Prospecting? That’s when you head down to the riverside in search of gold. Like they did in California in 1849, right? Well, yes. But does that sound like something modern business owners need to know about? Probably not. 

In fact, the prospecting that we’re talking about is sales prospecting. It gets its name from the original gold rush version, but far fewer sieves and shovels are involved. There is a funnel, however. If this all sounds a bit confusing, never fear. Read on, and you’ll learn all you need to know about prospecting.  

What is Prospecting in Sales?

In a sales context, prospecting means identifying potential customers. These are your prospects - they’re like the glints of gold in the river mud. The goal of prospecting is to find and reach out to these people who may be interested in your product or service. 

Often, prospecting is associated with B2B brands. Companies selling CTI software, CRM systems, or other SaaS tools prospect as the first step of a longer process. It’s the initial element of what’s known as the sales funnel. 

1. Understanding the sales funnel.

Imagine a funnel, like that you may use to fill a bottle. It’s wide at the top, and water flows down to exit at the bottom. A sales funnel looks precisely the same. The difference is you put prospects in the top and end with sales at the bottom.

You can also lose people along the way as if there are holes in the funnel. That’s why many brands use sales funnel software to make theirs as watertight as possible. Prospecting, therefore, is the process of adding new people to the top of the funnel. 

2. Methods of prospecting.

To discover if an individual or firm is a genuine prospect, you must reach out to them. There are a few common methods of outreach for sales prospecting: 

  • Phone calls - You might think that cold calling is a thing of the past. For prospecting, though, a good old-fashioned call is still hard to beat.
  • Email - Prospecting by email is increasingly popular. You can probably share more information than you could over the phone. You’re relying on a recipient opening your message, though. 
  • Direct mail - And you thought using the phone was old-fashioned. While not as popular as it once was, direct mail prospecting can still be useful. Leaflets and flyers can drum up business, even in this day and age.  

Prospects or Leads?

Prospecting is about finding prospects. You’ve probably heard that phrase before, but do you genuinely know what it means. The best way to explain is in comparison to leads - a related label. 

1. Leads.

Leads are potential customers who you think may be interested in your products. They might have shown as much by visiting your site or signing up to your email list. 

2. Prospects.

Prospects are also known as qualified leads. They’re potential customers you’ve IDed as fitting your target audience and buyer persona. It’s the outreach known as prospecting that gives you this extra insight into these leads. 

Tips For Effective Prospecting

Effective sales prospecting isn’t easy. It takes time, effort, and finance. The following, though, are some straightforward tips to get you started. 

1. Give it the attention it deserves.

It can be tempting to overlook prospecting. You won’t see results right away. The end of the prospecting process, after all, is when a prospect enters your funnel. However, you must give it ample time and attention, as it’s what makes the rest of the sales process easier. 

2. Use your network.

‘It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.’ We’ve all heard that, and it’s as accurate as it ever was. If you’re not making use of your existing network to drum up prospects, you’re missing an opportunity.  

3. Research.

Prospecting work begins long before you pick up a phone or open your email client. Research those people you’re going to reach out to, to make your life easier. Don’t merely call the freephone numbers listed on a firm’s website. Find the correct decision-maker to contact. Don’t send the same email to everyone. Work out how to make your message unique to its recipient.  

4. Build relationships.

You don’t close a sale at the end of the prospecting process. So, you shouldn’t act like you’re going to. When reaching out to new leads, focus on building a relationship. That’s what will turn them into prospects. More than that, it will make them more likely to stay in your funnel all the way to purchase.  

Conclusion

You can put those dreams of joining the gold rush on ice. Modern prospecting is about qualifying leads and adding them to your sales funnel. Get the process right, though, and the results can be significant. It’s not quite the same as striking gold, but it’s not far off for brands and marketers. 

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