Sales prospecting is vital in a tough and changing sales world. Buyers are more informed, skeptical and stuck. Sellers face low-quality leads, long sales cycles, and generational gaps.
Only 60% of salespeople hit their targets in recent years. Prospecting success leads to sales performance, but most salespeople prospect less than 9% of their time.
So what is sales prospecting? Prospecting is finding and engaging new customers who need your help. Prospecting is not selling products, but creating experiences. Buyers want to hear how you can solve their problems and goals. They want to trust you and see your value.
Prospecting is about making connections that drive sales. It is essential for sales success, but it is hard. It needs skill, strategy and persistence. Sales teams need to know how to use the best strategies and tactics to fill their pipelines with qualified prospects.
How to Break Through the Mental Barriers to Prospecting
Prospecting is the key to sales success, but many salespeople avoid it or do it poorly. Why? Because they have psychological barriers, emotional challenges and unconscious beliefs that limit them. There are over 55 self-limiting narratives that can create mental blocks for prospecting.
Some of the most common limiting beliefs are:
- fearing not being liked
- thinking it’s rude to talk about money
- feeling unqualified or inexperienced
- striving for perfection instead of progress
Are any of these familiar to you? Prospecting training has to address these barriers and managers have to coach their salespeople to overcome them. Salespeople need to be honest with themselves and ask some tough questions about their prospecting approach:
How often do you use email vs phone calls?
Are you hiding behind email because it’s safer and easier? When was the last time you mailed something to a prospect?
How much time do you spend on social media to build your personal brand, add value to your connections and stay visible?
You can get results with just 15-20 minutes a week on social media.
How effective is your prospecting mix and approach?
Use the formula of # of opportunities/# of touches to calculate your “prospecting efficiency score”. Don’t just look at the quantity, but also the quality of your touches. Get feedback from others as well. Every prospecting touch must answer these questions for the recipient:
- Why am I special to you?
- Why are you contacting me?
- Who are you?
- What do you want me to do?
Salespeople also have to help the customer overcome their own mental blocks, because you are asking them to make a change, and that involves risk.
Your biggest competitor is often inertia or the status quo. And bad prospecting with low-value, generic messages will keep the customer with what they know and are comfortable with.
To overcome this, you have to show the customer that they will not regret choosing you and that your solution will deliver what you promise. This is how you go from being a solution to being the solution. It’s a narrow and tricky path to follow.
How to Adopt a Winning Mindset for Sales Prospecting
Your mindset is one of the most important factors that can affect your prospecting results. Here are four mindset principles that can help you improve your prospecting approach:
#1 Prospecting is an investment in success.
Prospecting is not a waste of time, but a way to secure your future sales. You may not see the results right away, but you are building the foundation for long-term relationships. Make sure you dedicate enough time to prospect every week, and follow a structured approach.
#2 Prospecting is about making connections – not selling.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Prospecting is just the first step in the sales process. Your goal is not to sell anything, but to create interest and rapport with potential customers. Remember: people still buy from people, so you need to show your personality and value.
#3 Prospecting requires conviction.
You need to believe in your solutions, and the value they bring to the market. You need to be able to communicate that value clearly and concisely to different audiences. This means having deep knowledge of your solutions and their ROI. This is essential to connect your solutions to real problems.
#4 Prospecting requires market knowledge.
You need to do your homework. Period. To create connections, you need to show that you understand (really understand) their needs and pain points. You need to know not only your target audience, but their audience as well. What does your customer care about? This information is crucial to approach prospecting with confidence.
How to Create a Systematic Approach for Sales Prospecting Success
Prospecting is not only about having the right mindset, but also the right skills. You can find a lot of data and information about potential clients and customers, but you need to know how to use it wisely and effectively.
You need a systematic approach to prospecting that helps you focus on the best prospects for your solutions. Here are some steps to follow:
Identify your Ideal Customer (or Company) Profiles (ICPs):
- Think about your current most successful customers. What are their features?
- Consider industry, size, role, seniority, etc. Where do you excel? And where do you face difficulties?
- How well do your prospects fit your ICPs?
- How many factors do they have in common with your ICPs?
Be clear and honest about how well your prospect list matches your ICPs. This is a crucial step that requires careful thought and effort, because it influences everything else.
How to Communicate with Prospects
The best way to prospect is to use a mix of emails and calls, since most buyers prefer to connect with sellers over the phone. Focus on existing, past and referral clients, and communicate well with them.
