Sales Prospecting 101: The Complete Guide

Sales Prospecting
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Sales prospecting is a crucial step in present-day sales processes.

It helps sales reps, business development reps, and sales leaders save time by focusing on the prospects that could be potential customers.

Sadly, the processes and techniques required to close sales are changing fast, and sales reps must keep up with the trends. They must also build a mutually beneficial relationship with their present and prospective customers to maximize their sales effort.

 prospecting in sales

Sales prospecting requires you to collate a list of potential clients, make cold calls and send outbound emails with the hope of converting the prospects to paying customers.

To get the best out of sales prospecting, you need to understand the various processes and strategies for sales prospecting, prospecting tools, and outbound prospecting methods.

In this guide, we will cover;

  • What is Sales Prospecting?
  • Why is Sales Prospecting Important?
  • The Sales Prospecting Process.
  • The Difference between Sales Prospecting and Lead Generation.
  • Inbound vs Outbound Prospecting.
  • Best Sales Prospecting Tools.
  • Sales Prospecting Tips & Techniques
  • Sales Prospecting Email Sample Templates.

What is Sales Prospecting?

 sales prospecting tools

Prospecting is the deliberate effort of sales reps to find prospects and convert them to potential customers. According to HubSpot, “Sales prospecting is the process of initiating and developing new business by searching for potential clients or buyers for your products or services.”

Sales reps use sales prospecting to find and engage with their prospects (qualified leads) to generate a new business (convert the prospects to revenue-generating customers). It involves sending a cold email to a potential customer that fits your buyer persona, cold calling a prospective customer, sending an SMS, or interacting with a lead on social media channels such as LinkedIn or Twitter.

Sales prospecting uses standardized tools to conduct wide-range research on companies, identify the right people to contact, and find their contact information to set the sales process in motion.

Why is Sales Prospecting Important?

Sales prospecting refers to the activities taken by sales reps to create business opportunities for account executives through outbound calls or outbound emails. The benefits of prospecting to your business are;

1. Increase Company Revenue:

Your company’s best bet at achieving its sales target is by incorporating sales prospecting into its sales strategy. Prospecting will help you build a list of your prospects and send them personalized cold calls and emails to convert them to potential buyers.

More customers mean more deals which equals increased organizational wealth. When your sales team meets their sales target, it will increase the company’s chance of making more profits and revenue.

2. Grow Customer/Client Base:

Sales prospecting activities will help you build your customer base and increase your chances of making more money. Considering that a typical sales rep loses about 15 to 20 percent of his customer base every year due to gradual attrition, a bigger customer base will increase their chances of closing more sales deals.

A growing customer base is the best thing that could help a sales team improve its performance. Since your sales reps will have to continuously update their customer list – remove the inactive ones and add the new prospects, more customers increase your salespeople’s chance of meeting and possibly exceeding their sales target.

With a growing customer base, if you lose a customer, there’s no need to worry since you have more waiting.

3. Prospects Qualification:

Sales prospecting helps you qualify leads. To maximize your prospecting efforts, you have to qualify your sales leads by creating questions or criteria to identify the customers with a high potential of buying your product or service.

Finding and understanding your prospect’s pain points, buying process, and finance will give you valuable insights needed to send targeted messages or cold emails to the most qualified leads. The sales process can be daunting. Avoid wasting your time on prospects that won’t buy from you.

4. More Efficient Data Gathering Process:

Data gathering is a crucial step in present-day sales processes.

Sales prospecting will help your salespeople gather current and valuable business data about the prospective clients.

No information is irrelevant when it comes to prospecting. Some prospecting tools like direct mail or web surveys help salespeople find information about the prospect’s purchase determinant and product or service preference to develop sales-driven tactics and strategies to improve work performance.

The Sales Prospecting Process

 prospecting sales

To achieve the best result, you must follow the following prospecting process,

Create a Target List:

Before you start the prospecting process, you need to know who your sales efforts and messages will target.

