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In order for sales reps to drive revenue growth for their organizations, they need to have a consistent and reliable process for finding new sales opportunities. Inbound leads from marketing activities can provide some sales opportunities, but in order to sustain a consistent sales pipeline, reps need to actively seek out new prospects through various prospecting activities.
What Is Sales Prospecting?
Sales prospecting is the process of identifying and qualifying potential customers (prospects) with the ultimate goal of securing a meeting to sell a product or service. It is one of the first and most essential parts of the sales development process because without new prospects, there would be no one to sell to. As such, it comes as no surprise that sales reps spend an average of 6 hours every week on sales prospecting activities.
Sales prospecting can be done in a number of ways, including online research, cold-calling, attending industry events, and networking. The most effective sales prospecting strategies are those that allow sales teams to reach out to large numbers of potential customers in a targeted and efficient manner.
Done correctly, sales prospecting can help salespeople quickly build a pipeline of qualified prospects who are interested in an organization’s products or services. This can dramatically increase the chances of making a sale and achieving quotas. Additionally, sales prospecting can help you to develop deeper relationships with prospective customers by providing you with an opportunity to learn about their needs and pain points.
Ultimately, sales prospecting is an essential part of the sales process and should be given careful attention by all sales professionals. By taking the time to properly identify and qualify potential customers, sales professionals can set themselves up for success and drive revenue growth for their organizations.
- Identifying Potential Customers: Using various tools and strategies to identify individuals or organizations that are likely to buy a product or service.
- Sales Outreach: The combination of cold and warm outreach efforts a sales rep makes to connect with potential customers.
- Sales Development: The process of developing relationships with potential customers with the goal of eventually closing a deal.
- Business Development: The creation of long-term value for an organization through the identification and development of new business opportunities.
Inbound vs. Outbound Sales Prospecting
The two main kinds of sales prospecting are inbound and outbound. Outbound activities are proactive, meaning sales reps initiate contact with the customer. Inbound activities are reactive, meaning prospects reach out to the sales rep first.
Inbound Sales Prospecting
Inbound sales leads are generated when a potential customer takes an action such as visiting the company’s website, downloading a white paper, or signing up for a free trial. These leads are often further nurtured by marketing before they are passed on to sales.
Inbound sales strategies include:
- Researching companies and decision-makers online
- Creating targeted content such as blog posts, eBooks, and infographics
- Optimizing website for SEO
- Participating in online conversations and forums
- Running targeted online advertising campaigns
Inbound sales methods and marketing strategies are generally considered the most efficient and effective form of sales prospecting because it allows you to focus on the company’s ideal customer with targeted content. Since they have already shown some interest—and have already reached out to the sales team in some cases—inbound leads are often further along in the buying cycle than outbound leads. This means they are more likely to close.
Outbound Sales Prospecting
Outbound sales prospecting is the process of actively seeking out new sales opportunities through manual activities. It generally involves activities such as cold-calling, emailing potential customers, and attending industry events.
Outbound sales strategies include:
- Purchasing lists of companies or decision-makers to contact
- Conducting internet research to find potential leads
- Attending industry events and tradeshows
- Reaching out to potential customers through cold-calling or emailing
Outbound sales methods can be effective but are often considered more time-consuming and less efficient than inbound methods. This is because they involve manually reaching out to large numbers of people—many of whom may not be interested in the product or service a company offers.
Additionally, outbound sales methods can be considered disruptive because they require sales reps to reach out to potential customers who have not expressed any interest in being contacted. According to Zippia, the average outbound success rate is just 3%.
Lead Generation vs. Sales Prospecting
Though they are sometimes used interchangeably, lead generation and sales prospecting are two distinct sales activities with different objectives.
Sales prospecting is the process of finding and qualifying potential customers (or “prospects”), typically through market research and outreach.
Lead generation, on the other hand, is the process of converting prospects into leads, usually through some form of contact information exchange (e.g. completing a form on a website).
Once a prospect becomes a lead, they can then be passed on to the sales team for further nurturing and development. In short, sales prospecting is about finding potential customers, while lead generation is about turning those prospects into sales leads.
