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How to Prospect for Sales: A 5-Step Guide

How to Prospect for Sales A 5-Step Guide

Although complicated and time-consuming, client prospecting, in fact, is quite a straightforward process.

But how to prospect for sales?

We are not going to lie to you, it takes hard work and a lot of effort to identify the best potential clients and convince them that they are the one

However, if you know what you are doing and can break down the process into actionable steps, your chances of success significantly increase.

In this prospecting guide, we provide the steps you need to follow to focus on the right leads and turn them into prospects and opportunities. As a result, you will successfully drive them through the pipeline to become happy clients.

Read on to learn how to do it!

1. Qualify the Leads

Qualify the Leads

The first thing you need to do when trying to prospect for sales is to analyze the leads at your disposal. Then, pick out the ones that are more likely to become your clients.

These are the people and businesses that match your ideal customer profiles, have relevant pain points, and need your products and services.

You should segment and group these leads based on how fitting they are and how probable it is for them to make a purchase. Consider dividing them into three groups:

  • Highly-qualified
  • Middle-qualified 
  • Low-qualified

From the highly-qualified leads, pick out the ones that are ready to move on to the next steps of the process.

One of the best ways to understand where the lead is positioned in the pipeline (i.e. whether they can be successfully, but gently, nudged to the next step) is to use lead scoring. It allows you to analyze the information you have on the lead, including profile, behavior, touchpoints, etc., in order to estimate how ready they are to be approached.

CRM tools usually have integrated lead scoring functions that notify you when the time has come. This makes them a great addition to your sales prospecting arsenal.

Note: Keep in mind that you shouldn’t completely discard the leads that fall in the less promising categories. The goal of your efforts to prospect for sales is to prioritize the most important leads. However, this does not mean that you should ignore the rest, just that you should turn your attention to them at a later moment.

2. Research the Fitting Prospects

Once you have the list of prospective clients, you should research them to find out as much relevant information about them as possible:

  • Outline the client’s profile
  • Pinpoint their pain points and needs
  • Understand the specifics of the industry
  • Learn about the company
  • Find similar touchpoints and common ground
  • Identify a suitable contact and their position in the company
  • List conversation goals, questions, and topics
  • Research the client’s preferred communication channels 
  • Draft a strategy that will best fit the customer’s profile
  • Choose a sales script

You can find this information in their public records, their website, social media profiles, niche communities and forums they frequent. Alternatively, review websites where they are featured, and, of course, through Google search.

Research the Fitting Prospects

You’ll also need to understand whether you will be able to directly contact the decision-maker (i.e. the person with the money). Otherwise, you may need to go through a so-called “gatekeeper” first (the final user of the product; the decision-maker’s assistant, or someone else who blocks your way).

The overall point is to have as much information as possible about the client. This is so you can design a strategy with a personalized message that shows that you understand them and can offer value that is tailored to their needs.

Also, you can use the research phase of the process to prospect for sales to find any possible common grounds with the contact person. These include mutual acquaintances, interests and values, shared background, etc. As a result, you will find it easier to break the ice.

Once this is done, try to put yourself on the prospect’s radar. Demonstrate you are an expert, thought leader, and, generally, a reputable person who is always ready to help and provide an excellent solution.

This will make the next step – which is, overall, the most challenging one – much easier.

3. Outreach and First Contact

Outreach and First Contact

Now that you know everything there is to know about the client, you can go ahead and reach out to them.

Common Methods to Contact A Client as a Prospect for Sales

  • Phone calls. Personal and efficient, makes it possible to instantly connect with the client and start working on your relationship. Also, you can better read them and change your approach in real-time.

However, nowadays, many people avoid calls in favor of digital communication, or are too busy to answer the phone, especially when they don’t know who’s calling.

  • Email. Can be personalized and allows you to present the whole information in a structured and organized way. The recipient can read it at their preferred time and revisit it if necessary. It can also be forwarded to third parties, such as a decision-maker or other stakeholders. 

The downside of emails is that it is difficult to ensure engagement, as they are easily ignored among the avalanche of messages an inbox is daily flooded with.

  • Social networks. Social networks, especially Linkedin and Twitter, offer great prospecting opportunities, as they allow you to build a connection with the potential client and make yourself known even before you introduce yourself. You can observe their behavior, engage with their posts, join the same groups, and contact them only when you see they are ready. 

