Sales prospecting is an essential skill for any successful salesperson. It involves actively seeking out potential customers and leads, researching their needs, and building relationships with them to further a business’s success.
It’s the basic lifeblood of any efficient sales funnel, but how can salespeople ensure that their prospecting is as optimal as possible?
Based on research, best practices and good old-fashioned experience, we’ve put together a list of the top 15 sales prospecting tips to help you gain valuable insights into how to identify prospects, build relationships with them, reach out effectively, and close deals successfully.
So if you’re ready to take your sales career to the next level, read on!
- Research Your Target Audience and Develop Key Prospect Persona
- List Out Ways to Connect With Your Market Personas
- Develop Your Calls List
- Ask for Referrals
- Ensure You Send Personalised Emails
- Become a Subject Matter Expert in Your Field
- Build and Cultivate Your Social Media Presence
- Produce Content For Prospects
- Create Sales-Led Videos
- Always Follow Up With Prospects
- Leverage Software for Lead Scoring
- Personalise Pitches
- Focus on Helping, Not Selling
- Set Out a Formal Process When Developing Leads
- Always Consolidate Lead Information in Your CRM System
What is Sales Prospecting?
Prospecting is the initial phase of the sales cycle, where salespeople search for probable clients. The objective of prospecting is to arouse interest and later transform that interest into a sales conversation.
Prospecting helps salespeople to interface and cooperate with potential clients. It gives a salesperson a better point of view on a prospect’s pain points which ensures that they are reaching individuals who will be responsive to a sales pitch.
Prospecting isn’t just the starting point for most salespeople; it’s also an incredibly integral and effective step in the sales process. Research has shown that more than 80% of buyers are more receptive to a sales pitch in the prospecting stage of the sales journey.
Salespeople who effectively cultivate a good prospecting process tend to be three times more likely to land a sales meeting through prospecting than those who never prospect.
What is the Difference Between a Lead and a Prospect?
The term ‘prospect’ can sometimes be confused with another essential sales term, a ‘lead,’ however, the two are different. They both exist within the early stages of the sales funnel, but there are some significant differences between the two.
Leads are prospective customers who have already expressed interest in your product or service. Their interest can be shown through things like subscribing to a blog, visiting a website or signing up for a trial.
A prospect is a lead that has been further researched, and from this research, it can be determined that they fit within a category of leads that could potentially benefit from your product or service and, therefore, might be more susceptible to a sale.
The two are different by definition, but the end goal for both is the same. So how can you improve your processes to make sure you are prospecting in the best possible way? Check out the top 15 sales prospecting tips below.
The Top Sales Prospecting Tips
1. Research Your Target Audience and Develop Key Prospect Persona
There are so many different kinds of people, companies, industries, products and services available in the world that it can be difficult to know exactly how to narrow down a potential target audience.
A good place to start is to think about what the perfect customer for your business looks like. To begin this process, you can start by looking at a few things based on the customer funnel you already have:
- Who are the best five customers of your business?
- Who are the worst five?
- Who are the most profitable customers?
- Which leads tend to yield no value?
When answering the above questions, it’s important to remind yourself that just because a company or customer is in your database doesn’t mean that they are a good fit for your sales funnel.
A recent study by Sales Insight Labs found that, on average, nearly half the prospects in an average sales database aren’t actually positively charged. This is a lot of potential leads that aren’t actually potentials at all.
Taking the time to develop a key prospect persona will help you to eliminate fruitless prospects early on.
Employing a mixed research method would be adequate to streamline efforts during this stage. This approach enables the identification of crucial indicators, thus allowing you to pinpoint potential clients with enhanced precision and efficiency.
2. List Out Ways to Connect With Your Market Personas
It’s great to have a list of prospects, but that list is going to be much more powerful if you know the best way to connect with them. A good idea is to begin by assessing how you came to connect with your best customers. Generally, the best customers of a sales funnel are the ones who give the salesperson the best profit margins.
Understanding how you came into contact with the most profitable prospects can help you to define the best places or methods to reach more prospects like them.
Think about the things that your most desirable prospects are interested in. Perhaps they are likely to frequent particular events like trade fairs or fundraisers put together by community organizations.
