Sales prospecting is a critical sales activity that many sellers dread. It’s a shame, though, as prospecting can make or break your sales career.
What is sales prospecting?
Sales prospecting is the process sales reps follow to identify potential customers who have the challenges your product or service overcome, budget, and the authority to make the buying decision.
Sales prospecting is generally the first step in the sales process — finding enough qualified leads to fill your sales pipeline is critical for your success.
These potential customers flow through the early sales funnel stages; they often go by various names, including MQL, SQL, and SAL.
What is an MQL?
A marketing-qualified lead (MQL) is a sales prospect the marketing team has identified as having the potential to become a customer.
Marketing qualified leads may be generated from either inbound marketing activities or outbound prospecting via marketing campaigns focused on specific types of buyers, pain points, or industries.
The qualification process is generally agreed upon by the sales and marketing teams.
What is a SQL?
A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is a sales prospect that has been reviewed and approved by the sales team, meeting quality standards higher than are set for the marketing qualification process.
This qualification process is often done using methodologies like MEDDICC or BANT.
In some organizations, the sales development representatives (SDRs) are responsible for initial qualification, moving from MQL to SQL.
In these organizations, the account executives will do a deeper level of qualification, moving these leads to sales-accepted lead (SAL) status.
Note: In organizations that use BDRs instead of SDRs, the BDR is likely responsible for the outbound sales prospecting, qualification, and taking the lead through the entire sales process.
What is the standard sales prospecting methods?
There are several sales prospecting methods that sales reps use to find new leads, including:
- Social Sales Techniques (e.g., outreach to prospective buyers on LinkedIn or other appropriate social media channels).
- Email outreach (both marketing and sales emails)
- Cold calling
- Networking with past customers or coworkers
- Referrals from existing customers or a mutual connection
Tips for how to prospect for sales
Here are a few tips for prospecting for sales; what would you add?
Remember: You are not only looking for the “pain” you can solve, you are working to understand how they make a purchasing decision (i.e., what is their buying process). This is critical to your success and will help deals flow more easily through your sales funnel!
#1 Understand why people buy from your company
Focus first on this question as you need to understand the WHY before identifying who may want to buy your solution.
What challenges do these buyers have?
- If your teams have created buyer personas, dig into these.
- If you have been selling these solutions or products for a while, which prospect’s pain points must exist for you to win most often?
- Review successful deals. If you use MEDDIC or BANT for qualification, dig into this information.
Also, ask yourself if they match your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile)? If yes, great; if not, do you need to adjust your ICP?
What is Ideal Customer Profile?
An ideal customer profile (ICP) is an individual’s set of characteristics that describe his/her needs and preferences in terms of products, services, brands, and retailers.
It includes both functional requirements (what does he/she need?) and nonfunctional attributes (how does he/she prefer it?).
#2 Understand why people choose your solution
Why do they buy from you instead of your competitors?
What do you do better or differently that enables you to win deals?
- Do you have competitive battle cards that allow you to best understand your differentiators?
- Were specific sales presentations important?
- Was it essential to have a key executive in specific sales meetings to drive better results?
- Set down with your customer success team to understand which customers are most successful post-purchase to understand further what matters most.
#3 Who are the typical members of the buying committee?
Are your sales prospecting efforts focused on the right people?
What job titles are involved, and what concerns does each bring to the buying decision?
- Review win-loss analysis reports.
- Enrich your data on these people using sales tools like Zoominfo to increase your understanding of each person.
Your sales prospecting game will improve if you can better understand the people involved.
#4 What messaging and cadences have had the most success?
If you use cadence tools, review the ones that have worked best.
- What is the best time of day to reach out?
- The best days of the week?
- Meet with reps who have been having recent success.
#5 Review your current sales pipeline
How many deals do you need to have in each stage based on your standard conversion rates or conversion rates to achieve your quota?
How many prospects do you need to identify to close the gap?
Can you close this gap on your own, or do you need help from the marketing department?
#6 Stop connecting and prospecting all at once
It is exhausting as a consumer.
You accept a connection request on LinkedIn.
