Karin grew up in California—the Golden State—so every time she hears the word prospecting, she thinks of panning for gold. Now that she’s studying to be a sales professional, she realizes that prospecting also means searching for new clients or customers. It’s similar to panning for gold, though, because it takes discernment and effort, and not everything that looks promising turns out to be valuable. Let’s look at what prospecting involves and how proper analysis can help you and your sales team do it well.
Prospecting helps sales representatives develop an influx of potential customers. If done right, you will establish a mutually-beneficial relationship that can position you as a trusted advisor. There are no sales without prospecting; it is the first and most important task of sales representatives. Many salespeople dread prospecting because of the amount of rejection they face. However, during the prospecting process you will learn how to genuinely connect with potential customers to understand their needs and concerns. By analyzing the conversations you have with prospects that say “no,” you can optimize your sales messaging to learn how to maximize future sales conversations. You must go out and find customers that fit the product or service you are selling.
The purpose of sales prospecting is to see if a customer would be a good fit for your product or service. So, you will need to ask the right questions of the potential customer. If you are prospecting business-to-business, you will want to know the budget constraints, the organizational hierarchy, and the strategic initiatives the buyer is currently focused on. Such information can be incredibly valuable for understanding your target market as well as for generating information you can reference later. Remember—just because a prospect says “no” today doesn’t mean they won’t say “yes” down the road.
The key to sales prospecting is to document answers to qualifying questions. To keep track of your customers’ data, you can document their responses in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) sales prospecting tool to track trends and to track whether they are almost ready or ready to make a purchase. Prospecting is a hard skill that all salespeople must master to be successful. Prospecting is critical both to your bottom line and to your company’s ability to forecast future sales.
Prospecting requires a lot of time, effort, and rejection in order to find leads you can serve, engage, and eventually turn into clients. Unlike simply finding leads, prospecting is targeted selling so you can know what the customers wants—and why, when, and how they want it. When prospecting, you gather data that can be used for present or future analysis. As a sales manager, you should be prepared to provide your sales personnel with training to help them know how to ask the right questions to identify the customer’s needs and the reason (the “why”) your product or service can meet those needs. The process of identifying needs is known as analysis. Let’s take a look at what this involves.
Conducting Industry and Customer Analysis
First, you need to narrow your focus to the particular industry that’s most relevant to your product or service. This just makes sense. If you were looking for gold, you’d want to search in geographic locations that are likely to contain it—and the same is true when searching for new clients. By analyzing the industry your product or service belongs to, you can learn a lot about the interests and purchasing behaviors of customers who spend their money in this industry. After you analyze the industry, you’ll need to focus your analysis even more to pinpoint the needs and desires of customers within your specific target demographic. Not every product or service will appeal to every person, so determining the type of customer who is likely to be interested in your product/service will allow you to focus your prospecting efforts on the most promising portions of the customer population.
You can conduct industry and customer analyses yourself with the help of your sales team, or you can pay a company to do it for you. One of the most reputable and well-known companies that provides this service is Dun & Bradstreet. This corporation prepares “business information reports for more than 100 million companies around the globe” (Kenton, 2019). By hiring Dun & Bradstreet to research your industry, which includes your competitors, your company can save time while gaining valuable insight into where and how to focus your prospecting efforts. When you prospect effectively, you will eventually find gold.