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  • Writer's pictureSteve Johnson

Effective Sales Prospecting: Strategies for Finding and Nurturing Leads

Sales prospecting is the main way businesses bring in new clients. Prospecting involves researching, identifying, targeting, and then nurturing leads in order to convert them into paying customers. Prospecting isn’t the same as marketing—it’s more targeted, can be measured more easily, and can be more profitable if done correctly.

However, correct sales prospecting isn’t as simple as reaching out to potential customers you think might be interested in your products and services. There are challenges you will have to overcome in order to prospect correctly. Some of those challenges are external, such as gathering enough accurate data to identify potential customers. Others are internal and aren’t always easy to see.

One major internal challenge that is often hard to identify and overcome is assumptions. Businesses often assume things about potential customers or suspects that simply aren’t true. These assumptions can result in targeting the wrong people or crafting a message that doesn’t accurately convey what you offer.

Let’s take a look at what sales prospecting involves and how you can overcome the challenges that can prevent you from correctly identifying prospects. We will also look at how Scaling Sales can help you with these challenges.

Understanding Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting sounds deceptively simple: all you have to do is identify potential customers (prospects) and begin a dialogue with them that will result in new business for your company. Identifying prospects is a large part of the early stages of the sales pipeline. The pipeline begins by defining suspects (your total addressable market) and prospects (those suspects you want to convert). If you don’t identify the right people, your sales team will be wasting their time. Yes, you might get a few sales by accident, but you’ll be reaching out to people who may not need the solutions you’re offering.

Targeting the right prospects is going to increase your conversion rates. You’ll be having conversations with people who have problems you can solve. This is why it’s more effective to target problems rather than demographics. Targeting businesses with over 100 employees who handle over $1 million in revenue a year may not result in any conversions if those businesses don’t need the solutions you offer. This is why carefully analyzing data and creating personas is so important to the sales pipeline.

Sales prospecting can also be split into two different types of prospects: inbound and outbound. Inbound prospects are those who come to you. They have seen your marketing or heard about your business from others and are interested in what you can provide. For these, you’ve hit on all three parts of a sale: you’ve reached the right person with the right message at the right time. On the other hand, outbound prospects are those you reach out to. You’re more likely to reach the right person with the right message, but it may not always be the right time. You’ll need to do more nurturing of these leads in order to convert them. Some may need to learn more about what you offer, while others may need to wait until their current service contracts are up or they’ve started a new fiscal year.

Chalkboard with bar chart of sales plan and target
Chalkboard with bar chart of sales plan and target

Research and Targeting

As you can see, targeting the right prospects is incredibly important to your sales process. This means you simply cannot rush creating your personas. This starts with data. You need to understand your potential customers in order to write a message that will reach them. You need to know their pain points, what they value, and what their goals are. Without knowing these things, you can’t focus on the value you can provide. Many businesses create personas using basic demographic data, but that’s not enough.

Researching prospects isn’t always easy. You can do industry research to learn about companies in the target market you serve, but that may not give you much more than demographic information. You may need to use other tools, including online options such as surveys. Your sales team may have some insight into your current customers beyond demographics, too, plus you can hold focus groups or ask prospects and current customers if they would be willing to do a short interview.

When it comes to creating a customer persona, you can never have too much information, but you do need to make certain you focus on what’s important. Remember that you’re looking for problems that you can solve and that you should do your best to limit any assumptions you make about prospects. Above all, though, remember to never rush through the persona process. This is the starting point for your entire sales pipeline, and you need to be thorough if you want to see the sales results you’re aiming for.

Proactive Outreach Techniques

Once you’ve identified your prospects, the next question is how should you reach out to them? There are typically three options: email, cold calling, and social media. Social media isn’t always useful for sales prospecting. Likes aren’t sales, nor are they even equal to clicks on your website. Social media can help raise awareness of your brand and help you interact with prospects, but it isn’t as useful as email or cold calling.

