My name is Lusha – I help sales professionals save time and meet their goals faster. Today I’d like to cover sales prospecting – the art of finding qualified people who are likely to turn into concrete sales opportunities.
If you’ve ever done it, you know that sales prospecting is one of the hardest parts of the sales process. But it’s also the most vital – without opportunities, the sales pipeline will run dry and even the best sales executive will not be able to close a deal.
In this post, I’ll help you understand what sales prospecting entails, and give you a few things that can help you get much better at it! Namely, 10 tools that can automate different parts of the prospecting process, and 5 tips from real gurus in the industry who have been kind enough to share their secrets.
What is Sales Prospecting?
Sales prospecting involves the following activities:
- Finding companies by qualifying attributes – such as industry, geography, revenue, specific product already in use
- Researching companies – identifying specific companies that could be relevant for your product or service
- Researching contacts – finding contacts within those companies that could be relevant decision-makers, and their contact details (leads)
- Connecting with contacts – reaching out via phone, email or other means to see if the lead is a relevant prospect for our company’s product or service.
Here is how sales prospecting fits into the general sale cycle, as defined by Hubspot:
In a modern sales process, the first three stages are done by a sales prospecting team, also known as Inside Sales, SDRs or Sales Development Representatives. Once a prospect is qualified, it is handed over to sales reps or sales executives who are responsible for educating the prospect, making the right offer and closing the sale.
However, in many organizations, the entire process is handled by one small team, or even by just one person.
Whether sales prospecting is your entire job or only part of it, getting it right will generate huge improvements in productivity for the entire sales process. Getting the right prospects into the system will directly result in more closes and more sales revenue.
10 Sales Prospecting Tools: Beating the Grind
Sales prospecting used to involve huge amounts of manual labor. Collecting lists of prospects, qualifying them, researching contact info and scheduling calls – was all done manually.
Today there are many tools that can help automate different parts of the process. These tools can help you be more productive and also make you feel better – using your brain instead of endless, repetitive work.
Competitive Intelligence Tools
Siftery is a cool tool that helps you learn which products are used by other companies. When researching a prospect, it can be extremely valuable to learn if they are already using a competing product or a complementary product that is related to your product. This can be a way to qualify a prospect, and also a great way get the conversation started.
Owler is a free browser-based tool that can give you insights into what’s happening with companies in your space. You can use it to get valuable info on prospects, such as number of employees, revenue and competitors, learn what’s happening at prospective companies – such as investments or new hires, and get ideas from your competition.
3. Google Alerts
A complement to something like Owler or Siftery is the free Google Alerts service. Type in any search term – for example, the name of a prospective company, your own product or a competitor’s product – and you’ll start getting emails every time Google picks up a new mention of that term.
Tip: For search terms that are not written about so often, such as the name of a smaller company, be sure to select All results from the How many drop down.
Contact Finding Tools
I may be biased, but I recommend you start with our own tool called Lusha (yes, named after me ?). Lusha is a service used by thousands of organizations to enrich lead data and expand business profiles. While you are researching prospects on LinkedIn and other social networks, Lusha can enrich the social profile with missing information, such as emails and direct phone numbers, allowing you to reach your target immediately. There’s probably no shorter path to starting a conversation with a relevant prospect.
Cost: Free for 5 business profiles per month, paid plans starting at $29 per month
Discover.ly is a browser extension that gives you valuable details about anyone based on their email – social profiles, recent tweets and Facebook posts, and information from AngelList and Crunchbase. This can help you easily discover which contact at a company might be the most relevant, and how to craft a personal, relevant message to get their attention.
Writing and Messaging Assistants
Crystal is an AI-based tool that analyzes your contact’s writing on the web and understands how you should write to motivate them. It gives you actionable suggestions as you’re writing a message, to help you get a specific person’s attention.
HeminwayApp can suggest how to make your writing shorter, clearer and more effective. This can go a long way towards improving your response rates when sending cold emails or social media messages, and also when replying to an interested prospect.
CRM and Scheduling Tools
8. Streak CRM
CRMs are a basic tool for sales prospecting. They can help you keep track of companies and individuals and record any interaction with them, from the initial discovery to the final sale. If you have an existing CRM at your company, you’ll likely be using that. If you don’t have one, you can use a free tool like Streak – it’s a Gmail extension that allows you to tag and organize large numbers of contacts into a sales pipeline.
