What is sales prospecting and what are the best ways to find the right customer?

For small businesses that are only beginning their journey towards growth and scaling, finding customers is a real trick. In the beginning, there are only “potential customers” who may even not know about your existence. Your task is to detect them, approach, and convert into buying customers.

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We’ve covered the subject of how to find new customers, today we’re going to elaborate on the topic of how you’re supposed to approach, retain and convert them.

What is sales prospecting and what are the best ways to become very good at it?

But first, let’s start with the basic answer to the question: What is prospecting in sales? Prospecting is the process of searching for and building relationships with potential customers, so that after a certain period of time they convert into paying customers. The central event here is a conversation, and the desired goal is a sales meeting, which might result in a purchase.

In marketing, we usually talk about lead nurturing, whereas in sales, it’s all about prospecting. So, is there a substantial difference between prospects and leads?

What is the difference between a lead and a prospect?

Leads are potential customers who have previously expressed their interest in your company or product in a certain way. Some of the interactions they might have had include, visiting your website, filling out a contact form, registering for a webinar, or reading your blog. Can they be considered prospects? Sure. Two things make prospects different from leads. Firstly, they were not necessarily actively interested in your company or product. Secondly, they match your buying persona.

Sometimes, the same person can be both a lead and a prospect, but, at other times, these are different groups of potential customers. A prospect is a lead with prior knowledge about you. A lead is a prospect who fits your buyer persona profile.

How to be better at prospecting? First steps to finding your customers

Let’s view how to sales prospect and get the most result out of it. Consider the steps below when planning your prospecting activities.

1. Create a pipeline for your whole sales process

Prospecting for leads is the first step of your sales process. The so called sales pipeline is actually a funnel, that has a wide shape where the prospects come in and narrows towards the final stages of the sales process, where the real customers convert.

So if you don’t want to be short on prospects, then you’d better keep your prospecting activities on the rise. Ideally, you should be able to start trimming out any activity that isn't getting results.

If you notice that printing and sharing flyers isn’t giving you any results, then you shouldn’t spend any more valuable time on doing it.

2. Set a goal

In order to set your goals in an effective way, you’ll need to look towards your sales funnel again. Start with setting a final goal that you need to achieve. For example, let’s say that you have a monthly target of 10 sales and 1 out of 40 prospects actually ends up buying. This means that you need to make 400 sales calls a month in order to reach that target.

3. Create an ideal prospect persona

Let’s get back to our 400 people that we need to contact. It’s pretty obvious that you’ll need to create an ideal persona in order to help you understand where is the best place to do your people searching and what is the best way of approaching them.

This is why it’s crucial to create an ideal prospect persona right in the beginning. As previously mentioned in the article on finding new customers, one of the besic steps you need to make is look at your existing customers. Who are they? What do they have in common? What do they do? Where did you find them? (Or where did they find you?)

4. Write scripts

Although we’re not saying that you should lose all sense of spontaneity, there are two major problems at this stage of the sales process: not spending enough time prospecting and going ineffective prospecting.

Basically, there is no substitute for scripts.

But you need to remember that the fact that you’re using a sales script should never be obvious and that you should always carefully pick your words and questions in order to make the best observations about everything concerning your prospect.

For new salespeople, referencing a basic script while prospecting can help them reduce uncomfortable pauses, use the right language, and respond to common objections. Experienced, seasoned sales representatives often recommend not using a script in order to sound more natural during conversations. However, some do still use a script - it’s just so ingrained in their minds that it comes out sounding natural and unrehearsed. But whether you use a script or not, make sure to actively listen to your prospects and customize your conversation based on their needs

Rehearse your scripts but always be able to make particular “adjustments” to give you that freedom of ideas and analysis skills that are crucial for your communication.

5. Learn about who your customers are and could be

It’s important to find out as much information as possible about every single prospect. This will help you to find the right approach to each decision maker. Answering some of the following questions will help you:

  • What company do they work for?
  • Is their activity in line with in your company’s business area?
  • Do they match the already analyzed characteristics of your buyer persona?
  • Is your product able to solve any of the problems that they expericence?
  • What are their current challenges?
  • What is the best way for you to contact them?

6. Make a clear segmentation of your customers

After researching your prospects, you need to start segmenting them. Segmenting will help to personalize the messages that you send out, ensuring that you’ll also have a more personal approach. There are lots of characteristics you can use to categorize your prospects.

In our case, what we do is use our CRM database to gather and organize all the relevant information.

What information do you need to use when segmenting your prospects?

  • what type of organization do they work for
  • where is it located
  • what are their organizational problems
  • what’s the person’s position
  • what’s their preferred contact channel

etc.

7. Plan and measure your activity

After finishing up on your lists, you’ll need to plan out your activities firstly and after that, start measuring achievements. Take detailed notes and record your progress. It’s also essential that you prospect with dedication and turn this into a daily routine.

It means you should book certain time slots daily for all kinds of prospecting activities: collecting information, collaborating with the marketing department on executing various campaigns, reaching out, staying in touch, and following up.

After that, on a weekly or monthly basis, you should start generating Reports in your CRM software.

8. Don’t be a seller, be a consultant that builds relationships

We always try to highlight this idea to each and every member of our team.

Nobody enjoys being pitched to. Your communication should be all about your (potential) customers and not your interests and sales target. Try to provide value by offering a solution to the real problems, by listening to people and understanding their current needs. This is how you build a bridge of trust and how you warm up to a potential customer.

It’s true that prospecting is the first step in selling, but it shouldn’t be treated as as such when you’re approaching a potential customer. It’s more about sourcing leads who can then be qualified and entered into the sales funnel.

People look for sellers they can build a professional relationship with, so that’s why you need to build a foundation of trust that’s going to help you and the prospect become more comfortable with each other, so once selling techniques come into the picture, they’ll be more effective.

9. Make warm calls

Your initial contact with new prospects doesn't have to be, and actually it’s not even recommended to be, completely cold. It can be incredibly useful to warm up your prospects before making the initial contact. You can increase your chances of a warmer reception by familiarizing the prospect with your name or your company affiliation before you make your first call or send your first email. You could warm up to your prospects by:

  • getting introduced by a shared connection
  • commenting on a piece of content the buyer shared on social media
  • liking one of their status updates or job changes announcement on LinkedIn.

10. Use networking

Another way is to prospect for people within your current network. These could be your friends, acquaintances, as well as members of the same reference groups. You can also get potential customers among your contacts on social networks and online groups. You can meet some of them when attending events.

The best tools for sales prospecting

These are the basics that you need to know about sales prospecting. But giving you only the guidelines on how to do sales prospecting just doesn’t cut it. I need to share with the tool that’s helped us become a lot more productive and successful. Yes, we happen to sell this products but the reason why we’re doing it is because we’ve come up wit it after several of our company needs weren’t met by any other product.

You can save quite some time when prospecting for sales with a CRM, or a Customer Relationship Management platform. There is an immense variety of them available, but they all do one thing: help you track interactions and manage relationships with your prospects and paying customers. Consider it a database with your prospects’ contacts, relevant information about them, and a history of communicating with your brand in any possible way.

The system for getting clients and customer is straight forward. You need a way to entice them to learn about you through your marketing efforts, then you need to build a relationship with them that will hopefully lead to a sale. During the process, you'll want to get their contact information either through an email follow up system or keeping your own contact management list. Finally, you want a system for staying in touch for as long as they're open to hearing from you.

So, in conclusion, we hope you now have got a decent understanding of how to prospect for sales and that you’ll see results in no time!