Article

Prospecting: how to generate more qualified leads?

An effective lead generation process is a common concern for any organization. Different types of approaches can be used for this purpose. One of the approaches is inbound marketing, which, despite being an effective process, is usually a long process in which results are slow to appear. Another approach is word-of-mouth, which, although a valuable lead generation source, is difficult to influence and takes time to have visible effects. Finally, there is active prospecting, a predictable and controllable source of creating flow in lead generation. To be appropriately executed, it requires focus and experience in its implementation.

The main challenge of the prospecting process is to get in touch with the right company, with the right people, at the right time, and with the right offer.

What is prospecting?

Prospecting is the process that allows you to reach potential customers through e-mails, calls, messages, and social networks. It is an active prospection where you go to meet customers to present your company, and thus find buyers for your products or services, and generate new business opportunities.

A good prospecting process should include market research and analysis, method, strategy, and interaction.

When to use prospecting?

Although prospecting can be used in any type of business, it is especially important for B2B organizations that sell products or services with a complex buying process and a high average ticket. It is in these types of companies that prospecting has a greater return on investment.

What are the benefits of prospecting?

With a good prospecting strategy you can attract more leads and convert them into customers to grow your business. The benefits of having a good prospecting process are:

  • Increase the volume of qualified leads;
  • Provide greater predictability for the sales process;
  • Have a replicable process;
  • Reach customers that could not be reached otherwise;
  • Achieve a greater speed of return on investment.

Who should do prospecting?

There must be people fully dedicated to the prospecting process who consistently generate new qualified sales opportunities for salespeople. Ideally, these collaborators should not have other responsibilities, such as qualifying inbound leads, closing small deals, or others. In other words, prospecting collaborators have a single mission: generate new qualified sales opportunities through “cold companies” (those in which you had no previous activity or interest) and pass these qualified opportunities to the salespeople to close deals.

This “team” can be assembled without a significant investment. The initial investment can consist of just one person’s salary. After evaluating the results, the benefits of increasing the team will be studied, but always considering the results achieved.

What is required for this role:

  • A fully dedicated person who can focus all their attention on the challenge;
  • Support tools such as a good CRM  and a source of company and contact lists. Eventually, you can choose a solution like Sales Navigator and work with LinkedIn;
  • Autonomy to experiment for a few months with several approaches to select the most effective ones.

People who embrace this challenge must follow three fundamental principles to succeed:

  • Do not make “cold calls” – Use new methods rather than surprising people on the phone. For example, use emails to introduce the company to the right people and thus be already pitched before they are contacted.
  • Focus on results – The focus should not be on the number of emails sent or calls made per day. Metrics related to results must be tracked, such as the number of qualified opportunities. Calls per day and appointments are usually tracked only during training periods for coaching purposes.
  • The entire process should be standardized – Including management practices, hiring, training, and the prospecting process. By emphasizing repeatability and consistency, the pipeline and revenue generated by a new team member become very predictable, and all team results become highly sustainable.

What has changed in prospecting in recent years?

The market and the business have had significant changes in recent years, and the tactics and approaches that used to work no longer do. Three dynamics have changed the nature of prospecting. The first is that buyers are tired of being approached to sell them a wide variety of products and services and are becoming more resistant every year to classic sales and marketing methods, such as cold calls or generic marketing content. Second, marketing and sales technologies have made it easier to implement and measure the results of prospecting methodologies. And finally, there is greater accountability in marketing budgets. There is increasing pressure for lead generation and marketing budgets to show quantified revenue data, such as project ROI.

These and other changes have led to an evolution of existing paradigms:

How to do prospecting?

The prospecting process should be standardized and improved over time based on data analysis. These are the steps to do successful sales prospecting:

1. Define the ideal customer profile

Investing time in clarifying who your ideal customers are, both the types of accounts and contacts is essential. The first step is to clarify the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), including its description and key challenges. In the profile, there can be data such as the industry, the size of the company, the turnover, and the role of the ideal contact person, among many other data. The ICP helps to maximize sales and marketing productivity by making it easier to find excellent prospects through intelligent segmentation and to disqualify poor prospects faster. At this stage, so-called “red flags,” which are exclusion criteria, can also be set.

2. Create the prospecting list

The second step is to define the target lists to be contacted, considering the ideal customer profile. We must resist the temptation to include random contacts in the list just because we have them. There is an opportunity cost to marketing prospects that do not fit the profile. Different sources of contacts are appropriate for different types of companies. Databases and the space to create lists are rapidly changing areas, so one must always research the available vendors in the market and evaluate which ones are best suited for the company’s needs. Suppose you purchase a contact list from another organization. In that case, that company must demonstrate that the data was obtained in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation and that it is authorized to use it for advertising purposes.

3. Run prospecting campaigns

This step is where you define the prospecting sequence, which should be continuously improved based on data analysis. The whole process must be standardized. The first step is to define the sequence of interactions, the time between them, and the means used. In the second step, the content of each contact is defined. In the prospecting process, it is essential to always keep in mind the motto “Give before you ask.” Before asking for information or time from potential customers, we should share helpful content and show how their lives can improve by working with us. “Cold calls,” as mentioned earlier, should be avoided.

