Why is prospecting such an important part of the sales process? It’s not enough to do research and find companies or titles that fit your Ideal Customer Profile. This is merely your starting point.
From there, you must confirm that these leads are potentially interested in your product and that it’s possible to convert them into prospects.
This is exactly what prospecting is — the process of sifting through tons of leads to fish out golden opportunities and shape them into long-term B2B partnerships. However, what makes it so complicated and why does it take so much time?
Let’s go through the dos and don’ts of sales prospecting step by step.
Can you fail at prospecting?
Everything is possible when you try hard enough. Accordingly, everything can be ruined when you don’t try hard enough. Sales prospecting is not an automated process. It’s completely manual and depends on your persistence, flexibility, and ability to think outside the box. So, how can you do prospecting wrong?
- Cold calls. Because there is a lot of nuance to cold calls, we don’t suggest relying on them as the primary way of prospecting. To say that cold calls never work, though, is a bold statement. What is true is that there are a lot of precursors to it. In most cases, if you decide to call your prospect out of the blue and start asking questions, they are more likely to opt-out of the conversation because they hate disruptions. Sometimes, they promise to call you back later, but that doesn’t mean they will. Unless you target an area close to your company’s HQ, making cold calls and F2F meetings something simple and natural, we suggest not pushing your luck.
- Irrelevance. You should be able to ask the right questions and make the right statements. If you start a unique value proposition with a generic question that can be interpreted “Do you want to profit?” or even “Do you want a good solution?”, you won’t get any results. Yes, all people want to profit. Yes, all business owners want to have better, faster and more productive assets than they currently have. However, that’s not all. They want a guarantee. If they’re not confident that your assets can deliver the promised results, they will never indicate their interest or show willingness to explore their opportunities.
- Forcefulness. To assume that all the leads in your database are automatically interested in your services is to make a big mistake. No matter how detailed your research is, you cannot invite yourself into your recipient’s private space and act like they have been expecting you all this time and will sign a contract with you immediately. Your mission is to tentatively test the waters to confirm that your prospects don’t work with any current vendor, are open to new opportunities, and are ready to pursue their goals.
How do you advance your sales prospecting?
It’s all about practice. The more you communicate and research, the easier it is for you to locate the sweet spots and ask the right questions. From our experience, we can single out several tips that will navigate you through your sales communication and help you polish your prospecting skills.
It’s an unspoken truth that people don’t trust sellers. What does it mean? It means that they don’t want to talk with a person whose only goal and specialty are to sell. They don’t believe that such a person would be concerned with their pain points and care about helping, not profit. Unfortunately, this impression was shaped by years of cheap sales tricks. Therefore, to avoid being labeled as one of those salespeople, you should position yourself as an expert in your niche. Yes, it’s important for you to benefit. However, you’re responsible for the needs of your target audience. This is your professional duty.
What should you establish in a conversation?
- You are closely familiar with your prospect’s industry. You can outline the most relevant pain points easily and describe the solution commonly used to solve those issues. It will show your prospects that you care about their work — and they can actually discuss it with you.
- You know your prospects. Informing your prospects that you know about their achievement, the growth of their company, their use of technology won’t push your prospects away. Quite the opposite, it will let each of your prospects know that you’re sincerely interested in working with them.
- You have a lot to say about your product. The presentation is everything. Your prospects are more likely to trust someone who knows their offered services and products from inside and out and accentuates their actual value instead of generic, scripted lines.
Your conversation with potential prospects should look like a consultation that slowly leads to introducing your product.
Follow up all the time
What makes prospecting so hard is the necessity to follow up with your prospects. Since you aren’t likely to receive a definite response to your first email, it may take a series of scheduled follow-ups before your prospects answer. It’s an excruciating, yet necessary, part of your sales development.
- Follow-ups help recover opportunities. According to Yesware research, it’s important to follow up with an email if you don’t receive a response for 24 hours.
- Follow-ups show your dedication. If you remember to check in with your prospects regularly, they will be more open to a conversation, exploring their pain points and new opportunities.
- Follow-ups let you ration information. You can send useful and relevant content in each new email instead of cramming everything into one message. The type of content depends on your activity. Do you make guest posts? Have you written an ebook recently? Did you prepare a new presentation? Every bit counts. The main rule is that your content should be relevant to the pain points and specific needs of your prospects. Keep each prospect’s industry, product, company size, and budget in mind when picking your observations and case studies — your recipients don’t need information that doesn’t concern them in any way.
