The foundational root of all success in sales is a fanatical focus on prospecting.
-Jeb Blount, Author of Fanatical Prospecting.
Do you ever wonder how successful sales reps always seem to be talking to prospects and closing more deals, raking in commissions, bonuses, and prizes?
They prospect, prospect, and prospect. They prospect like there is no tomorrow. They make sales prospecting their mantra.
Or like Jeb Blount would say, these top performers prospect like fanatics.
Prospecting day in and day out ensures that your sales pipeline doesn't stagnate – that there is a steady stream of warm/hot prospects for your sales team to convert into revenue-generating customers and gives you a predictable income to work with.
The real secret to sustained success for a sales rep is continuous prospecting.
What Is Sales Prospecting?
Sales prospecting, the first step of the outbound sales process, is the process of searching, filtering, identifying, and reaching out to prospects who have the highest likelihood of converting to customers.
However, to understand the sales prospecting process better, let’s first break down the basics. Who is a prospect? Who is the lead?
Aaron Ross, the author of the modern sales bible, Predictable Revenue, has the answer:
Prospects are a database of names or a list that you are marketing to, to which people have not responded positively yet.
Leads are prospects that have responded positively in some way to show their interest in what you have to offer, such as registering for a white paper or attending a webinar.
How To Prepare For Prospecting?
Before you sit down to prospect, lay down some groundwork to ensure you find the right people through the right channel. Here’s what you need before starting:
- Define your ICP: The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a profile of a business or a particular role in a company that has the most common characteristics of all of your best customers/users. For example: Do people from a particular industry find your solution more useful? Are all your customers medium-sized businesses? Having a detailed, well-defined ICP gives much-needed clarity and a common ground for both the marketing and sales teams to qualify inbound and outbound leads.
To know more about how to create your ICP, head to this blog.
- Set realistic quotas: For SDRs, the sales managers decide the sales quota based on the organization's overall revenue goals. It can be the number of meetings you need to book or the number of deals you need to close during a period of time. Your sales quota will depend on how well you forecast and 1. Historical information from your previous sales cycles, 2. The overall business goals, and 3. The current market scenario.
- Decide on the prospecting tools: Manual prospecting has its limits. Getting thousands of emails and contact information of prospects from websites, and transferring them to your CRM, can be extremely time-consuming, and quite boring as opposed to the enticing sales job that you signed up for. Keeping a tab on the countless messages and follow-ups between you and your prospects can get chaotic, and precious deals could fall through the cracks. That’s why you need a prospecting tool. While it’s not a Tylenol for your boredom, it does cut your work down by half. You can choose tools for lead generation, outreach at scale, or even prospecting on LinkedIn.
How To Find New Prospects?
Without a proper plan, prospecting can be quite like walking on a treadmill, with massive hard work and no gratification–at least in the short run. But approaching it like game day with a solid strategy will help you win in the long run because your pipeline will never be dry again.
So here’s how to build that solid game-day prospecting process. We break down the different steps involved in prospecting, tips on getting better, and share templates to use for outbound prospecting.
Step 1: Identifying Prospects and List Building
The ICP is ready.
Your quota is set. You know how many prospects you need to fill the pipeline.
And you have the chosen prospecting tools.
Use sales prospecting tools like Aeroleads or Leedfeeder to find and build a list of prospects that match your ICP criteria–whether that’s 5, a hundred, or a thousand. You’ll get the prospects’ full names and contact info–albeit not all that reliable–in a list. This data is still rough on the edges–there will be missing emails, second names, company names, etc. In such cases, you can use email finder tools to get email IDs, LinkedIn to find decision makers and their professional information, and sales intelligence tools like G2.com or Crunchbase for their tech stack and company information.
Alternatively, if you want to make a smaller, more targeted prospect list with very reliable information, use LinkedIn to get prospect data, and get Linkport to import all of that prospect data directly to your CRM works with Salesforce, Zoho, Hubspot and Pipedrive.
Protip: Look for decision-makers. Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify relevant decision-makers.
Never bank on a single person from your prospect or target account. G2’s buyer behavior report, 2022, reveals that there are 22 distinct roles involved in the buying process. So, if you want to boost your chances of bagging the deal, you have to identify them and craft conversations around these stakeholder’s motivations.
That’s not the only reason, prospects could switch teams, roles, and companies, too.
Step 2: Qualify Prospects
Qualifying is about identifying those prospects from your list who are most likely to be your customers. To determine this, you need to understand your prospects on three levels of the hierarchy:
- Organizational Level – where you evaluate if their company is the right fit.
- Opportunity Level – where you identify the prospect’s sales readiness. Do they have a real need, the budget for your solution at that moment in time?
