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Unlock Sales Prospecting: 7 Keys to a Winning Strategy
Sales prospecting is more challenging than it has ever been. Decision makers are inundated with emails and while cold calls can be effective, they tend to only work for specific personas. In this increasingly tough landscape, for your organization to identify and engage potential customers, it is vital that your sales prospecting strategy is focused and impactful, and designed to make small, consistent gains at every stage of the sales process. Maybe that goes without saying, but it is surprising how many organizations slip into poor habits such as blanket communications or using outdated data.
In comparison to marketing, sales prospecting can be incredibly costly. So why do it? The answer is simple: when done right, sales prospecting can be extremely effective. The sales prospecting process does more than engage decision makers and convert them to customers; it is often the bedrock of your sales strategy, allowing you to reach potential customers, build a strong client base, develop lasting relationships, and increase revenue. Getting your sales prospecting strategy right is more important now than ever before; in increasingly cost-pressured times, loyal customers are worth far more than the value of their next contract.
The Influence of digital on today’s sales prospecting efforts
The impact of digital has reached every stage of the customer journey. The current state of sales prospecting in the business world is marked by significant changes and evolving trends, largely influenced by shifts in customer expectations, advancements in technology, and the increasing importance of data-driven approaches.
With a customer base that is now predominantly digitally fluent, behavior and expectations of sales reps are constantly evolving. This means that your sales prospect efforts must evolve too; it is not enough that you know how your target audience interacted with your messages and channels last year; you need to know how they are doing it today, and how they will be doing it tomorrow.
Only 52% of SDRs are meeting or exceeding quotas in 2023 and most B2B buyers expect to be interacted with in real time (compared to 64% of B2C). The days is “spray and pray” tactics are far behind us; not only does the shear volume make it impossible to give consumers the attention that they may need should the tactic be a success, but the ease of reaching vast audiences at the push of the button has resulted in overflowing inboxes and robust spam filters.
The personalization of social media digital content is an example of how something can start as a nice addition, but quickly become an industry-wide expectation. Personnel at senior executive level and above are likely to ignore generic sales pitches; that is if they get past the gatekeepers and make it to the right inbox in the first place.
The timing and velocity of sales prospecting has been transformed by digital, too. In this digital time, the days of a cold call or sending a letter and waiting a week or more for a response seem like a distant memory. Instant gratification is the new norm: customers want clear, concise information to be instantly accessible. A lack of clarity or delays in providing information or responding to queries could lead to missed sales.
Despite the evolution of digital transformation and the challenges it bring, the sales prospecting concept remains simple: reach your target buyers and nurture them through the sales funnel. However, effective sales prospecting is far from easy to execute; according to the B2B lead, sales teams waste an average of 50% of their time on fruitless sales prospecting techniques. A successful sales prospecting strategy relies on recognizing the challenges that your sales team will face, and implementing activities to address those challenges.
7 Keys to a Winning Sales Prospecting Strategy
1. The Right Account -Defining Your Ideal Customer Profile
All strategies begin with your ICP. It goes without saying that any form of sales outreach will be more successful if the message resonates with the desired recipient, but it is surprisingly easy to lose sight of this fact when faced with complex databases with partially outdated information. With only 23% of sales emails being opened, it is essential that you know your potential customer (and buying persona!) well well enough to engage with them over email, regardless of how well they know you.
- Research – an in-depth knowledge of the person that you want to reach will help you to speak to them in a language they understand. Research their current position, their authority to make decisions, the pain points they know about, the pain points that they don’t know about, future challenges, and – most importantly – what you can do to alleviate those challenges.
- Competitor research – find out what their competitors are doing. By developing a deeper understanding not just of your prospect and their challenges and opportunities, but what other businesses are doing, you can gain a deeper insight into what your prospect needs to stay ahead.
- Personalization – emails with personalized email subject lines yield 22% higher open rates than generic titles.
- Define the customer lifecycle funnel – by understanding the customer lifecycle, it is easier to provide prospects with the right information – at the right time.