As a salesperson, the large number of clients or customers you interact with daily can overwhelm and set you off track. Be specific as possible to help you focus and target the right customers.

Consider asking yourself questions like;

  • What industries do we (your company) serve?
  • What level of buyers do I need to set up sales meetings with?
  • Does any particular company meet my requirement of an ideal target buyer?
  • Who am I already connected with?
  • What events could trigger the need for our product or service?

After you have provided answers to the above questions, your target list should include;

Existing Customers:

It is a best practice you keep a regularly updated list of all your current customers and accounts, their recent activities, and other important information that can help you maximize sales.

Previous Customers:

You should maintain a continuous relationship with your previous clients – individuals and organizations. A simple email, SMS, or call follow-up at scheduled times in a month will help you stay updated on new changes or developments in the company for possible sales transactions.

Past Opportunites:

Your target list should include information about opportunities you have explored in the past, the facilitator, and the full details of what you offered in the past to get the business opportunity.

Network or Connections:

Consider adding all your relevant connections and networks to explore the opportunities they could offer you.

Qualified Leads:

Your target list should include a list of your high valued sales target – organizations, individuals, or projects. Adding a list of people or organizations that can benefit from your product or service in the future will help you develop effective sales strategies and action plans.

Research and Qualify Your Prospects:

Prospect research and qualification is a crucial sales prospecting processes.

Search for everything you can about your potential clients or buyers to decide whether they are a good fit for your product or service. Research is critical for crafting and sending our personalized emails in B2B outbound prospecting. Also, in B2B sales, you can get your prospects’ information from their social media accounts.

Qualifying your prospects helps you determine whether they are worth targeting or not. Prospecting qualification ranks the possibility of a sales prospect converting to a paying customer.

To keep track of the activities that are going on with your prospects,

Review their Social media Pages:

What better way can you engage with your prospects than social media.

With social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, you can check out what’s going on with your prospects – their job, recent achievements, and projects. Social media research will help you discover how you propose your business solutions to them.

Check out their Website:

Exploring your prospect’s website will help you understand what they do and how you can be of service to them. You can also discover some of your prospect’s pain points to help you create a sales pitch on how you can help them solve their business problems.

Google is your Friend:

You can search for your prospect’s business on Google alerts to discover important information about them. Alternatively, you can search on Google News to check out the latest news about their industry or company.

Develop your Sales Offer:

After completing the hard work of getting information about your prospects and qualifying them based on their needs, pain points, and financial capacity. The next step is to refine your offers and tailor them to meet their needs – making them an offer they can’t reject.

For instance, if your product or service is a software, tech device, corporate training courses, financial product, or a sales and marketing plan, your offer has to discuss how your company’s product or service can help the prospects solve their problem. So if you notice from research that the marketing campaigns of your prospect’s company are underperforming, your offer to such prospect can describe how your product or service can help them develop better campaigns.

In B2B outbound prospecting, it is best practice for sales development representatives to understand some factors that influence buying decisions. The five whys of B2B sales are;

  • Why listen?
  • Why care?
  • Why change?
  • Why now?
  • Why you?

Prospecting Offers

Offer 1: New Idea:

According to research by Rain Group, 64% of buyers admit that a seller’s ability to provide them with new ideas and insights highly influenced their purchase decision. When you present your prospects with new ideas or perspectives on how they can improve their performance and show them that you have their interest in mind.

Offer 2: Show Results

It is not enough to share an idea or explain how your product/service can be beneficial to your prospects. You have to share results of how your products have achieved a goal – by generating an income or return on investment.

Offer 3: Best Practice

If you have information about new developments in the field or industry of your prospects, consider sharing valuable information about what’s changing in the industry, why they should care, and how to explore these opportunities. You can achieve this by sharing whitepapers, guides, or a link to a competitor that has incorporated the new updates in their activities.

