Highly Effective Prospecting Techniques for Your Sales Team

prospecting techniques

In baseball, “keep your eye on the ball” means watch where the ball is at all times. In sales, it means staying focused. But it’s tough. In the race to finish the quarter strong, prospecting often gets put on the back burner while sales professionals work on closing open opportunities.

But your sales team needs to be able to do both: fill the pipeline with highly qualified prospects and keep deals moving. Sales leaders need to deliver sales training on effective prospecting techniques for every day of the quarter. Here’s how sales teams can improve their prospecting efforts.

How to Define a Qualified Prospect

Before you can begin to think about prospecting and lead generation, you’ve got to understand what a qualified prospect looks like. This will ensure you’re not wasting your time on unqualified leads.

The five characteristics of a qualified prospect are:

  1. Awareness of need
  2. Authority and ability to buy
  3. Sense of urgency
  4. Trust in you and your organization
  5. Willingness to listen

Find out more about qualifying prospects here: The 5 Characteristics of a Qualified Prospect

Effective sales prospecting is one of the most challenging—and most important—parts of the sales process. Getting it wrong means wasted time and frustration. Getting it right means a healthier pipeline and better performance.

Here are B2B prospecting techniques your sales team can implement to prospect more effectively before, during, and after a sales call.

Prospecting Techniques: Before the Sales Call

The right sales skills and a consistent set of best practices before sales calls will make prospecting time more productive. Here are some to focus on.

1. Position Yourself as an Expert Resource

Today’s inbound lead generation focuses more on organically attracting qualified leads than on casting a net and hoping to catch an interested opportunity.

Your sales professionals must invest time and energy on improving their position as subject-matter experts. You’ve heard of “building your brand,” and this is part of the goal. But it’s more important to show what you know about your industry, product, customers, and market.

When you have established yourself as a credible expert, you become a resource and trusted advisor for potential customers who are curious to learn more.

Personal positioning can be done in many ways, whichever is a better fit for your personality. Some options include:

  • Speaking at local business gatherings, trade shows, and conferences
  • Publishing LinkedIn articles and blog posts on relevant topics
  • Sharing industry news and research with customers and prospects
  • Improving overall business acumen

2. Look for Prospects in New Places

Modern sales prospecting techniques mean sales teams seek out new business in creative ways. Social media gives every sales professional the opportunity to develop an audience of LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, or X (Twitter) followers and a platform for publishing content.

For B2B sales professionals, LinkedIn is the primary platform for new business. To get the most out of LinkedIn, your team needs to be using it in the smartest way.

Effective prospecting on LinkedIn starts with a great profile. Make sure every team member has a professional headshot, sales title, and product-oriented “About” section. Think about what a prospect wants to see if they check out someone’s profile.

From there, they can work on connecting with potential customers by joining groups, liking and commenting on relevant posts, and exploring second- and third-level connections.

3. Ask for Referrals

Sales referrals are one of the most powerful ways to generate high-quality sales leads. Getting a customer referral helps sales professionals over the first hurdle of the sale—establishing trust.

Since 84% of B2B buyers now start the purchasing process with a referral, it’s a no-brainer for your sales team to take an active approach to gaining more sales referrals as a prospecting method.

Most customers are glad to give a referral for a product or service they’re happy with; it’s just a matter of making “the ask” a part of your sales team’s follow-up routine.

4. Do Smarter Outreach

Cold calling may still have its place in some markets, but, in general, cold calling (or sending cold emails) is not the best use of a sales professional’s time. There are many ways your team can warm up a lead (even just a little) before reaching out to them.

Use these techniques to take a lead from ice-cold to at least lukewarm.

  • Get introduced by a shared connection or current customer
  • Comment on a piece of content the prospect shared on social media
  • Send personalized follow-up emails to prospects who download a piece of content

5. Find Common Interests

Don’t let your sales team rush through the research part of their prospecting responsibilities. Pre-call planning is critical.

Train sales professionals not only to connect on social media, but to use the resources provided by social media and search engines to seek commonalities with their prospects.

A sales conversation that starts with a shared fandom, alma mater, or common interest sets the stage for a warm and productive relationship. Through their search, your sellers might even find a shared connection who can introduce them to the prospect or other decision makers.

6. Build Confidence

Prospects respond more favorably to a confident sales professional than one who seems unsure of themselves.

