The Leadership Guide to Sales Prospecting

Samantha Pratt Lile
August 24, 2022
 min read
The Leadership Guide to Sales ProspectingThe Leadership Guide to Sales Prospecting
Table of Contents

The benefits of sales prospecting can’t be overstated. After all, more prospecting almost always results in more sales opportunities. Still, most sales leaders will agree that their teams aren’t doing enough prospecting. If sales prospecting is so important, why aren’t teams prospecting more?

The simplest answer to why teams don’t do more prospecting is that prospecting is difficult. Most prospecting strategies involve playing a numbers game. With a high rejection rate, it takes a lot of work to show positive results, and the process can be discouraging for sales reps. When faced with the choice of prospecting or conducting any number of other sales-related tasks, prospecting typically lands at the bottom of the list. How can sales leadership better motivate their team to prospect more?

What is sales prospecting?

What is sales prospecting? In essence, it’s the beginning of the sales process when sales reps seek out potential customers and start nurturing a relationship with the lead. Sales prospecting involves researching potential customers and pursuing leads. With effective sales prospecting, a prospective client transitions from a name among many through the sales funnel to a paying customer.

Sales prospecting, however, is a challenging task. Much like a prospector sifting for gold must dig through mounds of dirt to find a single nugget, a sales prospector must patiently connect with countless unqualified leads to secure solid interest among a few.

Why is sales prospecting important?

Why is sales prospecting so important? By attracting more potential customers to your brand, you will convert more leads into buyers. When effective, sales prospecting provides sales teams with an overall increase in productivity. Since the average sales rep loses about 15-20% of their customer base each year, consistent sales prospecting is vital in overcoming natural attrition. But with more sales prospecting, it’s easy to see how that same customer base can grow.

Naturally, more customers lead to more revenue. Every new prospect found through prospecting potentially can convert into a revenue-generating customer. This growth ultimately can help your company offset other risks and weather increased costs of operations and supplies due to inflation.

Prospecting can benefit a company even when it doesn’t lead to immediate sales. When sales reps contact prospects, they can gather data and conduct market research. That information then can be used to inform the creation of marketing tools like web surveys or direct mail.

Top sales prospecting methods

You might have established that you need to do more sales prospecting, but what are the best ways of accomplishing that goal? Since the goal of sales prospecting is to qualify as many leads as possible, it only makes sense that sales prospecting strategies will be designed to hep move leads through the sales funnel. A few of the most popular sales prospecting methods include:

  • Cold calling –  Contacting people who haven’t yet expressed any interest in what you’re offering might be a daunting task, but it’s still effective at converting as many as 3% of contacts.
  • Warm calling – Most sales reps prefer warm calling, in which they contact a lead who has expressed interest or supplied information. The salesperson more easily can forge a connection with the lead.
  • Content marketing – Through content marketing strategies, sales teams offer leads valuable information that shows a potential customer what a brand has to offer.
  • Networking – Through the networking process, sales teams take time to develop a group of personal and professional contacts. This can occur at conventions and trade shows, cocktail parties, in everyday life or on social media platforms.
  • Referrals – In referral prospecting, sales reps make contacts through their existing network of clients, business partners and associates. Just start with your list of contacts, reach out and ask for an introduction.
  • Email marketing – When you use email to share information about your brand, you can demonstrate the value of your offered product or service to potential customers.
  • Social media outreach – Through social media prospecting, sales reps use various social media platforms to find, research and connect with prospective clients. While some brands will use platforms used by a broad audience, others will seek social media outlets that cater to a specialized, niche market.

How can leadership improve teams’ sales prospecting activity?

For sales leadership to guide their teams to success, it’s vital they remain focused on prospecting. But with prospecting such a dreaded task among sales reps, how do you motivate your team to meet and exceed its prospecting goals?

1. Gamify prospecting

Keep your sales teams motivated by gamifying the prospecting experience. Break down larger tasks into smaller challenges, and create contests for reps who improve and achieve their goals.

2. Set prospecting goals

Set specific and realistic prospecting goals for your sales teams. Calculate the needed number of prospects to meet total sales quotas, and base the goals on those figures.

3. Create focused prospecting lists

By narrowing your prospecting efforts to focus on only those leads that can be quantified as ideal customers, your sales reps will make fewer appointments but forge more valuable connections,

4. Develop a prospecting message

You can improve your team’s prospecting results by delivering a compelling message that offers irresistible reasons to meet. You might refer to your marketing or sales enablement departments for assistance in creating powerful prospecting content.

5. Conduct prospecting training

If you notice your prospecting strategies aren’t effective, it could be that your sales team lacks the skills to execute your plans. If your team needs help improving its ability to engage with prospects, manage their resistance and ask for appointments, you might consider sales training to sharpen those skills. 

6. Practice prospecting discipline

Success in sales prospecting requires discipline. It’s easy to hear “no” a few times and move on to a more satisfying activity, The most successful sales reps boast the self-discipline to persevere. If you notice your sales team lacks the discipline to complete their prospecting tasks, you might resort to scheduling dedicated prospecting time to achieve your desired results.

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha is an independent journalist, editor, blogger and content manager. Examples of her published work can be found at sites including the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and Buzzfeed.