Offer 4: Demonstration of Your Capabilities

Seeing is believing. Interestingly, this also applies to outbound prospecting.

Your sales prospects want to see how exactly you have achieved what you claimed you did. Especially for tech products or services that promise increased sales productivity and successful prospecting, sharing product demos increases your chances of closing more deals.

Offer 5: The First Step Approach

This approach is one of the most effective sales offers used by sales development reps to convert a prospect into a customer. The idea behind this is that you request them to perform a simple task or offer valuable information – a first step to achieving your main goal.

Your first approach to your prospects could be inviting them to a webinar or attaching a whitepaper or a link to an article/video that will provide them with the information they can’t resist. This approach allows you to follow up with them and stand a chance to move them down the sales funnel.

Build a Prospecting Campaign:

The sales process involves using multiple sales outreach channels to reach prospective buyers in the sales cycle.

To achieve this, you must create an attraction campaign – a series of coordinated messages with strong value-based offers sent from multiple channels to help you set up a sales meeting with your potential buyers.

A sales representative needs to consider sending the sales pitch through several touch points like email, phone, social media, and emails to reach and possibly, organize a meeting with the prospects.

Some specific sales outbound prospecting strategies like cold calling and sending cold emails with personalized messages to a potential customer increase your stakes of success.

To improve your sales productivity, ensure that you list the multiple communication channels – social media, emails, calls – that you will be using and craft the personalized message you wish to send across all channels.

The Difference between Sales Prospecting and Lead Generation.

 what is prospecting in sales

Sales prospecting and lead generation are two essential activities in the sales process. They govern how a sales team finds prospective customers and converts them to revenue-generating customers.

Sales Lead VS Sales Prospects

On the other hand, a sales lead and prospects are two intricate elements in the prospecting and lead generation process. Although often used interchangeably, they have different meanings.

A sales lead is any person who may or may not be a potential customer while a sales prospect is any person qualified fit to be your potential customer and will most likely buy from you soon.

All prospects are leads, but not all leads are prospects. Your lead can be a person that visited your website, left a comment on your social media post, or called to inquire about your products or service, while a prospect is a lead that you qualified as profitable based on some sales parameters.

So what then are lead generation and prospecting?

Lead Generation VS Sales Prospecting

Lead generation involves creating relevant content and web experiences such as blog posts, digital advertisements, videos, webinars, and gated content to generate leads. It is majorly the responsibility of the marketing department.

For example, a B2B marketing team can develop a white paper, guides, or ebooks on a trending subject for professionals and request their contact information – name, email addresses, and job titles to access the document. After this, they will compile the contact information with a customer relationship management tool before transferring it to the sales department.

Meanwhile, Sales prospecting is the process of qualifying leads into prospects. It is the primary responsibility of the sales department. Prospecting requires the sales reps to craft targeted and personalized messages to prospects and build a business relationship with them.

How to Find Sales Prospects?

If you are looking to expand your sales pipeline, consider using some of these strategies;

Social Media:

Use social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to promote your products or services. These social platforms will enable you to interact with your potential customers and create a business connection.

Use Sales CRM and Automation Tools:

There are tons of sales CRM and automation tools that you can use to manage and interact with all your potential clients.

Host a Webinar:

Webinars are one of the most effective means of getting more clients. Search for trending topics, new developments, and interesting subjects to talk about and host a webinar on this with an industry expert.

Stay in Touch with Old Clients for Referrals:

Never forget your old customers. Keep in touch with them for better opportunities. There is the possibility that your old client has changed job, gotten a promotion, or could be working on a new project that is relevant to you.

Aside from this, your previous clients can also refer you to their colleagues or associates that might need your company’s product or service. The takeaway is that you should never underestimate the power of an old client.

Inbound vs Outbound Prospecting

 sales prospecting techniques

You can achieve prospect generation in two ways – inbound (targeted) prospecting and outbound (proactive) prospecting.

