B2B Sales 101 - 7 steps to sales prospecting success

Leanne Clegg

Aug 26, 2020 • 9 min read

“Prospecting is tedious”.

“Prospecting is pointless”.

“Why would I spend so much time prospecting when calling a lead straight away has much more value?”

These, and similar statements, are often said by salespeople in many sales teams.

And, their statements could be valid when prospecting is done incorrectly.

What is prospecting?

In short, prospecting is the process used by sales teams to identify and develop business opportunities by finding and researching potential customers or clients.

Sounds important, right?

It is.

But that doesn’t stop prospecting feeling monotonous and instilling fear into a sales rep.

That’s because not many sales people know how to do prospecting well. And no one wants to work on something that yields minimal success. In fact, 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting.

But what if I told you that improving the way you prospect will improve the customers you have?

Importance of getting prospecting right

The old way of prospecting involves finding new customers that match a small number of basic characteristics. Often this will be as simple as looking at the industry, company size, profitability. It stops there.

The lack of understanding of the actual business’ needs and goals results in SDRs making irrelevant and time wasting phone calls.

Today, people expect interaction, regardless of what for, to be a lot more personal.

As well as looking at the basic characteristics, SDRs should also be researching the business inside-out. Allowing them to make a decision on whether they’re a good target based on what they’ve been doing recently, what problems they’re trying to solve and what products and services would improve their day-to-day operations.

At first glance you’re probably thinking that this seems a lot more work and time consuming than just picking up the phone. But actually, you’d likely have to do this level of research at some point during the sales funnel anyway.

By doing the research upfront, you can prevent those first un-motivating first calls of rejection.

It gives you a starting point for a conversation.

It allows you to get past the gatekeeper on the call as you can tell them what problem you’re coming to solve or what value you’re looking to add for their specific business.

A good salesperson understands what a company’s requirements are and can help them find a solution to their problem. That solution will be your product or service. If you pick up the phone without this knowledge, chances are you’ll be wasting your time.

7 steps to prospecting success

I’ve spoken to many sales professionals who have shared their top tips when it comes to making prospecting enjoyable and successful.

TLDR;

  1. Understand your ideal customer
  2. Block time in your calendar
  3. Do your research
  4. Sort and prioritise opportunities
  5. Turn cold calling, warm
  6. Don’t sell on your first outreach
  7. Use your existing customers

1.Understand your ideal customer

Understanding what your ideal customer looks like may seem obvious, but so many sales reps don’t really know the prospects they’re reaching out to and whether they’d be a good fit for the product or service they’re trying to sell.

To change this, you need to create your ideal customer profile (ICP).

Start by using what you already know.

Ask yourself who your best clients are right now and analyse everything about them.

As well as looking at the size of the company and industry; look at who the decision maker was during your sales process with them, what their values were, how they position themselves in the market and what problems they were trying to overcome.

Once you’ve done this for a handful of clients, you should start to see some patterns emerge.

The characteristics you find are what create the basis of your ICP.

To be most successful, you should look for more people like those you already have. Don’t just contact someone because they’re in a specific industry. Contact them because you’ve seen you can add value to their business.

2.Block time in your calendar

Many sales reps fall victim to not dedicating specific time to prospecting.

By blocking out time in the calendar, you’ll soon get into a routine of regularly having enough time to prospect properly which will result in you eliminating unnecessary conversations and ruling out non-starters straight away.

If you don’t have this time set aside, your diary will soon be filled with other meetings, prospecting will fall to the wayside and you’ll be back to making uneducated, cold calls to unqualified leads once again.

3.Do your research

Now you understand your ICP and you’ve got some time set aside for prospecting, it’s time to start your research to find similar leads.

Start by making a list of companies that are similar to those clients that fit your ICP. This will become the start of your outbound lead list.

If you’re unsure what other companies there are that would fit in your ICP, search for what the company does you’re looking at. You‘ll likely come across a lot of other similar businesses to get you started.

The best place to start your research is looking at the business’ own website. Have a look at what they’re telling you there to make an initial decision on whether they’re right for you.

But don’t just stop there. There’s only so much information a business will give away on their site.

