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What is sales prospecting?

A thriving business has many customers. However, it is often falsely assumed that the quality of services or products offered predefine the success of the campaign. Of course, there is little income when no one is familiar with what you present. Sales prospecting is one of the initial stages of the sales process, if not the primary one. Thus, it is the most challenging one. In case you are willing to take the range of profitable sales to the next level, you need to be fully aware of what the prospecting process stands for and how to carry it out professionally.

Sales prospecting – a detailed definition

The basic definition of sales prospecting is quite simple. It is the process of reaching out to potential customers and ensuring them that your business is the best in the industry to refer to in times of need. Once you work on these qualified leads, you help them in the sales funnel and make sure they move down until the purchase is completed.

How essential is the prospecting process?

The main aim of prospecting is to identify business leads who are truly interested in what you sell. Good-fit clients require the products or services provided, yet they are waiting until the sales reps decide to reach out to them and drive them toward the final decision that results in a purchase.

Most recent research proves that a sales team with skilled prospecting management is at least three times as profitable as the one that lacks expertise.

The importance of the prospecting process lies in the fact that once you are through with it, you'll be left with the leads who are ready to invest in your business development. Aside from that, such customers are usually to stay with you for a long time, rather than seal a one-time deal.

Some of you may wonder, how do you achieve promised revenue growth and sales development through prospecting? The answer to that is quite simple – all it takes is to apply the correct strategy and ask the right questions.

Are prospects and leads the same?

Lead generating is a vital component of the sales process. Thus, it may seem that the prospects and leads are the same. However, the assumption is misleading. While both notions are applied to users who can initially become paying customers, there's a vital difference between the two. The truth is that a lead is not always a prospect, but a prospect is always a qualified lead.

Leads, in their vast majority, are the users who have shown interest in your services. They may fill out the contact form, read newsletters, and visit your website but never get close to purchasing— all because they don't coincide with your buyer profile.

On the other hand, prospects are represented as the audience that requires the services or products you offer. They fit the buyer profile perfectly, and, sooner or later, they will become paying customers.

How do you start prospecting?

Depending upon your personal needs and the niche that your business represents, you may alter the approach to prospecting. However, five main stages are usually pointed out when it comes to the sales process that contains the prospecting stage. They are the following:

  1. Prospect research.
  2. Prospect prioritizing.
  3. Prospect personalization.
  4. Prospect contact.
  5. Process improvement.

Now, let's review all these stages in detail so that there are no unanswered questions left.

1. Prospect research. One of the fundamental facts to keep in mind when researching the prospects is that the whole process will be a massive waste of time if you follow the wrong lead. Thus, before you dive into the process, you should work hard on determining if the business in question really requires the services you can offer. When you qualify prospects, you have to be certain that they are workable, and you have enough resources to reach them and personalize the approach to help the sales process move forward.

2. Prospect prioritizing. Some prospects are further down the sales funnel than others, that's an undeniable fact, and trained sales reps know that. This means that all the prospects that you have in mind need to be divided into different categories. Those categories that gain the most rating should go to the top and those with minimal rating – the bottom of the list. Different formulas can help you calculate the rating in percent. Besides, related software can be used for that purpose, too, so that the process won't take you long, assuming you have all the necessary data at hand.

3. Prospect personalization. The next step in your prospecting journey is to work on a personalized approach for every potential customer. The fact is that even the clients that require the solution that you offer may have different pain points that will trigger their interest. The better is your knowledge of those, the easier it will be to trigger their attention.

There are a few ways you can achieve the goal with as little effort involved as possible. First, you need to determine the following before you start your conversion:

  • Discover what the company or business you are aiming at cares about. Reading their blogs is the safest and fastest route to take to disclose that.
  • Browse through their social media to determine the latest news in the field.
  • Check out the company's 'About Us' information to learn some more personal information.

Once you have all the information accumulated, the final step is to define why you should connect with the user. Maybe their reps have already visited your website, or you have some mutual connections, or maybe there's been a trigger occasion? With all that in mind, you can go as far as to create a decision map. The map will help you point out potential obstacles and rejections so that your sales team can successfully pass them by.