- Stakeholder Level – where you identify the key decision-making personnel within the organization. Qualifying prospects at the stakeholder level is to map the organization's decision-making structure and identify the key decision-making personnel.
Since we’ve already built lists that do the first round of qualification at an organizational level, here’s what you should do to qualify these prospects at opportunity and stakeholder levels. The best approach is to ask them qualifying questions during your outreach.
Here are some of the questions you can ask them to qualify prospects at the opportunity and stakeholder level:
- What parts of their current process do they struggle the most with?
- What specific problems or pain points do they observe?
- Are there any specific features/functions they are looking for?
- What does their budget look like?
- What does their buying timeline look like: Is this an urgent purchase or one for later down the line?
Besides this basic framework for sales qualification, you can use well-established lead qualification methodologies like BANT, or CHAMP to ask your questions. Here is a little introduction for each of these:
BANT lead qualification methodology is fairly simple. Ideal for SMBs or if you have a low-cost or simple solution that caters to the masses. BANT stands for:
- Budget: Can they afford your product?
- Authority: Do they have the Authority to sign off on your product?
- Need: Does the product solve any pain points for their business?
- Time: When are they likely to make the purchase?
Though often dispensed as an outdated sales technique, you can still adapt BANT to today's sales scenario.
CHAMP is a technique similar to BANT. But here, instead of focusing more on the prospect's budget, you should focus more on the company's challenges and organizational structure.
- Challenges: What are the Challenges faced by your lead?
- Authority: Who has the Authority within the company?
- Money: Do they have money to implement your solution?
- Prioritization: Where does your product feature in their list of Priorities?
MEDDIC is a sales qualification technique best suited for enterprise solutions that tend to have longer sales cycles. It helps you filter leads effectively by gaining crucial insights into 6 key components of the prospect.
According to this sales technique, you should ask questions about the prospect's:
- Metrics: How does your solution impact their company?
- Economic Buyer: Who is going to fund the solution?
- Decision Criteria: What are their decision-making criteria?
- Decision Process: What are the steps involved in the decision-making process?
- Identifying Pain: What pain point does your product solve?
- Champion: Is there an advocate for your product within the company
Step 3: Reach Out to Prospects with Personalized Messaging
Spraying and praying is not effective. Period. Because of the large volume of sales and marketing emails people have received over the years have made them wary of emails that are irrelevant to them, resulting in eroding trust in salespeople.
‘Irrelevant’ is the key term to note. G2.com’s 2022 report on Buyer Behavior reveals that a little more than half of the 1,022 people surveyed reported that they wanted salespeople to proactively engage with them early in the purchasing process. But, in reality buyers involve reps only in the final stages of the sale, mainly owing to a lack of trust in salespeople.
In order to be trustworthy, SDRs have to target the right companies and individuals, and have the right messaging sent through relevant communication channels. The channel you use more often may not be the one others use often. For example, salon owners may be more reachable on WhatsApp than LinkedIn. While you have to take a multichannel approach to your outreach, do it strategically.
Here’s how you should actually reach out to prospects:
1. Send Personalized Cold Emails That Are Relevant to the Prospect
- Use personalized, short, collar-yanking subject lines to ensure your email gets noticed.
- Start with a pattern interrupting introduction. You could start with a harmless joke, an introduction that is direct to the point or a personalized compliment.
- Explain What Is In It For Them (WIIIFT). In other words, explain your company's offerings, how you can help potential customers and how you are different from others.
- Add a clear and compelling call to action. Do you want the prospect to respond to your mail, download a resource, book a meeting or start a free trial? You ask them to do that in a small line of text, as nicely as possible.
- End it with an email signature. Your email signature should tell prospects who you are and where they can find more details about you and your company.
From Line: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject Line: Xenex's Annual Event Hi Rami, We helped the Chicago Cubs go from 300 to 3000 unique site conversions in under 5 months. Honestly, it was one of those 'Cinderella' moments for us. Guessing that you might be pushing out content regularly but are unable to convert the incoming traffic--just like the Cubs? It's quite common for newly scaling companies to face such issues. We interviewed 10 digital marketers who 3x their website's conversion rates to discover what mix of content and CRO activities they deployed to convert visitors. I'm writing to check if you'd like to watch, listen or even read the transcript of the interview. Mike out, SDR @ Klenty California
Looking for more cold email templates your prospects can't help but reply to? Check here.
2. Make Strategic Cold Calls
Cold calling is the simple act of picking up your phone to call potential buyers and pitch your offerings.
