as a prospect?
- Prospecting best practices.
- Prospecting technology.
- What comes after prospecting?
What is prospecting?
Sales prospecting is the activity of seeking out and contacting prospective buyers. When sales people prospect, they initiate contact with potential customers in order to ascertain whether or not to push them further down the sales funnel.
Outbound actions like a sales development representative (SDR) making a cold call, sending an email, or sending a LinkedIn direct message are all examples of sales prospecting that take place on a one-to-one basis.
Prospecting is the continuous art of seeking out potential customers in order to:
- Start a conversation
- Qualify them and move them down the funnel
- Position your product as a solution to their problem.
There are loads of ways to prospect available to sales teams, and trying to use all of them would be both time-consuming and expensive. The key is to focus on the prospecting techniques and tools that will work best for your product and target market.
Some common prospecting techniques include:
– Cold calling
– Email campaigns
– LinkedIn outreach
– Networking events
– Trade shows/conferences
– Online advertising
With the right mix of prospecting techniques and strategies, you can stay top-of-mind with your dream clients, even if they’re not ready to buy yet.
Is any contact a prospect?
Simply put, a prospect is a possible client. But this doesn’t mean anyone on your contact list.
Prospects are individuals who fit your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP) and thus are considered viable leads for further pursuit in the sales process. This means that when you prospect you can’t just add random people to your list and call or email them.
This is what happens when companies buy lists of potential prospects, and then follow a spray and pray approach to contacting them. This happens way too often and definitely negatively affects your brand. The best way to prospect is to carefully build a list of targeted individuals that you can then reach out to.
What are best practices for prospecting?
Prospecting is evolving as technology improves and buyer’s become more informed during the buying process. To stay ahead of your competitors you need to use a mix of tried and tested prospecting techniques and leverage technology to maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns. Despite the advances in technology and the changes in the buying process there will always be some things that you can control as you begin your prospecting journey.
Here are our pro prospecting tips to keep you sharp and focused.
- Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
A surprising number of sales managers don’t take the time to define their ideal client. Even though, ICP gives insight into whether or not the person you’re trying to reach is likely to buy your product.
A good starting point for defining your perfect client is their location, company size, and financial means. And then, every quarter, as you gain new information about your prospects, you can tweak the profile to better reflect that information.
You can also answer the following questions to help guide you:
– Who is the primary decision maker?
– What are their main pain points?
– Does your product fit their needs?
– Do they have a budget for your solution?
– Are they ready to buy now or do they need more time/education?
Identifying your total addressable market will help you save time and money in your prospecting efforts by allowing you to zero in on the best possible leads. In most cases, more qualified sales leads and higher conversion rates are the result of ICP that is specifically targeted to a particular audience.
- Do your research
As part of the strategic prospecting process, it is important to learn as much as possible about the prospect before making initial contact. You must ensure that the person you are attempting to reach is a good candidate for your offering.
As such, LinkedIn is perfect for your needs. Everything you could possibly want to know is displayed in a single window. Analyze it to see if the prospect satisfies your ICP requirements. To see if they are already using a competitor, for instance.
Rather than focusing solely on making a sale, consider how you can build rapport with your potential customer.
- Define your goals before starting your campaign
Before engaging in business prospecting, it’s helpful to have a specific end goal in mind. Starting a conversation, booking a meeting or setting up a sales demo are also acceptable objectives besides closing a deal.
Your goal may be to establish rapport with a cold prospect or to nurture a prospect who is not yet ready to buy. By clearly defining your goal, you can create targeted content and measure your success against a quantifiable metric.
- Speak to your prospect’s pain points
Your initial outreach is only effective if it starts a conversation. This is why the alignment with your ICP and customer research is so important. You need to craft your message to the target prospect that speaks to their needs and aligns your product as the solution.
But, be careful, this is not an opportunity to rattle off your product’s benefits and features. Make it about them and their needs. This type of sales prospecting allows you to talk up your product’s advantages over competitors’ without coming off as pushy or sales-y.
- Look out for conversation triggers
You need to be constantly looking for a way to open a new conversation. One easy way to do this is to watch for conversation triggers such as promotions, new funding rounds and interesting milestones and achievements. This is impossible to do without the help of technology, but plays a major role in keeping track of what is happening in your prospects’ life.
Again, remember, this is not an opportunity to force your product on them, but to genuinely show interest and empathy towards your prospective client. Authenticity matters in these circumstances.