To communicate well, follow these guidelines:
Know your audience.
Understand their needs, goals, challenges and emotions. Be brief and build trust by focusing on them and how they define success. Explain why you are connecting and how you can help in one sentence.
Use your imagination to capture your prospect’s attention. Make sure your creativity matches their preferences.
Use conversational language.
Don’t sell yet, just create connection and interest. Be authentic and speak like you would normally do.
Define your cadence.
Cadence is the combination of attempts, media, duration and spacing of your contact efforts. Aim for three attempts with different media and messages, within 12 days and with up to two days between each attempt.
Prospecting should be fun and effective. Use unconventional and creative approaches, let your personality shine, and make your prospect laugh. Prospecting is about authenticity, humility and listening, wrapped in empathy. Your aim is to help the customer trust you and appreciate your value.
How to Use Social Media for Prospecting
Social media is a powerful tool for prospecting, but you need to do more than just create a LinkedIn profile. You need to be authentic and add value to your target prospects. Follow their companies and leaders on LinkedIn. Engage with their posts and share relevant insights. Share useful articles from different sources, not just your own company’s content.
As Sam McKenna, our social selling expert, says, “Your LinkedIn network is your net worth.”
LinkedIn can help you connect with prospects better than cold emails, but you have to use it wisely. You have to offer perspectives without expecting anything in return. You also have to ask your network for recommendations, because your prospects will check your profile.
Social selling is not a new trend, it’s the new normal. This is how modern selling works, and the salespeople who use social selling have a clear advantage.
They know that prospects want more than a scripted email sequence. Buying is personal now, which means sellers need to show their personality and creativity on social media.
How to Meet Customer Needs with Prospecting
Buyers are doing a lot of research on their own and making decisions before talking to a salesperson. They are influenced by the brand experience and the prospecting messages they receive. Even if they don’t reply, they often read/listen and form opinions.
So what do they want when they talk to a salesperson? A 2022 Salesforce study found that 73% of buyers want sellers to “understand [their] unique needs and expectations” and use this knowledge to create personalized messages and solutions. This means that the more a salesperson knows about a prospect, the more likely they are to turn them into a lead.
The best way to know a prospect is to have existing or insider knowledge. This includes things like their:
How to Use Brand to Affect Prospecting Success
“Brand” is the promise that the organization makes to the market, and the salesperson is the one who delivers it.
Therefore, how the salesperson “appears to the prospect” matters. They are brand representatives, and the way they prospect will reflect the brand itself.
Your personal and company brand are constantly being built or damaged with every interaction with a prospect. Alignment between the company brand and the salesperson’s personal brand is crucial. The salesperson is the final, tangible expression of the brand that will hopefully lead to a sale later on.
In that sense, brand and prospecting are the nutrients for growing the sales pipeline. They have to be nurtured every day, not just when you feel like it.
A positive, consistent brand helps overcome obstacles and allows you to be seen as an authoritative, consultative resource. Through repeated exposure and recognition, prospects will gain familiarity and confidence that will reduce some of the perceived risk. That will open up more opportunities for you to have more meaningful conversations.
How to Ask for Referrals Without Fear
Referrals are a great source of prospecting, but many salespeople don’t ask for them. They are afraid of ruining their relationship with their customers or making them uncomfortable.
But most customers are happy to give referrals if you ask them the right way. You have to keep your brand strong and show them that you can help their contacts as well.
To ask for a referral, follow these steps:
- Make a list of 10-12 customers who know your value and impact.
- Ask them if you can check their LinkedIn network for 12-15 people who might need your help.
- Be specific and ask them if they can introduce you to 2 or 3 of them.
- Use email as the best channel to ask for a referral. Email gives your customer time to think and lets you write key points for them to use in the introduction. Email also lets you do your research before asking.
- If your customer doesn’t have a strong connection with the prospect, ask them if you can mention their name in a cold email or call to the prospect.
Creating Connections for Prospecting Success
Connection is the key to influencing prospects and generating new business. When prospects know and trust you, they are more likely to buy from you. Research shows that referrals from connections have higher conversion rates, faster close times and more value than non-referrals.
Prospecting is crucial for sales performance in a competitive and difficult sales world. But most salespeople are not using this key success factor. They face mental and structural obstacles that prevent them from prospecting well. Salespeople who change their mindset and approach will overcome these challenges, build strong networks and win-win relationships, and consistently outperform others. These tools will help you connect a new prospecting mindset and skillset to transform how you prospect.