Inbound prospecting is the deliberate act of creating and promoting marketing content on social media and websites to entice buyers by prompting them to call for inquiries, visit the website, or register for service.

Meanwhile, Outbound prospecting is the proactive steps a sales rep takes to introduce the product or service to a potential buyer with the hope of generating new leads and selling.

Most lead generation strategies involve inbound prospecting while sales prospecting strategies involve outbound prospecting.

Forms of Inbound prospecting

  • Cold calling is one of the oldest sales prospecting methods still relevant in the present-day sales prospect process. It involves making unsolicited (cold) calls to a prospect in the sales process to sell your products or services.
  • Cold Emailing: Like cold calls, cold emails are unsolicited sales emails sent to a prospect to start a conversation, create a business relationship, and ultimately sell to them. It requires more strategies like email targeting and personalization to achieve the objectives.
  • Social Media Prospecting: This is the use of social media to gather information about the prospect or contact them. Social Media prospecting is highly achievable with LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. These social platforms allow you to access prospects’ profiles to build a mutual connection.

Forms of Outbound prospecting.

  • Social Selling: This includes all deliberate efforts to sell a product/service on social media. Social selling is the use of social media to interact with prospects that have engaged with the business on social media either by commenting on a post, liking a social media post, or sending a dm.
  • Warm Emailing: involves sending sales emails to prospects that engaged with your business on social media or the company website. You send warm emails to people that visited your website or signed up for a newsletter or product demo. Also, check out SaaS sales and tech sales.

Best Sales Prospecting Tools

There are lots of prospecting tools available for the sales teams. Consider experimenting with the following tools to decide on which works best for you;

1. Sloovi Outreach

 what is sales prospecting

Sloovi’s Outreach is an all-in-one platform that enables your sales and marketing teams to accelerate, manage and enhance campaigns by managing leads, automating sales outreach, developing customized reports, and managing the sales pipeline.

Sloovi Outreach will enable your sales teams to smash your sales target, reduce cost, and improve sales productivity by tracking your daily sales workflow, creating customized and intuitive reports, scheduling more meetings, and prioritizing leads with dynamic Smart Views.

Outreach offers four services;

  • Lead generation: This feature helps you manage all your leads from a unified platform. It also allows you to add thousands of sales leads and prioritize and track every integration with a sales lead.
  • Cold Outreach automation: This feature will enable you to send personalized, scalable, and automated sales outreach via emails, global calls, and SMS.
  • Report Creation: This feature provides sales leaders with all the insights about the activities of their sales reps
  • Manage Pipelines: This feature tracks all the deals you are about to crack as they travel through each sales stage.

2. HubSpot

 email subject lines for sales prospecting

Hubspot CRM tracks your sales activities and sources new qualified leads. You can also manage your sales pipeline, log your sales rep’s activities, store information about all your contact in one location, and interact with the contacts in real-time. The Hubspot CRM allows you to call your prospects directly to streamline communication.

The functional advantage of the HubSpot is that it helps your sales rep build qualified leads from monitored website visits and store prospects’ contact and work information. You can also manage prospecting tasks such as scheduling calls and meetings and tracking business deals.

The CRM will also help you nurture your customers – send personalized emails, and measure the success of your prospecting efforts.

3. Sales Hub

 sales prospecting sales email examples

The sales hub email tracking alerts you when prospects open your emails, click on links or open the email attachment. This tool also provides detailed information on your prospect’s email engagement by monitoring your emails and enabling you to send and schedule emails.

The functional advantage of this prospecting tool is that it provides detailed information about your prospect’s response to your email. It also helps you schedule another email to your sales prospects after a failed one.

4. HubSpot Prospect Tool

 sales prospecting definition

This tool can help you track your website in real-time. With this tool, you can determine your website’s engagement rate and provides information about the people using your website to aid follow-up.

The functional advantage of the HubSpot prospect tool is its ability to customize email notifications for all your sales reps. The filtering criteria help you identify and organize your prospects by location and company size. You can equally automate a regular email notification to high-value prospects.