You should look at places like Companies House or Crunchbase for financial information and reports, social media to see what discussions they’re having and messages they’re communicating, and specifically LinkedIn to see what active decision makers they have. It’s also a good idea to look at trade publications to see if they’ve been in the news lately and familiarise yourself with what’s happening within their industry.

Spoiler - Ricochet’s Chrome Extension gives you all of the data you should need to make this initial qualification, including finding competitors in similar markets to help expand your sales pipeline further. It’s free for you and all your sales team to use today.

Comprehensive research should leave you in a position to decide whether this business is a good fit or a cold lead and give you a prioritised list of who to reach out first.

According to this report, when prospects were asked which types of content influenced them to accept a meeting or otherwise connect - Primary research data relevant to their business was the most popular answer (69%), followed closely by descriptions of the provider’s capabilities (67%) and content 100% customized to our specific situation (67%).

So, it goes to show that having this information to hand ahead of the first point of contact is extremely valuable.

One important thing to remember is to make sure the data you’re using is reliable. One thing that can be worse than making a sales call without doing any research, is making a sales call with irrelevant or wrong information or asking to speak to an ex-employee.

4.Sort and prioritise opportunities

When all of your research comes together, you should have enough information to understand what the prospect is trying to achieve and by when. This is the time to start sorting and prioritising these leads.

Sort them into whatever makes logical sense to your sales process - perhaps by industry or job role of the decision maker or by problem they need to solve.

Doing this leaves you more organised and able to tackle similar companies at one time, and in turn making remembering your sales pitch much easier.

Next, it’s time to prioritise.

When looking through your list, are there some companies that seemed more ready for your product or services than others? Speak to those people first.

Don’t forget to speak to the Marketing team at this point too. Higher priority leads may also be those that have interacted with your site or communications more regularly.

One way we’d recommend prioritising these leads is sorting them into high, medium and low opportunities.

5.Turn cold calling, warm

The first step to this was doing the research on the businesses you want to speak to.

Knowing what’s happening in their industry and what they’ve been doing in the news is a great conversation starter and gives the prospect an instant feeling of trust that you understand the industry they’re in and what they’re trying to achieve.

You should also look to make some pre-communication with these people. Take a look on LinkedIn to see if you have any mutual connections who could introduce you. Or send connection requests and engage in their content before making that initial outreach.

Again, this willingness to understand their business goes a long way in showing a prospect you have genuine interest in what they’re doing.

6.Don’t sell on your first outreach

Prospecting is all about building relationships. It’s not about a hard sell the first time you speak to someone.

You should reach out as early as possible during the buying process and develop trust. 82% of buyers accept meetings with sellers who reach out to them and actually they want to hear from sellers early on in the decision making process.

Make this initial conversation more about getting to know the prospect and asking the questions you need answers to in order to make future sales calls more productive and personal to them.

7.Use your existing customers

Something that often gets forgotten is to use current customers to find your next prospects. There are no better advocates than those people who already use your product or services.

Chances are they have a lot of similar companies in their network who would also benefit from your business. So ask customers to make introductions to those people as by doing this the due diligence is already done and you’re providing a sense of trust from the outset.

91% of customers say they’d give referrals but only 11% of salespeople actually ask them for referrals. Which is crazy when salespeople who actively seek out and exploit referrals earn 4 to 5 times more than those who don’t.

What next?

Introducing some of those tips into your prospecting time will yield successful results. You’ll have the information to be confident when making initial contact with a new prospect and know how you can help them from day one.

At Ricochet, we’re making prospecting even easier for you.

We understand how important research is to all sales teams, but also understand how time sensitive calendars are. So we’ve built you a personal assistant, designed to help you research and qualify leads and customers faster than ever before.

Download our FREE Chrome extension today, and while browsing a prospect’s website, Ricochet will give you a business overview, information about size, turnover and investment, links to social media profiles, team members on LinkedIn, Companies House and Crunchbase and a list of similar services and competitors.

If you’re also a HubSpot user, you can connect your account and be notified if any business is in your CRM (HubSpot), or add them in a click and content to give you everything you need to make prospecting successful.

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