24 Sales Prospecting Techniques for 2018

Will Cannon
August 17, 2018
24 Sales Prospecting Techniques for 2018 | UpLead

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In this mega-guide, you’re going to learn 24 of the best sales prospecting techniques that will supercharge your pipeline in 2018 and beyond.

You won’t find any old-school tactics here. Just a best-of-breed list of the most effective sales prospecting strategies and tactics you can test today.

What is Sales Prospecting?

Sales prospecting is a sales activity where reps use outbound, inbound and relationship building strategies and tactics to generate new prospects. These range from cold calling, email outreach and social selling approaches that identify and engage with the ideal customer.

Research is often the first step to a solid prospecting strategy. By understanding your best customer’s pains, and where they hang out online, you can build a profile (also known as buyer personas) to attract more of them.

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Research

Without a key understanding of your customers, buyer personas and company accounts, your sales prospecting approaches are likely to fail. These research strategies will help you build a solid foundation for all your lead generation efforts.

1. Identify Ideal Customers (Using CRM Data)

Your CRM system is a treasure trove of customer insights. Use this data to find your ideal customers.

For most B2B companies, this is a combination of two or more of the following:

  • High account values
  • Shorter sales cycles
  • High retention
  • Low maintenance customer support

To uncover this information, first head into your CRM and order by account value. Then, sort by customers who have been with you the longest. Finally, look for those with a short time frame between date of creation and close date:

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Image source

To uncover those “low-maintenance” customers, speak to your support teams. Ask them who they feel are an absolute joy to work with.

With this list of companies at hand, compare and see which overlap. Then, profile them by elements such as company size, industry, job title etc.

These are your ideal customers.

2. Uncover Customer Pains

As important to knowing who your best customers are is why they do business with you.

Having regular customer conversations is key to understanding them. During your conversations with prospects and customers alike, you should make a note of their problems, the effect they have on their business, and why they chose you as the solution.

Find out as much of the following information as possible:

  • What are their goals?
  • What product-related pain points do they have?
  • What non-product related pain points do they experience (you’ll see why this is important later)?
  • What objections do they have?
  • What does a typical day in their life look like?

Having this information at hand will help fuel prospecting activities such as cold calling, email outreach and inbound sales.

3. Finding The Golden Channels

When having these conversations with your existing customers, another key question to ask is:

“Where do you go for new information?”

This question will tell you exactly:

  • Which publications they read
  • Which influencers they trust
  • And which social or community channels they frequent

This will provide a tremendous amount of insight when choosing which channels to double-down your prospecting efforts to.

For example, many salespeople surprisingly get their information from Reddit:

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If this was the case for you and your customers, this would be a great community to get involved with.

4. Qualifying The Ideal Prospect

Not all prospects are made equal. Which is why it’s important to identify your best customers in order to build an effective criteria.

Here are a few tips to consider when qualifying your prospects:

  • Interest vs. Intent: If you have access to any insight on your customer (activity on your website, social engagement etc.) you can quickly find this out. Downloading a white paper shows interest, but time spent on your pricing page suggests intent.
  • The right person: Make sure you’re speaking to the right person. Asking who else is involved in the decision making process can indicate this immediately.
  • The competition: Who else are they talking to? Not all vendors are made equal. For example, if you’re a high-ticket offering and they’re speaking to companies with a low investment cost, this may reveal their what budget is.
  • Their pains: Finally, why are they talking to you in the first place? Can your solution help them to overcome the challenge they’re facing?

Email Outreach

Despite GDPR causing a ruckus in the sales and marketing space, email outreach and cold email is still incredibly effective. Here, you’ll learn how to do it right and boost your response rates.

5. Crafting The Perfect Subject Line

The subject line is the first thing your recipients will see. Which is why it’s important to get it right.

When it comes to cold email, here are some example subject lines that work well:

  • Quick question
  • Hi {First Name}
  • Any interest?
  • So, you do [skill]?
  • Who is in charge of [role] at [company]?

For example, this snapshot of Rebecca Caroe’s inbox goes to show how far a well-crafted subject line can go:

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The subject line, “a quick heads up,” does two things:

  1. It piques curiosity — a heads up about what?
  2. It uses the e.e. cumming method — all lower case

Keep your subject lines short, relevant and use them to pique interest to get the email opened.

6. Perfect Personalization (Show You Know Them)

Personalization has gone beyond including first names in emails. Now, you must demonstrate that you truly understand your prospects.