These locations are great places to try to make your business physically visible to them. It’s also a good idea to think about their online presence. Which social media platforms are they more likely to use?
All of the above information can help you to gain access to better prospects while increasing your overall visibility and sales.
3. Develop Your Calls List
Most salespeople realize that it’s important to separate your call lists into different categories, the main three being cold calls, warm calls and lost leads.
It’s a great habit to regularly prioritize these lists and dedicate time to thoroughly going through them to adjust the information of each one to make sure it’s the most accurate and up-to-date. Developing and maintaining accurate call lists can really give you an edge over your competition.
4. Ask for Referrals
When a customer or client is happy with a product or service, they are optimally primed to become a walking billboard for your business. Satisfied customers will generally refer businesses to their friends anyway, but there’s no shame, nothing to lose and some incredible gains that can come from asking for referrals.
Statistics show that more than 90% of B2B buyers tend to be heavily influenced by word-of-mouth referrals when they make a purchasing decision. The numbers also show that when potential leads are referred, they tend to have a 50% to 70% closing rate.
There is immense power in referrals and it’s a free way to help get more prospects for your business. In general, the best time to ask a happy customer for a referral is straight after the deal is closed. This is the period of time when their satisfaction is at its peak, and the diligence and care you afforded them is fresh in their mind.
Keeping all this in mind, don’t forget about existing customers who are still satisfied. They can also be a valuable source of referrals.
5. Ensure You Send Personalised Emails
Emails might not have a great reputation, especially when it comes to things like junk and spam. Almost everyone has subscribed to a mailing list at some point, only to end up with a full inbox of offers and deals they won’t read.
Having said that, this doesn’t mean that email marketing isn’t effective. Even today, more than 80% of purchasers prefer to be contacted by a seller via email.
The trick to getting email prospecting to work is to avoid mass emails and focus on a more personalized approach. Try to cater the individual email to each individual prospect’s particular needs.
Email personalization generally ensures that the recipient will be 26% more likely to actually open and read what you send them. As a general rule of thumb, think about what would make your email stand out in a sea of auto-generated mass emails. Be personal, be specific and try to look as individualized as possible.
6. Become a Subject Matter Expert in Your Field
Customers are not only getting more tech and street savvy these days, but they are also demanding more and more from salespeople. Almost 80% of prospects feel that they would prefer sales representatives to be experts in their field.
It can be a good practice to figure out which elements of your sales arsenal you are really familiar with and lead with your best foot forward. If you work in insurance sales and happen to be incredibly familiar with auto insurance, this could be a unique selling point for you with your customers.
Don’t be afraid to capitalize on what you are good at. The main idea here is to find what you are good at, interested in, or both and continue to learn about it so that you can be the trusted expert your customers are looking for
7. Build and Cultivate Your Social Media Presence
Most prospects have some form of social media presence these days. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok are all incredibly popular, and connecting with potential leads through these avenues can draw extra attention and potential sales.
Establishing a brand identity and unique selling propositions is easier with social media, and it’s a great way to demonstrate customer success and positive feedback.
8. Produce Content For Prospects
When it comes to content that salespeople send to prospects, they should always keep in mind the goal of the prospecting stage. That is, to have the potential buyer take notice and move to the next stage.
Any content that is sent out needs to address a prospect’s individual situations and pain points to be effective. Too often, companies focus solely on their own products, features, and services and not on the needs of their potential customers.
In order to be successful, salespeople and companies should avoid just talking about themselves and start providing useful, relevant data that is pertinent to the prospect’s area of business or life, as well as solutions and value that will move them along in the buying process.
Creating value-added content can also help to transform you in the eyes of the prospects. It has the power to make you more than just a salesperson; you can also become a reliable source of genuinely helpful information.
9. Create Sales-Led Videos
Video is one of the hottest media methods for communicating with prospects right now. The bottom line is that video works. AB Tasty recently found that adding video to email communications can increase the click-through rate of recipients by up to 300%.
Video is naturally more engaging for almost every kind of potential customer. It’s something most people are comfortable with, it’s entertaining, but best of all, it’s much easier to grab attention and deliver lots of information in a video than it is in writing.
Video can also add a more personal touch to communication, especially if the salesperson is featured. This kind of communication can help to add a face to a product, which, in turn, usually makes prospects more receptive.
