You might have the best product or service in the world — but if you can’t find the right buyers, your business will fail. You need a steady stream of customers entering your sales pipeline.
That’s where sales prospecting comes in.
Sales prospecting helps businesses target potential customers and nurture them through the sales funnel. Without it, business growth can stagnate. Even if you focus on customer retention, your customer base will likely shrink through churn.
In this article, you’ll learn what sales prospecting is, how to do your own sales prospecting, and how to create a successful prospecting strategy.
What is sales prospecting?
Sales prospecting is the process of searching for and identifying potential customers. It allows sales teams to find and reach customers that are a good fit for their business and nurture them through the sales funnel.
So what’s the difference between leads and prospects?
A lead is an unqualified contact, while a prospect is a qualified contact who has moved into the sales process.
As a sales rep or small business owner, it’s your job to find the preferred method of communication for your prospects. Whether via email, cold calls, social messages, or in person, you need to pinpoint the right methods of communication that are relevant to your industry. If you don’t, you won’t see your expected results.
Let’s take a look at some sales prospecting techniques in more detail.
A cold email is the first email you send to a prospect. They might not have heard of you before, so you must stand out.
People receive so many emails daily that it’s hard to cut through the noise — especially if you’re sending a cold email. So far in 2022, there is an average of 333 billion emails sent per day.
Cold emails need to drive email engagement if you want results. If the emails don’t grab the receiver’s immediate attention, you’ll get lost in their inbox. Take a look at these cold email templates for inspiration. And use our free email subject line generator to create eye-catching subject lines.
Cold calling involves reaching out to a prospect on the phone. Similar to cold emails, it’s the first time you contact them, and they might not have heard of you before.
Traditionally, cold calling was the weapon of choice for many sales representatives, but it’s a tricky task even for the best sales reps. It might work with some people, but it depends on your prospect’s preferred method of communication. Rather than tearing through hundreds of calls per day, be more selective to meet the customer experience expectations of today.
Sending sales prospecting letters can be an excellent alternative to cold calling (let’s be honest, no one really wants to cold call). Even Google has used prospecting letters for B2B sales, sending coupons to try out Google Ads directly to businesses.
If you decide to send a sales prospect letter, you’ll create a template that can be used for multiple prospects. To get the ball rolling, take a look at our sales prospecting letter template.
Social media outreach
Social outreach involves using a variety of social media channels to increase brand awareness and reach a wider audience. The process starts by identifying users that might be interested in your brand.
The most common strategy in B2B is to use LinkedIn to find people in key positions at companies you’d like to do business with and reach out to them for a meeting.
To maximize your social outreach efforts, consider using a customer automation platform like ActiveCampaign. Our customer experience automation allows you to integrate valuable social media data with your social campaigns and email marketing. As a result, you can create a customized and unique experience for your potential buyers.
Why is sales prospecting important?
Sales prospecting is a vital part of business growth, but there are other benefits to be aware of for businesses and customers. Let’s look at what they are.
Identify qualified prospects
Without prospecting, you risk targeting customers that aren’t a good match. You’ll waste time, energy, and money on leads that aren’t right for your business.
Prospects are warm leads. They fit your ideal customer profile, have the necessary budget, and are ready to buy. By utilizing sales prospecting, you can find these qualified leads and increase your chances of getting sales.
Offer a better customer experience
32% of B2B buyers say they’re more likely to buy from a company that goes above and beyond with customer experience. And sales prospecting allows you to offer consumers a better experience.
Take paid ads as an example. It’s annoying when we get shown adverts for things we’re not interested in, right? But when we see ads for things that are relevant, we’re happy to see them. That’s what prospecting allows you to do. You’ll show customers the information they want to see when they want to see it.
Hit your sales goals
Sourcing potential customers keeps a steady flow of prospects in your sales pipeline. Without that, you’ll be relying on repeat purchases from existing customers. That’s not sustainable for long-term business growth, and it won’t help you reach aggressive sales goals.
It makes sense that the more prospects you have in your pipeline, the more sales you’ll get. And that gives you a better chance of hitting, and even surpassing, your sales goals.
The 4-step sales prospecting process
A sales representative usually carries about prospecting, but that might be you if you’re a small business owner. To give you a solid starting point, we’ve outlined four key steps you can follow to carry out the process successfully.
1. Sourcing leads
To start the process, you need to source leads (a process that usually falls under the remit of the sales team). From here, you’ll identify the prospects you want to target.
Here are some methods you can use to source leads for your business:
- Track online engagement. Consumers that engage with your brand online have the potential to be prospects. For example, if they visit your website or engage with your social media.
- Use marketing campaigns. Running a marketing campaign is an excellent way to round-up potential leads. You’ll increase your reach with specific marketing activities and find a wider pool of consumers.
- Encourage customer referrals. If a customer recommends you, chances are this new consumer will fit your buyer persona. You can also encourage existing customers to refer your business to friends or colleagues by offering incentives. For example, with ActiveCampaign, you can automatically send customers a discount code when they forward your email to a new customer.
2. Qualifying leads
Now, you can identify qualified leads based on their likelihood of becoming a customer.
How to qualify leads varies from business to business — this is where lead scoring can help.
With lead scoring, you can categorize your leads based on their demographics, behavior, and the likelihood of converting. This process helps you identify qualified prospects.
