The internet, cell phones, and social media have all made the sales prospecting process easier.
We’re more connected, we have a better understanding of our customers’ wants, needs, and challenges, and we’re able to nurture relationships with potential buyers more effectively.
But in many ways, those same technological advancements have made prospecting more difficult, particularly with B2B sales prospecting, and B2C sales as well.
Customers are bombarded with content, offers, and deals each and every day. They have dozens of choices right at their fingertips, making it challenging for you to stand out as a salesperson.
To get in touch with the right prospects quickly and efficiently, you need to establish a step-by-step sales process that works for you and your sales team so that you can reduce wasted time, establish long-lasting relationships with quality customers, and improve sales.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or your current system needs some work, here are six steps you can follow to create a sales prospecting process that works for you.
Step 1: Do industry and market research.
If there’s one thing any great salesperson needs to know, it’s their product—but just knowing the ins and outs of what you sell isn’t going to be enough to convince high-quality prospects you’re the right solution for them.
Before you even begin your prospecting process, you need to understand how your product or service fits in the grander landscape of your market and industry. In addition to your own offerings, features, or benefits, it’s important to know how competitors stack up.
Research your industry. Get familiar with the other key players, as well as some small contenders that may just be a blip on your radar. When you’re well educated on other market solutions, you can better position your own offerings.
Pro-tip: Attend an industry conference—without the intention of pitching your product or service. Instead, spend some time getting to know the people there. Pay attention to other vendors, organizations, or sales representatives there and listen to how they market their solutions.
Here are some conference networking tips you might find useful.
Step 2: Get to know your ideal customer.
No matter how badly you want to believe it, everyone isn’t going to be interested in what you have to offer. While you might be selling a great product or service, trying to appeal to everyone will result in surface-level relationships that struggle to get off the ground.
Instead of trying to target every person you come into contact with, hone in on exactly who your product or service was designed for. Specify your target demographic and understand as much as possible about them.
Here’s an example of an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP):
The right research will set you up for a successful sales process. Know who your customer is, what problems they’re facing, what solutions they’re looking for, and how they’re most likely to connect with you.
Need help building an ICP? Use this worksheet to help you out.
Step 3: Build a list.
Now that you have a better idea of who you’re trying to reach, it’s time to create your prospecting list. This list should include all the contact information of prospects you want to connect with.
Your list should include multiple sources and information collected through different channels, platforms, and events. However, you also want to keep your list segmented (or contacts tagged). This makes it easier to send a personalized message when you’re ready to reach out.
Add a form to your website, look for prospects on LinkedIn or other social platforms, and make sure to collect business cards at events and conferences. Keep detailed sales notes about each individual, including the actions, behaviors, or interests that caught your eye so you can make a stronger impression.
Pro-tip: Use a CRM to manage your contact list, as well as notes about each prospect. This will help you keep everything consistent and organized, ensuring you don’t lose important information about potential customers.
Step 4: Establish your communication channels.
The typical cold-call or email outreach can feel outdated, especially if you’re trying to stand out to prospects. If you’re trying to connect just by flooding their inbox, you’re going to get sent straight to spam.
Instead, create an omnichannel communication approach that connects with prospects based on their unique preferences. Identify where your prospects spend most of their time, the best way to reach them, and how you can make your messages stand out for a strong impression.
According to the CRM Benchmark Report, phone, in-person conversations, and CRM platforms play a major role in managing communication with customers regardless of company size. However, enterprise-level sales professionals rely heavily on chat and documents as well:
Map out the progression you’ll follow to get in touch. Make your communication plan detailed, and multi-step, considering events like a lack of response, a disinterest in the product, or other challenges you may face during the sales process.
Pro-tip: Establish a presence on social media channels before you use them as communication tools. Get started in conversations, share insights and content, and show off your expertise. A complete and active profile will be more trustworthy.
Step 5: Start the conversation.
Now that you’ve laid out your plan, you’re finally ready to get the conversation started. Using the contact strategy you’ve developed, start to connect with your prospects.
Don’t approach your various conversations with a one-size-fits-all pitch. Instead, refer back to your list segments and notes to send targeted messages to each individual. Segmented campaigns can drive up to 760% more revenue than a generic approach.
Throughout the nurturing and communication process, make sure to stay nimble. Remember, each prospect will have unique needs, challenges, and preferences. It’s your job to listen to those concerns or requests and provide the right recommendations and feedback.
Pro-tip: Know when to push and when to pull back. Don’t spam your prospects or force them to make a decision before they’re ready. Keep communication consistent, but don’t overstep or be too pushy.
Step 6: Review your results and adjust accordingly.
Making a connection with a prospect involves a bit of creativity. In some cases, taking a risk can seriously pay off. In others, trying something new may not get the results you hoped for.
With each outreach, look back at your prospects’ past responses. Note what each prospect has engaged with, what got a high reply rate, and what fell flat. Then, use this information to refine your communication process to be more efficient.
You should be looking at your outreach results as you’re communicating with prospects—don’t wait until you’ve run through your plan to make adjustments. Continuously review prospect feedback and be ready with a backup plan if something doesn’t work the way you expected.
Pro-tip: Log past conversations including open, click-through, and reply rates in your CRM. Adding this information to contact profiles will allow you to send better messages in the future using methods and campaigns that had worked for that prospect in the past.
In Copper, for example, you can log every detail about a contact's past interactions with you.
Successful sales prospecting starts with having the right process.
There are no secrets to perfecting the sales prospecting process. Each sales professional, organization, and prospect will have different needs and challenges—meaning it’s highly unlikely that a cookie cutter approach will work.
However, each process should follow a similar trajectory. These six steps can allow you to lay down a process foundation that moves prospects along while also remaining agile enough to account for changing demands or ideas.
Let’s recap those steps:
- Do research on your industry, competitors, and target audience.
- Get to know the prospects you should be connecting with on an in-depth level.
- Compile a list of contacts that fit your ideal buyer.
- Create an omnichannel contact plan that accounts for a wide variety of prospect scenarios (both positive and negative).
- Get the conversation started.
- Listen to how your prospects are responding and adjust your plan accordingly.
Remember, these steps are just your starting block. While they can help you create a process from scratch or refine a strategy you already have, feel free to add, remove, or adjust steps to better fit your unique needs.