Humans are wired from birth to form connections.
It’s undeniable. This fact has never been more obvious than it is now—with social networking giant Facebook currently boasting of 1.4 billion active monthly users, while Twitter and Instagram have 288 million and 347 million active users respectively.
Indeed, the influx of technological advancements over the past few years has transformed the way people connect and communicate with one another, and this shift has affected almost all aspects of our daily lives, including the way we trade and do business.
In fact, the sales industry has evolved so much that it has become almost unrecognizable from what it used to be just a couple of decades ago.
One of the biggest changes was in customer purchasing patterns—buyers nowadays have more access to relevant information and are able to harness technology (especially social networking sites) to analyze the pros and cons of a product before finally committing to a purchase.
In fact, data shows that 57% of the sales journey is completed even before the buyer talks to sales representatives.
This development has greatly affected the velocity of the sales process and led to the growing popularity of inbound marketing and inside sales techniques among industry players.
Seen as an effective way to generate leads by creating useful, engaging content and offering access to this content in exchange for contact information; inbound marketing has helped improve agent productivity rates and jumpstart revenue for many companies, simply by producing the right kind of content able to draw in the right kind of customers at just the right time.
So, does this mean that companies, especially those engaged in inside sales, should just stop actively searching for buyers and customers and just focus on creating high-quality content? Is the era of prospecting really over?
Of course not!
Let me show you how the right prospecting strategies can help you generate a buzz that will enable you to have meaningful engagements and social interactions with the perfect set of people, increase agent morale and efficiency, improve quota achievement rates and ultimately lead to more closed deals and higher sales figures for your company.
Prospecting refers to the process of reaching out to potential buyers and clients, guiding them as they go through the initial stages of the sales process and converting them from being a cold lead to a hot one. While prospecting is traditionally associated with outbound marketing and sales techniques, it has gradually been revamped and redefined to fit within the parameters of inbound marketing and inside sales.
For instance, prospecting plays a huge role in determining the quality of leads generated by inbound sales techniques.
Inbound marketing relies upon the development of content that will be of value to a specific buyer persona, but sales agents often have difficulty measuring and scoring the generated leads based on the level and nature of their individual engagements with the company.
For example, inside sales agents might ignore people who simply “like” or “follow” their company’s social media accounts, but prospecting techniques (such as social media background checks, etc) can help determine if these people are interested in what the company has to offer.
Essentially, prospecting allows sales professionals to accurately distinguish between cold, warm and hot leads, so that the company can deliver the type and volume of content most appropriate for each lead.
Now that we’ve established how prospecting can complement and improve inside sales processes, it’s time to look at specific methods of prospecting, and how these are applicable in an inside sales environment.
Prospecting must-dos for success
The rising popularity of inside sales and inbound marketing techniques has contributed to the gradual shift in the public’s perception of salespeople.
Far from being overeager persons whose primary concern is to clinch the sale, inbound marketing’s focus on providing valuable and informative content to a targeted audience has changed sales agents to highly professional educators who are able to guide leads to making well-informed choices.
This thrust towards research, knowledge-building and information dissemination is evident even in prospecting, where some of the most well-known strategies focus on having in-depth knowledge of who the prospect is, and what his specific needs are.
- Make financial data work for you.
Marika Vilen, the Global Head of Partnerships for Thomson Reuters’ Financial and Risk Division, outlined three major forms of financial data that sales agents can use in prospecting other businesses.
According to Vilen, looking at a company’s
- growth areas, products, and other drivers,
- analyst forecasts for earnings, revenue, and other metrics, and
- conference call briefings,
can provide in-depth information about a potential client’s organizational objectives, financial capacity, and overall attitudes towards mergers, partnerships and growth. Sales representatives can then use this information to customize the types of content provided to the client and increase their chances of closing the deal.
In order to truly maximize the information that sales agents are able to collect from leads and potential clients, it is vital to have a CRM system that will make this information easily accessible to all members of the sales team.
This will encourage cooperation and coordination among team members—with more people on board working to research and nurture generated leads, potential clients are more likely to say yes to what your company is offering.
- Go social!
Social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn provide agents with a ton of data and information that can be used in B2B or even B2C sales prospecting. Twitter’s hashtag functionality makes it easier for sales professionals to search for prospects who may need the company’s services, while also giving them with the opportunity to engage with prospects on a personal level and increase the chances of success.
After all, data shows that your sales team has 56% greater chance to attain quota if they engage with prospects even before a sale. On the other hand, joining LinkedIn helps sales agents to connect to your customers and prospects, join groups of like-minded people, gain valuable insights on the industry and possible partners, prospects or competitors, and promote the company’s services to a wider range of people.
Increased visibility in social media networks can also have a direct impact on improving the company’s credibility and drive up sales. As sales representatives get the chance to establish themselves as thought leaders in social media groups and online communities, they are more likely to establish connections and get referrals that can have manifold effects.
Research shows that sales reps are 42% more likely to get an appointment if they have a personal connection with the prospect.
Organize your email and manage your time better by using free Gmail apps such as Streak (organizes and tracks all prospects by classifying them as leads, pitched prospects, those scheduled for demo, contacted, those under negotiations, or as closed deals), Signals (a free Gmail app that tracks emails and can be integrated into Hubspot accounts), NetProspex (an app that monitors data health and automatically clears your email’s address book of unresponsive or dead contacts, thus making room for new ones), among others. Using these apps can make prospecting faster than ever, leaving sales agents with more time to generate and nurture new leads.
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Prospect better. Sell Smarter. Close More.
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