5. Hunter

 sales prospecting software

This email lookup tool helps you find the email addresses of your target list. Aside from this, Hunter can help you automate your prospect outreach by creating cold email campaigns and scheduling follow-ups from your Gmail account.

Hunter prospecting tool has three tools available for your email lookup,

1. Domain Search: this tool can help your sales reps find emails of all the employees in a particular company and segment their contacts based on their departments/levels.

2. Email Finder: this can help you find the emails of any employee of interest by entering their email in the email finder.

3. Author Finder: this allows you to find the email address of an article author by entering the article URL into the search box.

6. Twitter

 sales prospecting process

I bet that you are wondering what Twitter is doing on this list? The thing about Twitter is that it can help you get more detailed sales-oriented information about your prospects. Twitter gives you an idea about what your sales prospects consider as important.

You can show interest or engage with your prospects on Twitter by retweeting, liking, or commenting on their tweets. Doing this shows them that you have their interest at heart – an opportunity to warm them up before sending them your sales pitch.

The functional advantage of Twitter is its advanced search feature that allows your sales representatives to sift through the prospect’s feed and monitor their interests. For example, if your sales prospect posts a product review on you or your competitor’s products, this can be a perfect opportunity for you to respond and start a conversation with them.

7. LinkedIn Company Directory

 sales prospecting tool

A LinkedIn directory can provide your information on the various companies on LinkedIn and their recent updates to stay updated on their industry news or developments, marketing campaigns, company events, product launches, and current projects.

This tool can help you find stakeholders and decision-makers and explore opportunities around them. The information and updates gotten from the LinkedIn company directory can also help determine the perfect time to start engaging your prospects.

8. Google Alerts

 prospecting definition sales

This powerful social listening tool allows you to monitor the mentions of a company’s name, product, competitors, or industry trends on the web.

You can customize alerts to send you real-time, daily, weekly, or monthly updates on relevant keywords to tailor your outreach to your prospects.

9. Evernote

 b2b sales prospecting

This prospecting tool will help you stay efficient and organized by taking notes and syncing them across mobile, desktop, and web apps.

While on an exploratory prospecting call, you can use Evernote to take note of pain points, company details, and action plans.

10. Kixie

 best sales prospecting tools

This prospecting application uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help you connect with more prospects. Its full-voice and SMS enterprise phone platform can assist you with your voicemails, create a virtual receptionist, and transfer calls.

Kixie can be integrated with HubSpot to automatically log all your communication with prospects and create sales touchpoints.

11. Datanyze

 sales prospecting methods

This tool tracks competitors and alerts you when a company or individual starts or stops using the competitor’s products.

It also allows you to connect with prospects who recently stopped using your competitor’s solutions to engage and try to sell to them while they are looking for better options.

Sales Prospecting Tips.

Your sales productivity depends on your ability to study and implement the following tips in your sales process.

1. Develop your Ideal Prospect Profile:

As a salesperson, you interact with many prospects and leads daily, and trying to engage with them could lead to burnout.

How do you manage this?

Consider taking time to identify your ideal customer profile – criteria about them, their company, and industry to simplify your sales process.

Ask yourself questions like – Who are your best ten customers? Who are the worst ten Customers? What particular problem or pain point did you help them solve? Who are the most profitable customers? Who are the least profitable?

After this, create a profile for each of the groups and use these profiles for future prospecting.

2. List out possible ways to meet your prospects:

Like the first tip, consider creating a list of your past prospects’ meeting places. This list should include important information like – How did you meet your previous sales prospects? What tools or social media platforms did you use to simplify the process? How long did it take? Where can you find your sales prospects – digital or Social media platforms?

Answering this will give insights into how you can connect with your prospects.

