It’s no secret that sales is a competitive field. In a technology-driven mobile environment, the industry is more dynamic than ever. Sales reps must make use of a variety of techniques to make the most of their efforts – this applies not only to closing a deal, but with sales prospecting itself. Learn the essential sales prospecting tools and processes you should be incorporating into your workday.
What Is Sales Prospecting?
Simply put, sales prospecting involves seeking out potential buyers or customers to garner new business. Ideally, the process of sales prospecting will move a prospective buyer down the funnel until they become new – and hopefully repeat – customers.
The difference between sales prospecting and lead prospecting is subtle, and the source of some confusion. Generally, we think of a lead as someone who has a marked interest in a product or service that is demonstrated by visiting the website, subscribing to an email list, commenting on a blog post, or something similar.
A sales prospect, on the other hand, is a lead who we might deem as a qualified potential customer. In other words, he or she fits a target buyer persona and is generally more likely to continue down the sales funnel.
Some people use the terms sales prospecting and lead prospecting interchangeably, and they’re very similar. However, true sales prospecting focuses the effort on the people who are most likely to become bona fide, revenue-generating customers.
Best Practices for Sales Prospecting
Like any other aspect of sales, prospecting takes time, a thoughtful process, and a continual commitment. Over the years, we’ve identified several strategies that make sales prospecting more likely to be successful.
It Starts With Your Mindset
Any successful prospecting approach requires the right frame of mind. The best reps use an “always prospecting” approach to their practice. In other words, prospecting is not something that you do once. It’s a continual, effort-based process that uses a variety of techniques to reach success.
In general, the prospecting mindset involves continuous research. Knowing the customer is arguably the most essential aspect of sales, and sales prospecting is no exception. Sales reps must know if they’re eliciting quality prospects that they can deliver business value to. The research phase of prospecting involves asking several important questions, such as:
- Is the prospect viable?
- What system will work to prioritize prospects?
- How can reps develop opportunities to connect?
By continuously deploying the research phase, reps will be able to seamlessly move qualified prospects through the funnel. As with any aspect of sales, mindset is more than half the battle.
Develop a Viable Prep Tool
Getting into the mindset seems simple enough, but how can a rep know if a prospect is qualified? This is where battle-tested sales prospecting techniques come in. We find that the following process proves to be successful:
- Identify the target. Remember, a lead becomes a prospect when he or she fits into a target buyer persona.
- Establish precedent. Why would a prospect be interested in a product or service? How does it address his or her pain points? Does any compelling precedent exist that would help establish a prospect as a qualified lead? This is also a good time to examine other disqualifying notions such as budget limitations or time constraints.
- Create a script. The final step in the sales prospecting process is developing a script for identified, qualified prospects. The goal of this script is to be actionable as soon as possible, which we’ll discuss more at length.
Rehearse the Script
It’s a good idea to have an established script in place when making cold calls or participating in other sales prospecting activities. However, it’s also important to understand that these scripts aren’t one size fits all. The success of a script depends on a few different factors:
Personalization. Tailor messaging to address a specific problem that prospects are having.
Keep it relevant. Do some research ahead of time and determine if the issue is still a relevant concern. Remember, some prospects simply get stale.
Be professional, but casual. No one likes feeling like the recipient of a cold call. Add touches that make the script seem less scripted and more personable. Use a natural tone, whether communicating through email or over the phone. Resist the urge to be “sales-y” and keep the focus on adding value.
Be helpful. The key distinction between prospecting and selling is the desired outcome. Obviously, the end goal of prospecting is revenue. However, at this stage of the process, provide the prospect with something valuable and expect nothing in return (a good example is a free consultation or something similar).
Create a Sales Prospecting Strategy That Works
Now, down to the nitty-gritty details. How can a sales prospecting strategy ensure success? We advise using the following techniques:
Use a Mix of Inbound and Outbound
The conventional wisdom has long been to use either inbound or outbound prospecting, but a mix of both tends to work best. While outbound prospecting involves more aggressive prospecting such as cold calling and social media messaging, inbound marketing focuses more on casually emailing or social selling to someone who already has an expressed familiarity with the product or service. Both have their advantages; but inbound prospecting tends to be more successful. Consider, for example, that IMB managed to increase their sales by 400% after implementing an inbound prospecting program.
Make a Great First Impression
Even when working with qualified leads that express familiarity and interest, it’s essential to communicate expertise and credibility from the first interaction. Here’s how to do it:
- Practice, practice, practice. Many reps fail to realize a powerful tool that’s usually in the palm of their hands: their smartphone. Create an elevator pitch, record it, watch, and make adjustments. Think about how to communicate authority and warmth, and make adjustments, as necessary.
- Ask for feedback. When in doubt, ask for help or expert advice. Most reps can improve or refine an elevator pitch with just a few simple adjustments – sometimes, it just a matter of getting a different point of view.
- Remember the end goal. Many people fail to recognize the goal of prospecting, which is simply to add value. Do not overtly sell; give a prospect something, and don’t expect them to give anything in return. Do, however, schedule a time for follow up if possible.
Sales prospecting is a continual process, but it’s well worth the effort. When using proven sales prospecting techniques, reps can move qualified prospects down the funnel and efficiently increase their sales each month.