There are two ways you can approach sales:
- Go after every potential customer you come across
- Pursue the leads that are most likely to buy from your company
Which do you think is more efficient?
You might be tempted to cast a wide net when it comes to sales. But focusing your efforts on the leads who are most likely to buy will help you get the most out of your salespeople’s time.
That’s what prospecting is all about.
Prospecting helps you take a marketing-qualified lead—someone who’s in the market for your product or service—and determine whether they could be a valuable customer for your company.
The better your salespeople are at prospecting, the more efficient they’ll be. They’ll spend more time selling to and building relationships with people who are actually interested in your product.
And that’s where a sales prospecting sheet comes in.
What’s a sales prospecting sheet?
A sales prospecting sheet is a list of questions that your salespeople walk through with a lead.
If the lead shows promise based on their answers, the salesperson starts the sales process. If not, they move on to the next lead.
Every company will have a different prospecting process. And if you have multiple products or services, you could have a number of sheets.
The point is to provide a simple, repeatable process for your sales team to follow. Once they’ve gone through that process with a lead, they’ll know whether the lead is worth pursuing.
Let’s take a look at how you might go about putting one of these sheets together.
How to create a sales prospecting sheet for your sales team:
Your sales prospecting sheet will be tailored to your company and customers.
1. Start with your buyer persona.
Prospecting is about finding leads that are similar to your ideal customer. So before you start prospecting, you’ll need to know who your ideal customer is.
You might be able to base the process on patterns you’ve seen in your previous sales. For example, if you sell a SaaS app that helps manage warehouse inventory, you might not work with many sole proprietorships.
So, you make your first buyer persona a buyer who works in a medium-sized company. Company size could be one of the items on your prospecting sheet, too—if you’re prospecting and find that a potential customer runs a very small company, you’ll know right away that they’re less likely to buy from you.
Here’s a sample buyer persona from Buffer. Notice how they included demographics like age, salary, and location; goals and challenges; and specific ideas on how they can get this persona’s attention:
As you continue to grow and sell more, you can update your buyer personas to better reflect your actual ideal customers, and that can affect your prospecting.
But not everything in your buyer personas will translate directly to a question on your prospecting sheet.
For example, if you generally sell to CMOs and your contact at a company is a marketing manager, that doesn’t mean you should stop the prospecting process. It just means you might have to present your information differently.
Buyer personas are just a good place to start.
Your salespeople will have a good idea of which parts of the personas are most important. Use those pieces of information for your prospecting sheet.
Pro-tip: Learn about 5 ways that sales teams can prospect more effectively in this webinar.
2. Build on data.
In addition to your salespeople’s experience and what you know about your customers, consult any data you have to find the qualities that make a customer great.
For example, your CRM might tell you that customers from a certain part of the country generate the most lifetime value. Or that members of a specific industry are more likely to churn within the first year. (Learn how to avoid that by grabbing this handbook of strategies for reducing churn.)
Because every company and customer base is unique, there is no foolproof list of things to look for. You’re better off combing through data, talking to your marketing team, or—if you’re in a large company—tasking a data analyst with the job.
When you do find patterns, keep them in mind during the next step.
3. Talk to your salespeople.
Your salespeople are a great source of information for this task. Ask them questions like these:
- What can a lead say that makes you immediately think they might be a good fit for our product?
- What warning signs that a lead might not be a good customer do you watch out for?
- What do you always ask leads before you jump into the full sales process?
Questions like these will help you identify what’s important in prospecting.
4. Frame ideas as questions.
By now, you should have a list of ideas, statements, questions, and notes.
It’s time to get organized.
Turn each item into a question and combine them where you can. A sales prospecting sheet should be a page long at the most (and that includes room for jotting down leads’ answers).
So you might have these two items: “employees >250” and “have in-house HR department?”
You could combine them into “Do you have an in-house HR department that serves more than 250 employees?”
It gets at both ideas, keeps the prospecting process moving along, and doesn’t take up a ton of space.
This step is a bit like creating a lead scoring framework—but much simpler.
You now have a list of information that your salespeople need from potential customers. The next step is to put them in order.
What’s most important in your sales process? Is there anything that immediately disqualifies an organization from buying your product?
For example, you might sell a time-tracking app that’s specific to in-house teams. If someone from a fully remote company gets in touch with you, it’s good to know that right away.
So “Is your team centrally located or remote?” should be listed early in your prospecting sheet.
You might also prioritize items that indicate potential for a long-term customer. Going back to our time-tracking app example, you might find that agencies have a high lifetime value because they need to track time on many ongoing projects. Because of this, “Are you an agency?” should be high on your list of questions.
If a lead says “yes,” your salesperson knows to give that account special attention.
Because there will be few questions that immediately disqualify a lead, don’t spend too much time perfecting the order of your questions.
Having them in a convenient sequence just makes it easier for your salespeople to get a good handle on how likely a lead is to become a customer.
6. Walk salespeople through the process.
By now, you should have a good idea of what your sales prospecting sheet looks like. It’s time to go back to your sales team.
Take them through each step of the sales prospecting sheet and explain why they’re asking that question.
This step might seem like overkill, but there’s a good chance someone on the sales team will bring up an issue you hadn’t thought of yet.
For example, if they contact leads from a particular lead magnet, they might already have some of the information on the sheet. Or one of the questions could be redundant in a way you hadn’t thought of.
Use this as the final phase of feedback for your sales prospecting sheet.
7. Distribute your prospecting sheet.
After the final edits, it’s time to put your prospecting sheet into action!
Distribute it to your salespeople digitally, in print, as part of your CRM, or whatever works best.
And, of course, collect feedback to find out if it’s been helpful to your salespeople in the prospecting process and if it needs any changes.
Make sure your salespeople know that it’s there to help them prospect more efficiently.
Build a tool that works for your company.
Remember that a sales prospecting sheet is just a tool. It needs to be tailored to your company, customers, and salespeople.
If you want to format it as a checklist, go ahead. Include items that require instant attention or followup. Create a ranking system. Do whatever you need to do to make your prospecting process more efficient.
Now that you’ve improved your prospecting, you’re ready to take a look at the rest of your sales cycle. Check out how you can create the perfect sales process from beginning to end!