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Sales Prospecting Tips and Best Practices

Sales prospecting is one of the most important—and challenging—methods for driving sales. Learn how to do sales prospecting like a pro and generate leads.

Back in 2017, the internationally renowned research and advisory firm Forrester predicted the death of a sales rep.

More specifically, they boldly predicted that over one million B2B sales professionals in the US would be out of a job by 2020. Forrester argued that modern sales teams prefer to do their research online and then place their orders directly, bypassing any inputs from a B2B sales rep.

Forrester's prediction has not yet materialized, but they have a point.

Sirius Decisions is reporting in 2022 that 67 %of a B2B potential customers' sales prospecting process is conducted digitally. Forrester surveys also found that in 2022 that 68% of potential buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep at all, and only 17% of the sales pipeline involves interacting with sales reps.

Now more than ever, a successful sales prospecting process relies on marketers as well as sales teams for a successful sales cycle. The reality is if potential customers come to your website looking for information and can't find it, they bounce. Then the sales conversations ends before it starts.

This doesn't mean, however, that sales reps are becoming extinct.

As marketers learn how to use AI-driven solutions that turn small websites into information hubs and give sales prospects the ability to quantify the benefits of their purchase decisions, there is still a need for human interaction to seal the deal.

Sales teams no longer vie for time to demonstrate their product or service and push customers to close on the spot. They become enablers of the sales decision at every step of the sales prospecting process.

So why is sales prospecting important? Keep reading to learn more about prospecting in the sales process, why it's important, and how it works.

Sales prospecting is the process of searching for potential customers who might be interested in buying what you're selling. Sales prospecting methods help you find new opportunities and make connections with individuals who could benefit from your product or service.

There are two types of sales prospecting: inbound and outbound. Inbound sales prospecting is when potential customers come to you via marketing campaigns aimed at lead generation or by attending networking events. These prospects have likely found your website by doing research online or by learning about your business some other way, such as via social media pages or online content.

On the other hand, outbound sales prospecting is when you personally reach out to potential customers. This could involve cold calling, sending emails, or using social media to introduce your product or service to people who might not have heard of it before.

Unfortunately, whether you're using inbound or outbound prospecting, most sales reps who don't get a second meeting make the same mistake. They don't know what content to present to win the sale.

They proffer a one-size-fits-all sales presentation that doesn't answer the questions that these sales prospects don't know to ask. They don't complete the prospecting phase of the sales funnel.

Leads vs prospects

A lead is a sales contact typically found via marketing campaigns. A sales prospect is a lead who has been qualified to move into the sales process; it's ultimately a warm lead as opposed to a cold lead. In some cases, they may even be existing customers if you're trying to sell them an additional product or add-on.

You want to pursue every lead. Choosing the leads who are worth your time is the purpose of prospecting.

You can consider sales prospecting as the exploratory phase of the larger sales funnel or process. It's a determination of whether potential customers need your help and whether they want it.

Then, you can plan the ways you can provide them with information and support that shows them that your product or service helps them meet their goals within their budget.

Know your customer's budget and timeline first

There is no point in making a sales presentation to potential customers who don't have the bandwidth to consider your offer. There is no point in making a presentation to a sales prospect that isn't a good fit for your company.

The way leads interact with your website can tell you a great deal about your sales prospect's pain points and how interested they are in buying from you. The content with which they interact can tell you how to structure your sales presentation.

The sales team is on the front line, dealing with prospects who turn into leads and prospects who don't. B2B sales professionals have an intuitive sense of the company's ideal potential customers and how to recognize them from interactions online.

Prioritize qualified leads

The next step of the sales prospecting efforts is to separate qualified sales leads from non-starters. A qualified sales lead matches the criteria of your buyer persona.

This company has a clear, preferably quantifiable, business challenge that aligns with your offerings. The qualified sales lead that is ready for a sales pitch usually has a high degree of interaction with your online content and your social media accounts. This is the lead most likely to convert to a customer.

In addition to monitoring interaction with your company's online presence, considering company demographics and budget, and encouraging social engagement in person and online, don't forget to rule out spam. You don't want to pursue dubious leads from bad actors.