You receive a sales pitch.
This is not how a good sales prospecting process.
If you are using platforms like LinkedIn for your efforts, take the time to create value with each interaction.
Sales prospecting in this manner is a waste of time for you and your prospect.
#7 Align with marketing
If you have a well-defined list of target prospects, sit with marketing to identify campaigns they can launch that will complement your efforts.
Marketing can help you stay top of mind if you coordinate and increase your chances of prospecting success.
Their campaigns can move your prospects from cold, having no understanding of your company, to warm prospects who are ready for your call.
#8 Prospecting is a mindset
When performing your prospecting activities, stay positive. You will experience more rejection than success, remember that and also remember that successes are what will lead to your wins.
#9 What do your highest revenue-generating customers look like?
If you were to look at your paying customers, which have the greatest lifetime value?
How do they differ from other paying customer?
What sales process did you use to land them as a customer?
Can you replicate this process for others who may look like this one?
Tips for how to prospect for marketing
Here are a few tips for how to prospect for marketing; what would you add?
#1 Quality over Quantity Wins the Day
Your sales team does not need 10,000 new leads. They need 50 high-quality leads with the challenges your solutions solve, budget to buy, and a near-term deadline driving action.
#2 Define the criteria for quality leads with your sales team
Marketing and Sales leaders should sit down quarterly and refine the criteria for the leads the sales team wants to work with.
What do the most qualified leads look like?
What is the process to nurture leads for the leads the sales teams will not work with?
#3 Lead scoring can be your friend — or enemy
Lead scoring can help you prioritize which leads to focus on and when sales should get involved.
What is lead scoring?
Lead scoring is assigning a numeric score to a lead, representing the likelihood of that lead converting into an opportunity.
A lead’s score is based on information about the lead, such as their title, company size, location, industry type, etc.
Lead scoring can be a helpful way to prioritize your sales efforts, but it is not a perfect science.
#4 Understand your prospects’ buying process
Before you begin selling, you must understand how your prospects make buying decisions.
How do they identify they have a problem that you can solve?
Can you identify this behavior using ABM solutions, social media queries, and google alerts?
Your efforts may be the first contact between your business and the potential buyers — are you fitting into their process or disrupting it?
Key Sales Prospecting Statistics
- More than 7 in 10 buyers want to hear from salespeople early in the buying process, making it more likely that they’ll respond. (blog.hubspot.com)
- 82% of buyers accept meetings when a salesperson reaches out first. (blog.hubspot.com)
- According to a RAIN Group study, top performers in sales prospecting secured 52 sales meetings per 100 target contacts. (zendesk.com)
- When considering a purchase, B2B buyers spend a meager 17% of time meeting with sellers, and when comparing offers, they spend only 5% or 6% of their time talking to a sales rep. (superoffice.com)
Sales Prospecting Courses
This short, simple course will show you how to craft your customized COLD OPENERS that roast your prospects’ pain and break more ice by helping you be memorable, relevant, and credible within 5-10 seconds.
Sales Prospecting Tools
Outbound sales prospecting generally requires the dreaded cold call, where the sales rep picks up and calls a prospect who may not know anything about your company.
It can be an intimidating step in the sales process for many sales teams.
Beyond your sales CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool), what sales prospecting tools should your team leverage?
Our Recommended Sales Prospecting Tools
|Trust Enablement Profile
|Trust Enablement Profile
|Best for finding emails and phone #s
|Best Cadence Support
|Try Free Now
|Try Free Now
For your CRM, consider our CRM selection guide.
Podcast Episode – Sales Prospecting without the pressure (Britta Lorenz and Florian Gottschall)[buzzsprout episode=’8383264′ player=’true’]
Florian Gottschall, Sales Readiness Manager at WalkMe, joined DACH Regional Host, Britta Lorenz to discuss sales prospecting without the pressure, a great topic!
Florian’s key thoughts revolve around
- Listening with the intent to understand.
- Building trust
Throughout this conversation, Florian and Britta discuss several stories and share many insights.
Give a listen and remain curious.
Prospecting is critical to sales success.
What tips would you share?