Prospecting can be the most frustrating part of the sales process.
But when it’s done well, it can be the most rewarding.
To help salespeople realize more success from prospecting, we went to some of the top experts in the sales industry. We collected their brilliant ideas and practical advice for better prospecting and put the best here for you.
And here’s what they have to say:
INDEX: OUR PROSPECTING EXPERTS
Mike Kunkle: It’s about them, not you
“It’s about them, not you. Stop thinking about your need for appointments, your quota, your product or service, or you in general. Instead, craft your approach, whether it’s email, phone (yes, you should call), voicemail (be ready), InMail (just don’t connect and immediately pounce and pitch on social), SMS, direct mail, trade show floor, or carrier pigeon, and make it about:
- Their role
- The likely challenges they’re facing in their role and the likely outcomes they want instead
- How you have helped others like them resolve those challenges and achieve the outcomes
- What the results were – those that they might be able to achieve, too
If it’s possible, add some insight from your company’s experience, expertise, or research that they might find valuable.
Matt Heinz: Do it every day
“Make prospecting a daily habit. Successful prospecting isn’t just a periodic campaign or beginning-of-month push.
The most successful prospecting efforts involve a daily discipline of engagement, follow-up and value-added outreach.”
Scott Collins: Look for a state of change
Vice President at Gartner
“We see the best, most successful sellers look for prospects where prospects are in some state of change. What these sellers know is that organizations undergoing some sort of change are far more open to buying and it’s an opportunity to capture emerging demand (vs. established).
For example, these sellers look for internal changes – such as poor commercial performance, mergers and acquisitions, changes in strategic direction, senior leadership changes, discontent with processes, tools, data – as well as external changes – regulatory, economic changes, legislation and technology.”
Tamara Schenk: Be valuable, relevant, differentiating
Author of Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip, and Empower A World-Class Sales Force, Research Director at CSO Insights, The Research Division of Miller Heiman Group
“Do your research first, personalize and tailor your messages to be relevant, valuable and differentiating for your prospects.
Whether you call a prospect or send an email: the impact of a call or an email that is irrelevant to the recipient is precisely zero. Furthermore, bad messaging on whatever channel it is communicated also hurts the brand that sends it, and it damages your reputation as a salesperson.
In the digital age, the era of the customer, it is mandatory to check your prospects’ social business profiles. Look at it this way: Do you want to be at the receiving end of an irrelevant call or email? Just a few minutes research time are enough and very well invested time to ensure that you call the right people and have the right messages for them. Then, personalize and tailor your messages.
Making a message personal is more than using the prospect’s name correctly. Making a message personal should also include something that relates to the prospect’s business role and the potential challenges the person could face and how to be of value to them.
The key words to aim for are: being valuable, relevant and differentiating.”
Jack Kosakowski: Build your credibility
“Credibility is important since it can help land you prospects even when you’re on the move. Industry leaders have been known to use multiple sales prospecting techniques. However, most first strive to ensure that their names are already on people’s lips before setting out to make a sale.
You can effectively do this by becoming visible, valuable, and connected both online and in physical circles. Having a personal blog and getting featured in a couple of publications with articles can help you get your name out there. Attending trade shows and conferences can also give you a sense of credibility. In doing so, prospects are likely to become aware of your brand even before you make contact. They are less likely to have their guards up when you decide to make a move.”
Deb Calvert: Follow the E=O equation
“E=O is the formula for time management in prospecting. E=O means your Effort should be equivalent to your Opportunity.
Not all prospects merit the same amount of time, attention, and preparation. When sellers spend too much time with the wrong prospects, they lose valuable time that would be better spent with the right prospects.
How can you tell who the “right” prospects are? Consider:
- How closely does a prospect match the profile of your ideal buyer? The closer the match, the stronger the opportunity with that prospect.
- How ready is the prospect to make a move? What circumstances are potentially causing a prospect to be open to working with you? The better the timing, the better the opportunity.
- How strong are your connections and inroads with a prospect? The more links you have, the more likely this is to be a solid opportunity.
- How likely is the opportunity to close? The opportunity to get a bigger deal? The opportunity to advance the sale quickly? You decide what makes an opportunity high value to you.
Once you’ve got criteria for sizing up the opportunity, you’ll have a clear idea about how to allocate your effort accordingly. That’s E=O.”
Tibor Shanto: Skip the product, focus on the outcome
Author of Execution: Everything Else is Just Talk, sales trainer and speaker
“Leave the product out of the introduction. Focus entirely on outcomes. Look at it from the prospect’s point of view – what they think about a “Product” or a change in their current state.
Jeff Hoffman: Keep it short, simple, authentic
Author of Basho Email, Your SalesMBA and Why You? Why You Now? sales programs, speaker, trainer and writer
“Keep it short, simple, and authentic. You have less than 30 seconds to make an impact on your prospect, so your main focus is to say something compelling and capture their attention.