Identify key stakeholders

Once you have identified qualified sales leads from your target audience, your next task is to identify the individuals who make the purchasing decision.

These fall into two categories: decision-makers and influencers. The decision-maker is the final authority for accepting or rejecting your proposal.

Don't ignore influencers. Influencers are usually the people who will be using your product or service.

These are the people who can make a compelling case for your product or service to decision-makers. They may be making your case before they even meet you. Treat them with the same respect you afford decision-makers, keeping in mind where the power to make the decision lies.

Prepare the flawless pitch

Personalizing your outreach to your prospects shows them that you really care about contributing to their success. The more you know about your prospect, the more information you can share with them about how your product or service meets their needs.

Then you need a reason to connect.

An essential part of any successful promotion strategy is this: Before you write a sales email for the first time, consider where on the customer journey you first made contact with your prospect.

If it was a face-to-face meeting or shared business history, great! It is always best to make a warm, non-salesy introduction. But automating leads from your website and social media presence is perfectly OK, too.

Lead generation for business-to-business marketing can come from the keywords that lead the clients to specific pages on your website. Time on page identifies specific pain points. Analytics can take the place of a lot of cold calling.

First touch

Now it's time to remember the secret to success in converting sales prospects to customers: Reciprocity is a strong force in B2B relationships.

Don't try to close the deal before the potential customer has even decided that you are a good fit for their business. Offer useful information that your prospect may have overlooked or simply can't get online. Give them the incentive to hear you out.

How can sales prospecting help your business?

One way of describing the sales cycle is sorting through cold leads to find warm prospects with whom you can close red-hot deals. Sales reps who use prospect CRM integration close up to 3X as many sales as sales reps who don't go through the sales prospecting process at all.

Sales prospecting tips and best practices

To help you operationalize prospecting throughout the sale process, we have created a short list of the most important sales prospecting tips and best practices.

Create a prospect profile

Don't just look at aggregate statistics about traffic to your site and responses to your email campaigns. See how each contact interacts with your site. Add tags and notes to keep track of what you know about each potential customer. And choose the tools that you can use from a laptop, desktop, or mobile device.

Research your potential buyers

The Prospect Customer Relationship Management Platform helps you dig deeper into your customer relationships to identify customers who have bought Product X and who are prospects for buying Product Y. AI can identify customers whose spend rate is declining, or are at risk for churn.

You can use insights from a sales CRM with built-in Recency, Frequency, and Monetary Value (RFM) and AI-driven customer alerts to drive powerful email campaigns. You can keep your best customers informed about your most exciting new products.

You can add your most loyal customers to your upsell program to increase average order figures. Or you can act on predicted churn with a win-back or added value campaign to attract more sales, retain customers longer, and increase LTV (lifetime value).

Prepare a pitch for each prospect

Your pitch is your opportunity to present your product or service in a structured way. You can use both verbal and visual content aimed at convincing your prospects of the value of your products and services and your value as a business partner.

Creatinga pitch deck like the one you presented to your investors when you started your company is one challenge, but your prep doesn't end there. You will need to review written pitches several times, honing your language and your content as you go.

Social media management tools help you manage all of your social media platforms from a single place. You can manage paid advertising and organic postings, especially your Facebook and Instagram ads, so you can show off your brand and create new fans who become leads, potential customers, and returning customers.

Practice cold calls

Cold calls are outreach to customers who don't know anything about your business. Mailchimp isn't a platform for cold emailing, but it does provide the sales prospecting techniques and tools that help you identify customer pain points before your first contact with them.

Create personalized emails

Personalizing your emails makes them feel like a conversation. You can segment your audience based on their business interests, merge tags to create the right message, and then make the right suggestion at just the right moment in the customer's sales journey.

Create relevant content for your potential buyers

Mailchimp's dynamic content tools help you personalize emails without extra work. Mailchimp offers more personalization with less effort for greater engagement with ease of use.

Always follow up

Mailchimp automated follow-up with customers to keep the sales conversations going. Prove yourself to be a reliable B2B partner by asking for feedback and always looking for new ways to help your customers meet their goals.