To start categorizing your leads, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the prospect fit your buyer persona?
- How did the prospect hear about our company?
- Have they already shown an interest in your products?
- Does the customer have any constraints that might prevent them from buying?
3. Nurturing prospects into opportunities
The best way of nurturing prospects is unique to each business. It depends on your customer journey and how you want to move prospects through it. Whatever you decide, here are a couple of best practices:
- Use personalization. Nearly half of customers will take their business elsewhere if you don’t personalize the customer experience. Whether personalizing your email marketing or automating parts of the customer journey, think about how you can encourage customers to move through the sales funnel with personalization.
- Use omnichannel marketing. Omnichannel marketing helps you streamline your communications across different channels. It provides customers with a seamless experience and consistent communication, no matter what platforms they’re using.
4. Closing opportunities into deals
The final stage is to convert prospects into customers. This is the decision-making process for the consumer, so it’s your job to encourage them to make the purchase.
Again, you’ll know better than us how to convert your audience, but here are some best practices to get prospects over the final hurdle:
- Make the buying process easy. Encourage prospects to purchase by keeping the buying process as simple as possible. If it’s too complicated, you risk losing their business altogether. Test it yourself and see how it works from their perspective.
- Don’t oversell. At this point, the prospect has already passed through the awareness and consideration stage of the sales process. They know who you are and what you do, so there’s no need to oversell in a last-minute attempt to get them to buy. Doing this can scare them off. You want to encourage them to buy without being too pushy. For example, you might offer free product demos before they make a purchase.
If you need some more inspiration, find out what makes customers decide to buy.
How to find the right sales prospects
Wondering where to start when it comes to finding sales prospects?
It all comes down to research.
You need to know the ins and outs of your prospects to make sure they’re right for your business. Market research gives you a well-rounded view of how customers perceive your business and what you’re looking for in your prospects. From this information, you’ll be able to identify your ideal target audience.
Traditional market research techniques include the following:
- Market research surveys
- Focus groups
- Competitive intelligence
- SWOT analysis
- Structured interviews
Once you’ve identified a potential prospect, you can explore whether they’d be a good match for your business. This is crucial for B2B, as you should know about a company before contacting them.
Here are some things to think about:
- Does their company fit your ideal customer profile?
- Is your contact a key decision-maker?
- Is your product or service a priority for them?
- Do they have the budget for your product or service?
Do some digging to familiarize yourself with the company. Review their website and check out their main social media channel. It’s repetitive, sure, but it will help you identify the best prospects.
How to create a winning sales prospecting strategy
Ready to make your conversations with leads run more smoothly? Take a look at these five sales prospecting tips to give your efforts the best chance of success.
1. Identify your ideal customer before you start prospecting
Before you start prospecting, you need to know who you’re targeting. If you don’t have a clear picture of your ideal customer, you won’t be able to target them effectively.
To find out who your ideal prospects are, create a customer profile. This will help you pinpoint where to reach out to what kind of prospects.
2. Prioritize your prospects
If you have a large number of prospects, you’ll benefit from prioritization. It’ll allow you to identify which prospects have the highest chance of converting to a sale. It’ll also help you better allocate your resources and get a worthwhile return on your investment.
You can categorize your prospect list based on how well they fit your customer profile and how likely they will buy. Lead scoring is one strategy you can use for this process. It lets you assign a score to your prospects based on their potential value to your business. This means you can see which prospects are the most promising and prioritize them with personalized outreach.
3. Use the right software and tools
When creating your strategy, it helps to think about the platforms you’ll use to execute your tasks. There’s no use creating a plan if you don’t have the tools to make it happen.
So how do you know which to use?
Start by identifying the features you need. This should help you narrow down your options and find software that’s right for your business.
Let’s say your strategy focuses on email marketing. You need to be able to assign lead scores to your prospects, create visually dynamic sales emails, and automate parts of the sales process. With these features in mind, you find a tool like ActiveCampaign. It fits the bill with all the features you need, so you know you can deliver your strategy as planned.
Sales prospecting email templates
Ready to start reaching out to prospects? Take a look at some of our email templates to get the ball rolling.
Our favorite cold email template: competitor replacement
The best emails show prospects that you know their situation and drive home the point that you can help within the opening paragraphs. One way to do that is to focus on the provider the company already uses and explain how your offering is better.
Our sales reps effectively use this cold email template to land new enterprise clients for ActiveCampaign.
When prospects sign up for your newsletter (or provide their email address for any reason), you need to acknowledge it. This welcome email template does precisely that.
It can also serve as the initial email in a series of welcome emails.
This referral template encourages current customers to refer new customers.
With this email template, you could access a wider pool of potential prospects. Not to mention, you’re also providing the existing customer with a good experience. They get an incentive when they refer you to someone else, and you get a promising lead. It’s a win-win.
If none of these templates work for you, don’t worry. We’ve got over 250+ responsive email templates for you to choose from.
Make sales prospecting a habit and watch your business grow
If you want to see growth, you need prospecting. Period.
While it can seem overwhelming, using the right tools can streamline your prospecting efforts and make them manageable for your team. For example, a marketing automation tool like ActiveCampaign can help move prospects through the sales funnel using automated emails, saving you time. Sign up for a free trial to see the potential impact for yourself.