8 Fatal Sales Prospecting Mistakes You Might Be Making

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Leslie Ye
Leslie Ye




Prospecting bottlenecks the entire rest of your sales process -- while discovery is perhaps the most crucial step once you’ve engaged with prospects, you have to engage first.

But it’s not easy. Prospects are busy and reluctant to talk to salespeople, and salespeople are becoming more aggressive to compensate. The result? It's becoming harder than ever to connect with a good-fit prospect.

And it becomes harder still if you're making one of the eight fatal prospecting mistakes below. Check these mistakes against your own behavior to catch which of your prospecting habits needs to go.

8 Huge Sales Prospecting Mistakes

1) Not doing research

This is a no-brainer. If you don’t do research, you’ll run into the following problems:

  • You won’t know whether the prospect is a good fit
  • You won’t be able to guess what your prospect’s top priorities are or tailor your pitch accordingly
  • You’ll have to ask your prospect to provide you basic information you could have found yourself

The result? You won’t be able to “hook” your prospect, you’ll waste their time, and you’ll make them think (rightly so) that you couldn’t be bothered to do a five-second LinkedIn search. Ultimately, they won’t trust that you care what’s right for their business, and so they won’t buy.

You should always enter a call with at least one assumption or conclusion about your prospect’s business you gleaned from your research that you can have them confirm or deny. Not only does this build your credibility and demonstrate the effort you made, it’s also a good benchmark to determine how much research is necessary. You don’t need to know your prospect’s birthday, but you should have a sense of why they would want to talk to you or how their business operates.

2) Not checking leads against buyer personas

Buyer personas exist for a reason. They outline the types of prospects most likely to buy and most likely to retain. You won’t be able to tell just by looking at a LinkedIn profile how closely the prospect fits your persona, but you’ll be able to tell some broad strokes. Are they in the right industry? Do they have the right level of seniority? Is their company large enough to suggest the level of revenue your customers typically have?

3) Sending canned emails or following voicemail scripts

There’s a huge difference between using a template as a starting point and copying one word-for-word.

While you should have a general talk track or outreach framework that you follow (after all, buyer persona research reveals what your best customers and prospects will have in common), you should never find yourself leaving the same voicemail or sending the same email twice. Doing so is a missed opportunity to provide value.

4) Not knowing a inbound lead's conversion point

If your company is fortunate enough to see a steady flow of inbound leads, pay particular attention to your prospect’s conversion point. Did they come into your lead queue based on an ebook about building a new house? Or did they fill out a form for interior decoration consulting? The piece of content or web page that drove a conversion will give you clues to what your prospect is motivated by and what stage of the buyer's journey they're at.

5) Trying to do too much

A prospecting call isn’t the time for a pitch or heavy discovery. They’re unscheduled, so they’re inherently interruptive. And while you might have something of value to provide, respect that your prospect was probably working on something else when you called them.

This means keeping things short. Ask just enough questions to determine what a logical next step looks like, get buy-in, and let your prospect get back to their day.

6) Not having a goal for the call

You must be able to recognize what appropriate next steps look like in each different situation. If you’ve connected with an inbound lead who’s already evaluating your product and is asking about pricing, it’s appropriate to ask for a discovery call with the appropriate stakeholders as a next step. But if you proactively sourced them and they’ve never heard of you before? Not so much. Assign them some homework to educate them around your product and go from there.

7) Treating all leads equally

Not all leads are created equal. Even after you filter out leads that clearly don’t fit your buyer persona, you shouldn’t just be calling and emailing them in a random order. To make the best use of your time, make sure you’re calling best-fit leads first and reach out to the rest in order of how likely they are to be a fit. 

8) Not dedicating time to prospecting

The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to prospecting? Not doing it at all. Prospecting is an easy activity to push off because it doesn’t pay off right away, and it can feel more important to work the deals you have in progress than generate new ones. But remember how those deals entered your pipeline in the first place -- through prospecting. You’re setting up your future self for failure if you neglect pipeline generation, and it’s just not worth it.

What do you think are the biggest prospecting mistakes salespeople make? Share with us in the comments below.

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