Train your sales team to check in with themselves to see how they’re feeling before each call, and to engage in pre-call exercises that pump up their enthusiasm and confidence.

Holding a power pose for two minutes prior to a call is proven to improve confidence, as is positive visualization. Listening to upbeat music is another technique many sales professionals enjoy. Sometimes it’s as easy as taking a few deep breaths!

Encourage sales professionals to explore different approaches and to consistently apply what works for them.

Prospecting Techniques: During the Call

How a sales professional handles a call is make or break for prospecting success. Here are three techniques to improve in-call performance.

1. Practice Empathy

Nobody enjoys talking to people who are cocky, cold, or condescending. Train your sales team to practice a warm approach and to empathize with the person they’re calling.

The B2B sales process benefits from a consultative sales approach. This involves taking the time to listen and understanding the prospect’s feelings about the problems they face.

Empathy also means understanding the communication style your prospect prefers and adjusting to it. Prospects who feel listened to and understood will be more likely to want to move to the next step.

Sales assessments can help your team members learn their personal styles and how to adapt to customer preferences.

2. Ask Questions Instead of Pitching Solutions

An initial sales call should almost never be an attempt to close the sale. Its purpose is to warm the prospect up, establish a need, and communicate the next step.

Yet many sales professionals jump right into pitching their solution before they’ve taken the time to understand the prospect’s position.

Train your team to start with good open-ended questions that get the prospect talking and engaged. Great questioning techniques will also give your sales professionals the information they need to guide the prospect to the next step.

3. Focus on Value

One of the biggest mistakes sales professionals make when prospecting is to bombard prospects with a list of features and benefits of the product or service.

Instead, train your team to respond to the prospect’s real needs and to have value-based conversations around how the solution will address those needs.

Prospecting Techniques: After the Call

It’s common for sales professionals to want to rush from one call to the next, but this causes them to miss important opportunities. Instead, make sure your sellers take the time after every call to focus on these three activities.

1. Follow Up

Train sales professionals to follow up with an email or other communication immediately after the call. At minimum, they should thank the prospect for the conversation.

When a prospect has expressed interest, this communication should also reiterate the problem they discussed and the next step.

Sellers should consistently record this information and set a reminder for the agreed-upon follow-up. If they set another meeting, be sure your team is creating the most effective email meeting invite.

2. Evaluate Performance

Sales professionals dedicated to continuous improvement will nearly always outperform their peers. Train your team on the importance of pausing after each call to evaluate what they did well, where they struggled, and how the prospect responded.

These few moments after each call will help them tune in to their own performance and identify areas for improvement, as well as build their confidence about areas they excel in.

3. Analyze the Data

Most sales leaders know to hold sales professionals accountable to their number of prospecting activities each week. But you can greatly improve performance by analyzing other types of data as well.

For instance, do you know what industries each seller has the most success in? The size of the companies they’re reaching? The correlation between time spent on each call and their success in setting the next step? Understanding these and other factors can help sales leaders coach each team member in the areas they most need improvement.

Building a Healthy Sales Pipeline

Great prospecting is the foundation of a healthy pipeline, and, like any other aspect of sales, it requires a consistent sales process for success. Prospecting training on the best techniques will help your sales professionals make the most out of their time and keep their eyes on the ball.

Learn More

See how The Brooks Group’s sales skills workshops can help struggling sales professionals improve their prospecting practices.

What Works in Prospecting White Paper
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What Works in Prospecting

There are many variables that impact the success or failure of a sale. Do your sellers risk the sale by making assumptions about the buyer?

Gain insight into the survey results from over 300 buyers and sellers, from individual contributors to CEOs, that will help your sales team improve their prospecting effectiveness.

Written By

Michelle Richardson

Michelle Richardson is the Vice President of Sales Performance Research. In her role, she is responsible for spearheading industry research initiatives, overseeing consulting and diagnostic services, and facilitating ROI measurement processes with partnering organizations. Michelle brings over 25 years of experience in sales and sales effectiveness functions through previously held roles in curriculum design, training implementation, and product development to the Sales Performance Research Center.
Michelle Richardson is the Vice President of Sales Performance Research. In her role, she is responsible for spearheading industry research initiatives, overseeing consulting and diagnostic services, and facilitating ROI measurement processes with partnering organizations. Michelle brings over 25 years of experience in sales and sales effectiveness functions through previously held roles in curriculum design, training implementation, and product development to the Sales Performance Research Center.

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