- Be proactive
Get used to the thought that not every interaction you have with potential customers will result in a positive outcome. Because of this, it’s essential to have as many different conversations as you possibly can.
There is an abundance of data waiting to be uncovered and investigated. Everything you need to know about the main decision-makers, from the tools they’re using currently to the challenges they’re experiencing with those tools, is right there for you to see and learn about.
- Evaluate your results
This stage is essential in the process of sales prospecting because it enables you to determine which strategies produce the best results for you. You will be able to concentrate on the activities that generate the most revenue and identify areas in which you can make improvements, such as redefining your ICP at the beginning of each quarter.
How can we leverage technology to be better prospectors?
The prospecting process has never been simpler with the advances in technology. Software can now automate some of your most tedious tasks, making it easier for you to focus on closing more deals!
These programs give accurate information about potential buyers and help qualify them before engaging in further conversation. The goal is to make prospecting as efficient as possible so that you can connect with more prospects in a shorter period of time.
Here are a few ways you can use technology to be a better prospector:
- Automate repetitive tasks
- Research your prospects thoroughly
- Use data to segment and target your audience
- Connect with prospects in multiple channels
- Measure your success and optimize your process
Some of the most popular tools used for sales prospecting are Apollo.io, ZoomInfo, Lusha and RocketReach.
Our preferred tool for prospecting is Apollo.io. We find that they have the largest and most accurate database that helps us find the perfect contact to align with our customers ICPs. Their automation features are second to none and we save so much time leveraging their platform as part of our stack to deliver the best results for our clients.
Taking action after successfully prospecting.
Now that you have identified, qualified, and researched your prospect list, leveraging the best tools and methods for prospecting, it’s time to take action!
The most important thing you can do is reach out and introduce yourself. This is your opportunity to make use of your hard work and to start the process of converting your prospects into clients as they move down the funnel. Your prospecting efforts will be in vain if you don’t have a solid plan for what comes next.
We suggest building your outbound strategy around a robust email outreach process. Email has consistently proven to be the most effective channel for conversion and the data that you can get from email is very clear and concise. Then you can leverage your insights and increase your customer touchpoints to maximize the return on your outbound campaign.
Here are our top tips for taking action after prospecting.
- Start Small
Many sales professionals begin with a large list of possible customers, eventually narrowing it down to a more manageable number of actual purchasers. However, one of the most useful pieces of advice you will ever receive concerning sales prospecting is to begin with more narrow lists that are comprised of better-qualified prospects.
This will also help to safeguard your domain’s reputation as you increase your email outreach. Email outreach relies heavily on deliverability, so sending thousands of emails all at once is a sure-fire way to damage your domain’s reputation and land in the spam folder.
- Check your infrastructure
Ensuring your email infrastructure is in place is another key component of your outbound strategy. SPF, DKIM and DMARC authentication measures must be in place to ensure maximum deliverability and to keep your email outreach from damaging your reputation. It is also important to establish the type of sending environment required for each type of campaign.
If you are unsure about your current infrastructure or how to establish the appropriate sending environment for your campaign, we suggest working with a deliverability expert.
- Optimize your reply times
Make sure you are ready and available to receive replies when your campaigns are scheduled to run. This will help you keep your reply times to under the highly recommended benchmark of five minutes. Contacts are 21 times more likely to convert if your reply time is within 5 minutes.
- Know when to stop
This sales prospecting advice may seem odd at first. Some salespeople still view rejecting leads as a negative development. However, this is significant progress. Not every lead is worth your time, so it’s important to be able to identify those that aren’t a good fit so you can move on to other opportunities.
Not responding to an email doesn’t mean you should just give up on a potential client; in fact, that’s another good reason to stick to a regular prospecting rhythm. An integral part of prospecting is deciding when to stop investigating a lead. It benefits both parties equally.
- Learn from the data
The beauty of prospecting in the digital age is that everything can be measured. Leverage data and analytics to track your progress, optimize your process and improve your results. Doing so will help you close more deals and save time in the long run.
By following these tips, you will be well on your way to successfully prospecting
Prospecting is just one step in the journey to driving revenue through your sales team and achieving your annual targets. We hope this guide has given you the building blocks to prepare you for the journey.
There are a number of best practices that can help you become a successful prospector, including using technology and understanding what comes after prospecting. – If you’re looking for help automating your prospecting efforts, we’ve got some great tools to recommend, and loads of experience to back it up.