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Three Ways to Improve Sales Prospecting

Published Date: Thursday, May 25, 2023
Last Updated on: Wednesday, Sep 13, 2023

Initiating and developing net-new business conversations is a challenge for companies of all sizes, across all verticals and niches.

More than that, it’s the perceived “hardest part of the job” for inside sellers, with 40% admitting prospecting is the greatest challenge across the sales process.

And yet, while only 27% of all salespeople met or exceeded their sales goals last year, 47% of top performers did. These sellers all had one thing in common: They prioritized prospecting.

So how do you identify potential customers that are a good fit for your ideal customer profile? What’s the secret to keeping your pipeline full for the foreseeable future? In this article, we look at three sales prospecting trends we’ve monitored in The Lab, to help you go from prospect to profit this year and beyond.

How has prospecting changed?

Lead discovery was once seen as a “frontline” activity, handled by legions of field sellers. COVID has changed that. Many B2B prospecting channels were simply redundant during the pandemic: PR, trade shows, in-person visits and networking dinners. The result? Prospecting on a more virtual front. A digital shift that has changed the game for lead generation and customer acquisition.

This shift coincided with a change in behavior. Buyers became more receptive toward digital channels. This combination has made digital prospecting an inherent part of the sales process, with leaders recognizing the opportunity for greater efficiency and enhanced ROI. As a result, inside reps now comprise an estimated 40% of high-growth sales teams.

Fast-forward to the present. The digital prospecting trend, combined with a heavily competitive market, means it takes a lot to stand out in buyers’ eyes. It takes even more to capture their attention.

Finding #1: Use data to apply an ROI focus to prospecting

The sales funnel has changed drastically. Marketing and business intelligence feeds a majority share in the top of the funnel. This means “prospecting” is now more about sales-ready leads (SRLs) than chance suitors.

The collection of proactive intelligence is not new to the world of B2B prospecting. In fact, by 2025, 60% of B2B companies are predicted to switch from intuition- and experience-based to data-driven selling, according to Gartner. Used carefully, prospect data from proven sources can drive insight into buyers and their behaviors. The more intelligence businesses can collect, the better they can craft an ideal customer profile (ICP) or buyer persona and strategize outreach.

Where companies typically fall short is not in determining an Ideal Customer, but in settling. Staying on top in an ever-changing market requires data refreshment, risk taking and continual testing. After running an initial program, closing a deal and gaining the data, leaders should return to the drawing board. There they can learn where the top 20% of their sales leads came from and what they look like within their ICP definition. Now their frontline can prioritize their time targeting higher-value prospects with better chances of qualifying leads.

Finding #2: Sell to their pains, not your gains

In many cases, sales reps are criticized for choosing prescribed messaging and data over prospect-by-prospect interaction. Knowing 70% of buyers make purchases to solve problems, the most effective teams instead look to remove barriers holding prospects back.

Resolving these “pain points” remains the true value a salesperson brings to each interaction. While a seller’s value proposition is based on generic industry challenges, most prospect pains have layers. They’re contextual and subjective. It’s unlikely a single, untailored message will solve all their problems.

So, it’s essential sales teams understand each prospect uniquely prior to engagement. Encourage sellers to look at the entirety of each prospect in their pipeline. They can then tailor their message and present a pathway to pain-free expansion. Intent data can be the next best addition to a B2B sales database in this regard. It gives sellers in-depth insights into the behaviors, challenges and needs of high-intent prospects. This develops more meaningful sales conversations and personalizes outreach efforts. It can even provide intimate knowledge about individual target contacts.

Finding #3: Embrace omnichannel to avoid saturation

Email and phone prospecting have been by far the most effective and efficient channels over the past decade. They enable personalized outreach at scale. However, this popularity raises challenges for the modern seller. The digital prospecting trend, combined with a host of competitors that all look the same to buyers, has created a saturated market. Today, it takes more than a cold call for a seller to stand out to a decision maker.

Embracing omnichannel sales is a pathway to overcoming this saturation. Buyers across B2B and B2C have clamored for the right balance across many channels for decades. Many firms are only now responding. Five years ago, “omnichannel” meant selling across four or five channels. According to McKinsey, buyers now want – and expect – to engage seamlessly across ten or more.

In terms of growth, businesses quick to respond to this demand have seen exponential profitability: 72% of B2B companies that sell via seven or more channels grow their market share. Leaders should build a model that is effective at reaching and serving potential buyers across multiple pipeline stages. This won’t just heighten the revenue “success” results every business seeks. It will boost customer loyalty and satisfaction in a way that drives top- and bottom-line growth.

Final thoughts

The art of prospecting is changing, but it’s still one of the most critical stages of the sales process. From the most experienced sellers to the entry-level, everyone risks falling behind. To stay on top, increase customer acquisition and drive revenue, businesses should invest in quality data, and the framework to use it effectively.

Backed by extensive experience selling to a wide range of geos, industries, sectors and buyer personas, we’ve helped businesses from unicorn startups to Fortune 500 businesses perfect their messaging to drive lead generation forward. Ready to move to the next stage? Reach out to our team today.