Did you know that 42% of salespeople say that prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process for them? That's a huge number that struggles with getting that right connection or trying to uncover whom they should speak with. This post is aimed to ensure that you have a prospecting plan in place that will make your sales teams' lives much easier.
The first thing with this is to remember that leads and prospects are not the same thing.
Leads: Potential customers who have expressed interest in our company or services through behaviors like visiting our website, subscribing to a blog, or downloading an ebook.
Prospects: Leads become prospects if they are qualified as potential customers, meaning that they align with the persona of our target buyer. A prospect may also be classified as a potential customer who has limited or no interaction with our company, but they would not be considered a lead.
To make sure you are uncovering the right prospecting, you have to first start with your research. This is by far the most important aspect of prospecting. We must ensure that we’re qualifying our prospects in order to improve our chances of providing value to them or their business. In this stage of prospecting, we’re looking to accomplish a few goals:
Determine if the prospect is workable
Qualify and begin prioritizing prospects
Find opportunities to develop a connection through personalization, rapport building, and trust development
Here are some important qualifying dimensions to evaluate if a prospect has a high probability of becoming a customer:
Is the prospect's business an organizational fit?
This type of qualification is based solely on demographics. Does the prospect fall within my territory? Do we sell in their industry? Does it fit our buyer persona?
Say our target market consists of small to medium-sized businesses with anywhere from 100 to 1,000 employees. We should eliminate any potential customers outside of these criteria.
Diving deeper, our product or service will naturally provide higher value to a particular profile within that target market. For example, medium-sized businesses consisting of a larger team. Those customers are also more likely to upgrade to a higher tier of our product, providing more lifetime value as a customer.
Takeaway: Prioritize customers based on the size of the opportunity, or their potential lifetime value.
Have you identified key stakeholders?
There are two types of people involved on the other end of our sales process: Decision-makers and influencers.
Influencers may not have the power to buy, but they’re often the ones that will be using the product and thus can become our biggest internal advocates. If we get them to rally around our offering, they can make a compelling case to decision-makers before we even speak with them.
Decision-makers are, of course, the ones that either approve or reject the buy. We can ask these questions to determine the decision-making process: Will anyone else be involved in this decision? Does this purchase come out of your immediate budget?
Takeaway: Keep a working list of influencers and buyers, perhaps mapped out by the organizational structure of the organization. We’ll use this list later, when we’re in the outreach phase of prospecting.
Are the prospect's constraints a deal-breaker?
Time constraints and budget limitations are often the biggest objections we receive from prospects. Before wasting time on an exploratory call to hear this objection, let’s do some homework beforehand to see if we can filter out potential buyers who clearly don’t have the bandwidth to consider our offering.
Takeaway: If we see a prospect has just launched a new marketing campaign, they might not have the time to cycle through an extensive sales process. We should take note of prospects who clearly have their hands tied and revisit them at a later date.
Do you have familiarity with the market?
We’re likely to be more familiar with certain types of companies, markets, or industries than others. Our pitch and sales techniques are also likely to be more refined with markets we feel comfortable talking about, so we should prioritize these prospects first.
Takeaway: Group similar prospects by characteristics such as their service offering, their market, or their industry, and prioritize these groups based on our familiarity with them.
Value-added prospects to whom we can provide more value are more likely to buy our offering. For example, if we’re selling basic digital marketing services and we see that our prospect already has a robust web presence, the probability that we can create tremendous additional value is low.
Takeaway: Classify prospects by the level of value we think we can provide.
Do they have an awareness of our offering?
Our prospects will likely have varying levels of knowledge about our product or services. The more awareness they have, the more likely they are to see the value in our offering and become customers.
If a prospect has visited our website, subscribed to our blog, or posted content about something related to our offering, they probably know a lot about our company or service.
Takeaway: Group prospects by their level of awareness so we can take advantage of this familiarity later in the sales process.
Next, we look at prioritization. Prioritizing our prospects can save us time and ensure we’re dedicating our strongest efforts to prospects that are most likely to become customers. Levels of prioritization will vary between each type of sales organization and each individual salesperson, but the main idea is to create a few buckets of prospects based on their likelihood to buy and focus on one bucket at a time.
We can also qualitatively classify prospects by rating them on a spectrum from high, medium, and low as follows:
Matches criteria for customer persona
Clear business challenge that aligns with our product offering
Able to connect with a decision-maker
We have a mutual connection or common interest
High level of interaction with our website or social media accounts
Match some elements of our customer persona
Clear business challenge that aligns with our product offering
Able to connect with an influencer
Some level of interaction with our website or social media accounts
Don’t match with our customer persona
Unclear business challenge
Not able to connect with an influencer or decision-maker
Limited or no interaction with our website or social media accounts
Once this has been done, we should have a solid model to show us who we should reach out to, and create a list of leads that are ready to be engaged with. Got any tips of your own? Feel free to share them below!