Oct 10 • Shelley Walters

Prospecting: Laying the foundations for successful sales

Every sale depends on a buyer. No matter how perfectly you present your solution, handle objections, or deliver your well-crafted close, you can’t make a sale without a buyer.

The requirement to find new business is true of every company in South Africa and worldwide. Yet, a study conducted by Hubspot in 2021 revealed that more than 40% of salespeople say this is the most challenging part of the sales process. Another study by SalesForce revealed that only 36.% of a sellers’ time is spent on meeting with prospects both in-persona and virtually. The reality is the professional who allocates more time to finding new business opportunities will outperform the one who does not.

Every sale depends on a buyer. No matter how perfectly you present your solution, handle objections, or deliver your well-crafted close, you can’t make a sale without a buyer.

But, where do you find that buyer? That’s where prospecting comes into play.

Prospecting lays the groundwork for every successful sale. Prospecting aims to find and connect with viable business contacts to generate opportunities that fill your sales pipeline. Good prospecting is essential for revenue generation. Find the right contacts, make a strong impression and you’ll build a stable foundation for the rest of the sales process.

Part of the challenge of prospecting is that we not only have to figure out what to say, but how to say it. Should we send an email or pick up the phone? Sign up for networking events? Should we reach out using LinkedIn?  And, once we have reached out, how often should we follow up before moving on?

These questions trouble nearly all sales professionals. Picking up the phone might feel daunting, but phone calls build trust and rapport better than many other methods. While calling eats up more time and can be more mentally taxing than other outreach strategies, the reward is that it boosts the personalization of your message. Emailing potential buyers can be effective for sharing information and sparking interest. While you lose the personal, casual touch of phone calls and in-person conversations, you gain extra time. If you’d like to put relationships at the forefront of your sales strategy, consider attending events such as conferences, trade shows and promotional functions. While get-togethers can take up considerable time and energy, they’re great for identifying people who share similar interests or have a clear connection to your industry.

Choose a method that works best for you but be careful not to fall into the trap of using only one go-to method – especially if you’re not getting traction!

When contacting potential clients, take advantage of the many tools at your disposal – such as phone calls, emails, direct mail, events, social media, and content marketing and lead magnets. No single technique is better or worse than another so choose the strategy that works best for you and your prospects.

Meet prospects where they are and focus on being persistent without being pushy. The more you reach out to others, the closer you’ll get to creating a loyal customer base that benefits from the products and services you offer. Track your progress. Success is about trial and error, so get in the habit of recording your results. How many times did you contact prospect A before they answered? What outreach methods did you use? What about prospects B, C, and D? Record your results, and you can create the perfect outreach plan for you.

As people began to rely more on technology, new tools were created to help manage social networks.  Salespeople started using CRMs to keep track of communications, phone calls replaced written letters, and mobile phones replaced landline phones.  Then email replaced phone calls and letters, with text messaging increasingly handling short bursts of communication.  Today, Internet browsing has dramatically increased with the mass adoption of smartphones, laptops, and tablets.  People manage their lives through web browsers, text communications, and smartphone apps.

Internet tools have advanced to the point where online communication within your network is more automated and accessible, and the sheer volume of contacts has increased dramatically. Sites such as LinkedIn replace the older ways of accessing your social network. However, just because this information is more readily available does not make it easier – networking still involves work. You still need to manage your connections and access the network to gain more connections or knowledge. Remember, too, that this does not replace the benefit of meeting people in person. But because LinkedIn works in the background, guiding you in finding contacts and starting the networking process, you can spend your time more productively instead of making blind requests and relying solely on other people to make something happen.

Build you brand. Your name, your identity, is your reputation in the marketing place. Your reputation, what you are known for, is a brand – just like Nike or Coca-Cola, your professional reputation is one that you have considerable control over.

Get in touch to find out more about our Ultimate Prospecting Bootcamp - 21-day skills transformation that has been designed to help sales leaders shift behaviour across teams. With live sales sprints, clients can expect to see positive changes in under a month without taking sellers out of the field.