Sales prospecting is the art of finding and engaging new leads for your business. Back in the day of traditional sales, this was done by cold calling and knocking on doors. The digital age, the boom of social media, and marketing automation have completely revolutionized sales prospecting strategies.
In this how-to guide, we’ll go through 9 of the best sales prospecting techniques to use in today’s digital world. But first, the basics: what is sales prospecting?
Inbound vs. Outbound
Sales prospecting techniques can be split roughly into two groups: inbound and outbound. Each has its benefits but it’s important to know when an inbound or outbound strategy is more appropriate.
Outbound sales prospecting includes so-called ‘cold’ methods. These are initiated by the company with little or no previous engagement from the customer.
Inbound strategies, on the other hand, spend time building relationships with a customer base. The company then reaches out only to those that have shown interest in the product or service. Most of the digital sales prospecting techniques in this guide are inbound strategies.
Sales in the digital world
There are some housekeeping rules that differ online prospecting from more traditional approaches. The main one is a high standard of cybersecurity.
When handling data and contact details for potentially thousands of customers, you need to make sure that information is protected.
Backup data frequently and thoroughly – using cloud storage is a good failsafe. Ensure you are also following data security compliance laws for the region and industry that you’re operating in.
Cybersecurity and data protection can be integrated into your existing retail management system.
With this basic groundwork down, we can now get into the focus of this guide. Here are nine of the best sales prospecting techniques adapted for today’s digital landscape:
1. Know your audience
How can you start finding good leads for sales if you don’t have a strong idea of your target audience?
Building a prospect avatar is a great way to do this! Take a close look at your existing customers. What age group are they? What jobs do they do? How do they like to be contacted?
This will inform the strategies you use to engage future customers because you’ll have a stronger idea of what has been successful with previous prospects.
Remember: not all leads are prospects!
Leads are every potential customer you could reach. Prospects, however, are those individuals who will actually engage with your content and are far more likely to become paying customers. Approximately 50% of leads are not a good fit for your business, so sometimes it is necessary to be a little ruthless.
Put your time and resources into pursuing an audience that genuinely aligns with your product or service, and tailor your prospecting techniques accordingly. If you spot any signs that you shouldn’t pursue a prospect, it’s best to just move on to the next.
And how do you draw these good prospects in? Well, let’s have a look…
2. Clever content
There’s a saying now in online marketing that content is king. This strategy is all about using clever content to establish your company as a thought leader in your industry.
The humble blog is a classic for a reason. They are an opportunity to show your business’s perspective on current debates or new technologies in your field. The long-form format also allows for a much more in-depth discussion than something like a short advert or Tweet.
Integrate good SEO into all blog articles to get your content ranked highly on search engine results pages. For example, organize your content into topic clusters. This means that if one piece of online content performs well it will boost the ranking of all your other content on that topic.
Becoming a thought leader means prospects will associate your brand with a knowledgeable reputation in the industry. This kind of established trust will go a long way when you move towards more direct sales tactics with those customers.
3. Social selling
Nearly half the world’s population has some kind of social media account. So it makes sense to move your sales prospecting into an arena where there is already a settled customer base.
Like we said earlier though, use your prospect avatar to inform which social media platforms you use to appeal to each customer demographic.
Posting content on your own pages is just one aspect of social selling. You can also interact with (like, comment, share) posts by prospective customers. It helps to build a relationship and really convey that there is a human personality behind an often faceless business account.
Every time they see your company name in their notifications, it builds that brand awareness a little more. It demonstrates shared interests between you and the customer, which of course then makes them a stronger prospect.
There are a dozen guides on how to increase Facebook likes or get more Instagram followers, but engagement is the other number that really matters. A page with only 5000 followers but 10% engagement is going to be more successful than a page with millions of followers that only gets a handful of clicks.
4. Content repurposing
‘There are so many different social media sites now! How do people have time to make specialized content for each platform and each customer?!’ Two words: content repurposing.
Although some content formats are better suited for different platforms, it doesn’t mean you have to make something from scratch every time. For example, using the same graphic asset but having two-aspect versions of it: a 1:1 square for an Instagram post, but a wide landscape crop for a LinkedIn header.
When repurposing content it’s also important to keep location in mind. The internet is fully international, but there are still important differences between regions.
When you define localized areas of your prospective audience there will need to be slight changes. From obvious things like the language and national currency, you should also consider any pop culture references or other cultural differences in your content.
5. Networking in person
Just because digital techniques are some of the best ways to engage in an online world, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo real-life prospecting entirely. Networking is just one in-person strategy that can be enhanced and made more efficient with digital tools.
Use social media and the wider internet to research networking events that you could attend. This will also give you an idea of the kind of prospective customers that each event attracts.
After you meet a customer at a networking event, you can connect with them on social media. This continues to build your relationship after the event is over and gives you both a way of contacting each other.
When networking somewhere like a conference it is key to stand out. Consider a consistent brand toolkit (logo, colors, typeface) or something like vanity numbers for business to boost brand awareness.
6. Reheating the cold call
Even though it has become a sort of four-letter word for tech-savvy sales teams, there is still a place for the classic cold call. Many customers do still expect a phone call with a salesperson before they buy a new product such as if they’re looking for the best contract generator software for their business.
Optimize your enterprise phone systems so that business calls can be easily forwarded to and from your personal phone. This will make your sales calls more efficient and save time in the long run.
7. Email outreach
Only 24% of sales emails are opened so do your best to avoid being part of the other 76%! Next to phone calls, emails are still one of the best ways to reach new leads.
Emails are great because they let the customer read and reply to them whenever they have time. Some people, see this as more polite and less intrusive than a phone call or instant message.
There are also many ways to personalize email communication to each customer, for an instance, signing an agreement form using the best contract management software. Personalization is key to the modern consumer as it helps grab their attention in a digital world where so much is going on.
8. Refer and repeat
The biggest source of prospective leads is your existing customer base. Every single person is part of a network, whether that’s professional, social, or familial. That’s dozens of leads for every customer!
Reach out to customers after a sale and ask if they can refer anyone else who might be interested in your business. Because they’re already part of the same network, they’ll probably have more than a few things in common.
You could also offer an exclusive discount or pre-order to anyone referred by an existing customer. This provides an incentive for the customer to refer friends and gives you a constantly expanding network of prospects.
9. Follow up
Following up with a referral request is one part of staying in contact with customers after a sale. Send out surveys or invite them to write a review of their experience with your company. Like with the referrals, you could offer an exclusive reward for doing this.
The feedback they give will be invaluable for informing future sales prospecting techniques. If you want to know which strategies worked or what content they liked, just ask.
An important note here: following up is relevant to your colleagues, not just your customers. Think about incorporating something like a digital water cooler into your workspace so that employees can discuss new sales ideas as and when they arise.
The digital age has made a huge change to the world of sales by applying different strategies, and leveraging the integration with salesforce CRM. By using the techniques in this guide you can make the best out of sales prospecting online, now go out and reach them!