There are two ways to apply personalization to your emails:

  1. Make the copy specific to the recipients pains and activities
  2. Group recipients together by job roles/challenges

The former requires more work, as you must research each recipient individually. However, the second is scalable, and allows you to group by a certain characteristics.

FullStory does a great job of personalization, using imagery to show how their software will look on the website of the recipient:

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Personalization of this scale requires a lot of effort. But in the long run it generates a huge number of responses.

7. Get to The Point

As important as the personalization of your email is why you’re emailing in the first place.

When your recipient receives an email, this is what they see:

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This preview is prime “inbox real estate,” so use it to get the point quickly. At UpLead, this is how we do it:

Hi Bill,

I was checking out your LinkedIn profile and thought this could be of value to you.

We built a tool called UpLead which is like ZoomInfo but with built-in real-time email verification and we’re much more affordable. You can check it out here: UpLead.com

Are you open to trying it out at no cost?

Best,

[Signature]

Your prospects don’t know who you are yet, so save the details about your business until the signature.

8. Clear Calls-to-Action

In the example above, I ask the following question at the end of my email:

“Are you open to trying it out at no cost?”

There’s no request for 30 minutes of their time, and I’m certainly not suggesting a certain date to schedule a call.

Why?

Because this invites the recipient to say no. And one “no” will easily lead to another, and another.

Instead, I gauge if there’s interest for what we’re offering first. Then I’ll talk about logistics.

Does it work? You bet: we enjoy a 24% response rate from this one email alone.

9. Master The Follow-Up

Not seeing the response rate you’d like?

Don’t give up.

According to YesWare, there’s a 21% chance you’ll receive a response from your first follow-up email (second email in your sequence).

So, how many emails should you send, and how often? Let’s break it down:

  1. Send no more than three to four follow-up emails.
  2. Spread each follow-up email between three and 12 days.

Use each follow-up as an opportunity to add more value, share case studies and address different pain-points.

For more information on crafting cold emails, check out our guide: Cold Email Templates: 56 Elements & Examples for Success in 2018

Cold Calling

Cold calling is another solid prospecting techniques that’s stood the test of time. Again, it all hangs on doing the proper research and personalizing your approach. Here’s how you do it.

10. Create a Guide, Not a Script

The problem with cold calling scripts is that they too often come across as superficial.

It’s just plain obvious you’re repeating lines from a page.

So what’s the best alternative? Use a guide instead.

This script from YesWare provides a terrific example of how personalization can completely change the dynamic of a cold call:

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As you can see, the “copy” is personalized to who they’re calling: they’re hiring sales ops professionals. This provides a reason for reaching out.

Not only that, but the introduction is incredibly personalized too!

Here’s a framework to follow when creating a cold calling guide:

  1. Introduction: Avoid questions, as this allows the prospect to interject. Keep it light hearted and just let them know who you are.
  2. Connecting statement: This is the equivalent of a hyper-personalized cold email introduction. Talk about something you have in common, or something they’ve been mentioned in the news for.
  3. Reason for calling: This is where you provide (you guessed it) the reason you’re calling. As you can see in the example above, it should be personalized but relevant to your value proposition.
  4. Qualifying: See if they’re a good fit before wasting your time. See if they’re using a competitor, or if they have a relevant challenge you can solve.
  5. Ask: The ask (or your pitch) is where you get into how your solution can help them.

Keep a database of insights on your prospects. Social listening tools can help you fill in this information on the fly (which we’ll cover later in this guide).

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11. Get the Timing Right

Much like other aspects of sales and marketing, timing is everything when it comes to cold calling.

CallHippo recently conducted a study on call timings and when people answered the phone. Here’s what they found:

  • Wednesday and Thursday are the best days to call. People are getting into the flow of work on Monday and winding down on Friday.
  • The best time to call is between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM. Surprisingly, it’s not the morning. The second best time is between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM.
  • Respond within an hour for best results. CallHippo found there was a 450% difference in response time for leads who submitted a form or inquiry within an hour.
  • 30% of leads never receive a follow-up call. However, they found a 90% success rate by the sixth call.

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The last statistic is key. Much like your cold email, always be sure to follow up!

12. Look for Trigger Events (Strike While the Iron is Hot)

As we learned above, timing is everything.

This includes events that happen within your prospect’s organization.