It may seem like an awful load of work to do, but in the long run, the paying customer that you get and the revenue growth that it spikes as a result are worth all the time and effort spent on the preparation.

4. Prospect contact. Here comes the time of the primary contact between your sales reps and the user in question. However, to make sure that the prospect catches the bait, you need to plan it carefully. There are a few valuable pieces of advice to keep in mind when contacting the prospect:

  • Address the pain points that the business may face directly and present your valuable solution straight away.
  • Don't refer to the issues that seem outdated or already resolved. Instead, keep up the company's timeline when qualifying leads.
  • Sales reps that sound like robots are usually dismissed. So, no matter what type of outreach you use, make sure that the representatives remain humans. Anything you view as suitable that means to deepen the connection should be put to use.
  • Before you go for an appointment setting, you need to show the user in mind that you care about them and their goals. You can suggest auditing some digital assets or any other crucial points and give the results within short notice. It's essential to remember that this stage is not about you as the seller. It's about the consumer and their needs.
  • Some sales reps are incredibly pushy, and that annoys many clients. The goal here is to establish the connection and agree that the relationship between the two parties is equally beneficial to both of them.

5. Process improvement. Some prospecting strategies for sales may seem flawless, yet they prove to be ineffective when put to use. Such an outcome makes some companies think that the prospecting process is overrated as a whole. However, the truth here lies in the fact that your prospecting approach should be as bendable as possible. There are no two businesses alike that you will reach out to, and you should keep that in mind when working on your prospects. Keeping notes of every operation will help you spot the weak links and improve them with every following process.

Effective sales prospecting tips to use

With all the definitive information about prospecting, it may still seem a little too complicated a notion. To help you understand the process and perfect your approach, there are a few tips to implement in the routine.

Sales prospecting and career pages

At first glance, there is nothing in common between the sales process and the employees that the prospect in mind is looking for. However, the sales industry is so complex for a reason – not all the details lie on the surface for anyone to pick them up.

The fact is that by discovering the departments that are being added to the scene, reconstructed, or expanded – you can determine solutions that the company will soon require to provide the staff with the means necessary for productive operation.

Prospecting process and qualification framework

The number of sales frameworks is indeed growing by the day. However, the main one can be applied to almost any industry or field – the GPCTBA/C&I. In case you are still unfamiliar with the notion, it may sound a lot more confusing than it actually is.

First things first, let's decipher the abbreviation. GPCT stands for goals, plans, challenges and timeline. BA – budget and authority. Finally, C&I mean negative consequences and positive implications. Now, it is not that difficult to come up with the questions to ask your prospects once you are connected.

Once you have all these questions answered and put down in detail, you'll have a complete user profile at hand. Thus, the prospect will move up or down the prospect list, and you'll be able to carry on with effective prospecting until you turn them into paying clients.

Prospects and rating classification

All potential customers, prospects, can be divided into three categories depending upon their rating classification. They are the following: 1) High, 2) Medium, 3) Low.

A high rating indicates that all the prospects in the category meet the customer profile you have compiled. They face the challenges that your service can help them solve, and you have directly spoken with the decision-maker in the company. Mutual connections can help the rating, too. Lastly, the potential client has interacted with your site or social media accounts.

Medium rating implies that the client matches some user profile criteria. Your business can still offer valuable solutions to the challenges that the company faces. Lastly, you've managed to get in touch with an influencer, and there is an average interaction with the platforms you use.

A low rating covers the clientele that does not match the buyer profile you have composed. You are still not sure about their challenges and whether you can help them solve those. Limited interaction with your website and inability to talk with the influencer or decision-maker persona indicates that the prospect is at the bottom of your prospecting list.

Prospects' blogs and ways to use them

Instead of making a cold call or sending the same email, you can spend that time reading the prospect's blog. How can this help the prospecting process? The fact is that when you are browsing through the company's blogs, you can find the irreplaceable source of information upon the pain points that the business in question faces. Then, armed with the data, you can compile an email that won't go past the attention of the person interested in solving the outlined matter.

