Leads are diamonds in the rough. After qualifying, the edges are smoothened out. But, we’re not selling these leads—that’s data mining. We’re selling to them.
Our goal with sales prospecting is qualifying leads. These are the most likely to get us revenue. Focusing on qualified leads streamlines our sales processes and saves us time and resources.
But, there’s a common misconception between prospecting and lead generation. We’re here to help clear up the confusion. In this article, we’ll be running through:
- Lead generation vs. sales prospecting
- Key players in the prospecting process
- The types of sales prospecting
- Building a dynamic sales prospecting system
- Best practices to remember
Lead Generation vs. Sales Prospecting
People often use lead generation and prospecting interchangeably. They’re not. Both are essential to your overall pipeline and serve different purposes.
What is a Lead?
A sales lead is like a hint. Blood in the water. They “could” be interested in your products or services. But, you’re not sure if they’ll buy. We don’t want to guess—so we do lead qualification.
We set our criteria for our Buyer Persona and Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and compare that against our leads. If leads are a fit, we move them further down the funnel.
Get a robust catalog of qualified leads. Then, we send it over to our sales development representatives (SDRs) for prospecting.
What is a Prospect?
Prospects are qualified leads. These are the people our SDRs should focus on when they do “prospecting”—contacting and further qualifying leads for account executives (AEs).
SDRs and AEs are essential for communicating with qualified leads and closing deals. They’re two of the most important players in any prospecting process.
Key Players in Sales Prospecting
Defined roles differ from company to company. As a rule of thumb, most would have an SDR and AE in their sales team. Both are essential for scaling your business.
Sales Development Representative (SDR)
An SDR is responsible for most top-of-funnel tasks in the sales pipeline. This includes finding leads, converting them into qualified leads, and developing them into prospects.
SDRs conduct outreach campaigns, nurture prospects, and build a relationship. Once prospects are on the verge of making a purchasing decision, SDRs hand them over to account executives.
Account Executive (AE)
An account executive handles most of the prospects that are further down your sales funnel. These are people that engage with sales-ready prospects.
They’re responsible for closing deals and addressing needs. The best AEs are persuasive, knowledgable, and know how to position themselves as an authority for any client need.
Even if a prospect shows serious buying intent, that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. AEs need to maintain consistent communication, provide value, and negotiate.
AEs do the heavy lifting of the sales process—managing prospect meetings, follow-ups, product demos, terms and conditions, and closing the deal. This is true for both types of prospecting.
Types of Sales Prospecting
There are two main types of sales prospecting—inbound and outbound. One is proactive, and the other—reactive. Both are equally important if you want a holistic sales process.
Lead generation often uses inbound strategies like social media, PPC, or blogs. Prospecting uses outbound strategies such as cold emails. Here’s a more in-depth look at both:
Inbound Sales Prospecting
Although inbound prospecting is tied to lead generation, there are automation options available to streamline lead qualification and sales prospecting.
Use your CRM tools to help build your buyer persona and ICPs based on customer behavior. You can also use email tools to send warm emails to leads that engaged with your content.
Inbound prospecting is great for engaging with leads that are already interested in your business. For a more aggressive and proactive approach, we use outbound prospecting.
Outbound Sales Prospecting
You can’t always rely on inbound strategies to fill up your lead funnels. That’s where outbound prospecting comes in. SDRs reach out, engage, and qualify leads using these methods:
- Cold email marketing: These are unsolicited emails aiming to persuade leads to build an interest in your products/services. To streamline this process, you can automate your sales outreach with the right tools.
- Social media prospecting: Provide solutions in online forums like Reddit and Quora. Engage with people on LinkedIn. Or, find opportunities on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
- Cold calling: One of the oldest sales strategies is cold calling. Although most professionals prefer email as a communication medium, cold calling can add a personal or human element to your outreach.
Now that you know the different types of prospecting, it’s time you build a sales process around them.
Building Dynamic Sales Prospecting Systems
Each sales team has a different strategy. To find out what works best for you, start by following these fundamentals:
Research Stage: Creating ICPs and Buyer Personas
To qualify leads into prospects, we compare them against our ICPs and Buyer Personas. We can use strategies like BANT (budget, authority, need, timing) or lead scoring to help us streamline the process.
What you want to do is identify the size of the companies that are likely to use this product. This helps you identify their budget range. Once you have a list of companies, find out the key decision-makers—people with purchasing authority.
Find their email address on sites like LinkedIn or their contact/about page. Then, start your first-touch communications. Provide immediate value by giving solutions to common pain points. Always ask prospects about their immediate needs. What unique and specific issues need solutions, and the time frame they need to find a solution?
But, before thinking about consistent communications with prospects, we need to optimize our email outreach campaigns.
Outreach Stage: Cold Sales Emails and Nurturing
With a list of qualified prospects, SDRs need to be primed for sending out cold sales emails. Before starting your email campaigns, make sure to do email warmup to ensure deliverability.
Emails should be personalized, optimized, and tracked. But, personalizing and optimizing every time takes hours. Instead, try out email automation tools to help eliminate repetitive tasks.