Sometimes, you have to do all this work to just get things started — or to see if there is a point in continuing. Coaxing a firm YES or NO from your recipients can take weeks, but it is still more rewarding than stopping at the first email.
Grow your social media presence
Social media is not just about entertainment nowadays. There are platforms for connecting people and bringing experts together, so there is no reason for you not to use this opportunity. Of course, we don’t imply that you should attach the link to your personal Facebook page or profile on Instagram. However, nowadays your prospects are more likely to trust people with an online presence than people who are basically unreachable. If an individual or a company is present on every relevant platform, mentioned in the reviews, is an active participant in different communities, your prospects become less apprehensive and more interested in doing business with you.
They care little about your personal social media pages but they would be reassured when they find you on LinkedIn, take a look at your portfolio, your credentials, all kinds of social proof and other useful information — so you can imagine how important it is to make your LinkedIn profile detailed and insightful.
Since modern B2B buyers prefer to do their own research, you can softly direct them by attaching the link to your LinkedIn to your signature. It’s a subtle invitation to learn more details about you and connect with your potential customers.
Additionally, you can use social media to explore your prospects: the events they’re interested in, the achievements they share on their LinkedIn, the posts and articles they repost. Analyzing this behavior gives you clues about your prospect’s concerns and allows you to take some notes before you reach out.
Aside from LinkedIn, we suggest Quora. It’s a good source for being helpful to users by providing answers to their questions and sharing helpful links with them. So, if you want your company and name to emerge each time your potential customers google relevant questions, it makes sense to create a Quora account and see what people ask about.
Regardless of your choice of social media, your activity should include the following:
- A detailed and constantly update profile
- Constant posting
- Participation in the conversations of the chosen community
- Finding and befriending new experts and influencers
Focus on prospects that spend
To make your prospecting successful, you need to use your resources wisely. Would it make sense to spend time on the leads that show little desire to spend money on anything even remotely related to your industry? Maybe it’s better to concentrate on the prospects who were seen investing in services that are close to your expertise.
Following the principle of account-based marketing, make spenders your Tier A account and focus your research on this category. Make sure their budget size meets the qualifiers of your Ideal Customer Profile and that they have the decision-makers you can communicate with. Compile a list for each potential client and start building your outreach strategy.
This way, you will be able to create a list of high-value leads and increase your chances of converting them into buyers.
The reason why we place such a huge emphasis on asking for referrals is that they really help, but are really underrated.
This tip is particularly relevant if you work in a niche industry or across one location. Your prospects have a choice of vendors but they want to choose the most productive and credible providers. In that case, referrals from fellow professionals become powerful proof of the vendor’s expertise.
Additionally, if you work across multiple states or even countries, you must have enough social proof to establish yourself as a reliable vendor.
Now, let’s see how you nurture referrals.
- Identify your referrers. You may have a lot of happy clients, but you should focus on the most loyal and long-time ones that you built a solid B2B relationship with. When there is no friction between you, it’s easier to ask for referrals—and those customers are more likely to agree.
- Share your ICP with your referrers. Don’t assume that your clients can read your thoughts. Even if they will be happy to help you, they have work to do. Save their time by outlining the key qualifiers of the prospects who could use a referral.
- Build a referral strategy. You should know when and how to ask for referrals. Don’t bring the subject of referrals up until the work is done and you can see that your customers are fully satisfied with the results. Be genuine about your request. Don’t press the matter further if you see that your customers are on the fence with the offer.
- Keep your referrers prepared. Don’t make your referrers think that they’re alone in this. Provide a couple of case studies or a presentation of your services that they can add to their recommendations.
When it comes to rewarding referrers, we can only say it’s up to you. It’s normal for B2B companies to provide some bonuses for their long-time clients, so you can incorporate your appreciation for the referrals into your gifts. However, you shouldn’t go overboard — you don’t want to create an impression of buying your referrals. Make your appreciation meaningful and keep up the communication with your clients. Also, don’t forget to show your support for their achievements.
Prospecting takes a huge part of the sales manager’s efforts. It’s often mentioned in articles and loud headliners. However, when you’re a B2B sales outsource company introducing your prospecting services to the client who is only getting started with generating leads and converting them into sales possibilities, you must be perfectly clear about everything you say.
Everybody involved in sales development knows that prospecting is a complicated process. In fact, it’s the hardest part of the entire sales process, so you should be able to emphasize its importance and complexity when speaking with your client.
Did you find this article useful? Have some interesting prospecting stories to share? Want more tips? Let us know! We’re looking forward to a chat.