Sales prospecting and social media

It's utterly easy to underestimate the importance of social media when it comes to the sales process. However, an expert in prospecting knows the true value of social media platforms' information. By tracking your prospects' social media accounts, you'll have access to the updated news feed that gives you a clear insight into what is going on in the field and how you can use the company's challenges to your mutual benefit.

Prospecting sessions and their planning

One of the most ineffective ways of prospecting would be to reach out to the lead without a precise plan in mind. You need to figure out how much time a day you are willing to dedicate to prospecting. After that, you should determine how long each call should last. Upon ending the call, you are bound to take time to reflect upon it, take notes and add crucial points to your database.

Prospecting outreach correlation

Some sales reps use email communication more often than they use calls and vice versa. While each approach may pay off in one way or another, it is crucial to realize that a good balance between the two will double your results. There are constructive pros and cons to both cold calls and emails. By eliminating the drawbacks of each, you can come up with a synced approach that will positively influence sales development and business revenue growth.

In case you wonder what potential downsides of cold emailing are, the experts point out the following:

  • The email may get lost in the inbox and is less likely to attract the necessary attention.
  • Emails are easy to be forgotten about or deleted.
  • It may take a couple of cold emails before you get the desired response.

The cold call notion isn't perfect, too, so that you need to evaluate potential cons, which are the following:

  • Not all the prospects are equally comfortable with talking to the sales reps on the phone.
  • Unscheduled calls can be intrusive.
  • You can never predict if the lead will answer the call at all.

So, the combo approach is the safest to escape the aforementioned drawbacks altogether.

BASHO sequence as one of sales prospecting strategies

If you think that a single cold call or email is enough to establish the prolific connection between you and the prospect, the chances are that you are new to the sales industry. According to the BASHO sequence established by Jeff Hoffman, it takes a combination of emails and voicemails to achieve the required leverage with your potential customers. The sequence consists of 5 stages:

 

Each stage requires a unique message that will grant the prospect necessary insight into the services you offer, some conditions, solutions and other useful information. The email/voicemail alteration ensures that the prospect has time to consider the offer, research the matter and answer you at the time they consider the fittest.

With all that in mind, you may wonder how you send a message that inspires the prospect to answer it?

Composing a warm email

There are a few vital points that a warm email should include:

  • The engaging subject line, with no room for clichés.
  • Personal opening indicates your desire to help the recipient solve some of the pain points that their business faces.
  • Establishing the connection by suggesting how precisely you can help them solve the existing issues.
  • CTA – a call-to-action approach that indicates that you are ready to discuss things further at a concrete time.

Turning a cold call into artful prospecting 

Whether you go straight to voicemail or get an actual response, you need to be fully prepared for the interaction. Moreover, it would help if you build it in such a way that it ignites the spark of interest straight away.

  • Build a personal connection. Inquiring about the weekend or any other present event will give the prospect an idea of a close relationship and personalized approach.
  • Emphasize the pain points that the customer may have. The more you are aware of the company's issues, the easier it will be to determine if they may be interested in what you sell.
  • Don't talk too much, rather ask as many questions as you can to emphasize your genuine curiosity about the client.
  • Finish the conversation by scheduling the next call.

Prospecting and rejection correlation

It is obvious that some attempts to establish the connection and go down the sales process will be rejected. When you get an answer from the prospect indicating that they are not interested in what you offer, you shouldn't leave the prospect just at that point. For the most part, it will benefit you to ask the prospect why they reject the proposal.

Inquiring about what they would want to be added or eliminated, or improved will help you work on a better solution you are trying to sell.

What does a prospecting process look like?

Once your sales team is 100% sure as to which prospects to pursue, it takes a precise process to succeed with the primary goal – converting them into paying customers. Generally, the sales experts point out five stages of the process to keep in mind. They are as follows:

Research

Good-fit prospects need to be further researched. Then, depending upon their quality, you will be able to determine how likely they are to make a purchase in the near future.

