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What is Sales Prospecting?

Sales prospecting is the process of identifying, qualifying, contacting, and engaging a large pool of potential customers whose demographics, technographics, and/or pain points make them very likely to buy your product or service.
This process should carefully and methodically bring qualified (ready and able) buyers through your funnel, heading toward a closing. The sales prospecting process should be ongoing, bringing fresh leads into the top of your funnel to create steady revenue over time.

5-Step Sales Prospecting Plan/Campaign

Developing a solid sales prospecting plan or campaign can ensure you’re putting forth efficient effort and getting back great results. It’s simply not enough to begin making calls and hope for the best. Your prospecting plan should have defined objectives, research methods, communication channels, touchpoints (volume and methods, and follow-up procedures to ensure each prospect you contact is aware of your product or service, receptive to your offer when you receive it, and ready to buy.

Below is the general structure for a solid campaign, though you will want to personalize it based on your industry’s regulations and customs, your specific outreach channels (for instance, social media, direct mail, trade shows, conferences, gifting, etc.) and the networks or spheres of influence already at work within your organization if applicable.

Sales Prospecting Step #1: Research

While research is the first step of the prospecting journey, you should plan to dedicate a fair amount of time to this critical step. Your success in contacting and closing leads will largely depend on the quality you begin with; the best way to ensure good outcomes is to start with the best possible list. Take some time (if you haven’t already) to define and refine your buyer persona(e), value proposition, and funnel, and use these as guideposts for identifying your best possible pool of prospects.

Some key components you might use to identify and prioritize prospects during your research phase include:

  • Industry or niche
  • Job title
  • Product or business model
  • Tech stack
  • Geographic location
  • Average revenue
  • Organization size and structure
  • M&A status

There are a few places to research your leads and conduct preliminary qualification for your prospects:

  • Company Website: Learn about topics they’re covering, team information about new hires or organizational changes, and read product pages for industry and organizational fit assessment.
  • News Sites: For research about recent company developments, launches, investments, or press releases.
  • Investment Sites (i.e., Crunchbase): For investment news, vital company statistics such as company size, age, revenue, and outside investments. These give you early indications about the budget and need for your service.
  • Social Platforms: To understand their marketing approach, start to form connections with stakeholders, and gain a competitive perspective.

These information sources can also be used to personalize your pitch during outreach, which can improve your outcomes. For instance, when you congratulate a prospect on a recent funding round in a cold email, they know you’ve done some research before contacting them and will be more likely to respond.

Sales Prospecting Step #2: Outreach

Once you’ve built a solid list of potential buyers, it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. There are a few different modes of outreach you can take—cold calling, cold email, direct mail marketing, and social media outreach are all excellent methods—and you’ll most likely want to mix things up over your designated workflow of touchpoints. Many reps make the first contact in one of three ways:

Cold-Calling

The old standby is still one of the methods preferred by sales reps for making those crucial contacts, being seen as the most important prospecting tool by over 40% of respondents, according to a 2019 study. Depending on the product or service you’re selling (and the decision-makers involved in the buying process), the phone might be the right choice as your first line of communication.

Email

The other popular method of making contact is through email. It’s easier than cold-calling because of the ability to templatize and automate parts of the process. However, this ease of use comes with a downside: digital fatigue has become a real issue as a result. With the average office worker receiving over 120 emails per day, and readers deleting almost half of them immediately according to Mashable, carefully researching and crafting your emails is more important than ever. That means a well-crafted subject line (so they look at it) and a strong, personalized offer inside that they’ll feel compelled to respond. Well-crafted email can still get a foot in the door so that you can move on to the real work: connecting with your prospects.

Direct Mail and Gifts

In an increasingly noisy marketing space, there’s one area where people aren’t feeling inundated: the mailbox. In fact, it’s reported that over 80% of people still enjoy getting something personal in the mail.

One excellent way to connect with a prospect and begin qualification is to expand your touchpoints to include direct mail. Making a personal connection with a physical gift item or some well-branded printed materials creates a host of positive effects and associations which make it more likely the relationship will continue and move toward close. There are many options for creating a personalized gifting experience that are sure to engage and delight.

Sales Prospecting Step #3: Connect

A connection makes the difference between the closing table or the circular file. It’s important to recognize connection is not the same as outreach (making the call or sending the email). A connection is the process by which you differentiate yourself and make it past the traditional walls and gate-keepers to offer a demo, discovery call, or a meeting.

Connection is as much about the approach as action. Personalization in your initial touchpoints can let your prospect know this is not another spray-and-spray, mass marketing campaign. A distinction in which 80% consumers report makes it more likely they’ll do business with a business or company.

The aim here is to build on a strong beginning. You’ll already have laid the groundwork through good personalization in your first communications with a prospect. Once established, you can follow it up with a genuine, personal touch, such as a handwritten note or a small gesture. These measures—often seen as “extra mile” behaviors in a world that mostly depend on email—will impress your recipient and create strong associations that improve the relationship and your sales outcomes.

A Note on Lead Management Software

Not every buyer is ready at every time, but that doesn’t mean they belong in the dead-letter file. For large or long-term campaigns, using a CRM or lead management software tool can help you identify, compile, and prioritize your research into a database, manage your contact workflows, and provide analytics on results. Lead management can help make the qualification and outreach process easier, and help sales teams stay on top of opportunities in order to get them to the closing table. It can also provide good reporting and analysis capabilities on the other end of the funnel.

Sales Prospecting Step #4: Education and Evaluation

Once you’ve made and strengthened a connection with your lead and they’re willing to continue the conversation, the process of helping them evaluate their options gets underway.

While many buyers have already done some groundwork before you come to this point in the relationship (over 60% want to talk during the consideration stage after they’ve researched for themselves), it’s still important to handle this stage of the sales process with care. Just because the lead has done some due diligence, don’t assume they have everything they need to come to a mutually beneficial decision. Research can sometimes churn up more questions, which are important to address.

Some ways to help your potential customer evaluate their options:

  • Proactively answer questions your prospect might have about aspects of your product or service before they ask.
  • Highlight differentiators for prospects evaluating more than one solution.
  • As crucial qualification questions that will ensure your solution is a fit for your prospect’s business need or pain point.
  • Demonstrate value and ROI as a way to overcome price objections.
  • Create a positive experience for the customer (after all, the sales process is an audition for the customer relationship) with thoughtful online and offline touchpoints.

Sales Prospecting Step #5: Convert and Close

If you’ve put in the hard work through the process, you should be in a good position to close. In some cases, the evaluation process will reveal that your product or service isn’t a good fit, but if you’ve properly researched and qualified your leads early in the game, you should be confident in your ability to get to closed-won for a healthy percentage of your prospect pool.

Pro tip: Got someone to closed-won? Excellent work! But your process shouldn’t end there. If you want to do less heavy lifting next time, make this customer the source of your next lead. Nearly half of top-performing sales reps do this because over 84% of buyers prefer a referred solution. Why reinvent the funnel when you can leverage your hard work into better ratios with a simple ask?

Are you ready to leverage all the prospecting power at your disposal? Consider adding direct mail to your marketing mix with a Sending Platform that helps make the prospecting process easier and more successful.

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We’ve seen response rates and success with Sendoso like no other form of outreach.

Peter Tarrant, Account Based Marketer, Tipalti

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