While both activities are important for driving sales, understanding their different roles in the sales process is essential for sales success.
Sales Prospecting Techniques
There are several different ways that sales professionals go about finding new prospects. It is important to know how to prospect for sales in order to close as many deals as possible as efficiently as possible.
Some common sales prospecting methods include:
- Cold calling
- Cold email outreach
- Social media outreach
- Attending industry events
- Teaming up with integrations and forming partnerships
- Purchasing lists of leads
Cold calling is one of the most common prospecting techniques. Making a cold call involves contacting a potential customer who may or may not know about a company’s product or service.
This can be done by phone, email, or even in person. Cold calls are often considered disruptive because they require sales reps to reach out to potential customers who have not expressed any interest in being contacted.
Cold calling can be an effective way to find new customers, but it is essential to research prospects beforehand and have a good script.
The main drawback to cold calling is that it can be intrusive and time-consuming. And since many prospects don’t answer or automatically reject unknown numbers, the success rate is often quite low.
Cold Email Outreach
Sending cold emails is another common prospecting technique. A cold email is an email sent to a potential customer who has not expressed any interest in a product or service.
Like cold calls, cold emails can be considered intrusive and disruptive. And since many people don’t open emails from unknown senders, the success rate is often quite low.
That being said, cold email outreach can be an effective way to find new customers. The key is to do research beforehand and craft a well-written and personalized email.
In many cases, bypassing the spam filters on email inboxes is difficult, making it hard to get the message in front of potential customers. Since most people receive hundreds of emails per day, standing out from the crowd can also be a challenge.
Social Media Outreach
78% of sales reps who use social media are more successful in meeting their quotas. Social media outreach is a common sales prospecting technique because it allows sales reps to connect with potential customers in a less intrusive way.
Sales reps can use social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to research potential leads and connect with them. For example, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a tool that sales reps can use to find leads and contact them through the platform.
LinkedIn is the most popular platform for sales prospecting because it is the platform that many professionals already use daily. Some salespeople even post content on LinkedIn to generate leads.
While social media outreach is less intrusive than cold calling and emailing, it can still be time-consuming. In addition, some prospects may not want to be contacted through social media platforms.
When reaching out to potential customers on social media, it is important to be personal and professional. In some cases, a simple message or comment can be all it takes to start a conversation.
Referrals come from current customers, partners, or other people who know your company. Asking for referrals is a great way to find new prospects because it allows sales reps to tap into their network of contacts.
The best way to get referrals is to ask current customers or partners for introductions. This can be done in person, over the phone, or through email. When asking for referrals, it is important to be clear about what type of customer you are looking for.
For example, if a sales rep is looking for companies that use a certain type of software, they would ask their contact for referrals to companies that use that software.
Since those who are referred to a business already trust the person who made the referral, they are more likely to be interested in what a company has to offer.
Attending Industry Events
In some industries, going to events is a common sales prospecting technique. It is one of the best forms of networking because it enables sales reps to meet potential customers in person.
Sales reps can attend trade shows, conferences, and other events related to their industry. In some cases, they may even present at these events. These events provide an opportunity for sales reps to learn about new products and trends, as well as network with other professionals.
Attending these events also helps sales reps appear more credible in the eyes of potential customers. When meeting someone for the first time, a sales rep can mention that they saw them at an industry event.
This helps to create a connection and shows that the sales rep is knowledgeable about their industry.
Teaming Up With Integrations and Forming Partnerships
Especially in the business-to-business (B2B) space, it’s common for companies to integrate their products with each other or form partnerships. When two companies team up, they can share leads and customers with each other.
Some examples of integrations and partnerships include:
- Teaming up with a software company that sells a complimentary product.
- Using the company’s software product as the frontend or backend for another company’s software product.
- Forming a partnership with a company in which each company promotes the other’s product to their customer base.
- Collecting and sharing data or resources with another company through the use of its software products.
Companies also use channel sales strategies like white labeling and co-branding.
White labeling is when a company sells another company’s product under its own brand name. Co-branding is when two companies team up to promote each other’s products or services.
