10. January 2020 Blog

8 Sales Prospecting Methods That Actually Work

Prospecting methods

Here’s the bitter truth: not all leads are equal. In fact, many sales reps are spending too much time on ineffective sales prospecting techniques and working with leads who are just not ready to buy. If you truly want to see a higher volume of prospective customers, it’s high time to revamp your sales prospecting methods. Here’s how.

Customer expectations are changing rapidly. Not long ago, cold calling was one of the best sales prospecting methods to get new customers on board, but today, gaining a new client is much more complex. 

When all the different media channels and companies are trying to get a moment of your ideal customers’ attention, your job is to cut through the noise and reach your prospects in the most efficient, least intrusive way. 

In this article, we are presenting 8 sales prospecting methods that you can incorporate into your next sales campaign. While you might not be able to use all of them, we recommend giving these techniques a go. They may help you to maximize your chances of converting the right customers through their preferred ways of communication.

What is sales prospecting?

When you do sales prospecting, your goal is to create a qualified database of potential customers (or prospects) that would do business with you.

Essentially, you’re turning leads into opportunities.

The Best Sales Prospecting Methods

There’s no one-size-fits-all sales method that will guarantee the best conversion rate because every business is unique.

To decide which methods would work best for your case, consider factors like the products or services you sell, the size of your business, and the demographics of your ideal customers. 

For example, younger generations are more likely to reply to an email than answer an unknown caller, and B2B businesses tend to have better success targeting their prospects via LinkedIn. 

However, we recommend you keep an open mind and try new methods from our list. Your competition is probably using the exact same methods as you are, and by incorporating a different channel, you might gain customers they can’t. 

Here are the best sales prospecting methods your team can take advantage of:

1. Create Ideal Customer Profiles

Prospecting without knowing who your ideal customers are is like trying to drive to Philadelphia without a map. You might make it, but it won’t be fast and cost-efficient. 

Creating your ideal customer profile is therefore the first step before you even pick up the phone or start writing messages. 

You can create multiple ideal customer avatars, based on demographics, geographics, and behavior. 

For example, as a B2C business, one of your ideal customer types might be millennial women from big US cities, making up to $100k a year, living with a pet, and purchasing from the pet store at least once a week. 

For B2B businesses, you might want to add the size of the company you’re targeting and the position of your ideal customers (e.g. CEO, Head of Marketing, Teach Lead).

Once you know who you want to target, you can start finding 

How to Make the Most of Customer Profiling?

  • Do market research. Know the target audience available to you and how your products or services resonate with different groups. You can test multiple audiences, and constantly monitor how they respond to what you offer. Once you’re able to narrow it down, figure out not only who belongs to your target market, but what they do and where they are (e.g. the blogs they read, the social media platforms they use, the conferences they attend) 
  • Make it as specific as possible. The best profiles often include made-up full names, a picture, and a backstory of an imagined persona, to help the marketing and sales teams truly imagine the prospect as a real person. Be creative and thorough. Getting down even the tiniest details helps the team stay focused and address the right type of person or company. 

2. Focus On Warm Calls

Unlike cold calling, warm calls target prospects who previously showed interest in your products or services.

For example, they commented on your social media posts, attended your webinar, engaged with a paid ad, signed up for your newsletters, or maybe even your demos. 

When you cold-call your prospects, you only base your success on demographics and patterns. While the group that the contact belongs to might be your ideal target audience, the individual person doesn’t expect the call and likely didn’t intend to buy anything at that moment. 

On the other hand, those who already engaged with your company have shown interest and already said ‘yes’ to you before.

According to LinkedIn, the previous engagement aspect makes a big difference: while cold calls have an average of a 2% conversion rate, warm calls can have 30% or more. That is, if you need to make 200 sales, your agents would need to make 10k cold calls – or only around 650 warm ones, saving significant time and resources.

How to Make the Most of Warm Calls?

  • Do prior research on your prospects. What demographic group do they belong to? Where do they spend their time? How well do they fit your ideal customer profile? A little preparation can help your sales reps connect with your prospects easier, making the conversation more personal and increasing the chance for conversion. 
  • Create a strong script. It’s hard to remember everything when making hundreds of calls a day, and your contacts might have questions that take your agents off guard. Have the prospect’s information on the agents’ screen, along with everything there is to know about the product, frequently asked questions, and what to do in different scenarios. Besides, having all the information saves agents time from having to look it up themselves, which can greatly improve their average handle time and hold time.
  • Invest in a proper solution. CloudTalk is designed to handle a large number of inbound and outbound calls, and make the administrative process effortless and automated so that the sales reps have more time to close deals. Not to mention that you can integrate it with your favorite CRM systems (and other tools, for that matter).

