If you’re running a business or starting a new one, you know (or you’ll quickly learn) how important is your sales team. There might be other cogs that are probably more crucial, but your salespersons are those that are rolling up their sleeves and digging for gold.
You can have the best product on the market but more often than not, there are examples of a lesser product achieving more sales annually. Why is that? There are two possible explanations. They either have a great marketing strategy that allows them to make their product more favorable or, they have a strong sales prospecting approach. These two are often linked.
To be clear – sales prospecting can be defined as a process of identifying and searching for potential clients so you can bring in new business for your company.
With every industry having tons of businesses, having a great sales prospecting strategy is more important than ever. In this article, we’ll try to cover everything about the basics of sales prospecting, how it works, how to do it smoothly and what techniques and tools can help you.
Why is sales prospecting important?
There are a few products in the world that established such a brand image that they don’t need sales prospecting. For most companies, as mentioned above, sales reps are bringing in the gold. They are searching for leads and are eventually converting them into prospects. If your reps are always working on bringing in more prospects, the higher the chance of them succeeding and increasing the revenue.
How important is prospecting in sales? Even if you’re getting enough customers, that doesn’t mean you should stop prospecting. You might be losing on more income and your competition ain’t slowing down.
Learn the basics.
Before diving deep into the sales funnel and the methods on how to approach your prospect, we need to make sure we’re on the same page. This means learning what’s the actual definition of a prospect.
To call a potential customer a prospect, some conditions need to be met. For starters, the potential customer needs to be in your target audience. It should be in the need for the product you’re selling and importantly — has the power to make purchasing decisions. Only then, that potential client moves up in the funnel and becomes viewed as a prospect. But there’s more to it. Prospects can be categorized into different groups and by doing so it will ease up on your sales process and it will help it become more effective:
Some of your prospects are not showing any interest in what you sell, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need it. They just need some more convincing. They are called cold prospects. Show them that you understand their problems and offer a solution. They will likely become much more interested.
Unlike cold prospects, warm prospects have shown some interest in your product or service. They are far from potential clients because they still need some persuading and maybe discount offers. With proper sales techniques, you might be able to make them your business clients.
Besides these two groups, some prospects are so into your product, you won’t need much sweat to bring them in. They are rare, but they exist.
Understanding the difference between a lead and a sales prospect.
It comes off as a common misconception. But it’s quite simple — every potential client or a customer is a lead. This means that once you generate enough leads, you can start inspecting if they meet the conditions for them to become prospects. Only if they satisfy the criteria they may be called a prospect and move further in the sales funnel.
For example, if you are a member of a Facebook or a LinkedIn group that is gathering people that are somewhat your target audience, you can scrape it and collect emails from all the members. Now you gathered a large number of leads. But with some research, you can see that only two-thirds of the group are likely to be interested in your products. That’s what you call prospects.
To simplify, sales prospecting is a matter of gathering leads and finding the ones that might become prospects.
Different techniques for sales prospecting.
Before you even think about creating your own sales prospecting strategy, you need to know which techniques exist, why are they used, and which ones will suit your business. There are many paths for prospecting but they can all be broadly grouped into two methodologies:
- Inbound Prospecting
- Outbound Prospecting
Inbound sales prospecting
Inbound prospecting is the type where customers reach out to your business through their effort. They’ve heard or read about you or even saw your ad once before, and now they searched for you on social media platforms or found your offline store. They’ve followed you on social media, registered on your website or signed up for your newsletter. So they’ve shown direct interest in your product, and now it’s on your sales team to sell the product.
Some types of inbound prospecting:
Warming them up with a welcome email: They registered on your website and gave you their email. Your sales reps can now warm them up a bit with an email, by introducing your company. No need to scare by hitting them with a sales pitch right away. They have already shown interest in your business. Just welcome them, ask them if you can help them somehow and they’ll likely come around.