Utilize technology in sales prospecting

Many sales prospecting techniques depend on the right tools. Using various sales prospecting tools and platforms, sales teams can streamline their efforts, improve targeting accuracy, and drive more conversions. Here's how to use technology in sales prospecting: 

Implementing CRM systems

Customer relationship management systems allow sales teams to manage interactions with current and potential customers. These systems help organize contact information, track communication histories, and provide insights into customer preferences and behavior. 

With CRM systems, sales professionals can maintain organized databases of leads, track interactions at each stage of the sales process, and personalize their outreach efforts based on individual customer profiles. 

Leveraging sales automation tools

Sales automation tools automate repetitive processes and tasks, freeing up time for more strategic activities like prospecting and relationship building. These tools can automate email outreach, schedule follow-up reminders, and track engagement metrics to identify the most promising leads. 

Using data analytics for targeting

Data analytics gives salespeople insights into customer behavior, preferences, and trends. By analyzing data from website traffic, social media interactions, and past purchase history, sales teams can identify patterns that indicate potential opportunities. 

Data analytics tools can also segment leads based on specific criteria, allowing sales teams to target their outreach efforts more effectively and tailor messaging to resonate with different segments. 

Lead scoring assigns values or points to leads based on their characteristics and behavior to determine their level of readiness to make a purchase.

To establish criteria for lead scoring, sales teams typically consider factors such as demographic information, firmographic details (for B2B sales), engagement level, and online behavior. 

For example, leads who have visited the pricing page multiple times or downloaded a whitepaper may receive a higher lead score, indicating their interest and readiness to engage with sales.

Lead segmentation categorizes leads into different groups based on shared characteristics or behaviors. This allows sales teams to tailor their messaging and approach to each segment, increasing the likelihood of conversion. 

Leads can be segmented based on demographics, industry, purchase intent, engagement level, and past interactions with the brand. Leads who have shown interest in a specific product or service may be segmented into a separate group and targeted with relevant content or offers to nurture their interest further. 

Similarly, leads who have not engaged with the brand in a while may be placed in a re-engagement segment and targeted with personalized outreach to reignite their interest.

By segmenting leads effectively, sales teams can deliver more targeted and personalized communication, increasing engagement and conversion rates.

Collaboration between sales and marketing departments ensures a cohesive approach that attracts and converts leads. Here are a few ways sales and marketing can work together: 

Aligning sales and marketing strategies

Aligning sales and marketing strategies ensures messaging and tactics are consistent across the customer journey, from initial prospecting to closing the sale.

This alignment may involve regular communication and collaboration to define target buyer personas, develop content and messaging that resonates with prospects, and coordinate campaigns and initiatives to drive engagement and conversions.

Sharing insights and feedback for content creation

Sales teams are on the front lines of customer interactions and can provide valuable insights into prospects' needs, pain points, and preferences.

By sharing feedback and insights with the marketing team, sales can inform content creation efforts, ensuring that marketing materials address target audiences' specific challenges and interests. 

Additionally, marketing can provide sales with content assets such as blog posts, whitepapers, and case studies to share with prospects during the sales process, helping to build credibility and trust.

By collaborating closely on content creation, sales and marketing teams can create a consistent and compelling brand experience that resonates with prospects and drives them through the sales funnel.

Leverage referrals and recommendations

Referrals and recommendations are easy ways to grow your customer base through word-of-mouth marketing. Consider asking your satisfied customers to recommend your product or service to others. 

After delivering a positive experience, politely ask if they know anyone else who might benefit from your offering. This can be done through personalized emails, follow-up calls, or in-person conversations. 

Satisfied customers are more likely to share their experiences with friends, family, or colleagues, especially if they feel valued and appreciated by your business.

Another effective way to leverage referrals is by building strategic partnerships with other organizations. Collaborating with complementary businesses with a similar target audience can create mutually beneficial referral programs. For example, a web design agency might partner with a marketing agency to offer their clients a comprehensive solution. 

Both parties can offer incentives such as discounts, commissions, or exclusive access to resources in exchange for referrals. 

Email is perfect for sales prospecting

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, B2B customers actually prefer online interaction. Mailchimp's email tools help you to provide the right information at the right moment to the right people to close the sale.

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