Also, once you reach out, they can research you and review your profile and activity before they answer your message. This increases the likelihood of a positive reply.

However, this approach works only if your prospective customers are active on social media.

All of these prospecting methods can be efficient, however, which one you choose should depend on the client’s preferences – so don’t skip out on figuring them out in the research phase.

Also, regardless of the type of communication, if you manage to make yourself known to the sales prospect, or, even better, make them an acquaintance in advance, this will significantly increase the chances of them responding.

How To Formulate Your Introduction To A Prospect

When initiating first contact and introducing yourself, be brief and on-point. However, also make sure that you are addressing them personally and not just sending a default sales prospect template.

In short, the message should include the following information:

  • You are an expert.
  • You know and understand their needs.
  • You’ve noticed a pain point that they may or may not know about.
  • You want and can help.
  • You offer unique value.
  • You want to meet and talk more about it.
  • Offer an appointment time, or invite them to suggest one.

4. Exploration and Nurturing

Once you’ve kicked off the conversation, the goal is to get to know the customer better. Remember, to make a good impression, your communication should be about how you can help solve their issues, make their lives better, boost their revenue, etc.

The point is that you shouldn’t try to sell to them, you should strive to convince them that they need the value you can provide. 

To that end, you should better understand their unique pain points and how they are pertinent to the solutions you provide. By building a bridge between each client’s individual case and your value proposition, you can show them that you are a perfect match.

Of course, make sure that this is, indeed, something that you can live up to. In fact, if you’ve managed to qualify your leads properly, no false promises will be necessary. This is simply because the people you will be talking to will be potential clients that can really benefit from your business.

During the conversation, focus not only on the reasons why the prospect may consider making a purchase but also on what is holding them back. This way you will be able to address their concerns and objections and find a solution.

A CRM tool can be very beneficial throughout the whole sales and marketing process. However, during this phase of customer prospecting, it’s irreplaceable. Especially, when a rep is working with many customers at the same time.

The tool keeps track of all the communication that goes on between your business and the client. It can be integrated with other platforms and solutions you use, to feed in even more pertinent details. Team members can also add notes after every interaction so that the next time they contact the customer, they pick up right where they left off.

5. Close the Deal

Close the deal

The customer prospecting process ends with you making an offer and the client deciding whether or not to accept it.

As with everything else so far, the offer should be unique and based entirely on the customer’s needs. Use the insights from your interactions, and correlate them with the resources at your disposal. Then, craft the proposal.

Ideally, with all the research and hard work you’ve put into client prospecting, most of the deals should have a happy ending. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Closed-Won Deals

Way to go! Winning the deal is great, isn’t it?

All the hours of research and communication pay off, and you acquire a new customer.

The best thing is that with prospecting, the likelihood of this client remaining with your business for the long run and contributing to your bottom line over the years is much higher.

Furthermore, when clients are a good fit, it’s easier to upsell and cross-sell to them in the future.

Of course, at this point, it’s too early to have these talks. However, if you feel there’s potential for a greater partnership ahead, you can outline the possibilities to the client, so they can keep them in mind.

Closed-Lost Deals

Unfortunately, even if you’ve put in all the necessary effort, done everything by the book, and went the extra mile to tailor an offer that fits the customer’s needs perfectly, you can still lose the deal.

If this happens, make sure to follow up with the client to understand what went wrong. This information will help you to improve your approach and do better the next time.

Maybe you can even find out that it was the timing that was wrong, and discuss when to reopen the communication and start over.

Whatever the case, it shows good manners to end the conversation on good terms. This leaves the door open for future collaboration, and can also weigh in if the client decides to recommend you to a friend.

The most important thing, though, is not to become discouraged. Yeah, you did lose precious time chasing after this prospect and may have even misjudged them in the first place. However, there’s simply no way to close-win all the deals.

Just make sure to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes, this way, in the end, every loss will be a small win.

Bottom Line

Customer prospecting may be difficult and time-consuming. However, if you approach it systematically and with due diligence, it can provide stellar results.

The most important thing to remember is to always focus on the client. Do your best to learn as much information about them as possible, and understand them. This way, you will not be tempted to only talk about how great your product is, but to empathize how much they can benefit from it.

After all, the best salespeople are those who know how to convince you that you are in desperate need of help and that they are your generous saviors, right?

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