When two companies lean on each other for resources, it’s a win-win situation. The companies can share resources and leads, which helps them to close more deals and grow their businesses.
Purchasing Lists of Leads
Platforms like ZoomInfo and Hoovers offer lists of leads and customer data that companies can purchase. These leads are typically sorted by industry, location, or company size.
The benefit of purchasing a list of leads is that it saves sales reps time. Instead of having to research and find potential customers on their own, they can simply buy a membership to a platform like ZoomInfo and access their prospects’ contact information.
The downside of purchasing leads is that they are not always accurate. In some cases, the leads may be outdated or the contact information may be incorrect.
Additionally, these lists can be expensive. For example, a list of 500 leads from Hoovers can cost upwards of $500 per month.
Sales reps should consider whether purchasing a list of leads is the best use of their time and budget.
Best Practices for Sales Prospecting Emails
When crafting sales emails, sales reps should keep the following best practices in mind:
Use a short and descriptive subject line.
The most successful cold outreach campaigns include subject lines that are 3-5 words long and describe what the email is about. Although many believe that using the prospect’s name in the subject line increases open rates, this is not always the case. In some cases, it may come across as spammy.
To have the best chances of increasing the open rate, sales reps should use a subject line that is short, descriptive, and to the point.
For example, a company selling CRM software could use the subject line “Free CRM Trial.”
Include a personalized message for the recipient.
The body of the email should be personal and tailored to the recipient. Most outreach is impersonal, and sales reps who demonstrate that they’ve done their research or know what is best for their prospect have a much better chance of booking calls or demos.
To be more personal, the sales rep should mention something that they learned about the recipient or their company.
For example: “I just listened to your latest podcast episode and I thought that what you said about the challenges of sales prospecting was spot on.”
Keep the email short and easy to read.
The email should be concise and to the point. Recipients are more likely to read and respond to an email that is short and sweet.
It is best practice to keep sales emails between 50 and 125 words and to avoid using large blocks of text.
Reps should also write their emails in short, easily comprehensible sentences that don’t use industry jargon.
Include a CTA.
The email should include a clear call-to-action (CTA) that tells the recipient what they should do next.
The CTA could be something like “Book a Demo,” “Download Our Whitepaper,” or “Schedule a Call.”
Including a CTA gives the recipient a specific and actionable next step, which increases the likelihood of them responding to the email.
Sales Prospecting KPIs
There are several key performance indicators (KPIs) that sales reps should track when prospecting, including:
- Number of Contacts: Salespeople need to keep track of the number of people they reach out to on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. They can use this as a baseline to measure their performance over time.
- Number of Connections: In addition to the number of contacts, sales reps should also keep track of the number of connections they make. A connection is defined as a person who responds to an email or accepts a LinkedIn request.
- Number of Appointments: The ultimate goal of prospecting is to book appointments with potential customers. Tracking the number of appointments they book as a result of their prospecting efforts can help them see the impact their outreach is having. They can cross-reference this figure with their number of contacts and connections to see how effective their outreach strategy is.
- Number of Deals: Tracking the number of prospects that convert into paying customers can help sales reps see the ROI of their prospecting efforts.
- Average Deal Size: In addition to the number of deals, sales reps should also track the average deal size. This will help them see not only how many prospects they’re converting, but also the quality of those prospects.
- Sales Cycle Length: Tracking the length of the sales cycles helps salespeople see how long it takes them, on average, to close a deal. This will help them optimize their process and improve their efficiency.
- Sales Volume By Location: Sales reps should also segment their sales volume by location. This will help them identify which geographical areas are most responsive to their outreach and where they should focus their efforts.
- Customer Retention: Customer retention rate can help sales teams see how qualified their leads are. If customers are leaving after a few months, chances are they weren’t properly vetted during the sales process.
By tracking these KPIs, sales reps can see how effective their prospecting efforts are and make necessary changes to their strategy.
Sales Prospecting Tools
Sales intelligence tools are business software that enable sales reps to research their prospects and find contact information. Salespeople can also use these tools for sales enablement and to track their sales pipeline.