Social selling: Social selling is a process of developing relationships as a part of sales prospecting. It has always been a part of sales prospecting strategies, but it shifted from phone calls and emails to social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc. It helps that most of the decision-makers use at least one digital channel, which influences 92% of B2B buying decisions. Social media platforms became an integral part of our livelihood. Not only can your prospect learn more about you, but through them, you can nurture your relationship with the prospect. Some of them might even engage with you first. To make the most of LinkedIn and reach more potential clients, making the most of LinkedIn automation is essential. As long as you using this automation correctly, it can become a powerful tool for social selling your business and brand
Outbound sales prospecting
A more widely known form of prospecting. In this form, salespersons do a lot of research about their target audience before being able to convert them into customers. Here are some types of outbound prospecting:
Old school cold calling: It’s as simple as it sounds. You extracted all the prospects from your leads and now you call each of them to sell your product or service. This method became outdated and people today are much more comfortable over text or email.
Cold emailing: Email has been and still is an effective outbound sales method. But be aware, people are getting suffocated with spammy and salesy emails. That’s why only 24% of sales emails are opened. The average email user became wary of such emails and if the subject line feels weird they tend to avoid opening it. Make sure to work on an attractive subject line and opening sentence. This is where you jump in the 24% of opened emails.
Social media prospecting: As already mentioned, social media became a part of our everyday lives. It’s not only a marketing tool, you can generate a lot of qualified leads and find the right prospects. For example, LinkedIn is a social network full of professionals, with many of them being decision-makers. So, having a LinkedIn prospecting strategy certainly seems like an important part of your sales prospecting.
The downside of inbound and outbound prospecting.
The inbound strategy is more of a long-term commitment to the process which depends a lot on the marketing team to bring in the leads. On the other hand, outbound prospecting gives control to salespersons who are hunting the leads and try to bring them in. With the rise of the internet, the average user became more knowledgeable and picky, so outbound prospecting became a bit tough. That’s why the inbound strategy became stronger and companies currently rely more on inbound prospecting.
A guide to executing sales prospecting the right way.
This part might seem hard but it’s a routine to get used to. Sales prospecting techniques like these can really benefit your sales efforts. You shouldn’t waste effort on anything else but these 5 steps:
1. Identify the average prospects: You already know the broad picture of your target persona. Every industry has its distinctive buyer, so does yours. What you should find out is how many of them meet your conditions (remember, we already mentioned this). Are they in your target market, are they in a need of your service or product and do they have the power to make purchasing decisions? If you don’t run them through these criteria, you’ll likely waste your time.
2. Research, research, research: When you have a clear picture of your typical customer, now it’s time to research. Look for sources for generating leads — social media, business forums, magazines, official networks, purchased lists, etc. Find out which platforms are the best for your target audience. For example, most of the purchasing decision-makers in the automotive industry are part of an older generation. It may not always be the case, but most of them are using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There you can join groups where you can scrape useful information and dig out your prospects.
3. Prioritize the list: After you’ve done your research, you picked out a list of prospects that fit your criteria. Now it’s time to prioritize the prospects. It will save you time, and you would be investing most of your energy in those that have the highest probability of converting into clients.
4. Warm them up on the first contact: You’ve created the perfect list and now it’s time to connect with your prospect. An important step here would be to make sure your prospects’ email addresses are valid – you do not necessarily have to send emails to verify an email id. No matter what sales prospecting techniques you use, you should always aim for it to be as personalized as possible. Creating an email tailored to the recipient is likely to increase the ROI. Also, be casual and friendly, because it’s not likely that you’ll sell on the first call. You are just warming up the prospect.
5. Build relationships: Your ultimate goal is to make a prospect become a potential client. Some prospects are easy to persuade, but others need time. They want to build trust in you before they give you their money, or even risk their companies money. So you need to nurture your relationship. Don’t be pushy, but don’t forget about them. Keep in touch. Help them solve any problem you can, and they will feel more comfortable doing business with you.
Sales prospecting might seem like a steep mountain to climb. The conversion numbers are always low and you’ll get rejected the majority of the time, but it’s the same for almost everyone. The key is to be persistent — always hunt for more leads, choose the fitting prospecting techniques, research, research, research… Build relationships with your prioritized prospects, follow up on the initial contact, and don’t quit after the first rejection.
It doesn’t have to be a bad experience. If you follow these strategies we reviewed you’ll likely increase your chances. If some of them don’t work, try to adopt other methods — maybe you’ll have more success with them!