Which is best between those two options? Email is most effective if you’re going to pick one or the other. However, the best approach is a hybrid of emails and cold calling. You might start with a cold call, then follow it up with an email. After a few emails, it may be time to call again. There’s no exact formula here—it’s whatever works best for you to get your message across.

When it comes to creating that message, you again can’t rush things. You will need to craft a single message for each persona. This message needs to speak directly to their issues and showcase your business’s value. Creating a vague message that tries to touch on every problem one of your potential customers might have isn’t going to get the results you want. That type of message doesn’t speak to anyone, and while it might get some interest, you won’t see a good return on your investment.

Boosting your response rate to these emails and cold calls typically comes back to having the right message at the right time aimed at the right person. Your email or call needs to be compelling. You need to show that you understand where the prospect is, what challenges they face, and why you can provide a valuable solution to those challenges. If you can’t do that, you’ll regularly see prospects falling out of your sales pipeline.

hand pointing into air and "clicking" an email icon

Leveraging Technology for Prospecting

Technology is a great enabler when it comes to sales prospecting. Your sales team can use various apps and other technology to make it easier to accumulate data and analyze it to create personas. It also helps with communication. There are various email programs such as MailChimp that make it incredibly easy to create a series of emails, schedule them to be sent at specific times, and track if they’re opened.

Another tool many people use is HubSpot, a CRM tool that makes it easy to track sales data. It makes it simple to track leads, view the data you’ve gathered about each, and create a nurturing plan. Even if your business doesn’t use HubSpot, you will need a CRM of some type to manage your sales pipeline. It’s one of the necessary tools in today’s sales world.

Always remember that technology itself is a tool. It can make it easier to create personas and reach out to prospects, but it won’t do all the work. You will still need to craft messages that highlight your value and make personal connections with prospects in order to improve your conversion rate. Don’t mistake tools like ChatGPT as replacements for the human element necessary in sales.

Nurturing and Building Relationships

Finding your prospects is just the first part of the sales pipeline. To get them to fully convert into customers, you have to nurture those leads and build relationships with them. This process may be fairly short if the prospect is in need of the solutions you offer and you’ve connected with them at the right time. It can also take several months or more if the prospect isn’t there yet. They may need you to show why your service has value to them, or they may not have money in their budget for your services right now.

One of the main ways of nurturing prospects is to keep in contact with them. You have to find the right balance here—too much contact can push some prospects away. They don’t want to be spammed by your email every few days. However, going too long between contact can result in a prospect being courted by a competitor or forgetting your services exist. It can be hard to find the right balance at first, but experience will help guide you.

Often, as mentioned earlier, a hybrid approach that combines emails and calls can work very well here. An email newsletter is another great tool. You can use the newsletter to highlight several problems your prospects are dealing with and show how you solve those problems. It’s a good method of showcasing the different ways you can bring value to a company while also educating prospects on what you do and the industry you’re in.

Tracking and Evaluating Prospecting Efforts

Finally, it’s important that you track the progress of your sales pipeline, including your prospecting efforts. You need to be able to determine if your process is working and, if it’s not, what needs to change. How many new prospects do you have coming in? If it’s not many, you may need to increase the amount of time your sales team focuses on prospects.

Next, look at the quality of these leads. Are the people you’re reaching out to meeting the three keys of quality prospects? Are they the right person hearing the right message at the right time? If not, the chances of them converting may be low. Conversion rates are another metric you’ll want to track and use to evaluate your sales process. If you’re not converting a healthy number of prospects, you may need to re-evaluate your personas to determine if they’re really representing the right customers.

Scaling Sales Can Help

Now that you have an idea of how to find new prospects and how to nurture them, it’s time to get the process started. If you’re a new business, Scaling Sales can help you create your sales pipeline. If you’re an established company, we can analyze your existing process and help you identify what needs to change. Reach out today to learn more about how we can help you.

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