B2B salespeople need to create a pipeline of new opportunities to achieve their goals. To do this, the salesperson will need to contact potential customers over time, identifying and scheduling a first meeting with potential buyers.
Prospecting is an essential part of the sales process. It involves activities such as researching potential customers; contacting them through various channels, such as email, phone, or social media; and inviting them to an initial meeting. During the prospecting process, sales professionals typically aim to gather information about their potential customers, including their needs, goals, and budget. From there, they can determine whether the customer is a good fit for the product or service they're offering, and if so, how best to approach them and build a relationship. By engaging in regular prospecting activities, sales professionals can continually build their customer base and generate more leads.
In a first meeting, the B2B sales rep and a decision maker discuss improving the prospect's results. The activities are many and varied and are sometimes described as cold outreach. Scheduling a meeting to create an opportunity is one of the most effective ways to acquire new clients or customers. Many companies use cold outreach as their primary method of selling their products and services.
Benefits of Prospecting
Ongoing and consistent prospecting gives salespeople an edge. The biggest benefits are:
- Increased sales: Instead of waiting for your dream client to ask you for a meeting, you proactively contact people at the companies you believe you can help. This sales strategy allows you to have greater control over the client company's success and revenue growth, which translates to increased sales for you.
- Expansion of customer base: By communicating with people who have the authority to make a purchasing decision, you can start important conversations. As you talk to more prospects, you will see an increase in the acquisition of new customers.
- Improved customer retention: The best way to retain and grow your existing clients is to create new value. The B2B sales process starts with a phone call to schedule a first meeting. It ends with your existing client making a purchase that improves their results. You’ve helped them to dispatch a pain point, which means they’re likely to stay with you.
- Competitive advantage: All salespeople want a competitive advantage over their competitors. Solid prospecting and the ability to book first meetings gives you that edge. More meetings and more opportunities grow your sales funnel.
Steps for Effective Prospecting
Prospecting is the foundation for success in sales. Despite this, many salespeople fail to do it effectively. There are the steps for effective prospecting:
- Identify your target audience: There is no reason to call on companies that don't need what you sell. The idea that booking meetings is a numbers game is not true. You want all your outbound activity and effort to be deployed on B2B customers who need what you sell. It is important to not waste your time and energy on companies that are not a good fit for your products or services. Instead, focus your prospecting efforts on businesses you believe have the potential to be a good fit. Research each company beforehand to get a better understanding of their needs and how your product or service can help them. When you contact these companies, make sure you have prepared a clear and concise pitch that will make them want to hear what you offer.
- Conduct research on prospects: It's important to research your potential clients. This research needs to generate more than a phone number and an email address. You need to read about your targeted accounts, starting with what’s on their website. You want to understand the challenges and opportunities confronting the company and their stakeholders so you can be informed and knowledgeable before your first meeting. Never ask your contact a question you could find the answer to on your own.
- Develop a cold outreach strategy: The sales prospecting process needs to include several communications using different methods and mediums. The best strategy for most sales organizations is to use a phone-first approach. Most contacts have an inbox overflowing with messages, so breaking through the noise means making a phone call before turning to other mediums.
- Contact prospects: If you want close deals, you first must open a conversation and a relationship. Most sales teams can create the opportunities they need by prospecting for 90 minutes each day.
- Follow up and nurture relationships: Your approach should be a patient, persistent, professional pursuit plan. You can nurture your potential clients by sharing insights that will help them recognize you as a value creator instead of a time waster.
Tools and Techniques for Prospecting
It’s helpful to understand the different tools and techniques for prospecting. Using the following in combination will help bring you more prospecting success:
- Social media platforms: The best social media platform for B2B salespeople is LinkedIn. Most of your contacts are there. If you carefully construct an outreach strategy that helps your contact see that your communication isn’t spam, you can open a relationship and a potential opportunity.
- Email marketing: This is a low-effort, low-yield activity. The overwhelming number of companies using sales automation causes decision-makers to delete sales emails. Almost any other medium will produce better results.
- Cold calling and warm calling: The humble cold call is a high-effort, low-yield prospecting activity. However, don’t be fooled by its low-yield status. You may not book as many meetings as you would like, but cold calling can have a high-yield effect on your revenue numbers.
- Referrals and recommendations: There is a little-known strategy that will help you get referrals and recommendations. You ask a new client to make an introduction once you deliver the results you promised them. Introducing the idea early on makes the referral contingent on your success. Once you deliver, you ask for the introduction.
- Networking events: Networking events and trade shows often put you in a room with people who may need the outcomes you produce for your clients. Networking means exploring, so the most you can do is ask for a meeting. Don't pitch them directly.
Common Prospecting Mistakes
Prospecting becomes much easier if you avoid common mistakes. Most of these mistakes emerge when a person does not want to step out of their comfort zone. Avoid the following:
- Not researching prospects: This idea is called "spray and pray," and it is not the way. Don't waste your time or a decision maker's time. Be sure that your research helps you pinpoint only those prospects who would benefit from what you have to offer.
- Failing to personalize outreach: The more your contact knows that you see them and understand who they are, the more effective your communication. Personalization is more than using a person’s name in the opening.
- Neglecting to follow up: If a salesperson makes one call to their dream client and waits 90 days to reach out a second time, they will struggle to book meetings and create new opportunities. The timing of your outreach matters.
- Relying too heavily on one method: You want to master all the tools of communication, even if you are more comfortable with certain mediums you use to communicate with your potential B2B buyers. Varying your outreach will improve your prospecting results.
Tips for Successful Prospecting
Tips aren’t shortcuts, but they can be incredibly helpful for salespeople looking to improve their prospecting. The following tips will help you approach prospecting with the right mindset:
- Set realistic goals: You will not produce the opportunities you need if you have unrealistic goals. The worst example is the salesperson who believes they can book the meeting they need by cramming, so they prospect for eight hours instead of doing a little each day. You need a plan that will work. This means something that is sustainable, consistent, and regular.
- Prioritize quality over quantity: The more effective your approach, the better your results. More isn't better than better. Focus on the quality of your prospecting list and the value you trade for your contact's time.
- Be persistent but respectful: You don't want to be mistaken for a techno-brute that continues to bang on their contacts. You don't want to alienate a person when you are trying to convince them to meet with you. At the same time, don’t let your communications lag too much.
- Continuously analyze and adjust your strategy: Review your results at the end of every week to determine what is working, what isn't, and what changes you might need to make to improve your results. It can take time to dial in your approach.
The work you do to reach your contacts and schedule a first meeting is critical to success in sales. Failing to contact your potential clients is a surefire way to fail in sales. Prospecting should be high on your daily agenda. You can never make up for lost time. The sales cycle doesn't change simply because you need to win new deals.
The greater your effectiveness in winning a meeting with a new prospect, the better your results. It may take you time to improve so you can easily acquire meetings. When you get started, prospecting will take more time and effort, but with consistency, attention, and practice, your results will improve. Need more help? Go here.