Here's a 4-step framework to cold call effectively:
Step 1: Before you pick up the phone, perfect your tone of voice. Start the call by introducing yourself. Don't wait for the prospects to ask about your whereabouts. Then, take advantage of various pattern interrupting techniques to ensure they stay on call attentively.
Step 2: Assure them they aren't victims of another spray and pray sales campaign. Show them you know them by talking about something they care about, like the industry they belong to, their recent social media posts, or even an award they received recently. Gradually move to the reason for your call -tell them how you can impact their businesses. Garner enough social proof to support your claims.
Step 3: How fast do they want to solve their problem? This is the basic question you need to find the answer to in this step. Use various sales techniques like a SPIN model to gauge their sales readiness. The next step you take depends on this.
Step 4: If they say solving the problem is a priority, send them a demo meeting invite then and there. If they understand the problem but need more convincing about how your product can help, a presentation explaining the same would be the next logical step. If they want to table this conversation for the next quarter or year, respect their decision but continue delivering value in the form of emails and downloadables so that you'll be their first choice when the time comes.
Want to know more about this foolproof cold-calling framework? Read here.
3. Get On The Social Selling Wagon
Social selling is the concept of using social media as a prospecting channel. SDRs share content, keep their profiles updated, engage with the community and leverage their credibility and LinkedIn presence to sell.
It's the modern way of building meaningful relationships with potential customers. You can identify and analyze your prospect's behavior, preferences, triggers, and pain points that can later help you cater to their needs and provide solutions to their problems.
Here are some of the popular social media platforms you can leverage to ramp up your prospecting efforts:
- Outreach on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is where professionals are right now. And the best part is they are there to meet their professional goals. Come to think of it, what a time to be alive for a salesperson. This is the one place where people vent about their problems and pain points at work. B2B sales professionals can swoop in and grow conversations leaps and bounds. There’s a lot of information you can pick up about the prospect from LinkedIn–where they went to school, work, mutual connections. All of which can be used as icebreaker questions.
Here are a bunch of linkedIn message templates that our in-house reps use to start conversations.
- Maybe Twitter, too
Twitter is a road less taken when it comes to prospecting. But this semi-professional, laid-back space, with 396 million users, can still be used to prospect effectively. Here’s how:
- Find keywords and hashtags that you think your prospects might search for. Follow those who match your ICP from those who follow these keywords and hashtags. Also, stalk your competitors and emulate their strategy - who are they following? Who’s following them back? What are they up to on Twitter?
- Squint your eyes for prospects with pain points. People are more vocal about their problems on Twitter, whether personal or professional. You might catch prospects ranting about an issue you could solve or asking opinions about similar tools like yours.
- Don’t waltz in with your sales pitch when you find potential customers with pain points. Take a step back and search for ways to serve them. If they need help with something that comes under your expertise, reach out to them with a solution. If it lies outside your expertise, retweet their tweet to show you care. Remember that a retweet is better than a Twitter message that reeks of your desperation for sale.
Protip: Use the Twitter Lists feature to segment the audience the way you like. You can organize your lists in endless ways, from company to designation to activity on Twitter.
Social Selling on Facebook can be trickier than the others, as it's more personal. Sending friend requests to prospects or business associates can come across as intrusive. The best way is to create a Facebook page for your company and then reach out to these people. It's easy to garner attention (likes, comments, and shares) on Facebook if you provide thoughtful and valuable content.
There are other social media channels like Quora, Reddit, Instagram, Youtube, etc.; that sales reps have started catching up on. Each platform has its own merits, and utilizing them to its maximum potential can help increase your brand awareness and pull in many new leads in the long run.
4. Leverage Other Lead Gen Techniques
84% of decision-makers rely on word-of-mouth to start their b2b purchasing process. This is the reason why referral prospects are often the hottest. Brokered by a client who knows you first-hand and trusts your product, their recommendation will carry some weight in the referred prospect's mind.
To prospect successfully using referrals, you need to create a successful B2B referral program. Here's how you can do it:
Step 1: Identify customers ready to give you referrals through the Net Promoter Score(NPS) system. Net Promoter Score asks your existing customers one question- How likely are you to recommend our product to a friend on a scale of 10? Those prospects who score between 9 and 10 are your loyal customers and will most likely give you referrals.
Step 2: Create a referral program that is easily shareable, clear in its messaging, and asks only for essential details. Remember that your customers agreed to do you a favor, and making the referral process complex and time-consuming will result in them pulling away.
Step 3: Aid your customers in crafting the referral message. You can either give them templates or prompts to craft their message or go the extra mile to create the most impactful message for them.
Step 4: Reward your referees. Rewards can be awarded to referees through discounts or real cash.
