Prospecting is an essential part of an efficient sales process. In the traditional sense of the word, prospecting meant sifting through silt and dirt for nuggets of gold and other precious materials. Now, in the world 21st century business, we’re sifting through piles of leads to find the ones that are most likely to turn into paying customers.
Effective prospecting sits between lead generation and sales pitching as the glue that holds the two together. It is most important for businesses who pursue a smaller number of high value customers (especially in B2B sales), though its principles can be applied to broader sales strategies.
Finding the right tools
A prospector searching for gold needs to be prepared. They have to have the right tools and they need to know exactly what gold looks and feels like. In the same way, salespeople need to have the tools to gather data on their leads and they need to be able to identify what qualifies a lead as a genuine prospect.
For B2B businesses, your tools include social media profiles, like LinkedIn, that can tell you how big a company is, how old it is and what they’re objectives might be, and financial data from a site like Company Check that will give you an idea of the financial stability of the business. Less specific data is also available, such as that which you can obtain from Google Analytics (this is useful for seeing trends, but less helpful in evaluating a specific business).
Recognising the gold
All the data you gather and the research you carry out into your leads won’t help you unless you know what a good prospect looks like. This is where you should make use of demographic and psychographic insights from your best existing customers. Demographics tell you who is already buying your products or services (in terms of location, industry and the job roles of the people you deal with) and psychographics tell you why those businesses or people buy from you (telling you things like motivations and objectives).
By taking these insights from your best existing customers, you can use them as a reference point for the data you have from your leads to see which ones fit the bill. It is much more likely that these leads will turn into customers than the rest.
What’s the point?
Once upon a time, many people made a living out of gold. Now, many more people make a living out of sales. Good prospecting will allow you to spend more time on worthwhile leads, increasing your chances of success and cutting down hours wasted on pointless endeavours. More sales means more money for your business and less wasted time means a better ROI on each salesperson’s efforts.
From prospecting to pitching
Gold is always going to be valuable, but turning a good prospect into a customer takes a little more work. The prospecting process, however, sets you up for success. Before pitching to a potential customer, you know that they are in a position to benefit from your product or service.
As sales techniques have developed over the 20th century and into the 21st, the impetus to build trust with prospective customers has been combined with the need to show them how your product or service works for them. Good prospecting allows you to start the pitching process in a strong position. By demonstrating a good level of knowledge about a prospect’s business, you will be indicating to them that your pitch is thoughtful and meaningful, as opposed to a bog-standard email pitch that has been blasted out to hundreds of people around the country.
The insight that you have gained into their business’s needs will allow you to formulate genuine, persuasive reasons for why they should be interested in what you’re selling. This can inform a Challenger approach, whereby the salesperson is ready to deal with any objection that the customer could have, pushing back rationally but convincingly when they raise doubts, or a more conventional customer-centric approach that shows genuine concern for the customer’s needs.
Integrating sales and marketing
Account-based marketing is becoming more and more common for businesses who are targeting particular prospects. This is where marketing techniques are tailored specifically for each prospect, rather than trying to capture as much attention as possible. There is a clear overlap with the sales process and sharing the knowledge and the rationale behind the prospecting process will enable greater integration between the two teams.
As salespeople pitch over email, phone or in person, the marketing team can be following up with targeted ads, blog posts or social media posts that reflect and reinforce the messages that the sales team has been communicating. This means that, in the time between your conversations with representatives from the prospect business, those people will still be seeing consistent messages that subtly work to persuade them of what you’ve been communicating.
The end goal of all of this, both the sales-focused prospecting process and the wider integration between sales and marketing, is to increase the efficiency of employees and the ROI of the team as a whole. Good prospecting enables you to stop scrabbling around in the dirt and find those nuggets of gold that will make you real money.
Katie Deverill is operations manager at Company Check