Instantly allows automated personalization with “merge tags”. It can also track progress in real-time to help you make data-driven decisions for each prospect.
Follow-up Stage: Prospects Didn’t Reply? Hit Them Up!
The likelihood of landing a meeting after the first email is low (but never zero). Meanwhile, a single follow-up can get reply rates from 9% to 13%. And, that’s just with one follow-up!
With the right sales cadence, you’ll get more consistent replies from quality prospects, and you get to stay top-of-mind. But, this doesn’t mean bombarding prospects with emails.
You might get flagged as spam. This can seriously hurt your email credibility. After the fourth or fifth email with no response, it’ll be better to remove that prospect from your email list.
Nurture Stage: Providing Immediate Value & Building Relationships
After consistent communication with prospects, it’s time to push them further down the sales funnel and start nurturing.
Instantly lets you automate entire nurture sequences with just a few tweaks! Now you don’t have to compromise between ensuring quality emails and scaling outreach campaigns.
Remember, the best way to build trust is by providing immediate value. When creating CTAs, think of “low-effort” ones first in the early stages of the nurturing process.
Instead of asking for a meeting, ask them to click a link to an article about how you solved “x pain point”. But at the same time, situate yourself and your product as the ultimate solution.
Closing Stage: Converting Prospects into Customers
This is when your account executives (AEs) come out to play. Prospects have a full understanding of what your services offer. It’s time to convince them to buy.
Throughout the nurturing phase, your AEs should have a clear view of what goes on internally for your prospects. How urgently do they need solutions to pain points, deadlines, or product launches?
More importantly, they should be prepared to handle objections. Just because they’re at the bottom of the funnel, doesn’t mean a deal’s closed.
Analysis Stage: What Works and What Should We Let Go?
Tracking your progress and analyzing data from your outreach campaigns is necessary. It shows you what works, what needs improving, and what strategies to let go.
Take note of key email marketing metrics like cold email open rates, reply rates, bounce rates, and deliverability. These will help you develop better sales campaigns in the future.
For example, when open rates are low, you might need better subject lines. If bounce rates are high, there may be serious underlying issues in your sales funnel. Emails may not be validated.
We’ve laid out the basics of every good sales prospecting strategy. But, creating a strategy from scratch can be a bit daunting. Luckily, sales prospecting is easier with the help of best practices.
Sales Prospecting Best Practices
There are several strategies or best practices out there for prospecting. Here are some of our favorite ones so far for 2023:
Ask for Referrals
When you’re building your prospect list, why not ask for referrals from existing customers? In most cases, prospects will already have a good ol’ reliable product they’re used to.
But, if they get a referral from somebody they already trust, that’s an easy recipe for success. In fact, studies show that 73% of executives prefer working with SDRs referred to them.
You’re basically getting a lead for free. So, consider this strategy the next time you’re building a list of qualified prospects. According to SuperOffice, SDRs using referrals earn 4-5x more.
It’s easy to have a set nurturing sequence ready, especially when it’s automated. But, is the content of your nurture emails relevant to your prospects?
If it’s not, they might just flag you as spam. Your content should stay relevant. Learn about the ins and outs of your prospect’s industry. Identify general pain points and do in-depth research.
Scour LinkedIn and see their milestones. Is there something there that’s relevant to your product or helps them scale further?
Create Video Content
Video content as a sales tool is becoming a popular trend. Here’s the kicker, it doesn’t have to be shot in 4K with a complete rundown of who you are and how amazing your product is.
All you really need is a camera—you could probably do it with a good-quality smartphone and your best sales agent in front of it. Introduce yourself, show the data, and present your best pitch. Shark Tank it.
You benefit from having a controlled environment where you can redo mistakes (kinda hard doing that on a live sales pitch). This is also great for educating prospects about your products.
Become an Authority
The most trusted sales reps are experts in their fields. They’re more than just empty suits with nice smiles. So, ensure that your sales team knows the ins and outs of your product.
Invest in creating high-quality and valuable content online. Create topical maps for solving pain points and present your product/service as the best solution for each.
You could also answer questions on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Quora, or Reddit related to your industry.
Be Active on Social Media
Start being open to more open communication with prospects. The best place to start is social media. It’s probably the fastest way to reach out to potential prospects without all the fuzz.
Twitter, for example, is a great platform for engaging with people in your Industry. Share your thoughts, share insight on issues you can solve, and build authentic relationships.
The worst thing you could do here is to immediately sell. As the name implies, it’s a social thing. Make sure to have built a relationship first and naturally weave in how your product/services can provide value.
Sales prospecting is an essential process that helps businesses grow sustainably. To ensure we’re making the most out of every prospecting campaign, remember the following:
- Know the difference between a lead and a prospect.
- Always provide value at every step of the sales funnel.
- Do in-depth research to personalize outreach campaigns.
- Always follow up and nurture prospects.
- Track, measure, and analyze data to improve your next campaigns.
If you want the most streamlined and optimized way to reach out to prospects via email, look no further than Instantly. Try it out for free today!