6 Sales Prospecting Techniques
Prospecting is hard work.
It’s long hours spent identifying prospects, writing emails and hammering the phones; much of it thankless.
Really, it’s no wonder that roughly two-fifths of reps say prospecting is the toughest part of the sales process (compared to a third who say it’s closing and a fifth who say it’s qualifying leads).
Part of the challenge with prospecting in the pressure of the situation. In most cases, stakes are high. Three in four companies generating fewer than 50 new opportunities a month fail to achieve their revenue goals, versus just one in 25 companies that bring in 101 to 200 new opportunities a month.
In other words? If your prospecting isn’t up to scratch, the chances you’ll hit your sales targets are pretty slim.
What Is Sales Prospecting and Why Is It Important?
First things first, it’s important to define what we’re talking about, and why it’s so important within the larger context of the sales process.
Sales prospecting is all about finding potential buyers or clients – also known as prospects – for your product and reaching out to them, with the aim of entering them into a sales funnel they’ll stay in until, hopefully, they’re ready to buy from you.
That’s why good prospecting is so essential: the better you are at finding prospects whose needs and pain points are met by your product, the more likely you’ll to convert them into sales down the line.
Importantly, “prospect” and “lead” aren’t the same thing, and they shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Every prospect is a lead, but not every lead is a prospect:
- A lead is a potential customer who’s shown interest in your product; for example, they might have signed up for your newsletter, downloaded an ebook, or read your latest blog post. But they aren’t necessarily a good fit for you right now. Conversation with leads tends to be pretty one-sided – they might read your content, but don’t expect them to get in touch or respond to your emails. They’re effectively strangers on your mailing list.
- A prospect, on the other hand, is a lead who does fit your buyer profile, has the necessary budget, and is interested in what you have to say.
Sales Prospecting Techniques to Supercharge Your Sales
Clearly, it’s vital that you get your prospecting house in order.
One piece of the puzzle is effort – you simply must be prepared to put the time in if you’re going to see results.
But beyond a bit of good old-fashioned graft, there are several legit techniques you can use to step up your prospecting game. Find a method that works, stick with it, and a steady stream of leads will follow.
1. Block Out Prospecting Time
Think back to your college days. You’ve got a big exam coming up, and you need to prepare. What are you going to do – carry your books around with you all day, every day, in the hopes that you’ll find time for an occasional 15-minute burst of studying? Or block out a chunk of time when you can sit down and be focused? Chances are the second option will produce the best results.
It’s no different with prospecting. Salespeople are constantly surrounded by noise, and there’s always something else you could be doing. Unless you make the time for prospecting, you won’t give it the focus it deserves. And if you’re not prospecting effectively, don’t expect the deals to follow.
Just be sure your blocks of prospecting time align with the periods in which your potential customers are likely to be available. If you’re going to reach out to them, you want to give yourself the best chance possible of receiving an immediate response.
2. Cash In On Your Existing Network
One of the key differences between the best salespeople and the also-rans? The desire to make their network work for them.
And why shouldn’t they? Once you’ve taken the time to build a strong relationship with a prospect and demonstrated that you can add real value for them, why wouldn’t you ask if you can do the same for their friends and colleagues?
It sounds so simple. And yet an astonishing number of reps are missing out.
Almost half of top-performing sales reps ask for referrals from their network on a consistent basis – either every day, or every time they’re in front of a prospect. That proportion drops to just one-quarter among reps who aren’t top performers. Non-top performers are also far more likely to admit that they “rarely” or “never” ask for referral business.
Referrals aren’t just a nice to have; the icing on the cake of a successful deal. They’re absolutely your most reliable source of new prospects. In the B2B world, companies with referrals enjoy 70% higher conversion rates and 69% faster close times. So if you’re generating referrals, you’re selling smarter.
3. Use Events to Your Advantage
In a world of programmatic ads, laser-focused social targeting, AI and machine learning, it’s easy to dismiss event marketing as outdated. No longer relevant. Not fit for purpose.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Event marketing is absolutely still effective, particularly when it comes to B2B sales. In fact, four in five marketers believe that live events are critical to the success of their company, while a majority believe it is their single most effective marketing technique.
One of the biggest benefits of event marketing is the ability to access to a guaranteed stream of people with similar interests. These are people who could become prospects – and, eventually, paying customers.
Of course, events aren’t a silver bullet. You can’t just expect to rock up to any old conference and expect prospects to line up to meet you. As a starting point, ask the following:
- Which events will have the highest proportion of prospects (and therefore potentially offer the best ROI)?
