Prospecting is at the core of the sales process, and is something every marketer and business owner is likely very familiar with. Probably more familiar than they’d like.
It can be a frustrating task at times, but it’s absolutely essential to building and running a business. It’s the process of finding potential new customers or clients and guiding them into the sales funnel.
It’s easy to conflate prospects with leads, but there is a slight distinction:
- Leads are the people who do things view your content, subscribe to your list, and spend time on your social media pages, but are not yet qualified.
- Prospects are leads that have been qualified as potential customers. That means they align with your buyer persona and are actually likely to buy something.
Prospects are the seeds which, with proper care, can flourish into the valuable customers that fuel your organisation.
So let’s find out how to prospect.
How to Prospect
When it comes to prospecting, Hubspot has a very effective five-step method:
- Research. Find out the quality of the lead and work out how likely they are to become a customer
- Prospect. Make first contact with someone at the prospect’s company who can make a decision.
- Connect. Schedule a meeting to talk further.
- Educate and evaluate. Find out what your prospect needs and show them how you can solve their problems.
- Close. Turn your prospect into a paying customer.
This is a rough outline of what you’ll need to do, but let’s dive into the meat of prospecting in a little more detail.
Techniques for Effective Prospecting
There are two main approaches to prospecting: inbound and outbound. Let’s quickly break them down:
- Outbound prospecting features approaches like cold email and cold calling. This generally requires more research and generates more resistance.
- Inbound prospecting, like warm emailing and social media contact. Research is easier since you already know something about the prospect, and there’s a context for reaching out which makes things smoother.
This guide will focus on inbound prospecting. So let’s break down the process.
The Research Stage
The goal in this stage is to qualify prospects and figure out how good a fit they are for you. Hubspot recommends using dimensions to assess how well-suited prospects are.
For example, are they in the right niche? If your business provides services for companies in the fashion industry, you probably won’t be interested in prospects in construction. This way, you can quickly eliminate lots of unsuitable leads and focus on the ones that show promise.
Some other dimensions you could use include:
- Are they the right size?
- Do they have enough bandwidth for you? Can they spare the time and cost to actually work with you?
- Are they aware of you? Have they interacted with you before in any way?
Grouping prospects according to these criteria will help you figure out whether they are worth pursuing or best left behind.
Gather as much information as you can. Find out your prospects’ goals, challenges, pain points, future plans, and budget. Paint a vivid picture of each prospect and work out if they’re worth your time.
Next, you’ll want to decide which of the above dimensions are most important to the sales process. Hubspot recommends giving each a percentage weighting to each one, and then scoring your prospects for each dimension and multiplying that score by the percentage.
The result should be a prioritised list. This can be done automatically with Hubspot’s Lead Management Software, and makes it much easier to decide who to target.
Before you reach out, it’s important to do some more research on prospects to find out what they’re about. Spend some time on their blog, social media pages, and website. Get to know them, their challenges and pain points.
Find a reason to connect. For example, did they visit your site or subscribe to your email list? Learn what they need and tailor your outreach accordingly.
When it comes to outreach, the best approach is to remain human and friendly. Don’t be overly pushy or formal, and keep your message relevant to the context in which you know the prospect and their pain points.
You could reach out by email or phone, and each of these methods has pros and cons.
Phone vs Email
Email is the most popular method of outreach by far. In fact, 61% of first contacts happen by email, compared to a puny 6% by phone call or voicemail.
Email is also more visual, easy to forward to more suitable members of staff, and gives your prospect some time. It’s also less disruptive and potentially annoying than an unexpected phone call.
But… people get a lot of email. The average office worker receives 121 emails every day. This, of course, makes it much harder to break through. You’re competing for attention with dozens of others, and lots of emails will simply go unnoticed. On top of this, emails are more likely to be considered spam and ignored or deleted on the spot.
Calls are also more intimate and fast, although of course there’s no guarantee your prospect will pick up.
The best outreach approaches tend to fixture a blend of both email and phone.
Don’t Go It Alone
Prospecting is a hugely important part of growing a business, and if done right can yield fantastic results.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself: there’s a ton of HubSpot software available to help with prospecting, allowing you to automate various stages of the process, track your entire pipeline with ease, and close more deals.