3. Create and Regularly Update your Call List:

To achieve the best results in prospecting, sales reps must create their client’s and prospects’ call lists. This list will combine your cold call prospects, warm call prospects, and lost the lead. Your cold call list should include all contact details of your sales prospects, while the warm list should include contacts of prospects that you have already engaged with for follow-up calls.

The lost lead list should contact details of the leads you dropped for past reasons. Ensure that these lists are updated regularly. You must also ensure that you ask about their pain points, needs, and especially their thoughts with regards to their purchase decision.

Send Personalized Emails:

I can’t stress this enough. The success of your prospecting plan depends on your ability to personalize and target prospects in your emails.

The success of your outbound sales effort depends on your ability to highlight your prospect’s pain points and flaunt your research capabilities.

Ensure that you do your research on your prospects before calling or sending them emails. Personalized emails show your prospects that your email is international and made for them.

Consider some of these examples;

Request for referrals:

Nothing beats the joy of a satisfied customer. When you successfully solve a customer’s problem and help them improve their performance, they will be willing to refer you to their connections.

 prospecting for sales

Referrals are considered powerful in B2B sales, as research revealed that 73% of executives prefer to work with salespeople referred to them by their connection. If you have successfully satisfied your customer, take your chance by asking for referrals.

Sales Prospecting Techniques

Consider the following sales prospecting techniques to up your prospecting game;

1. Make warm Calls:

To increase your chances of success, try to make a self-introduction call with your prospects. Since you don’t necessarily have to sell to them to convert them, consider creating a connection with them before revealing your email or call intentions.

Warm-up to your prospects and let them get comfortable with you before introducing your products.

2. Set yourself as a Though-leader:

Before you send them emails about your company’s solutions, you can start sharing valuable information and writing about your industry trends, new technologies, and development/policies.

Showing this intellectual side will help them see you as a credible and knowledgeable person they will consider giving you their time.

3. Consider Using a Pre-developed Sales Script:

Although many experienced sales reps recommend not using a sales script, you might want to use this to get your words, offers, and thoughts together.

It’s human to make some errors hence, to prepare yourself for such a situation, consider using a prospecting template that best fits your service areas.

4. Try not to sell on first contact:

Your sales prospects must see you as a resourceful and helpful person, rather than a sales freak to buy from you. Consider building relationships and a foundation of trust when prospecting.

You don’t want to put your prospect under undue pressure to buy from you at all costs. In sales, no prospect is useless. If they don’t buy from you now, they can still buy from you in the future.

5. Create an introductory video:

You might want to consider creating a short, self-introductory video about you, a topic of interest, or your business discovery to share with your prospects. Ensure that your video introduces you and addresses an important industry topic that would interest your prospects.

Remember that the idea of this is to familiarise yourself with your prospects and not be too invasive.

6. Get Active on Q&A Forums:

So we have established the fact that positioning yourself as an expert in your industry builds your credibility with prospects and increases your chances of getting them to listen to you.

However, considering the busy schedules of your prospects and the myriad of activities that go on every day, it might be tough to showcase your expertise to your busy prospects.

An easy way to achieve this is by sharing your knowledge on forums and career-based groups on social media. When you share valuable insights, resources, and content on your prospect’s topic of interest, they could notice you and give you an audience when you eventually write to them.

Prospecting Email Sample Templates.

1. Provide value in your email:

 sales prospecting emails

Consider adding some valuable information in the email body to entice your prospects and get them to listen to you.

2. Congratulate them:

 sales prospecting quotes

If you discovered in your research that your prospect recently gained a job promotion, got a new job,o received an award, started a new company, or launched their book, consider congratulating them on this recent achievement to gain their attention.

3. Offer help

 sales prospecting quotes

You don’t want to piss off your prospect in your first email or call. Instead, show your email prospects how you can help them. Tell them how your product solution can solve their pain point or increase their revenue.

4. Build rapport based on mutual interest.

 sales prospecting email

If you notice that your prospect is interested in a particular field or topic, consider leveraging on this to start your email.