Sure, if they’ve just signed on a competitor, you’re going to be out of luck. So, here are a few events to look for:

  • New business: If they’ve just won a prominent new account, saying congrats is a great reason to give them a call.
  • Investment: If they’ve just secured a new round of funding, it’s likely they’re looking for new vendors. This is another excuse to call them up and congratulate them.
  • New hires: New executives are eager to prove value and are often on the hunt for new solutions.
  • Expansions: If your prospect has recently opened an office in a new geographical location, it’s possible they’re looking for new solutions to tackle those markets.
  • Behavioral triggers: Viewing web pages and opening emails are all indicators of interest.

Indeed, it’s important to strike while the iron is hot. These triggers are the perfect ammunition for the “connecting statement” in your cold calling.

13. Use Social Proof Right Away

If you’re calling in cold, then it’s important to drop some social proof as early in the conversation as possible.

During your pitch (the “ask” phase), talk about the companies/individuals you’ve helped. This will quickly ease any skeptical minds while showing you work with credible organizations.

But don’t just stop at name-dropping. Talk about the results you’ve generated:

“We’ve helped [COMPANY] increase profits by [RESULT] simply by [HOW YOU DID IT]…”

Oftentimes, this will cause them to ask specific questions about the ins-and-outs. When they do this, you can lead them to the next step in your buying process.

14. The Importance of Tonality & Language

I recently read a LinkedIn article that suggested 38% of spoken communication is interpreted by tonality of voice:

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That means 62% of your cold calling is about what you say and the rest is about how you say it.

With that in mind, here are some tips to follow when building rapport with your prospects.

  • Use mirroring: Adapting to their tone of voice and speed can help build rapport fast. It helps the prospect feel they’re talking to someone just like them.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Ask questions beginning with how, who and what to get a more fluid and natural response from your prospect.
  • Really, really listen: It’s a skill many of us believe we have. Truth is, it’s likely we suck at it. Every prospect call is an opportunity to practice our listening skills. Respond to what they say to make them feel they’re being understood.
  • Don’t multitask: Similar to the above, you can’t listen if you’re opening emails and flicking between Chrome tabs. Drop everything and focus on your prospect.

Social Selling

Social platforms like LinkedIn are full of engaged prospects. But many treat it as another soapbox. Here, you’ll learn how to use social selling to build real relationships and create sales opportunities.

15. Optimize Your Profiles for Expert Positioning

If you’re going to generate attention through social media, you’ve to make sure your profiles are set up to create expert positioning.

Why?

When you reach out to prospects on platforms like LinkedIn, the first thing they’ll do is look at your profile.

If you’ve not optimized it to build credibility, then prospects won’t know to trust you.

LinkedIn is one of the best social selling platforms for B2B professionals. Let’s break down what your LinkedIn profile should include to convey expert positioning:

  • A great profile picture: This should convey your professional personality. Your face should take up 60% of the frame and you should be smiling.pasted image 0 11
  • Header image: Use this as a way of illustrating your credibility. You can use a photo of you on stage at speaking events, or logos of clients and publications you’ve contributed to.pasted image 0 22
  • Headline: Use this space to share what you do, who you help and how you do it.pasted image 0 8
  • Persuasive bio copy: This is where you expand upon everything you’ve covered so far. Simply put, you can share what you do, who you’ve worked with and any appropriate calls-to-action (e.g. request consultation or access free ebooks/blog posts).pasted image 0 4
  • Generate recommendations: Get your peers to vouch for your by asking for recommendations. The best way to get these? Give them first and deliver tremendous amounts of value.pasted image 0 13

16. Join The Conversation

With a perfectly optimized profile, you can start getting involved in the conversation.

Here’s a three-step process to ensure you’re starting and joining the right conversations:

Step 1: Identify Engaged Communities

Believe it or not, LinkedIn is still home to several engaged Groups:

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Start by identifying the right communities. This will depend on your goals:

  1. Is content distribution your goal? Focus on Groups around specific topics.
  2. Looking to generate leads? Find Groups the bring job titles together.

For example, if you were looking to target senior marketing decision makers, you could search for a relevant title and limit results to Groups:

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Look for Groups with a large number of members and a high level of engagement.

Of course, this process isn’t limited to LinkedIn Groups — Facebook Groups, Reddit and other forums are full of your target personas:

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Remember when you asked where your customers hung out online? This is why. They’ll tell you the communities they frequent. Listen to them and act accordingly.

Step 2: Become a Community Celebrity

Now you’ve identified your target communities, it’s time to get involved with the discussion.