Don’t worry about building rapport or getting them to like you on that first call. That will come later as a result of the great work you did. Instead, focus on drawing connections between events that are happening at their company right now and the value you add.”
Matt Dixon: Hold off with eager buyers
Chief Product and Research Officer at Tethr, and co-author of Sales Reps Should Avoid Customers Who Are Ready to Buy, research by Corporate Executive Board, now Gartner
“This may sound counter-intuitive, but avoid prospects who are ready to buy.
We find that average performers’ pipelines are full of these types of late-stage, reactive — and often fruitless — pursuits. High-performers’ pipelines, on the other hand, tilt much more toward very early-stage, proactive opportunities.
These superior reps avoid customers who have a clear understanding of what they want and instead look for customers who are going through change and will be open to new ideas. They look where demand is emerging but not yet established, where they can shape customers’ needs, rather than react to them.”
Jonathan Farrington: Have resilience, persistence
CEO of Top Sales World and Editor of Top Sales Magazine
“Two of the most critical personality traits for frontline sales professionals are resilience and perseverance because 60% of clients/prospects buy after five ‘No’s,’ 22% after the second ‘No’ and 14% after a third ‘No.’ Yet, 44% of salespeople give up after the first rejection.
For example, a well-known oil company discovered that it took their best salespeople an average of three visits and five follow-up calls to convert a prospect into a client. Yet, their average sales performers only visited prospects twice and then gave up, costing the company millions of pounds in wasted sales effort and even more in lost potential sales opportunities.”
Aaron Ross: ‘Nail A Niche’
Author of Predictable Revenue, sales trainer and speaker
“Anyone who does outbound prospecting needs to first ‘Nail A Niche’: Understand which prospects need your solution the most and how to speak and write to them in the language that speaks to those needs.
People respond to people and will respond if they feel like you are speaking about something important to them in their language. They don’t want to hear from someone who is unthinkingly regurgitating messages from their website or playbook.
My favorite simple tip is to pretend you’re speaking to someone at a cafe, and write email or messages the way you’d talk to them live. Then before you send it, read it out loud.
Keenan: Stay focused on the key elements
Author of Not Taught: What It Takes to be Successful in the 21st Century That Nobody’s Teaching You, and CEO, President and Chief Antagonist at A Sales Guy
“There are three key elements to prospecting:
- Build a list of the companies and people that your product can help. (Ideal customer profile, ICP)
- Know what problems your product or service solve for those companies
- Build all your prospecting messages, efforts, emails, cold calls, etc., to uncover those.
It’s that simple. Unfortunately, the problem is many salespeople struggle to execute the approach. Too focused on themselves and their products, salespeople interrupt buyers and prospects trying to push, promote and spew the benefits of their product and service.
This attempt to push and promote turns buyers off and drastically reduces the chance of buyers responding and becoming engaged.”
Lee Salz: Create a ‘sales crime theory’
“At some time during your sales career, someone probably told you that sales is a numbers game. If you make enough calls, you will succeed in sales. That’s partially true. Quantity is important, but that alone won’t make you a rainmaker. The quality of your sales activities plays a major role in your success.
Prospecting is that first activity. Salespeople sometimes blindly make calls without a purpose beyond asking a few questions. That’s almost like police officers showing up at people’s homes asking if they committed and will admit to a crime so they can close the case. Neither group should approach their jobs blindly like that!
Salespeople need to formulate a ‘sales crime theory’ before trying to find their suspect – prospect actually. A ‘sales crime theory’ is based on the answer to this question:
Why should this person want to talk with you right now?
The answer to that question allows you to personalize the conversation and better engage the person on the other end of the phone. It communicates that you are not making some random call in search of a sale, but rather seeking to help someone address a challenge or achieve an objective. And it demonstrates you care, which differentiates you from all the other salespeople calling this person.”
James Muir: Keep it short, simple, authentic
“When asked what is more difficult to do in sales now compared to 2-3 years ago 70% of the responses are about prospecting. But minor adjustments in four key areas can create massive differences in results: market, message, medium, and motivation.
Market means targeting. The single most effective thing you can do to increase sales is to sell to only ideal candidates. Getting this one thing right can make a massive difference in your prospecting.
Message is about crafting a message that gets buyers to act now. Opportunities get into the pipeline, but once they get there, they languish when there’s no urgency for buyers to act now – a message failure. Look at your value proposition and how you communicate it. Use a framework that creates urgency.
Medium is about the communication channels you use and the ideal activities to execute your message. Referrals are the highest-leverage, most underutilized channel in sales. They convert 300 – 500% higher than any other channel. Have a system for generating referrals rather than just allowing it to happen randomly.
Then there’s motivation – and three keys to sustaining it: Know what you want in life. Once you’ve determined exactly WHAT you want, ask yourself WHY you want it. For long-lasting motivation, you want to tap something deep and meaningful. Finally, understand the true nature of selling: Selling is serving.”