Defining your ICP, their challenges, your solutions, and the user journey are basics in forming a sales strategy. However, it is easy to forget one crucial factor: your sales prospects are human. They won’t all follow the same journey in the same formulaic fashion; some may engage in the beginning but completely disappear further down the line. Because they are human, your prospects may change jobs, move companies, or switch departments. It is vital to remember that the information you had yesterday may not be correct and failing to update your database will result in wasted efforts at best and, at worst, damaged reputation. Which is where RevenueBase’s revenue database as a service can help; we don’t just provide a generic prospect list, we build, maintain, and flag changes to all your ICP accounts and buyer personas, designed to save your sales teams time and increase ROI.
2. The Right Persona – Reaching the Right Decision Makers
Any salesperson knows that a first-class prospecting campaign will improve conversion rates, reduce sales cycles, and improve ROI provided the right message reaches the right personas. Your methodology for defining personas could be based on the traditional process of filtering by role or function, or you could take a more modern approach and and look at jobs that need to be done. Amid a crowded space, however reaching these decision makers can be a particular challenge. These include:
- Access – circumnavigating the gatekeepers: decision makers have busy schedules and are shielded by gatekeepers such as assistants and receptionists who filter out sales calls and emails.
- Time: with busy schedules, it is not easy to capture the attention of decision-makers and communicate the value proposition effectively within that limited time frame.
- Expectations: in a crowded market, decision-level personnel expect personalized and tailored interactions. They are not only interested in your product or service and what it can do for them and their organization; to demonstrate your credibility, they demand that you have in-depth knowledge of their specific industry and challenges. They want you to show that you understand their problem (in some instances, before they do), before they are willing to buy the solution from you.
- Competition: competing with other companies for the same decision-makers’ attention can be fierce, particularly in industries with saturated markets.
- Credibility: sales is about relationships and strong relationships are built on trust and credibility. It can take time to develop these relationships as executives are (rightly) cautious about making decisions that can impact their organization significantly.
- Relevance: the way to lose a prospect instantly is to provide them with information that is not relevant to them. Sales prospecting messages must be highly relevant and customized to resonate with the recipients’ needs and pain points; only when you show a clear understanding of those will you have enough credibility to suggest a solution.
- Reaching the decision-makers: this challenge goes beyond getting past the gatekeepers. In some companies it can be hard to identify the right decision-makers; an in-depth understanding of complex structures and hierarchies can be required to make sure that your endeavors reach the right people.
- Compliance: staying compliant with regulations such as GDPR, CCPA and CAN-SPAM while prospecting adds an additional layer of complexity.
Overcoming these challenges demands a deep understanding of the landscape accompanied by a strategic approach to sales prospecting, including the accurate and relevant contact data, thorough research, personalized outreach, and a focus on building relationships rather than just making quick sales pitches. Building trust and demonstrating value are essential when targeting senior executives upwards in the sales prospecting process.
3. Time and Tactics: The Importance of Delivery
With the ICP identified and persona defined, SDRs are armed with valuable information that, if used right, could help them to achieve results. Delivery at this stage is crucial: time and tactics are everything. In terms of timing, successful salespeople will take a look at buyer insights to determine an organization’s readiness to buy. Key organizational indicators include receipt of funding, hiring a key role or active team expansion, while a key persona indicator includes securing a new post or promotion – if you get the time and pitch right, you can demonstrate your ability to help them to make a big impact, fast.
In a market crammed with noise, salespeople need to make sure that they are heard. The best way to do this is to sing a different tune. Get creative with how you deliver your message – whether you leverage Loom videos, voice notes, or gifts, anything that helps you stand out from the crowd will have an impact, regardless of how cheesy it may feel.