Outreach

Sales prospecting usually includes two types of prospects that you will reach out to gatekeepers and decision-makers.

It's best for your business if the sales reps end up with the latter category, since gatekeepers may be another obstacle to pass when working your way down the sales process.

Discovery call

Once you establish a connection with your prospects, a discovery call is an essential part of the process. Unlike a cold call, the discovery one will grant you insight into the company's policy and potential needs.

Evaluation

With all the information gathered so far, you can determine what to do next. Depending upon how qualified the prospect is, you will learn whether your services are required. It is not enough to be familiar with the business's pain points. You need to figure out the objections, too. At times, the budget or timeline that the company in question has may directly affect how the deal will end.

Closing

The final stage is quite apparent. Use all the data on the prospect's needs, challenges and objections you’ve collected to convince them that your offer is a good fit and convert the prospect into a paying customer. After that, you should be ready to accept lost deals and won cases, since this is how the sales industry is designed to work.

Inbound and outbound prospecting

Sales prospecting is a multi-layer operation consisting of various stages and details that can pre-determine its success or effectiveness. A while ago, salespeople had to choose between either outbound prospecting or the inbound one. Both techniques are aimed at the same outcome but rely on different approaches.

Outbound prospecting – implies that the leads you reach out to haven't shown interest in your business so far. Most salespeople use the method to identify prospects via popular platforms, such as LinkedIn or Google.
Inbound prospecting – implies that the prospects in question have expressed interest in those solutions that your business offers. Some of them may visit your website, ask for a contact form or reach out to you first. So, the main task to figure out at this point is whether their requests coincide with the services you provide.

As you can see, the methods differ from one another crucially. However, in order to achieve the best results, it is advised to combine both outbound prospecting with the inbound variant.

Prospecting email samples

With all the sales prospecting tips in mind, you may forget one simple thing – the way you compose your emails matters greatly. There are a few approaches that you can use when working on a prospecting email sample. It's advised to come up with a unique set of words describing your niche perfectly, yet the general idea should be the definitive pointer.

Referral outreach

Your email will be a good fit if you mention a mutual connection that has recommended you. After such an introduction, you may inquire about what the prospect may be interested in and information on the product you promote.

Additional content provision

Professional appointment generators know that if the prospect has downloaded the provided free content, it's essential to grasp and emphasize the opportunity. Usually, a prospecting email is composed to indicate your familiarity with the situation and offer additional links or content. Along with that, you can try and establish a personal meeting or call with the prospect, stating the time and date or indicating that you'll always have a spot in your schedule to free for them.

Congratulation email

If you follow the prospect's success and track all the updates in the field, you can send an email that contains genuine congratulations based on the mentioned event or award. You can also mention that the competitor you are working with is showing even greater results due to your cooperation. Don't try to show off or be pushy. Simply indicating that the product you have can improve the business's revenue or operation would be enough.

Prospect marketing

No matter how well-thought your prospecting process is, theoretical knowledge isn't enough to convert prospects into paying customers. Once you have triggered the interaction between you and the prospect, there's no time to rest. Thus, you need to provide the quality lead with all the content necessary to convince them to seal the deal. That is what prospect marketing implies.

Once you know all the pain points that the prospect faces, it becomes twice as easy to develop the content that will bring them toward a positive conclusion.

The moment you bring the prospect into the process, you have all the data to help you develop targeted content for every potential client.

While working with the marketing team, you can work on various presentations, email templates, visual and educational content. Besides, it is never a waste to automate at least some steps of the process. For example, there are tools designed to set up prepared emails or in-app popups and notifications.

Final words

Sales prospecting may seem like a tedious and complicated process. In fact, it is, if you don't know how to design the process, update, and improve it. Yet, the mentioned strategies and useful tips are generated to assist you in taming the prospecting procedure and using it to your benefit.

Together with Belkins and this useful guide at hand, you can reach the heights you couldn't have dreamed of. Process the given data and reach out to the Belkins team, our world-famous sales experts will give you the helping hand you’re looking for.

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