If you want to keep your sales operation running smoothly, a steady stream of qualified leads is a must. But finding leads, especially good ones, is tough. There are millions of buyers you could try to sell to, but only a small fraction would be a great fit for the product or service you’re offering.
Sales prospecting helps you narrow down that pool of potential customers to pinpoint the ones that are most likely to move through your sales cycle and become paying customers. The process can vary depending on your company and industry, but it almost always boils down to three steps:
Identify your ideal customer
Get in front of them/attract their attention
Make the connection
Sounds easy, right?
Not so fast.
Every potential customer is different, so you can’t just take a one-size-fits-all approach to prospecting – some like to do research on their own before diving deeper into the sales funnel, while others need a bit of persuasion before they’re ready to move forward. In the first case, inbound prospecting (letting leads come to you) would be the best approach. But in the latter, an outbound approach (reaching out to them) would be more effective. The key to becoming an expert at sales prospecting is striking the perfect balance between the two.
If you want to win more business, you need to tailor your approach to cater to all sorts of different customers. And to do that, you’ll need an arsenal of both inbound and outbound sales prospecting techniques.
Cold outreach (contacting a potential customer you’ve had no prior contact with) is one of the oldest outbound sales prospecting techniques in the book. But between cold calling and cold emailing, there’s a reason this one is still around – it works. Though it certainly requires some serious commitment (it’s a numbers game, after all) it’s a great way to connect with potential customers that you probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise.
While only 1% of cold calls actually lead to appointments, a sales playbook or well-planned cold email script can help you increase your chances of moving the deal forward.
Content is king. Whether it’s blog posts, podcasts, or status updates on social media platforms, people (and buyers) consume a whole lot of content. By posting and sharing high-value content, this inbound prospecting technique helps position you (or your company) as an authority in your space and get potential customers interested in learning more about your business. When it comes to social media, it is also important to post consistently. To do so, you can use Hootsuite or a Hootsuite alternative to schedule your social media posts, publish content ahead of time, and keep your audience engaged. Once you’ve made a name for yourself, or you’ve published enough helpful content, you’ll have customers reaching out to you to set up a call, without even having to raise a finger.
Up to 91% of B2B buyers are heavily influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations, yet only 40% of sales reps actually ask their customers for referrals. If you’re not already asking for referrals from existing clients, you could be missing a huge opportunity to fill your sales pipeline.
This inbound sales prospecting technique brings leads to you through past happy customers. After all, if they have good things to say about your business, they’re more likely to share their experience with their peers. And if any of them happen to fit your ideal customer profile, a simple referral could translate to a potential opportunity. So next time you're checking in with one of your existing customers, don't be afraid to create referral programs and ask them to refer you to other buyers. You can even offer an incentive if you think the leads will be promising.
Now more than ever, video has become an extremely effective sales prospecting technique. Depending on the situation, it can be used as an inbound or outbound approach:
Inbound: While some people love to read, others prefer a more visual medium. By including videos in your content marketing strategy, social media posts, and website resources, you can appeal to potential customers who prefer to watch a video instead of reading about your product.
Outbound: Ever since COVID happened, video conferencing tools like Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet have become indispensable. And they’re extremely effective for outbound prospecting. Instead of sticking to emails and phone calls, consider leveraging video conferencing tools to build deeper connections with potential customers.
As nice as it is to work from home (or wherever is most convenient) and being able to skip the commute to your meetings, there's really no replacement for in-person events. While there’s still a fair bit of uncertainty about the return of major events and gatherings, industry events are bound to return eventually, and they’re an incredible way to generate great leads.
This sales prospecting technique provides an opportunity to network with potential prospects, expand your reach, and build a reputation in your industry. Whether you're feeling ambitious enough to speak or you're just hoping to gain some inspiration for future events, conferences and similar industry events are a great way to stand out and attract leads.
While slightly different from thought leadership, reputation is a major consideration in the B2B buying process. Buyers like to be familiar with the companies and brands before making a major purchasing decision, so it’s important to get your name out there. Building a brand on your personal LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts is a great way to raise awareness about your offering and connect with other professionals in your space. You can even use these platforms to identify and join groups related to your industry, which could result in referrals, or better yet, new business.
Without a steady stream of prospects, it’s only a matter of time before your pipeline dries up and quotas start getting missed. While your marketing team can be helpful for lead generation, you can establish a deeper pipeline of more qualified prospects by taking matters into your own hands. Instead of spending all your energy chasing down leads that fill out a form on your website, focus on building authority in your niche, becoming an industry resource for potential customers, and leveraging your network to extend your reach. With a consistent effort, you’ll be able to step up your prospecting game and attract customers who want to work with you.