Within sales, prospecting is of vital importance, because it is the way sales reps are able to build relationships with leads and potentially turn them into new customers. Indeed, according to Hubspot, it can be defined as “the process of searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers in order to develop new business.”
With that being said, there are many different sales prospecting techniques and it can be difficult for businesses to know which techniques to adopt. Here, we take a closer look at why inbound prospecting is the superior method, why social selling has become so important, and how to approach conversations with prospects.
Prospecting can be broadly separated into two categories: outbound prospecting and inbound prospecting. The former is concerned with reaching out to potential customers you have little or no prior history with your business and includes techniques like cold calling, speculative emails and unsolicited messages on social media.
By contrast, inbound prospecting concerns itself with leads who already have some history of interaction with your business, or who have displayed some interest in the products or services you offer. Examples include more personalised emails or phone calls, where some degree of research has been performed.
In an age where, according to the Keller Research Center, only 28 percent of people who receive cold calls engage in conversation and only one percent of cold calls convert to appointments, inbound prospecting is almost always the better option, especially when paired with high-quality research and account management training.
One form of inbound prospecting, which has become increasingly important in recent years, is social selling, or social engagement. This is where social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are used by businesses to build trust and develop meaningful relationships with prospects as part of the sales process.
The 2016 CSO Insights Sales Best Practices Study demonstrated that having a social media policy in place for client-facing staff was a key behaviour associated with revenue growth. Moreover, when it comes to social engagement, world-class organisations are around two years ahead of the rest.
Social selling is not so much about overtly selling products as it is about forming relationships. It may involve sharing useful content, answering questions, putting prospects in touch with experts and allowing reps to develop a personal brand. As a result, prospects will trust the business and think of them when they need help.
Ultimately, one of the best ways to achieve success with prospecting is to think of it less about selling products or services and more about providing solutions to problems. In order to do this, of course, you need to know what those problems are and that is why it is important to ask questions, regardless of communication channels.
By asking questions, you can also eliminate low-value prospects, find out what your high-value prospects are motivated by and forge a relationship based on assistance rather than selling. When combined with negotiation training, the information learned through asking questions can also help to close deals at a later date.
“Far too many salespeople sabotage their own sales by talking too much about themselves, their products and their services,” says Marc Wayshak, founder of Sales Strategy Academy, writing for Entrepreneur.com. “Listen to what the prospect has to say [and] carefully craft your responses to speak to your prospect’s top-of-mind concerns.”
In the modern climate, inbound sales prospecting generates far better results than outbound prospecting, because both sales reps and prospects are starting from a position of some familiarity. Although inbound prospecting requires a little more time and research, you are more likely to build meaningful relationships with prospects and be of use to them, which, in turn, makes them more likely to progress further down the sales funnel.