Cost: Free up to 200 emails per month, paid plans starting at $49 per month
Calendly helps you schedule meetings quickly without back-and-forth emails about when and where other people want to meet. You can connect Calendly to your calendar or the calendar of a sales executive (for example), and send a link to anyone interested in a call. They can click the link to see open slots on the calendar, and schedule a meeting themselves.
Cost: Free with limited features, paid plans start at $8 per user per month
A slightly more fancy option is Clara, a robot assistant you can CC on your email messages. She will communicate with your contact and coordinate the meeting for you.
Pricing: Free trial, plans start at $99 per month
5 Killer Prospecting Tips from Sales Gurus
We’re all fortunate to have access to individuals who have unique knowledge and expertise. I searched far and wide for the best tips shared online by real sales experts. Here they are – I’m sure at least one of them can be game changer for your prospecting work.
The SMYKM Principle – Show Me You Know Me
Samantha has built her prospecting strategy on what she calls the SKYKM principle – do everything you can to show the prospect that you know them, or at least have something in common, to build familiarity.
She suggests starting prospecting messages – right from the title and first sentence – with “how I know you”. An ideal example: “Account Inquiry, from a friend of Jim Durham’s”.
Since you probably don’t have a friend who knows the prospect, other options include:
- Referencing previous employers, co-workers or partners – they may be a client of our company or you might have some connection to them.
- Referencing their educational history – did you attend the same school?
- Referencing any activities or charities that are tied to your passions.
Use Company Blog Posts to Find Pain Points
Kyle suggests subscribing to the blogs of companies that might make good prospects, using a tool like Digg. He recommends opening 30 blog posts, and spending no more than a minute browsing each one. Narrow down to the most interesting posts and inspect them more deeply to find pain points or trigger events. Based on the information in the blog, craft an email or call to a relevant contact at the company.
Kyle reports achieving a 90% response rate with this technique!
The BASHO Sequence
Jeff Hoffman pioneered the BASHO sequence (also known as “Why You Why You Now”). He suggests alternating between voicemail and email messages, with gradually increasing times between messages. An important part of the technique is to use different messaging in each message.
The combination of varying message types, content and wait times, gives the prospect many possibilities to digest the message you are trying to bring across and can dramatically improve the chance of response.
The sequence goes like this: first voicemail or email, then wait 1 day. Second voicemail or email (alternate from previous), then wait 2 days. Third message, then wait 3 days. Fourth message, then wait 5 days, and finally, a breakup message.
Send a Calendar Invite Instead of an Email
Jill proposes sending calendar invites instead of an email, to save steps and bring a prospect closer to a discovery call. The meeting description can include a message that explains why the prospect will benefit from attending the call. She suggests pitching 5-minute meetings in this way to try to get a minimal buy-in from a busy prospect.
Contact Prospects While They are On Your Site
Kyle is of the strong opinion that timing is the most important part of a sale. If you grab the prospect at the right time your chances of success shoot up by orders of magnitude. Therefore, a perfect time to reach a prospect is while they are browsing your site.
Kyle suggests putting yourself in the shoes of a prospect – if they are now on your site, this is the time they have allocated to reviewing your product or service. If you can give them more specific information at this time, you are helping them, not disturbing.
Kyle’s tip is to monitor prospect activity on your site and sending a well-researched email to them in real time.
Lusha’s 5 Cents: If You Prospect, Do it Well
Prospecting is critical to a healthy sale cycle – if you do it well, you fill the sales funnel with highly qualified individuals and organizations, who are highly likely to result in a deeper interaction and a sale.
If you’re the one responsible for prospecting, take it seriously and do it well! In this page, I covered a number of tools (only a small sample of the many available) that can make prospecting easier, faster and more productive. As well as a number of tips from prospecting pros – such as letting the prospect know you know them, discovering pain points in corporate blog posts, and emailing prospects while they browsing your site (brilliant right?).
A closing word – we invested a lot in our very own prospecting companion, Lusha’s data enrichment platform. Try our free browser extension, or for larger-scale use, our contact API and SalesForce CRM integration.
The Lusha Difference
A core part of prospecting is getting good contact details. No matter how good your research was, without a valid email or working phone number, nothing is going to happen.
Lusha is a service designed to give you exactly that – valuable professional contact information for any prospect you check out on a social network. We’ve worked for years to build a vast database of contact details, based only on reputable, legitimate sources. So we almost always hit home with the correct contact details.