Gone are the days of picking up the phone, dialing the next number on your lengthy list of prospects, and making an instant sale.
The consumers of today are more skeptical than ever, particularly when it comes to cold callers they know nothing about. This has made it incredibly difficult for salespeople to get their foot in the door with new leads and, as a result, they are having to rework the way they reach out to prospects.
A study from Edelman shows that consumer trust in businesses is dwindling.
The traditional conundrum of inbound versus outbound prospecting no longer cuts it, and instead, salespeople are required to dig deeper into these umbrella terms to cherry-pick the best techniques for their industry and target prospects.
These methods can vary drastically between sectors, and can include anything and everything from email outreach and networking at events, to social selling and warm calls.
Most sales experts will agree that the best way to approach sales prospecting in this consumer-savvy age is to combine elements from both inbound and outbound selling.
But what does that look like in action?
Before You Get Started…
Always Put Value First
It’s vital that you lead with value every time, regardless of the sales prospecting techniques you decide to incorporate into your team’s arsenal.
No one wants to hear your two-minute spiel touting the intricate details of your product or service straight off the bat. They want to know how you can help them enrich their lives or find a solution to a nagging problem they have.
Before you start selling your offering, it’s important to sell the idea that the prospect’s time will be well spent by talking with you.
Consider the Stages of the Sales Cycle
Not every prospect is equal.
While one might have recognized they have a problem that needs solving and be in the process of researching solutions, another might be further through the sales cycle and be comparing two solutions that their research has boiled down to.
These two prospects will need different information and a different approach. For example, the first prospect might require you to present yourself as an option and list out how you can solve their problem, while the second might need you to go head-to-head with the other solutions they’ve found and determine why your solution is better.
The Seven Touchpoint Rule
Research shows that it takes around seven touchpoints with a brand before someone will consider investing in them. “Touchpoints” refer to any interaction between brand and buyer, including a post on social media, a mention from a friend, or a phone call.
What’s important to remember is that trying just one technique on each prospect and then giving up isn’t enough. Instead, you’ll likely need to roll out a number of different points of contact to get through to your targets.
This is why following up is so important.
Emails get lost and forgotten, life gets hectic, and sometimes people just need a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Block Out Time
For many teams, the sales prospecting process is one of the biggest struggles they face. It helps if you block out a designated time each day or week to work on identifying and qualifying new prospects to keep your pipeline in motion.
This can be a simple 10 minutes a day or even an entire day a week depending on your sales cycle, the people you’re targeting, and your sales goals.
Ready to get started? Here are some prospecting techniques your team can try out.
1. Pick Up the Phone – But Keep It Warm
According to research by Rain Groups, calling warm prospects is the most effective sales prospecting method with 51% of the 489 sales teams surveyed agreeing.
For many salespeople, this feels a lot more comfortable than cold calling because a connection has already been established.
In order to turn cold prospects into warm ones, they need to have a prior idea about who you are and what you’re offering. To do this, you might ask to get recommended by a shared connection or interact with them on social media to create that initial spark. It’s then up to you to keep that fire burning.
2. Show off Your Expertise
The term “thought leader” isn’t just a buzzword doing the rounds.
Instead, it refers to someone who is looked up to as an expert in their field and the go-to person for quality information related to that industry.
This requires you to be visible across multiple different channels and to consistently share high-quality content and advice on social media and other forms of communication.
You might decide to:
- Write regular articles that tackle a key pain point your target prospect has
- Share valuable advice on social media
- Get involved in Twitter chats that your prospects are also involved in (or, even better, start your own)
- Add expert commentary to existing articles when sharing them across social media
- Write guest articles for well-known industry publications
- Speak at relevant conferences and events about a topic you’re passionate about
When you are seen as a thought leader, you instantly become a trusted resource that keeps prospects coming back for more – and nothing is more valuable than trust in today’s selling landscape.
3. Be Social on Social Media
If you’re the kind of person who only posts about your offering and selling it on social media, it’s time to stop. You’re essentially screaming into the void by doing this.
Take heed of the “social” part of social media and get involved in discussions about your industry and product. Research shows that sales teams that regularly tap into social selling are 40% more likely to hit their revenue goals than those that don’t.
As well as sharing content from other valuable sources, be sure to share snippets of advice and respond to prospects that have pressing questions.
On top of this, you can make use of social media groups (like Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Groups) to access factions of your target prospects at the same time. Within these groups, you can engage with members, answer questions, and share useful information, which helps establish you as an expert.
To find relevant groups on LinkedIn, simply enter your keywords into the search bar and filter the results to show “Groups”.
For example, if you sell software to financial advisors, search for groups that focus on that target market.
Do the same on Facebook to seek out even more relevant prospects.
4. Go Behind the Scenes
Consumers today crave a human connection with the brands they invest in. This might seem contradictory when you consider that most purchases are made on a computer behind the anonymity of a screen, but it’s the truth.
We’re social creatures, and we’re far more likely to buy from someone we like and can relate to than someone who’s stuck on the sell, sell, sell carousel like a robot.
The key to this is showing your human side.
One great way to do this is to use video to create as much of a human connection as you can behind the veil of a screen. This can include going Live on social media or simply creating short, useful videos and sharing them on YouTube.
A sales rep from Intercom filmed a short video to show the benefits of the product for a prospect.
Don’t worry about making your videos look professional – your prospects are far more interested in seeing you and what you have to say.
5. Get Involved at Networking Events
The rise of using the internet to carry out sales prospecting has meant a lot of salespeople forget that in-person selling is always best. Actively standing in front of someone and having a real-life conversation can often be far more valuable than a cold call or email.
This is reflected in research that shows that in-person prospecting has a 40% higher closing rate.
You can use a tool like Meetup.com to find relevant networking events in your area. From there, it’s a case of showing up and getting involved in conversations with potential sales prospects.
6. Host a Webinar
If you can’t get yourself in front of a real-life audience at a conference or trade show, the next best thing is hosting a webinar (a.k.a. an online seminar). You can invite your sales prospects to turn up at a specified time and place and use the space to provide them with unprecedented value.
At the end – once you’ve got prospects’ attention and have dropped some pearls of wisdom – you can run through your sales pitch now that they’re warmed up.
One of the advantages of running a webinar is you end up with an email list bursting with qualified prospects who you can continue to reach out and nurture.
Which brings us to…
7. Create Engaging Email Nurture Campaigns
Keeping yourself fresh in the minds of your prospects is important, particularly if you’re selling a service or product that has a long lead time.
If you’re not constantly showing up in front of prospects, providing them with value, and catering to their needs, they’re going to go and find someone that does.
This is why it’s so important to retain an email list of your sales prospects and deliver quality, useful content to them regularly via email.
There are two ways you can do this:
- Set up a Campaign that warms up colder prospects when they sign up for a webinar, a downloadable, or a demo. This usually consists of about 5-7 emails over a week or so, with a pitch for your product at the end
- Send out regular emails to your list to keep your product front-of-mind and to continue to cement yourself as an expert in the industry.
In fact, according to research, email is the number one way prospects would like to be contacted by businesses.
Sales Prospecting Your Way to Success
Sales prospecting doesn’t make a lot of salespeople jump and down for joy. In fact, it’s one of those tasks that’s usually accompanied by a weary groan.
But it doesn’t have to be such a struggle.
By using the techniques we’ve laid out here, you and your team can reach sales prospecting success in no time at all.