4. Sell the dream

At this stage, it is necessary to design a vision of the solutions that will solve the prospect’s problems. It is necessary to challenge the prospect and understand how ready they are to solve their problems: There is interest, but are they prepared to act? Are people with power and influence being contacted? Is there genuine interest in the next step? It is essential to find out if there is a mutual fit and to keep the focus on the customer’s business. You need to ask open-ended questions about the business before moving on to questions about the challenges. In a first conversation, you should ask three to four questions, starting with the most general questions and then moving on to more specific questions.

All the questions and tips have to be adapted and customized to the company itself. It is a continuous improvement process, so it must be standardized to be improved, shared, and trained within the team.

5. Transfer to sales

The lead should move on to sales when the prospecting team feels it is worth the investment of the salespeople’s time closing deals.

Three guidelines for assessing whether the lead is qualified for sales:

  • Does the company fit the Ideal Customer Profile
  • You are talking to someone with influence and power
  • There is a clear interest in a next step

It is vital to have a simple and transparent process to pass new leads smoothly to sales. It’s a science to transfer the relationship in a way that generates consistent, quality results.

How to do prospecting using LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is the largest professional network in the world, so it is the best platform to learn about prospects and create a connection with them. When it comes to prospecting strategies for LinkedIn, the rules are different. There are new techniques to master a connection request, the profile, messaging, and more.

These are the main steps for prospecting using LinkedIn:

1. LinkedIn Profile Optimization

An optimized LinkedIn profile for business development is the foundation of a successful LinkedIn sales strategy because it is the first place people will search for information about who is trying to contact them.

There are three features that a LinkedIn profile must have to sell:

  • Optimized SEO – If we have the right keywords in the profile, search engines will load the LinkedIn profile in search results. With good SEO, it is possible to appear above competitors’ pages.
  • Customer-focused – The LinkedIn profile should not be about us. It should be about how you help your target market and the services you offer. For the profile to be customer-focused, you must first know who your target market is. Know its demographics (age, gender, geographic location, and occupation) and understand its psychographic data (how they think, behave, goals and fears, and role in the decision-making process). The problems the company solves should be relevant to the target market and should deepen the resolution of pain points that matter to the customer.
  • Persuasive – If the profile does not distinguish itself from the competition and does not influence people, then time and money are wasted. You need to pay attention to the words you use, how you tell the stories, and how you show the customer that you can solve their pains.

2. Create the lists

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is the most comprehensive and updated contact access tool for many industries. It allows access to people’s current job roles, company, and descriptions, which include the business issues people are working on. The platform also has the advantage that its users are constantly updating their data.

The main segmentation criteria to be used in the Sales Navigator list will depend on the company, the complexity of the product, and the target market.

3. Connection requests

The first barrier on LinkedIn is the connection request. You can send a contact request with a note, but you cannot send a follow-up message until the prospect accepts the request. So the first important step is to move from not connected to connected.

Several messages should be tested to determine which ones perform best for every kind of audience.

4. Send a message

After the connection request is accepted, you move on to sending messages via LinkedIn. Regarding the messages, some rules must be followed. Being a social platform, messages must be more personal, casual, and less focused on the sale.

You must be aware of the prospect’s social, economic, and cultural background and adapt your messages accordingly. You should share helpful content with the prospect in every contact you make.

Messages should be standardized and continuously improved based on response rates.

The goal is to get the prospect to accept a physical or virtual meeting.

5. Schedule a Meeting

Once a prospect agrees to a meeting, a lot of time can be wasted before the meeting can be scheduled. Generally, people do not check LinkedIn as often as they check their email, so it can take a few days to set up the meeting.

Sending an invitation to the prospect’s calendar to schedule a meeting can reduce the time to schedule. Still, many people react negatively to this approach, feeling it is too intrusive.

One tactic for scheduling the meeting is to ask for the email address so that you can continue the conversation and set a date. Then send an email setting up or introducing the salesperson with whom they are meeting There is an understanding that LinkedIn is an informal platform, but email is for business.

6. Transfer to sales

As with prospecting outside social media, it is vital to have a simple process to transfer leads to the sales team seamlessly. If necessary, the first meeting can be done with the salesperson and the member of the prospecting team who has been in contact with the customer.

Other relevant points for prospecting with LinkedIn

It is recommended to have a consistent approach when publishing content. If you publish once a week, you should do it on the same day every week. If you follow an approach aligned with the purchase journey, you should make a post for one stage of the journey one day, for another stage the next day, and so on. The posts should be focused on nurturing and providing value to the customer, not directly on the sale.

The importance of prospecting for business growth

The shift from organic to proactive growth requires new habits, practices, and systems. Active prospecting contributes substantially to this change. Senior management needs to understand the fundamental principles around what creates predictable growth and to support the process by giving people time to test different approaches and then choose the ones that bring the best results for the business.

A good prospecting strategy allows you to increase the volume of qualified leads, provide greater predictability for the sales process, reach customers you wouldn’t get otherwise, and achieve a faster return on investment than other marketing app

See more on Sales & Marketing

Find out more about improving this business area