3. Send Engaging, Personalized Emails

Personalized emails are another effective way of reaching out to your prospects. Many people don’t enjoy being put on the spot, and email allows them to read your content when they want, take their time doing their own research and pull the trigger only when they’re ready. 

Emails also save you a lot of time: you can send thousands of emails at the same time, or schedule them based on your leads’ time zone or activity. 

Thanks to modern email marketing tools, you can easily personalize the content of these emails with the contact’s name, purchase history, birthday and other information. 

For example, you can use placeholders that the system will automatically convert into the subscribers’ details (e.g. “Hey [fname], how is life in [location]” would be “Hey Annie, how’s life in L.A?”), and categorize them based on their current activity (e.g only send email to those who have a dog or who purchased toys for their kids in the past month).

Email marketing also helps you strengthen your relationship with your prospects, leading them further down in the sales funnel in an effortless, natural way. 

How to Make the Most of Emails?

  • Focus on value first. Nobody wants to give you their email address just to be spammed with promotions. Instead, focus on what you can do for your contacts first. What do they struggle with? What do they need help with? Give them value by sending educational blog posts, downloadable guides, and useful advice, before proposing an offer. 
  • Ask for a call. Propose a free demo or a 10-minute consultation call in your emails and let your subscribers decide that they want to be contacted. As we mentioned above, warm calls convert at a much higher rate. The more excited your prospects are about a call with you, the more likely they will purchase from you. You can even include a link to your Calendly and let people choose the best time for themselves! 
  • Use visual CTAs. A long wall of text followed by a short CTA might seem modest, but your readers won’t notice it either. Instead, make the email easy to consume and visually appealing by adding images and buttons, and add your link to them as well. Displaying your CTA in multiple parts of your copy (even at the very beginning) in different formats (hyperlinked texts, buttons, images) greatly increases your CTR and conversion rate.
  • Don’t forget to follow up. Always keep your prospects informed, even after a phone call. This will help you maintain relationships with them, and seal the deal eventually.

4. Target Prospects via LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform with over 810 million members, tailored specifically for businesses. It allows you to regularly post updates about your services; connect with ideal customers, future partners, like-minded professionals; join relevant groups; and track your prospects and competitors to learn more about them.

According to LinkedIn, 50% of B2B buyers use the platform to make purchasing decisions, but it’s not limited to this audience anymore. The quickly growing membership base also allows B2C companies to connect with their ideal customers, whoever they may be.

How to Make the Most of LinkedIn?

  • Be active and proactive. Don’t just connect with your ideal clients and businesses. Be sure to engage with their content, and regularly share updates and educational content about your business.
  • Keep it short. Nobody likes (or even reads) long messages. When you make a new Linkedin connection, send a short, personal message to say hi, and ask if they want to jump on a call. Include a link to your Calendly to make it more efficient.

5. Attend Relevant Events

Many companies proved in the past few years that businesses can operate normally, even when the world shuts down. But that doesn’t mean that face-to-face encounters are outdated. 

Quite the opposite: with the pandemic reaching its end, more people are excited to attend events and network in person than ever before. People still crave in-person connections.

Live events, such as trade shows, exhibitions, conferences, seminars, workshops, or fairs can be great opportunities to represent your business while striking up casual conversations and building genuine relationships with your future customers and partners.

Seeing prospective customers in person and being able to play off of non-verbal cues like their body language and facial expressions can also help your sales team better understand the type of people they’re targeting. 

How to Make the Most of Events?

  • Spread the word. Send an email out to your mailing list letting them know that you’ll be attending the event. 
  • Reach out to decision-makers in advance. Find out who is attending the event, and whether or not they fit your ideal customer profile. If they do, send them a message asking to follow up.
  • Let prospects contact you before the event. Most hosts will send out the list of participating companies at least one month in advance. Make sure people have a way to contact you beforehand and find your booth at the actual event. 
  • Selling isn’t the goal. Depending on your company’s products, you might be able to make some sales during the event itself. Your primary goal, however, should be creating brand awareness, networking, collecting email addresses, or handing out business cards. Thinking long-term and warming up your prospects gradually leads to better success.

Increase your sales results with cold calling templates

Ebooks illustration

6. Ask For Referrals

How many times have you purchased something because somebody whose opinion you trust was raving about it? Even the best salespeople can’t beat the genuine recommendations that we get from our friends, family, or favorite neighbor. 