4. Leveraging Technology to Boost your Productivity
Although the magic of prospecting is certainly not tied to your sales and marketing tech stack, once you have a solid strategy in place, the right technology will help you achieve your goals quickly and efficiently – if done right. Just as technology is impacting what customers expect from sales and marketing teams, the evolving market means that there are a wealth of benefits to be gained from organizations that utilize technology within their sales prospecting strategies. In a 2022 survey, 22% of sales leaders say leveraging their CRM to its fullest potential was one of their top goals for the year.
Top sellers spend on average 6 hours per week – nearly a day – researching their prospects. RevenueBase was created to make sales prospecting activities more focused and more effective, while saving significant time in the research phase. Utilizing generative AI, our customers receive access to a market-specific Revenue Database that will allow them to define their Total Accessible Market (TAM) based on granular data points that go far deeper than standard data providers. This targeted approach saves significantly on time, and by personalizing engagement not just for the organization but across the entire buying team, increases response rates and conversion rates at the top of the funnel.
5. Setting Clear Goals and Objectives for Prospecting Initiatives
71% of C-level executives believe that sales productivity is critical to achieve growth yet 49% of organizations have no, or limited, means to measure sales productivity. By setting a clear sales goal, you won’t just make your sales rep or team more likely to achieve it; you will have a quantifiable target to measure. This will allow you and your team to see what works well, what falls short in terms of expectations and return, and who is achieving.
While the ultimate goal may be gaining a sales demo or arranging a meeting, the ideal outcomes for the prospecting phase will usually depend on the nature of the prospect. For example, when reaching out to cold prospects, engagement or the first tentative steps to creating a relationship may well be a suitable goal. By focusing on the end game instead of the steps required to achieve it, you could miss valuable small wins and opportunities to develop qualified leads.
6. Creating meaningful interactions with Relevant Content
The creation of strong customer relationships and the key to not just contacting potential customers but engaging potential leads them relies heavily on the creation of relevant content. Strong content shows that you understand your prospect’s pain point and that you are best placed to help them solve not only problems they know about, but some that they haven’t yet identified. Optimizing relevance is one of the most successful sales prospecting tools in your armory, making you more likely to close deals and shorten sales cycles while driving revenue for your department.
7. Prioritizing Analytics
Analytics come hand in hand with goals and objectives for sales professionals. While it is important to measure your defined departmental or individual objectives, key performance indicators will provide the bigger picture on the success of your sales prospecting endeavors.
- Conversion Rate: the percentage of leads who progress through the sales funnel and eventually become paying customers. This metric indicates how effective your prospecting efforts are at turning leads into revenue.
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): the cost of acquiring a new customer. Compare CAC to the customer’s lifetime value (LTV) to ensure your sales prospecting methods are cost-effective.
- Return on Investment (ROI): the overall return on investment for your prospecting initiatives. This metric helps assess the profitability of your prospecting efforts.
- Lead Response Time: how quickly your sales team responds to leads. Faster response times often lead to higher conversion rates.
- Lead Quality: the quality of leads generated by different channels or campaigns. High-quality leads are more likely to convert.
- Email Engagement Metrics: open rates, click-through rates, and response rates for email outreach. These metrics help optimize email campaigns for better prospect engagement.
- Website Analytics: website traffic, user behavior, and conversion rates. Tools like Google Analytics can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your online prospecting efforts.
- Lead Nurturing Metrics: the effectiveness of lead nurturing campaigns by analyzing metrics such as open rates, engagement, and conversion rates at each stage of the nurture sequence.
With so much focus on ICPs and customer funnels, it is easy to disregard the people at the core of your strategy: the individuals who, based on your activities, will decide whether or not to engage with you. A successful sales prospecting strategy depends on a knowledge of the landscape now, as well as insight into the demands of the future. It requires carefully tailored interactions and in-depth research into and around the customer’s niche. However, at the center of it all is the data; by investing in the highest quality revenue database it is possible to optimize your chances of reaching the right people and, in doing so, gaining the best ROI.
RevenueBase’s revenue database as a service will provide you with the most relevant and accurate prospect research, allowing you to get ahead of the prospecting game and reach your entire ICP with minimal wasted resources and optimal impact.
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