This doesn’t mean spamming your content and messaging the members straight away. This is a sure-fire way of getting banned.

Instead, make yourself known to the community first. Get involved in discussions and share your insights for the first week or two.

Then, once you’ve become known, you can start sharing content and reaching out to the members. But make sure you do so in a contextual manner! Use your conversations as a way of personalizing any outreach.

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Step 3: Social Listening

Of course, there are other conversations happening around your industry, topics and brand that you may not be aware of.

Which is where social listening technology comes into play. By using tools such as Google Alerts or Mention, you can monitor the web for any keywords relevant to your value proposition:

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Image source

17. Create Killer Social Content

Another great method of generating attention is to create native social media content.

For example, LinkedIn posts are a great way to share value to your connections. This way, you can nurture them over time and build your authority.

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In the post above, Olivia Barrow talks about one of her favourite email newsletters in the context of her job. Instead of just talking about what she likes about it, she explains the lessons she learns from following them.

When writing a LinkedIn post, it should have one or a combination of the following:

  • A story: Take your audience through a journey by building a narrative. Even if the topic is something as simple as email newsletters.
  • Practical advice: Provide takeaways and lessons they can act upon.
  • Examples: Describe what people have done and why it’s effective. This gives you an opportunity to tag those people in the post, expanding your reach to their audience.

You can also repurpose any blog posts from your organization’s blog as LinkedIn Pulse articles. Or better, create something especially for the platform:

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Creating content in this manner boost your positioning and extends the attention of your organization AND your personal brand.

18. Multi-Channel Nurturing

Social selling provides an opportunity to nurture your prospects on several channels.

Twitter, LinkedIn, Email and even Facebook are there for the taking.

By creating omnipresence with your prospects, you’re going to be constantly top-of-mind for all the right reasons.

An example sequence may go like this:

  1. You engage with a prospect on a LinkedIn Group discussion
  2. You send a personalized connection request
  3. The prospect sees your content over the course of a week or two
  4. You follow the prospect on Twitter
  5. You retweet their content on Twitter
  6. You send them a LinkedIn message sending them some content
  7. Finally, you start a commercial conversation via email talking about your value proposition

By having a sequence across several channels in this manner, you nurture a stronger relationship over time. This is how you generate great response rates.

Referrals

It’s likely your existing customers, users and clients connect with people just like them. Here’s how you get your best customers to refer their peers to your business.

19. Create a Referral Program

Referrals rarely come naturally.

Which is why you’ve got to engineer a process to get them coming in constantly. There are several ways to execute this.

For example, Zoho Mail make it part of their offering, making it easy for users to invite their friends:

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Or, you could have an official sign-up process that people have to apply for, like Cooperative Systems do:

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The other option is to make it part of your process as a salesperson:

  1. Set the expectations early. Mention that your business thrives on referrals, and ask if they were to work with you would they be happy to send new business your way.
  2. Make sure you deliver. People only want to refer to businesses that have delivered value on what they promised.
  3. Follow-up: Once they’ve got value and results from your solution, follow-up. Remind them you mentioned it at the beginning, and ask if they know anyone who would benefit from what you offer.

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20. Provide a Killer Incentive

Of course, people are more likely to refer you if they get something in return.

Here are just a few ways you can incentivize your referral systems:

  • Priority support
  • Free product or credits
  • Access to your c-suite
  • Cash incentives
  • Third-party gift vouchers

For example, Shoeboxed offer 10% off their subscription everytime they invite their friends to join the platform:

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Image credit

21. Foster Advocacy

In his essay “1,000 true fans,” Kevin Kelly talked about the benefits of having a group of small but dedicated followers, fans and buyers who stand by everything you do:

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When it comes to B2B, the best way to build advocacy is through community building.

This means taking some of the principles from “16. Join The Conversation” and instead control the conversation.

Josh Fechter’s community “Badass Marketers and Founders” (BAMF) is a prime example of this in action. They have a huge community full of dedicated marketers and startup founders who engage with the group on a regular basis — over 20,000 to be exact:

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How do you emulate a buzzing community like this? Dissecting what BAMF and countless others have done, the process looks something like this:

  1. Find a mission: What topic or cause will you rally behind? For BAMF, their mission is to “break the internet.”
  2. Add value: Provide practical knowledge and empowering insights behind your mission. The way BAMF do this is by sharing growth hacks and marketing tips.
  3. Bring in early adopters: Invite those within your inner circle to get involved and start the conversation. Show that there’s value here and ask your employees or close associates to share their own expertise.
  4. Expand and nurture: Once there’s a buzzing community, empower members to invite people. Show them the benefits of doing so and watch the network effect take hold.

