You’ll find the process of sales prospecting at every successful business. Prospecting involves an excavation, or a hunt for qualified leads, as well as efforts to convert them into customers. Learning the prospecting definition is only the first step toward creating opportunities for sales. The next is acquiring prospecting skills that will turn your leads into loyal, lifelong customers. Achieve more fruitful sales prospecting with these tips.
Prospecting traditionally referred to the search for minerals, such as gold. As a business term, the idea remains the same: to strike “gold” in a warm sales lead. The Oxford English dictionary gives the prospecting definition of, “the possibility or likelihood of a future event occurring, or a person regarded as a potential customer.” The Business Dictionary defines a prospect as a, “potential customer qualified on the basis of his/her buying authority, financial capacity, and willingness to buy.”
In essence, sales prospecting is the act of sales reps reaching out to leads in the hope of creating sales opportunities. Prospecting can refer to marketing tactics, cold calls, email campaigns, and other ways to nurture leads. Prospecting in particular refers to reps contacting leads who have gone cold, or who have lost connection with the brand. It also encompasses researching leads and categorizing them based on their likelihood to convert.
Prospecting is a very important sales process, as it is typically the first step in the sales funnel. It involves identifying potential customers, developing a database of prospects, and then communicating with leads with the goal of converting them into customers. It can be a difficult process if a salesperson does not know what to expect or how to do it effectively.
What Does Sales Prospecting Look Like?
Sales prospecting secures leads and moves them through the sales funnel, until they convert into customers. A lead will become a prospect if something qualifies him or her as a potential customer. This could mean that the lead fulfills the persona of the target buyer, or that the lead has already expressed interest in the brand (clicked on the website, came to a landing page, etc.). Once the lead becomes a prospect, the real work begins. Here are the basic steps for high-converting sales prospecting:
1. Salespeople should know their prospects. They should conduct as much research as possible into the prospect and his or her buying habits. The goal should be to determine the quality of the lead. Come up with a set of criteria to assess the probability of the person buying. Most companies use customer relationship management (CRM) software to keep track of leads and prospects.
2. Once the salesperson has done his or her homework, it’s time to connect with the lead. Making a connect could come from a phone call, an email blast, or a personal connection. The goal of the first connect is generally to schedule a follow-up sales meeting.
3. At this stage, the rep should evaluate the prospect’s unique needs and aim to fulfill them. The salesperson should identify needs and potential objections, and prepare arguments for the service or product. The salesperson’s job is to continue moving the prospect through the sales funnel.
4. Follow-up. The follow-up connection should be the deal-closer. It is the meeting in which the salesperson puts the prospect’s fears to rest, fulfills a need, answers questions, and sets the lead up for conversion. The salesperson should make it as easy as possible for the lead to turn into a revenue-generating customer.
5. The final step in successful sales prospecting is closing the sale. A salesperson can turn to many different techniques to close a sale and convert a prospect into a customer. Closing is one of the most difficult steps in sales prospecting. It is also one of the most important skills a salesperson can master.
Sales prospecting generally refers to the first few steps of researching and acquiring qualified leads, as well as the initial connection. However, it can encompass every step of the sales funnel or buyer journey, until the prospect becomes a loyal customer. Like everything in business, practice makes perfect. There are proven techniques and best practices that can increase the success rate of sales prospecting in all industries. Becoming a Master Prospector takes time, training, and commitment.
Tips for Striking Gold While Sales Prospecting
Sales prospecting isn’t optional. It is necessary if a company wishes to grow its bottom line. Digging for new customers doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. Sales reps can look at pioneers before them for proven ways to master prospecting. The following are a few tips and tricks from seasoned sales professionals:
- Put in the time. Too many salespeople rush prospecting, failing to conduct proper research to discover the qualification of the lead. Setting aside time for prospecting each week can keep the pipeline full.
- Know your personas. It may seem obvious, but knowing the buyer personas is critical for successful prospecting. Salespeople should know their ideal buyers in and out, and be able to spot them immediately.
- Prioritize prospects. A sales rep should dedicate the majority of his or her time to the most qualified leads. Qualifying factors should group leads into categories based on their likelihood to convert. Software is available to do this automatically.
- Personalize connections. Connecting with a prospect is much more likely to lead to a follow-up appointment if the initial message is personal. Reference a specific issue the prospect has, or mention another relevant tidbit about the person. Connect with the prospect on a personal, human level, aiming to help instead of to sell.
- Use technology. Social media, CRM software, marketing automation, Google Alerts…there are plenty of technological solutions available to make sales prospecting easier and more effective. Use the technology at your disposal to become an efficient converting machine.
Being a skilled prospector is one of the most important techniques a salesperson can master. Find a mentor to teach your team the best tools and habits for success. Join the Corporate Sales Training course at SNI to discover a proven, systematic approach to maximize the effectiveness of salespeople. You and your sales reps will learn how to optimize sales prospecting, find and evaluate qualified leads, and close more sales. Sign up today.