Posted on 13 Jan 2022
What is Prospecting?
January is the time of year where your sales pipeline is often at its emptiest. You might be in the position where you closed a number of deals before the festive break, or you may have found that your leads have simply dried up... Whatever the case, January also represents an opportunity to look at your sales and marketing strategies to see what is working and what needs to be improved. Quite often it's the strategy itself that falls down rather than the people you have trying to implement it, and that's because many often start in the wrong place and try to achieve the wrong goals. Regardless of whether you’re a large business with multiple offices around the country and some of the biggest brands in the world on your books, or a startup looking to grow your client base beyond your immediate location, every new business strategy should start at the same place: prospecting. Without a list of people to speak to you simply don’t have a new business strategy. Yes, you could say you have goals and ambitions, but if you don’t have that list of contacts to converse with they are going to remain as dreams. However, when you’re equipped with a prospecting list you have the potential to develop and implement a successful lead generation strategy that helps get your foot in the door, your body around the boardroom table and your contract signed, sealed and delivered.
What is prospecting, and how do you do it?
Okay, let’s start with a fairly straightforward definition. Prospecting is the process of developing and kicking off your new business strategy by identifying potential customers who might be interested in your range of products or services.
Essentially, it’s background research into the potential market and your target audience, establishing a database of potential clients or buyers including their business name, location and contact information that will enable you to reach out and initiate a conversation.
The prospecting process starts by collecting this information and then reaching out to the relevant people within the business, or at least attempting to. A lot of companies will have what are known as “gatekeepers” who prevent sales calls or emails from reaching certain personnel, but the process itself involves speaking to someone within the organisation with the aim of pitching the brand, product or service to them and establishing whether or not they might be interested at this stage. It’s all about understanding their current pain points, their business needs and budget - if they have one - and then identifying how you might be able to help them.
Why is prospecting important?
In sales you’re always against the clock, especially when your performance is judged on targets. Prospecting is incredibly important for a sales team because it can provide them with contact details for people who are already engaged or in the purchase funnel, rather than reaching out to cold prospects who have no idea who you are, what you’re selling or why you’re contacting them in the first place.
With a prospecting list of engaged contacts the sales team can reach out and start a conversation, discussing the problems they currently have and how processes could be improved - ideally by the product or service you can offer them.
If they are interested then the prospect can be moved down the funnel and contacted again at a later date regarding a demonstration, a meeting or even a free trial prior to signing up on a paid, contractual basis.
Where should prospecting sit in your lead generation strategy?
Prospecting should form a core part of your lead generation plans. Quite simply without building a prospecting list you’ll be searching the web for new opportunities and cold-calling for months, perhaps with no success.
When you take prospecting seriously you have the ability to save your sales team time so they can focus on the task of engaging those prospects and turning them into fully paid-up customers.
When should prospecting take place?
The earlier that you can implement a prospecting campaign, the better. When you develop your lead generation strategy you want to be reaching out to prospects who have already been qualified and are ready to hold a conversation instead of going in cold.
If you can equip your sales team with details that they can run with, they can make efficient progress through their call list and arrange follow-up meetings, demonstrations or free trials for people who are genuinely interested rather than wasting time on calls with people who are either not interested in the service, working in the wrong sector entirely or who might not have the budget to invest anyway.
Who you should be looking to speak to
As we touched on previously, businesses will have gatekeepers in place whose role it is to filter out sales calls and emails to enable their employees to focus on the tasks at hand. They intercept these sales calls and messages and rebuff them, or pass you through to the relevant departments to take your conversation further.
In an ideal world the ideal person you would be looking to speak with is a decision maker, someone relatively high up in the business hierarchy and in a position to give the proposal the go-ahead. Reaching that person can be difficult, and you may have to speak with assistant managers or executives before you reach them, but every prospecting campaign should at least aim to speak to decision makers in the business who have the power to say yes or no.
You might give the pitch of a lifetime to an executive in the business who is completely sold on the proposal, but if they don’t have the power to say yes then you might find that you need to do it all again in another meeting or that they take the information to their manager who - even if relatively interested - might turn around and inform them that now is not the time to invest or that they already have a contract in place with a similar company.
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