How much time are your sales reps spending looking for prospects? And more to the point, how much time should they be spending on sales prospecting?
It’s a careful balance. Effective lead generation requires putting in sufficient time to find those people or organizations that could be good candidates for what your company is selling. Top sellers spend about six hours a week on prospect research alone, according to Crunchbase.
While understanding prospects is valuable, investing hours each week in manual processes is not. Indeed, you may find a sales team aggravated by the time spent on the administrative tasks associated with prospecting. Fortunately, it’s possible to use technology to avoid some of the more frustrating aspects of sales prospecting while maximizing the activities that lead to success.
In this article, we’ll look at how sales prospecting tools can save time, build a robust prospect list, help you reach critical decision-makers, and close deals more efficiently than you are doing.
What is sales prospecting?
Let’s start with some definitions. Sales prospecting is the process of identifying and reaching out to potential customers — the first step in landing a sale. The reality is that sales prospecting is more challenging than ever, as noted by Gartner. Buyers are averse to talking to sales professionals; they prefer a “rep-free” sales process. Also, the number of people involved in buying decisions has grown, meaning a prolonged effort to get the results sellers seek. In fact, it now takes about 66 activities just to book the first meeting with a qualified lead, Gartner says.
The tools used to reach leads are familiar: cold-calling, sales emails, email list-building, drip campaigns, social media, and all the associated activities in the sales funnel. But activities alone are not enough. You need to create an ideal customer profile and develop a strategic sales plan to find new leads and separate the high-quality leads from the low-quality leads.
If your sales reps are good at selling, then the right process and technology will only make them better at their jobs, increasing their happiness and boosting your revenue. They’ll certainly appreciate a system that doesn’t rely on exporting CSV data to spreadsheets and reviewing everything manually.
What’s the difference between a lead and a prospect?
Leads — even high-quality ones — are at the top of your sales funnel. They may have shown an interest in your product, but they’re unqualified. A prospect is one step beyond lead. It’s someone who’s qualified as likely to benefit from and purchase what you are selling.
It’s a bit like the distinction made in political polls between the general public (leads) and likely voters (prospects). The survey of the general public is not as useful as one of likely voters in predicting the outcome of a race. But to know if someone is likely to buy, just like if they’re likely to vote, means you have to have data about them.
And that’s one of the important features of sales prospecting tools. They can help you collect data on leads automatically from your interactions with them and actions they take elsewhere. These processes save time and help make sure that information isn’t lost or stored in a place that’s hard to locate.
What are sales prospecting tools, and how can they benefit your sales team?
As with most software modern businesses use, sales prospecting tools are typically Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms. The fact that they are cloud-based means that they’re easily accessed from anywhere, on either desktop or mobile devices, and can be readily updated to add new features.
Sales prospecting tools optimize and automate different parts of the prospecting phase. They make it easier for reps to move customers through the sales pipeline and track activities. From the initial outreach to potential leads through email sequences, cold emails, and phone calls, prospecting tools help companies keep track of pertinent contact information and integrate seamlessly with your CRM.
With a single platform, your sales team can get all the data it needs in one place — from the macro items, such as company data from sources such as ZoomInfo, to the smaller details, such as current phone numbers and comments from inbound leads. Streamlining your sales prospecting process by managing all activities from one system will save your reps valuable time and assist you in creating a more effective sales strategy.
To summarize, here are some of the ways that a sales prospecting tool can benefit your team:
- Generate more high-quality leads thanks to better data quality and sales information
- Determine which leads can be considered good prospects
- Provide a clear voice and consistent messaging across the sales team
- Move away from inefficient manual processes to a streamlined, efficient approach that allows you to prospect at scale
- Effectively follow up on prospects by being clear about prior interactions
- Keep a team’s activities organized and coherent
- Engage customers in more meaningful and tailored ways
- Review tactics as you go, eliminating those that don’t work and retaining those that do
Even the best sales teams can benefit from using automated tools to improve their processes, as long as they are used to enhance their efforts rather than complicate them.
How do you pick the best sales prospecting tool for your business?
Not all prospecting tools are the same, and not every tool will fit your organization’s unique needs.
To decide, start by looking at your team’s overall needs, workflow, and daily activities. Ask questions such as:
- What is the biggest struggle for your team regarding lead generation?
- How effective are your communication efforts now? For example, did that last email campaign make a difference, and how did you record and handle any sales leads it generated?
- How much time is each of your reps spending on prospecting?
- Are there best practices that some members have that the rest of your salespeople should incorporate?
- What processes need to be improved? (E.g., follow-up efforts, reaching decision-makers, scheduling meetings, timing outreach messages appropriately)
- Are you able to systematically spend time on target accounts, or are you indiscriminate in your sales prospecting efforts?
- Do you have a way of collecting and sharing sales intelligence among the team members?
- How is all the information you are collecting going into your CRM? Are you retaining it all, or is some being lost or stuck on another platform?
Next, consider how you can refine your approach.
- Define your ideal customer profile. If you’re doing B2B sales prospecting, what’s your ideal customer’s position in an organization? What type of company do they work for? What’s the company size? How are they currently doing business, and how could you help? If targeting B-to-C clients, what are their needs? What key demographic information should be part of their profile?
- Review and add to your database. Do you have enough ideal customers in your current database? Should you find ways to add more potential leads?
- Create an omnichannel approach. Are your sales reps using a variety of means to reach your ideal customer? How’s your social media working, and are you collecting names from it and your website visitors? Where else could you target your leads that you aren’t, and how will you pull that information into your sales process?
