Sales Prospecting

The Definition and Importance of Sales Prospecting

Kushal Kakkar

Kushal Saini Kakkar
Marketing Director, Clari



Ready to take your revenue to new heights?

Person on laptop and phone
Person on laptop and phone

Picture this: You are sitting across from a panel of three interviewers during a job interview. And the following scene unfolds: 

One interviewer flips through your resume but doesn’t ask you any questions. 

The second interviewer is indifferently scrolling through his phone and intermittently asking disinterested questions. 

The last interviewer refers to your past work experience outlined in the resume and its relevance to the open position. 

They also ask follow-up questions to your responses. 

In this scenario, which interviewer do you think is your best bet to get hired for the job? Given the level of interest and engagement, it is without a doubt the third interviewer. 

Lesson? Knowing who is most receptive to your pitch helps you to direct your efforts towards leads that are more likely to convert into actual sales. Time and resources are limited; you want to focus your efforts where they are most likely to yield results.

The process of sifting through prospects and mining the most likely to convert leads is known as sales prospecting. But how should sales professionals go about identifying prospects that are more likely to be interested in their product or service? 

In this post, we’re going to give you insights into the ideal sales prospecting process, along with tips to help you close more. But first… 

What exactly do we mean by sales prospecting? 

Sales prospecting is - or should be - the first step in the sales cycle. Sales prospecting involves identifying, researching, and engaging with prospective customers to generate new business for your products and services. 

The ultimate goal is to convert prospective customers to revenue-generating customers by guiding them through the sales funnel. 

How do you effectively and efficiently reach your prospective buyer? 

A salesperson can use any one of the many sales prospecting methods available to them. Some popular modern sales prospecting methods are- cold calling, prospecting through platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, cold emailing, and multi-channel outreach. You should be using one, if not several, of these. 

Sales prospecting involves three crucial aspects: research, qualification, and outreach. The first step is researching potential customers and building a buyer persona. The next step is qualification, during which you determine if a prospective buyer is worth pursuing and what is their priority level. Lastly, outreach means developing a customized sales pitch for specific prospects to convert them into paying customers. 

Prospecting requires you to build a personal relationship with potential customers through communication so that you can better cater to their needs, or at least develop the right messaging and positioning language. A lot of deals hinge on how well you are able to frame the answer to the question, “How can you solve this particular prospect’s struggles?” If you are going to answer that question effectively enough to bring home a sales win, you need to develop a personal connection with the prospect. What you say should be relevant. 

Salespeople believe that prospecting is one of the most challenging yet vital tasks in the sales process. And yet, despite the difficulty associated with sales prospecting, its value is undeniable in the sales world. But why is this first step in the sales process essential to its success? Can you afford to skip it?

Can you skip sales prospecting?

Lots of people say that sales prospecting is the building block of the sales process. But what significance does it really hold for a business? Why go through the trouble of building relationships with prospective customers, right? Can’t you jump straight to the selling? 

Well, if we are to believe the data, sales prospecting is not a thing of the past but a surefire way to drum up some business. For a business, the most essential task is to effectively use resources, whether it is money, time, or human resources. Any form of wastage eats into profit margins. 

That’s exactly why the sales prospecting process is highly crucial. Businesses can invest more resources in potential prospects who fit the ideal customer profile. It also keeps the sales team motivated as qualified prospects are more likely to convert to new customers. 

Potential buyers are more receptive to sellers during the initial stages of the sales process. Getting through the door early and capitalizing on initial buyer interest can help sales reps successfully close more deals. 

Capitalizing on initial buyer interest becomes easier when you go through the sales prospecting process. When done properly, sales reps can customize their sales pitch so that it does not sound like a sales pitch, but rather a customized solution for the prospect.

Communicating that you know and care about their concerns helps to a large extent in building rapport. It encourages prospects to turn to your business to avail solutions. 

Leads vs prospects 

The terms ‘prospect’ and ‘lead’ are often used interchangeably. But the terms refer to two different groups of people in sales, no matter how subtle the difference. Let’s delve deeper into what differs between the two categories.

  • Leads: A lead is any person or business that has expressed interest in your product. They may have shown their interest by visiting your website, or dropping off a business card at an event. Lead generation is the domain of the marketing team. They automate the messaging to adopt a one-to-many approach to sales. They attract new leads by sharing content through advertisements, videos, blog posts, etc. 
  • Prospects: They are individuals or businesses that match the buyer persona of your business and align with your target audience. They may or may not have shown interest in your products and services. The most important criterion is whether they fit your ideal client profile. This will be a much more specific list than the list of leads. 

The sales team is responsible for searching and reaching out to prospects to convert them to buying customers. 

Why are we differentiating between leads and prospects here? 

Sales prospecting is the process of turning a lead into a prospect. The salesperson finds a qualified lead and approaches them via email, call, or message. 

Despite being categorized separately, the ultimate objective for both groups is the same- help navigate them through the sales pipeline to increase conversion rates and generate new business. 

Sales prospecting methods 

A business can opt for either or both of these sales prospecting methods: 

  • Outbound prospecting: In this approach, you proactively seek out and make first contact with potential customers to educate them about your products and services. You have to go out in search of prospects. Most salespeople reach out to prospects through cold calling, cold emailing, and social media prospecting. LinkedIn has emerged as the leading social media platform for salespeople to connect with prospective buyers. 
  • Inbound prospecting: This method involves attracting the target buyer to your business. So in this case, the prospect comes to you. Salespeople rely on social selling and warm emailing (where you talk a little about you and the person you are emailing, rather than doing a hard-sell) for inbound prospecting. 

The decision on whether to choose outbound or inbound marketing will depend on the nature of your business and your ideal client base. Generally, outbound sales prospecting techniques work better with B2B businesses, while inbound sales prospecting is better suited to B2C companies.

A step-by-step guide to sales prospecting

How to start sales prospecting, you ask? If you are reading this article, you are already on your way to effective sales prospecting. Here is an easy-to-follow guide to further your journey in sales prospecting:

  • Build an ideal customer profile: Knowing who your business’ target buyer is, is crucial to optimizing sales prospecting. You need to consider the value of your product to them and their long-term potential as paying customers before qualifying them as prospects. 
  • Research: Research your customers, what they need, what works for them, and what doesn’t. Even research what they are researching. 
  • Prepare a sales pipeline: Develop an outline of how you and your team will close deals from start to finish. The steps included in a sales pipeline may vary depending on the industry and prospect’s persona, but most include four steps- qualification, meeting, proposal, and closing. 
  • Prioritize your prospects: Once you have your pool of prospects, determine their priority level through their qualifying dimensions. Who is worth your time? This is a critical question you need to ask yourself. Prioritize those prospects who are most likely to travel through the sales funnel. Also, identify the decision-maker so that you pitch to the right people.
  • Customize your sales pitch: Identify the struggles or pain points of your prospective client and personalize your pitch to specifically address these struggles. Gather as much information about them as you can so you are prepared for any question they throw at you. The background that you develop will also help you to build relationships and rapport with clients. 
  • Make the perfect first contact: Your first impression on the potential customer can make or break your sales pitch. When making first contact, develop a personal, human connection, display a keenness to provide value, and establish relevance - even with cold prospects. Hard selling is often not the best option to help conversion rates. Get your prospects to warm up to you through phone calls, prospecting emails, and messaging.
  • Review: Take a step back and evaluate how your sales pipeline is working and what needs to change. Reassess your prospects and avoid dead leads to make the best use of time.

Sounds simple enough, right? However, there’s one vital ingredient that you cannot afford to forget because it is essential to the whole process succeeding, and that is your attitude. A persistent attitude must be there because sales prospecting is a process and one that requires tremendous patience and follow-up.

Sales prospecting techniques to try now

In addition to getting to know your customer and personalizing your messaging, here are some sales prospecting moves that you should test right away: 

  • Social selling: Social media platforms are a multi-channel avenue for sales prospecting. Having an on-point social selling strategy, particularly for LinkedIn, can rake in new business like no other medium.
  • Automate qualification and marketing: For consistent engagement with your prospects, you can automate your qualification and communication process - without discounting personal touch. Sales prospecting tools like customer relationship management (CRM) software, sales intelligence tools, and sales management and optimization tools can help you achieve this. Look for sales prospecting tools that can help you manage different stages of the sales process in real-time.
  • Get referrals: Getting contact information of potential customers from existing networks can go a long way in establishing first contact and moving forward along the sales process. Referrals not only help you get a foot in the door but also create a positive association - the customer making the reference obviously had a good experience, or they would not be passing you on to a friend or colleague. 
  • Create value: The potential customer should find value in your products. Instead of hard-selling, demonstrate your value as a solution to their pain points so they choose you. 
  • Personalize: Make personal sales pitches to prospects. They need to feel valued and seen. Personalization helps in achieving this by showing them that the presentation has been tailored to address how your products can benefit them. 
  • Follow-up: One meeting does not guarantee that you will close the deal. Following up with your prospects is important if you want to carry them through the sales funnel. Often you will need to follow up multiple times to get the final nod from the prospect. 

With so many sales activities to perform, analyze, and monitor - it becomes too cumbersome to keep track of them manually. A sales rep makes 40-60 cold calls every day - they approach different customers, tackle different sales objections, and have to use different techniques to battle various tricky situations. What could help? A treasured repository of tips, tricks, and solutions. And, some much-needed sales assistance!

Clari Copilot has your back! 

Our sales intelligence platform gives you useful talking points and highlights from prior interactions. You get these cues in real-time, it really is like having a copilot on call, especially when sales conversations get tricky. The live assistance feature of Clari Copilot helps you with tackling tricky situations and sales objections. It gives you insights into your prospect’s mindset, helps you respond correctly to the competitor mentions, and provides battle cards and ways to deal with common sales objections. You can also access all the call recordings of your sales team to perform value-driven sales analytics and improve your sales game! To improve sales prospecting for your business and win more deals, book a demo with us today!