Indeed, sales referrals are one of the most underrated sales prospecting methods out there. They can give a real boost to your overall revenue without requiring heavy investment. 

The idea is simple: you take your satisfied customers and ask them to refer someone they know who would also benefit from your product or service. 

The person they’ve referred will be more likely to make a purchase because someone they know and trust has given your product or service their stamp of approval. 

In fact, according to recent studies, referred customers are 4 times more likely to convert, with 28% of millennials saying they won’t purchase a product unless someone they know already approved of it. On top of that, the lifetime value of referred customers is 16% higher compared to non-referred customers.

How to Make the Most of Sales Referrals?

  • Time it right. Shortly after the purchase, reach out to your customers and ask for feedback. If they’re satisfied, be sure to ask them to refer a friend, and if applicable, get them to share their experience on their social media profiles. Make sure to ask for a referral every time a customer reaches out to you just to share how happy they are with your company or products. 
  • Make it genuine. Don’t bully your customers into referring a friend by offering a great reward. It might come off shady and give the impression of network marketing. The most authentic referrals are done for free, in fact. 
  • Respect your customers. When reaching out to your existing customers for a referral, keep it short. You can say something along the lines of: “I’m glad to see that you have benefited from using our product for [benefit]. Do you know anyone who would also appreciate [benefit]?” As we mentioned above, don’t put pressure on them — that would result in a lower-quality lead. When calling their referred friend, keep it simple: “This is [name] from [company]. Your friend, [name], is using our product and believes you could also benefit from it. Are you open to chatting more about it?”

7. Seek Partnerships for Co-selling

Can you think of a brand that complements your products and services, instead of one that is competing with you? That’s your perfect partner.

According to research, 77% of companies with a co-selling model have noticed an increase in their revenue within a few months, and 54% state that it accounts for more than 20% of their total sales.

Partnerships work somewhat similarly to referrals: your ideal customer already knows, loves, and trusts a company, and that company recommends you.

Of course, you do the same for them. 

With a partnership, you can harness the collective strengths of two brands and get better results together. We can even find examples among big brands, such as the 2006 partnership between Nike and Apple which launched the Nike + iPod Sport Kit. Nike and Apple don’t have an overlap in their products, but they both have a large fanbase of a similar target audience.

How to Make the Most of Partnerships?

  • Only partner with brands you believe in. Genuine marketing is the best marketing and picking a partner is like voting. 71% of customers would rather buy from a company that aligns with their values, so partnering up with a brand that doesn’t align with yours can hurt your business.
  • Choose companies with an identical ideal customer profile. If your partner’s target audience is a completely different demographic than yours, your chances of converting each other’s customer base are low. 
  • Keep it mutually beneficial. What’s in it for you? What’s in it for them? Are you both getting the same amount of benefit from the partnership? If not, did you agree on spending a different amount on the joint sales campaigns? 

8. Take Advantage of Automation

Sales prospecting is a time-consuming process. Depending on your database size, your sales reps likely spend their whole day making calls, sending emails, or meeting with prospects.

But often, salespeople lose time and even burn out because of all the busywork inherent in prospecting. 

With tools like CloudTalk, you can automate a large part of the calling process. For example, you can send purchase details directly to your CRM or eCommerce platform; pre-record voicemails to send prospects who don’t pick up; create workflows that send SMS follow-ups to prospects or a Slack message to your team; or even automate the dialing process with tools like the Predictive Dialer

By removing these sorts of manual, administrative tasks, you save your sales team time and allow them to focus on what they’re best at: making sales.

In exchange, your team will attend to your prospects’ needs more quickly, which will, in turn, improve customers’ experience and increase overall sales. 

How to Make the Most of Automation?

  • Don’t automate everything. People still want to talk to humans, especially when it involves them spending a large amount of money. Automation should help your team save time and effort, not replace them completely. 

Which Sales Prospecting Methods Work the Best for You?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to prospecting. Depending on the size and nature of your business, and the preferences of your target audience, you might find that some of these sales prospecting methods work better for you than others. 

That said, we encourage you to experiment with all of these methods, even if at first they might not seem the right fit. As we mentioned above, your competition is likely sticking to the traditional methods, leaving you more opportunities to target the right prospects. 

Granted, implementing multiple methods during the same campaign can be overwhelming. That’s where automation comes in.

With a strong call center automation tool, you can take advantage of multiple different channels simultaneously, while saving resources on laborious manual tasks.

CloudTalk is designed for just that. Sign up for a free 14-day trial and see for yourself how your sales team could benefit from CloudTalk’s services.