Conferences and events are a gravy train for a sales rep who understands and leverages them to meet their needs. It’s a great way to network, find important people, and open communication channels with new businesses.
This in-person prospecting technique can prove to be highly productive if you have a proper game plan.
- Choose your events wisely. Think what conferences your target buyer will most likely attend and just go to those. Eg: SaaStr is a great conference to attend if you are in the B2B SaaS industry.
- Find out who will be attending beforehand. The list of attendees (or exhibitors) is easily available these days; you can get them from the official website or scour social media to learn who will be attending. This will help you map an attack plan on who you want to talk to.
- Apart from talking to these people, you can network. Go around handing out your business card, and you might pique someone's interest in your product/service.
- Remember that all the talking you do here should be short and crisp. You aren't pitching, so don't go off into a Don Draper-esque monologue about your product. It is tempting to pitch right then and there to impress them but resist that urge. All you have to do is get on your prospect's radar and see if they're worth pursuing.
Sales Prospecting Tools
Prospecting takes time, effort, and resources. And one way to save either one or all three is to use modern sales prospecting tools. These tools can help you scrape a prospect’s contact information with minimal resources from various websites and social networks. Your sales rep can further automate their workflow by integrating these tools into the CRM to bypass manual data entry.
And since we have been screaming our lungs out from the beginning that sales reps should always keep prospecting, we thought we’d list down a few best tools to help them be more productive.
Klenty is a sales prospecting and email automation tool that helps sales reps prospect, outreach, and follow up at scale. With Klenty, you can search and build a list of prospects, find and send personalized one-to-one cold emails, schedule follow-ups, and track the open/click/reply rates. Klenty automates a rep's workflow, improves productivity, and increases conversions with reduced manual effort.
Clearbit is a sales intelligence tool that lets sales reps target high-converting prospects. It offers more than 100 technographic and firmographic data points to build your ICP and gives an idea of their buying intent. This helps sales reps to reach out to those high-intent leads with the right message at the right time.
3. LinkedIn Sales Navigator
One of the best sales tools for social selling, LinkedIn Sales Navigator helps sales reps target the right buyers and companies, keeps track of key leads and company changes, and helps you reach out and engage with prospects.
To learn more about how to use LinkedIn sales navigator, head to our blog.
Adapt.io is a free suite of tools and connectors that help you with lead generation and prospect engagement. Advanced filters and confidence scores build powerful lists for highly pinpointed targeting and integrate with LinkedIn, Gmail, and other tools to adapt to your workflow and improve your productivity.
Sales Prospecting Strategies You Should Remember
- Make Full Use of LinkedIn
LinkedIn gives you a bird’s eye view of your prospects, like their company size, job title, and educational qualifications. You can also find icebreakers to personalize your outreach, like a post or comment by prospects.
But that’s not the end because you can scrape more nuanced information from this channel. For example, checking the job listings posted by your prospect’s company informs you where the company intends to spend its money. Or if you own a content optimization tool, finding out that your prospect company has recently hired content writers is good news. It implies that now is a good time to pitch your product as they are invested in content marketing.
- Prioritize Email Deliverability
If cold email outreach is one of your main outreach methods, it is essential that you focus on email deliverability to ensure your emails reach the prospect’s primary inbox. To increase the deliverability of your cold emails, avoid spam filters. Spam filters scrutinize your email content for spam-trigger words and unsafe file attachments.
If your cold emails contain these, it gets thrown to the spam folder instead of the prospect’s inbox. Here’s how to write emails to avoid spam filters.
- Adopt Multi-Channel Outreach
Don’t make the mistake of focusing only on one prospecting technique. Have a balanced prospecting methodology based on the industry, product/service, territory, and size to quickly fill up your pipeline and ensure better returns.
Ideally, there should be a strategic mix of phone calls, emails, social selling, networking, referrals, inbound leads, and face-to-face selling. Use a sales engagement platform like klenty to streamline and track your multi-channel outreach.
As much as we have preached that prospecting is a mantra and the sales rep needs to prospect every day, in today's world, the approach to sales prospecting should very much be process-driven. Having this approach will help your sales team go through a formal process to solve problems and make the process easier to be executed by the whole team. It also makes prospecting scalable.
And one prospecting technique alone won't work in reaching all your prospective buyers. You have to aim to reach people where they are spending the most time.
For example, you can send a LinkedIn request before calling them or sending an email; try getting in touch with them through social media because an email from a familiar person catches their eye.
Bottom line: A sales rep should prospect every day without fail. That is the only way to keep your sales pipeline full of potential customers. So, just prospect, prospect, and prospect.