- Which sessions and network meetups should you attend at those events?
- What will your presence look like? Will you be speaking, or operating a booth?
- How will you stand out from the crowd?
4. Do Your Research
Let’s say you’ve got a job interview. You know who’s on the panel. So what are you going to do – leave it to chance and just wait to see what they’re like? Or do your research so you’ve got the best chance of understanding what they’re likely to ask you?
Unless you didn’t want the job in the first place, you’d always go with option two.
The same goes for prospecting. While your initial phone call or email might be your first contact with a prospect, that doesn’t mean it’s your first opportunity to find out about them and anticipate their needs.
A little research goes a long way. It can help you break the ice with your prospect, anticipate their pain points, and understand how your product can provide the solution. In other words, it can turn a cold call or email into one that’s… slightly warmer. And that means you can dispense with some of the basic questions you’d otherwise need to ask, and move straight onto the important business of adding value.
5. Don’t Sell, Build Relationships
The sales process is rarely about actual selling. If you treat every contact with your prospects as a race to close the deal, you’ll end up disappointed.
Arguably more than ever before, buyers are turned off by traditional sales tactics. Asked what sales reps can do to make the buying experience more positive, 61% of buyers say the rep shouldn’t be pushy.
So what should salespeople be doing? The same study found that 69% of buyers simply want the sales rep to listen to their needs. It might sound basic, but you’d be shocked how many reps fail to simply pay attention. A further 61% want salespeople to provide relevant information.
What can you learn from this? Building lasting relationships might seem like a luxury in the high-pressure sales environment, but you’re far more likely to deliver results if you can demonstrate that you’re trustworthy and able to offer genuine value to your prospects.
6. Get Active on Q&A Forums
An extension of the previous point; prospects want to know they can trust you. That you’re worth listening to.
That means if you can demonstrate that you offer genuine expertise in your subject area, prospects are far more likely to sit up and pay attention.
But you can’t just rely on waiting to develop a relationship with a prospect to prove you’re an expert. Buyers are busy, after all. That’s why you need to find new ways to educate your audience and highlight your skill set. One of the most effective is to get involved in Q&A forums – sites like Quora and the Moz Community are a good starting point, although the best sources depends on the industry in which you operate.
Prospects who see you in action on forums will recognize the value you can add. By the time you speak to them, you’ll already be several steps further along the buyer journey.
Kick-Ass Sales Prospecting Email Templates You Can Use Right Away
Understanding the best prospecting techniques is part of the battle, but it’s also vital that, when you reach out to a prospect for the first time, you do it right. Give yourself a head start by taking advantage of these tried-and-tested prospecting email templates:
1. Connecting With a Referral
Remember when I mentioned the importance of referrals earlier? When you’ve done the hard work of asking someone in your network for a referral, it’s essential that you take full advantage by sending an effective introductory email. Something like:
Hi [first name],
[Mutual connection] gave me your details and recommended I reach out to you. I work at [your company name] – we’ve helped [mutual connection] to increase sales / get more leads / save money (some sort of eye-catching stat will help here).
I believe [your product name] could do the same thing for you. It can:
- [USP #1]
- [USP #2]
- [USP #3]
Are you available for a 10-minute call at [time and date] to find out more?
2. Offering Advice & Insight
So you’re reaching out to a cold prospect for the first time. What’s your “in?” One of my favorite tactics is to demonstrate right off the bat that you have genuine value to add:
Hi [first name],
I’m [your name], and I work at [company name]. We work with lots of companies like yours, so I’m guessing you’ve struggled with [pain point] before.
One way that I’ve seen to overcome this is [key strategy]. Based on my understanding of [industry name], here are a few ways you could action that:
- [Tip #1]
- [Tip #2]
- [Tip #3]
I’d love to talk this through in more detail. Are you available for a 10-minute call at [time and date]?
All the best,
3. Reference Their Content
Another fantastic technique for getting your prospects to sit up and take notice is to demonstrate that you’ve come prepared by referencing their own content. Something like this:
Hi [first name],
I recently read your recent ebook / article about [insert title / topic]. It was interesting how you mentioned [something interesting about the article], and I’ve already forwarded it to others in my network.
That got me thinking that you might appreciate this piece that we wrote on a similar topic: [insert your piece of content].
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Are you available for a 10-minute call at [time and date]?
All the best,
Use these as a starting point, but put your own spin on them if you’re serious about making your sales prospecting techniques top-notch.
What other techniques do you use for prospecting? Is there another template you love that’s given you great results? Let me know in the comments below: