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Sales Prospecting

Learn about sales prospecting, its significance, and best practices to convert more prospects.

What is sales prospecting?

Gartner defines prospecting as “the first step of the sales process, which involves identifying and contacting potential customers. The goal of prospecting is to create a database of likely customers.”

Prospecting captures lead information on prospects and evaluates whether or not your solution is suited for them.

As Gartner highlights, prospecting is the first step in a sales process — a consistent, repeatable and sequenced structure of sales-related activities defining every stage and milestone of the sales journey – from prospecting to closing. The goal of a sales process is to close more deals and increase margins.

What is a sales prospect?

In sales, a prospect is a potential customer. The process of sales prospecting helps in qualifying the prospect based on certain predefined criteria that identify the ability and likelihood to buy.

Lead vs. prospect: What’s the difference?

Leads are people who have engaged with your marketing efforts via social media, website, email, or offline communication methods. Marketing teams usually pass on these contacts to sales teams. So, a lead hasn’t necessarily engaged with your sales reps, and there’s no way of knowing if they match your ideal customer profile.

A sales prospect is someone who has either engaged with the sales team or fits the ideal customer profile, thereby increasing their chances of converting to a highly qualified sales opportunity.

What are the types of sales prospecting?

Sales prospecting can be inbound or outbound:

  • Inbound prospecting: The prospect reaches out to you after engaging with your content on the website, blog, social media, etc. As a result, the prospect is more upfront in the conversation, describing what they need from you.
  • Outbound prospecting: You reach out to the prospect directly through cold calls or emails, social media, ads on billboards and television, etc. As a result, you’re responsible for leading the conversation and ensuring that it offers tremendous value to the prospect.

What is the importance of prospecting in sales?

According to the Rain Group’s Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, 71 percent of buyers wish to meet with salespeople as early as possible in the sales process. However, 58 percent don’t find these meetings valuable.

A sales rep with the proper prospecting techniques and tools in their arsenal can deliver value from the get-go. The same research reports that top sales performers generate almost 3x more sales meetings than reps who don’t prospect.

That’s why sales prospecting is vital to generating more good-fit leads that match your ideal customer profile, thereby increasing conversion rates and winning more deals.

Who is responsible for sales prospecting?

Sales development representatives (SDRs) are responsible for finding prospects and qualifying leads as prospects.

Most enterprises have a large salesforce dedicated to prospecting. Here’s the organization structure:

  • Sales Manager: Oversee the management of the sales pipeline to track progress on existing deals, monitor sales KPIs, and motivate the team, while charting strategies to bring more qualified leads into the pipeline
  • Sales development representative (SDR): Generate new prospects matching the ideal customer profile (ICP) through cold calling, cold emailing prospect template, or social media outreach
  • Account executive (AE): Close deals by conducting demos, sharing sales presentations, and handling objections from prospects qualified by the SDRs

How to set up sales prospecting

Prospecting is a crucial part of your sales strategy and, as mentioned earlier, vital to closing more deals.

There are two stages to sales prospecting. The first is at the managerial level, where the sales managers and leaders must:

  • Understand their market to map the pain points and needs of an ideal buyer
  • Define the ICP at length
  • Develop a healthy pipeline of leads and prospects
  • Ensure that prospects get assigned to reps depending on their skills and experience
  • Set up a sales playbook with sales prospecting email templates, cold calling and email outreach scripts, and game tapes of the best sales calls
  • Ensure that the sales team crafts delightful experiences for the prospects
  • Work in tandem with marketing

The second stage is at the rep level, where sales reps must:

  • Research their prospects to speak their language, be well-versed with their needs and pain points, and understand what drives their industry and market trends
  • Develop a personalized pitch for each prospect and medium
  • Build a relationship with the prospect that’s focused on adding value — more money, customers, or efficiency
  • Evaluate the prospecting process along with the sales manager to identify what needs improving

Sales prospecting best practices

According to a HubSpot survey, only 37 percent of prospects felt that the sales reps who called them had provided relevant information.

Here are five sales prospecting best practices to ensure that each outreach offers value to your prospect.

Personalize the messaging

According to Brent Keltner, Founder and President of Winalytics, “every company is now selling to six to eight personas. There are probably three or four different types of unique value that different personas care about. So you gotta tell a story to each buyer, about what’s in it for them.”

In addition to tailoring your message for each persona, you should also adjust it for the medium you’re using — emails, calls, or LinkedIn. The message should convey the value and resonate with the prospect within the first 10 seconds.

For writing custom emails and LinkedIn messages, an in-depth understanding of the prospect, their industry, and your value proposition come in handy.

Whereas, for personalized calls, a conversation intelligence tool that provides you with discreet pitch points and battle cards can help nail the call.

Help, don’t steal

Brent Keltner also highlights the importance of the value you have to offer. Sales reps should stop thinking about selling and start thinking about their buyer’s success statement.

This requires salespeople to dig deep into their prospect’s problems and then guide the customer down a path where they persuade themselves of the value of your offering.

During prospecting calls, a conversation intelligence tool can provide real-time cues on customer needs, market trends, competitor comparisons, and more to move the conversation forward.

Do frequent follow-ups

A piece of common advice in the sales ecosystem is to follow up as if your life depends on it. Unfortunately, most reps give up after a couple of follow-ups. However, it takes at least five follow-ups to close a deal.

In addition to customizing the follow-ups, your reps can adopt a multichannel strategy using emails, social media and calls to get better results.

Using a sales intelligence tool, you can set up a repeatable process to automate follow-ups and convert more prospects.

Monitor prospecting KPIs

Without measuring the right metrics, it’s impossible to know how your sales prospecting strategy and technique need to improve. So, here are some essential sales prospecting KPIs to track:

  • Number of calls and emails per prospect
  • Number of meetings booked and completed
  • The length of each conversation
  • Follow-ups per prospect
  • Conversion rates (from lead to prospect to opportunity)
  • The average deal size

Ensure continuous coaching

“I feel like a dentist when I remind managers: You should spend more time coaching. It feels like I’m asking a patient to floss more. Like a broken record. They nod, and agree that it’s a good idea. But coaching velocity remains slow,” says Alex Boyd, Founder and CEO at RevenueZen.

The values of continuous coaching to improve rep performance have been well-established. The challenge lies in execution, since managers don’t have enough time to coach every rep personally.

That’s where a real-time call coaching tool can help by doing all the grunt work and freeing up a manager’s time for more personalized one-on-one feedback sessions. The coaching tool can help you set up:

  • A library of all internal and customer-facing conversations
  • Game tapes of your best sales calls
  • Call summaries, highlights, and scorecards
  • Live contextual cues to support your reps during their calls

What’s next?

As mentioned earlier, a conversation intelligence tool is instrumental in making your sales prospecting effective. That’s where Clari Copilot can help.

Clari Copilot is a conversation intelligence tool for sales that offers:

  • Sales intelligence: Automatically record calls along with summaries and highlights, take notes, and build a well-organized call library
  • Pipeline visibility: Build a single source of truth for your sales pipeline and map interactions on a deal in a single place
  • Real-time coaching: Set up sales call game tapes, scorecards, and live contextual cues to coach your reps on improving their prospecting techniques at scale

Interested in learning more?

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