A sales prospecting guide to help reconfigure your sales efforts to align with the new reality that surrounds us. Attracting and engaging new customers is going to take more effort, planning, strategy, and tactics within the sales process. Sales leaders everywhere will need to take responsibility for putting their sales teams in a position to compete in the new reality of remote selling.
If the stated aims of all business are to “Acquire, Develop and Maintain Customers at a Profit”, then to grow (even at a slower pace) will require companies to have a customer acquisition strategy where prospecting plays a key role.
It is important to note that the building blocks for successful sales prospecting or lead generation are not solely down to sales skills but a combination of buyer personas, data, accurate targeting and understanding the buyer’s journey.
What is Your Sales Prospecting Strategy?
The first step in this sales prospecting guide is to lay out what exactly is your prospecting strategy when considering the current business environment. It should lay out a vision for the future and how you are going to get there. Then the tactics are the specific actions we take plus the tools we use to make the strategy come to life.
Obviously, the main goal of a sales prospecting strategy is to increase revenue at a lower cost of acquisition. No matter how hard the effort, every prospect that converts to a customer helps you sustain your business. So, in order to convert more prospects into customers, you need to focus on your sales prospecting efforts and perfecting the process.
Effective Sales Prospecting Plans have a Vision Statement
As they tell us in in business school, a vision is one of central planks in a strategy because it establishes a common goal everyone can rally behind and then work towards together.
Now more than ever, for salespeople to stay motivated, they need to know what is expected of them and where they are headed. Regardless of the tactic deployed, the reality is that prospecting is a tough task with over 40% of salespeople saying that prospecting is the hardest part of their job.
Your sales prospecting vision statement is about what you want to become. It is aspirational.
Your vision statement should answer questions such as:
- What are our hopes and dreams from prospecting?
- What problem are we solving for our target markets?
- Who and what type of buyers are we inspiring to undertake change?
A strong vision helps everyone focus on what matters the most plus it can trigger innovation. A purpose-driven sales engine envisions success as a whole because you need to know what success means for your business.
Effective Sales Prospecting Elements
WARM CALLING: Warm calling is preceded by some level of introduction, referral, or social media interactions. Warm calling to activate potential opportunities is about making the customer the hero, make them glad to have connected with you, bring value and understanding before doing any sales pitches. It involves salespeople following up with prospects to ensure the business stays top of mind. Any CRM tool can help keep track of prospects and design a process so to know exactly when to follow up with customers.
Confidence comes from being in control. So, practice the sales conversation, write scripts, the genuine reason for the call and connect this back to a challenge, know your value wedge, understand your industry plus study the buyer’s journey. Mistakes are learning tools. Every call is a learning opportunity to enrich any salesperson’s skill. So do not fret on mistakes and embrace the learning.
CONNECTIONS -INTRODUCTIONS AND REFERRALS: With correct training and planning the use of social media and networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) can help you get in front of more potential customers. Remember, your network is probably bigger than you think (friends, college buddies, same school/college, clubs, ex-colleague etc). However, this tactic involves more than marketing or sales messages. Salespeople need to be seen as bringing value, insights and expertise to their networks. The hard work only pays off at the end of a nurturing process across all three strands, building connections, warm introductions, and genuine referrals.
EMAIL MARKETING: The use of email in sales prospecting works best when you want to reach a broader set of personas for lead generation. Most results prove that simple goals work best with email whether that is requesting a meeting, answering a question or to introduce yourself after a social media interaction (prior to warm calling). Personalization and customization are the critical elements to ensure good response rates. Vanilla flavored emails (or even warm calls) just do not cut it anymore. Think quality over quantity to get the attention of the prospect to win the right to engage further.
CREATE A CONTENT FACTORY: Content is the fuel that powers social media, digital selling, and inbound marketing. When marketing messages are merged with a prospects wants, needs, and preferences, the result is a compelling content strategy.
You should create a content plan that communicates your positioning and purpose, elevator, and business story, plus benefits of doing business and reason to believe. A content strategy should give life to your brand, your personality, your expertise and your values. Also learn about how to share CIC – Content-in-context: You need to train yourself and the sales team to re-balance your content sharing efforts away from a constant generation of infographics and videos towards highlighting your deep industry knowledge and customer empathy to share information to help buyers buy.
A point worth noting from this sales prospecting guide is to “Learn the power of sharing convincing stories” – What you do want them to learn? What do you want them to feel? And What do you want them to do?
IDEAL CUSTOMER PROFILE: Creating ideal customer profiles will increase the effectiveness of any sales prospecting strategy. Ask yourself – Who is your customer, what is their need and how will you deliver on that need. Learn to understand your prospect’s needs, you need to understand their industry, trends, and other factors that could be affecting their business. Ask yourself – why am I contacting this buyer and what do I know?
When developing ideal customer profiles go into as much detail as possible. Include items such as:
- Company and employee size
- Where your prospects spend their time (offline and online)
- Publications or websites they read
- Communities or groups they are a part of
- Behavior, compliance or industry patterns
- Goals and pain points
- Job responsibilities
Create a Qualification Criteria Checklist
Create a checklist that everyone can ask themselves to ensure prospects are worth targeting. For example:
- Do they fit your ideal customer profile?
- Are they currently using a similar offering?
- Is it a replace, displace or greenfield opportunity?
- Can they afford what you are selling?
- What indicators makes you believe that your offering can make an impact?
These type of questions, and many more like them, will help your team to qualify prospects before investing hours of work into them.
Today more than ever, sales leaders and salespeople need to understand the importance of having a well-planned out prospecting strategy. If there was one key takeaway from this sales prospecting guide it would be to “Focus on the Outcome”. Prospecting is not about selling; it has a different goal. It is about exploring the possibility that you might be able to create value for the buyer and maybe do something together down the line. Selling, at this point really is cold calling and cold calling just does not work in isolation anymore.
Then, know when to hold and when to fold. When a prospect is not a good fit, or you cannot add value move on. When your product or service is not sparking a buyer’s interest then do not add to the pipeline, rather think of it as a step closer to find a matching prospect.
Have fun. Enjoy the fruits of your research and the data insights you have gathered. Believe that you bring value and are worth listening to. A buyer to supplier relationship has to begin somewhere and opening these relationships is what your sales prospecting is all about.