Once you have a good sense of the operational issues affecting your salespeople, you can start narrowing down the tools to review by doing preliminary investigations. Ask questions such as:
- Will this tool integrate with your current tech stack and other automation tools you rely upon, such as Salesforce, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and HubSpot? Don’t forget about those everyday sales tools like Zoom and Slack, which we’ll discuss below. Notifications of any relevant prospect activity are important in making sure you understand what information they’ve received or where they are in the sales process. You can do more harm than good by sending a sales-oriented message to a prospect who has already bought from you.
- What kinds of reviews does the company have? All organizations will have both positive and negative reviews but try to find vendors that not only have primarily positive reviews but have a large number of total reviews. Those with only a handful of reviews don’t have much of a track record to judge.
- Do they have good customer service? What about professional services? That information can be determined, in part, from reviews, but you might also see if they offer direct customer help or just a few video guides.
What features should you look for in a sales prospecting tool?
Once you have narrowed down the list of sales prospecting software vendors to compare and contrast, it’s time to dig into the specifics regarding the features. These are among the ones to consider:
Customizable multi-channel cadences and automation
The ability to build automated, multi-channel cadences can help take the guesswork out of your team’s interactions with leads and prospects, regardless of where they are in the sales cycle. Your salespeople won’t have to think about the next step constantly and can focus on selling. Moreover, all human error in recording each step can be eliminated, reducing the likelihood that a lead/prospect will fall through the cracks.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, cadences are a series of specific frequency and timing touchpoints intended to increase engagement. Compelling cadences allow sellers to reach out to leads at the best time possible, with messaging relevant to the lead’s position in the sales cycle.
For example, you could have drafted a series of emails, LinkedIn messages, and phone calls for those leads who have gone cold and a different set for when a cold lead heats up. Similarly, you may want to employ cadences to nurture your leads. Of course, you’ll want these cadences to be customizable to let your sellers personalize. You may also want to make sure that the prospecting tool integrates with video-based email platforms, such as Vidyard, Seismic, and Videolicious, allowing sellers to create a personalized video for each lead.
While cadences can dramatically improve the entire sales process, they can be especially beneficial for new reps, acting as a sales playbook of best practices. They also allow for consistent and approved messaging to be used across your organization.
As suggested, these cadences should be automated. Doing so saves your sellers valuable time and ensures leads will move through the process rather than be forgotten. Automation also allows every sales activity (calls, emails, and meetings) to sync seamlessly to your CRM.
Single platform to manage everything
Working with too many tools can get frustrating for sales reps. Flipping between platforms is a major time waster and carries the risk of information getting lost. For example, some vendors might have a point sales prospecting tool but expect you to use another tool (or more than one other) for different parts of sales engagement and sales enablement. Your team members will be more productive and happier if they can work out of one platform.
Automated dialer and messenger
Email alone won’t get your sales reps in touch with their prospects. An automated dialer lets your reps make a phone call (or send a text message) with one click. Some prospecting tools, like Salesloft, have this feature built in and include automatic sync to your CRM.
Analytics is necessary for understanding what is and isn’t working for your team. They give you a clearer picture of your sales process in aggregate and in detail. With analytics, reps can quickly identify where they need to focus their efforts. Managers can view their teams’ performance and step in when needed. And leaders can make informed, data-driven decisions by looking at the outcomes of prospecting efforts.
Not only is it crucial to select a quality software program, but you also want a great team to back it up. You need a team that responds quickly and efficiently to your concerns if you encounter any platform issues.
Besides good customer support, you’ll want reassurance that the vendor is continually improving the product. After all, this is one of the benefits of SaaS — updates can be made instantly. Besides that, a vendor that continually improves its platform will keep up with the evolving marketplace. Those companies that don’t strive for continual product enrichment risk being eclipsed by the competition — leaving their customers abandoned if they stop operating.
Integration with CRM and other tools and platforms
Integration with other sales tools is essential. Without it, your sales reps will spend far too much time reconciling information between various platforms, especially your CRM, whether you’re using one for large companies such as Salesloft or Microsoft Dynamics, for smaller ones such as Pipedrive, or one for all sizes, such as HubSpot. You’ll also want it to integrate with your sales prospecting tool, your email systems such as Gmail or Outlook, sales intelligence platforms such as Fusion Funnel, ZoomInfo and LinkSales Navigator, presentation platforms such as Zoom, Citrix GotoMeeting, and Cisco WebEx, and any other tools that are deeply embedded in your workflow, outreach and lead generation efforts.
Consider Salesloft for your prospecting efforts
It’s essential to consider your sales prospecting operations and needs in detail before looking at applications. Far too often, companies reach for the “shiny object,” hoping it will solve their problems. When they acquire it, they’re unsure how to implement it or integrate it with their other tools for a well-considered, neatly organized workflow.
The sales process is multidimensional and dynamic. It requires systematic methods of tracking prospects and the information they have received. While many software providers attempt to solve the challenges of the prospecting phase, only some will be capable of handling your organization’s needs.
Of course, pricing considerations are important. You don’t want to spend more than you have to. By the same token, committing to a platform based on price alone is not wise. You need to be sure that whatever you pick meets your company’s and salespeople’s needs and works with your sales process.
Once you’ve determined your needs and the benefits you hope to get from a sales prospecting tool, we’d encourage you to look at what Salesloft can do. Salesloft Cadence is a highly flexible sales prospecting tool. We also offer Salesloft Deals, designed to track pipeline activity, and Salesloft Conversations, for sales call tracking, recording, and analysis.
With Salesloft, your team can access several tools that help optimize your workflow, find new (quality) leads, and close deals.
But we know that sales teams are likely already using other tools they’re comfortable with and don’t want to add Deals or Conversations to the mix. If so, take a look at the extensive array of third-party platforms Salesloft integrates with in our Marketplace.
Adding the power and flexibility of SaaS-based technology to a well-designed sales prospecting workflow will help you optimize your operations, find better leads and prospects, move them through the sales funnel, and close deals.