Prospecting is the sales equivalent of panning for gold. Maybe you’ll find something, maybe you won’t -- but you’ll definitely have to invest some time before you stumble on something good.

Unlike panning for gold, however, whether or not your sales prospecting pays off is, to a certain extent, under your control.

The trick is finding good fit prospects. If you reach out to everybody you come across, you might score one or two meetings. More likely, though, you’ll call a lot of people who don’t want to hear from you and won’t ever buy.

But sourcing good fit leads takes time. And when you need to prospect at scale, you can’t afford to spend a ton of time making sure each new lead is a perfect fit.

Different strategies will work better for different reps, but the four tactical tips below will help salespeople find the sweet spot between calling everybody they come across and being so discerning that they’re only picking up the phone three times a day.

1) Determine how much prospecting activity you need to complete each day.

It’s hard to tell how many prospecting calls is “too few” or “too many” unless you’ve taken a close look at some data. Pull up your sales activity from the last few months, and count every attempt, every meeting, every presentation, and every closed deal. How many prospects did you source to book X good meetings? Of those meetings, how many converted to customers?

Starting with your quota, use your own conversion rates to work backwards to the number of prospecting calls and emails you need to make per day. This number is your benchmark -- aim to hit or exceed it.

2) Limit yourself to five minutes of research per prospect.

Clearly, you wouldn’t call a prospect you know nothing about. But you also shouldn’t feel like you have to get someone’s entire life story before you pick up the phone.

Become a pro at skimming LinkedIn, and you’ll be able to significantly pare down the time you spend pre-qualifying leads while still ensuring you’re getting all the most important information.

If you only have three minutes, check out your prospect’s LinkedIn summary, their job title and description, any mutual connections you have, and the “In Common With” sidebar. If you have extra time, spend an additional two minutes on their recent activity and job history.

3) Use LinkedIn to turn one prospect into seven.

Sometimes I’ll be reading about a historical figure on Wikipedia, and the next thing I know it’s an hour later and I’m learning about her husband’s cousin’s business venture and how it relates to space exploration.

Sales prospecting can work much the same way, except going down the LinkedIn rabbit hole is actually productive.

LinkedIn has two handy features -- “People Also Viewed” and “People Similar To” -- that make it easy to surface other professionals similar to your prospect. “People Also Viewed” surfaces the professionals most viewed by the pool of people who have seen your prospect’s profile, while “People Similar To” shows LinkedIn members with similar job functions.

Visit the LinkedIn profiles of some of your best customers or prospects who are about to close, then use these two features to build out a list of leads who might have similar needs.

(Pro tip: “People Also Viewed” only appears for people you’re not connected to. Open an incognito window and don’t log in to your account to see this feature.)

4) Learn to spot early indicators that you should disqualify.

What’s worse than calling a prospect who’s a bad fit?

Calling a prospect who’s a bad fit but not realizing it until you’ve had a 20-minute conversation.

Many prospects will try to disqualify themselves to avoid a sales conversation, and so most salespeople are trained to tell legitimate objections from brush-offs. But once in awhile you’ll encounter someone who’s happy to talk despite being a terrible fit for your product.

The earlier you can figure that out, the better.

Read up on customers who have churned, and disqualified prospects who were a bad fit. Once you understand what traits signify that a prospect just isn’t going to work out, listen diligently for those indicators in your conversation so you can disqualify before you’ve invested significant time into a prospect relationship.

Successful prospecting is a delicate balance between accruing enough activity to generate meetings and refining your approach enough so your meetings are actually likely to lead to a close. By implementing and iterating on the four tactics above, you’ll be able to develop a prospecting strategy that nets you more, higher-quality meetings.

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Originally published Nov 2, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Sales Prospecting