Eventually, you’ll have a group of customers, employees and peers who love what you have to say and are thrilled to be part of the conversation. Referrals will flow.

Inbound Selling

Sales prospecting is often considered a pro-active activity. By investing in inbound selling, you can create content and marketing assets that act as a lead generation engine. Here’s how you do it.

22. Create Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are considered the cornerstone of great inbound selling.

These come in the form of long-form content such as eBooks or email courses that people download in exchange for their details.

For example, Salesforce have several eBooks around various topics to attract their ideal buyer personas at all stages of the funnel. Here, they offer a free eBook on customer engagement:

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Image source

Another popular content format among the tech and SaaS crowd is email courses. These offer individual lessons delivered via email over time.

For example, Buffer offer a free 25-day course in social media marketing, providing actionable lessons and insights from various experts in their space:

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So, how do you make a lead magnet that attracts the right prospects? Here’s a simple and easy 6-step formula:

  • Step 1: Define The Audience — Which buyer persona/customer segment will you be targeting? Your lead magnet should be super specific to the audience you want to attract. If you try and make a lead magnet for everyone, it’s likely nobody will download it.
  • Step 2: Create an Offering — What is a challenge that your chosen buyer persona are trying to overcome? Get specific with your chosen topic.
  • Step 3: Brand It — Give your lead magnet an unforgettable name. For example, “The Definitive Guide to Sales Prospecting” and “Programming For Marketers” stand alone as their own branded offerings.
  • Step 4: Content Format — Will you deliver this lead magnet in eBook or email format? In the early days, it’s best to stick to your strengths. If you’re a great writer, go for an eBook. Do you have the personality that belongs in front of a camera? Create a video course. I’ve included some examples formats below.
  • Step 5: Build It! — You’ve laid down the groundwork, now it’s time to build it. You can either use internal resources to put this together, or find a contractor who specializes in you chosen format.
  • Step 6: Distribute It! — Once your lead magnet is complete, you’ve got to get it out there! The first step to this is a landing page. Keep it simple and include a form that asks for only the most necessary information. Then, promote it to your email list, social media, and maybe even Product Hunt.

Figuring out which format to choose can be overwhelming. Here are a few examples to get your idea juices flowing:

  1. Guidebook
  2. Cheat sheet
  3. Video course
  4. Quizzes and surveys
  5. Toolkits and resources
  6. Email courses
  7. Micro-sites

23. Build Supporting Content Assets

Once you have a lead magnet to attract an audience to, you can create other pieces of content to support and drive traffic to that lead magnet.

This is often called the hub-and-spoke strategy, and looks something like this:

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Image source

To put it simply, every piece of content works to support each other. For example, the content journey through a hub might look something like this

  1. Prospect engages with content on social media and is driven to a blog post
  2. That blog post educates on a specific topic, providing a call-to-action for a lead magnet
  3. Reader downloads that lead magnet and is nurtured via email
  4. Content continues to nurture prospect down the funnel

In this context, your lead magnet is the “hub” and other content formats are the “spoke.” This kind of content includes:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Opinion and thought leadership
  • Resources and data

And much more. It’s your job to create content that attracts your ideal audience and convert them into leads using your lead magnet. From here, use inbound email marketing principles to nurture them into leads.

24. Distribute Your Content

Even with all that content in place, your job isn’t done.

You need to ensure your ideal prospects are going to read it.

Go back to the golden channels you uncovered during the research phase. What communities do your prospects engage with? Where do they go for new information and which influencers do they follow?

This will guide your content distribution strategy. For example, if your audience is active on Reddit, you’d engage with that community and share your content there:

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Make content promotion an active part of your sales prospecting efforts.

Conclusion

The prospecting and lead generation techniques are designed to work in a world where community, value and relationships rule everything.

Unlike other shady approaches, these strategies will help you build processes that create scalable and predictable sales activity for you and your sales teams.

Which of these strategies are you most excited to try? What’s currently working for you? Let us know in the comments below.

While we have your attention

UpLead is a Lead Generation Platform that Connects you to the Right Contacts. With it, you can build targeted lists, search contacts at specific companies and access high quality verified data.
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