Benefits of sales intelligence tools include:
- The ability to quickly find contact information for potential customers.
- The ability to research a potential customer’s company and learn about their needs.
- The ability to track their sales pipeline in one place.
There are also many other tools, such as CPQ software that streamline the sales process and help sales reps spend more time on actively building their sales pipeline.
10 Tips for Effective Prospecting
Sales prospecting can be a challenging process, but several best practices can help sales reps increase their success rate.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand who the company’s ideal customer is and what type of product or service they will be interested in. Once the target audience has been identified, sales development reps should create a list of prospects based on their contact information, such as phone numbers or email addresses. They should ensure that any leads they generate are qualified by collecting data points like job titles, company size, budget range, etc., so the sales organization doesn’t waste time pursuing leads that won’t provide value.
When it comes to actually reaching out to prospective customers, sales reps should personalize each message to make sure it resonates with the recipient’s needs and interests. This could include offering relevant information about the product or service and providing helpful resources such as whitepapers or case studies that focus on their specific industry. Additionally, sales reps must maintain a positive attitude when communicating with prospects—especially if they turn down an offer—as this could make them more open to future offers in the future.
Sales leaders should assess the sales organization’s prospecting approach regularly to determine which tactics are successfully generating leads and which ones may need refinement. This includes evaluating response rates from emails, analyzing web traffic from promotional campaigns, tracking conversion rates from webinars or other events, etc. In addition to these metrics, sales operations should consider conducting A/B testing for campaigns and surveying prospects who didn’t convert initially. Doing this can help the sales team better understand consumer behavior and improve their outreach strategy.
Finally, it’s vital to leverage technology for effective sales prospecting. Automated tools such as lead scoring software can monitor customer data points like website visits and email interactions to identify potential opportunities before they reach out proactively. Social media platforms like LinkedIn can also be used for targeted outreach efforts since they allow sales development reps to connect directly with decision-makers at target companies.
In closing, here are ten tips for effective prospecting. Following these best practices helps sales reps increase the ROI of their prospecting efforts.
- Research your prospects thoroughly before reaching out
- Have a clear and concise message when you do reach out
- Leverage digital insights to customize your approach
- Utilize multiple channels of communication
- Listen more than you talk during sales conversations
- Focus on building relationships, not just closing deals
- Track key metrics related to prospecting activities
- Use referrals whenever possible
- Stay organized when managing leads
- Monitor industry trends and news
People Also Ask
When does prospecting take place in the sales process?
Prospecting is a vital part of the sales process, but it can be difficult to know when the time is right to start reaching out to potential customers. In general, prospecting should begin after you have defined your target market and developed a solid understanding of your product or service.
Once you have this information, you can start to identify individuals or businesses who may be interested in what you have to offer. However, it’s important to keep in mind that prospects need time to develop, so don’t be too eager to close the sale. Instead, focus on building rapport and demonstrating your value.
Why is sales prospecting important?
In today’s competitive marketplace, it is more important than ever to proactively seek out new sales opportunities. By building a pipeline of potential customers, businesses can ensure a steady flow of new business and avoid the costly setbacks that can occur when sales dry up. Moreover, effective sales prospecting can help businesses to identify emerging trends and capture market share before their competitors.
What is the sales prospecting process?
Prospecting involves identifying potential customers, or “prospects,” and then researching their needs and budget.
Once a salesperson has identified a potential customer, they will reach out and try to establish contact. This can be done through cold-calling, emailing, or attending networking events.
After contact has been established, the next step is to qualify the prospect. This involves determining whether the prospect is a good fit for the product or service being offered.
If they are not a good fit, the salesperson will move on to another prospect. If they are a good fit, the salesperson will continue to the next step in the process: scheduling an appointment.
What are the different types of sales prospecting?
When it comes to sales prospecting, there are a few different approaches that businesses can take. One popular method is to compile a list of potential customers and then reach out to them directly with marketing materials. Another common approach is to set up a booth or table at a trade show or other public event and give information to interested passersby.