With most of us having decent video cameras in our pockets, there’s no reason why most salespeople can’t incorporate a little bit of movie magic into their processes to increase the chances of nabbing some top-shelf prospects.
10. Always Follow Up With Prospects
Never underestimate the power of following up with prospects. In general, the practice of regularly following up with prospects who may not have been able to make a decision, or didn’t seem to want services in the past, tends to yield some decent results when it comes to conversions.
The most important element of good follow-up is making sure that the timing is right. As you establish and organize your sales funnel, you will learn what timeframes tend to work best for following up with your prospects, but short of that, it’s generally a good idea to follow up with a prospect within 24 hours of your last correspondence.
11. Leverage Software for Lead Scoring
Lead scoring is a valuable process for anyone who works in sales. Generally, within a lead scoring system, a numerical value is attached to a prospect and this number indicates the likelihood that they will convert to a paying customer.
Leads can be scored by any number of demographics, including things like age, gender, industry, timeframe, the number of times they have been contacted, other products or services they have purchased and many more.
The best thing about lead scoring is that it can be catered to the individual needs of the salesperson. In the old days, salespeople often had to utilize large spreadsheets to accurately store these data sets and there wasn’t always an easy way to see the most accurate score for each lead.
Many CRM systems have built-in lead scoring capabilities, which can take the guesswork out of the situation and give you the most reliable lead score at a glance.
12. Personalise Pitches
Prospects are as individual as fingerprints. They come from a multitude of backgrounds, have different needs and interests and enter your sales funnel for different reasons, so there’s no reason they should be treated as though they are just a name or number that is identical to thousands of others.
Taking detailed notes on each prospect can help salespeople to plan more personalized pitches that will be more effective and more targeted, but there are simple ways to inject the personalized touch into the process before you have even established the initial contact.
When a prospect enters your sales funnel, you can use whatever information they have given you to put together a bit of a picture of the person or business.
This can also give you enough information to compare them to similar prospects in the past and go into a sales call, being more prepared for any questions or concerns they might have.
The main objective with this point is to make sure that the prospect feels like they are an individual who is receiving a sales service that has been catered specifically for them and not a ‘cookie cutter’ monologue that has been spouted thousands of times a day for the past 10 years.
13. Focus on Helping, Not Selling
It’s so easy to get caught up in the act of selling that sometimes salespeople can come off as though they are really pushing a hard sell when they don’t even realize it. Yes, selling is the goal, but it’s a good idea to go into a sales conversation with the intention of assisting a prospect rather than selling to them.
People are more likely to trust someone who seems to be altruistically helpful than someone who is obviously trying to sell them something. The best salespeople know how to walk the fine line between the two in order to create mutually beneficial business partnerships.
In reality, this step is more of a change in mindset than anything else. Instead of thinking, ‘how can I get them to purchase today?’ think, ‘What products or services do I have that can help them solve their problem.’
14. Set Out a Formal Process When Developing Leads
As with most business practices, consistency is key. When developing sales practices to get the most out of your prospects, it’s important to formalize them.
Take the time to arrange your process in order. Look at each step of the sales process and assign specific tasks that must be completed before moving on to the next stage.
Taking the time to formalize the processes involved with lead prospecting will give all salespeople a better roadmap for success. This kind of formalization also means that if you discover your tactics aren’t working as well as they once did, you can easily track down which stage in the prospect’s journey needs attention.
15. Always Consolidate Lead Information in Your CRM System
It’s absolutely integral to regularly and consistently consolidate all the information about your prospects within your CRM system.
For example, you might have a database of thousands of prospects, but what percentage of them are warm? How long has it been since the first contact was made? Is the information for each prospect still accurate?
Regular consolidation ensures that you will always have the most accurate information and it also helps you to know exactly how effective your sales funnel is.
There are many ways to improve the sales prospecting process, from researching and developing key prospect personas to leveraging software for lead scoring and from creating content for prospects to always consolidating lead information in your CRM system.
If you take the time to implement even a few of the above 15 sales prospecting tips, you can be sure that you will have a much better chance of landing some top-shelf prospects.
If you are in insurance sales, check out our prospecting tips for insurance agents.