The Art of Sales Prospecting – 5 Challenges and 5 Tips

Prospecting is the first, and one of the most vital steps in the sales process. This important stage involves identifying and communicating with potential clients with the goal of generating new business. Without prospecting, there are no customers, and without customers, there are no sales. The survival of the whole company rests on this crucial task. Effective prospecting is a sure and fast way of increasing your rates of conversion and closing. However, as important as it is, sales prospecting is also a challenge. Almost 50 per cent of sales representatives say that the task of prospecting is one of the parts of the sales process that they find the most difficult.

Why is this crucial aspect of sales so challenging?

5 Obstacles to Successful Sales Prospecting

There are several reasons why sales reps may slow down in their prospecting efforts, or even grind to a halt completely. Consider just 5:

It feels like hard work, and it takes up a lot of time. Just a short break in the habit of prospecting and it’s all the more difficult to get started again.

There is little recognition for the hard work put in. Sales reps have to face a lot of rejection as they work through sales prospecting. This can feel demoralising, and then the tendency is to look for positive reinforcement by visiting existing customers, ones that will give good feedback and create a feeling of safety and security.

Sales reps are not making the most of the tools and technology available. While the traditional methods of prospecting are painfully slow, there are great advancements in prospecting tools, with the aid of technology and software, that are making the process a lot more productive and effective. Things like the implementation of a lead generation software solution could completely change the game for a sales rep. If they try and struggle along with paper tracking system and post-it notes, the cracks in their methods are slowly going to show. Furthermore, even if software is in place, there may be a growing frustration with its capabilities if it is not up to date or suited to the task. Some processes are inconvenient and cumbersome due to the fact that the business has gone for software that puts functionality above usability. If using the technology is going to give a sales rep a headache, they’re not going to use it. Instead, it’s important that businesses look for ways to successfully get into the digital world of sales prospecting.

There is little direction and support. Without clear direction from leadership teams and explanation of the expectations in place, sales reps can end up spending time and effort on prospects that are not suited for the company. If a sales rep is left to go it alone, with little instruction from ones who know the business model well, they won’t know which prospects to focus on that will bring the most rewards. 

A sense of complacency makes prospecting seem unimportant. After scoring a few big deals, sales reps can begin to think that their job is done, and they don’t need to prospect any more. If this happens, as previously mentioned when the need to prospect arises again they will have gotten out of the habit and the idea will be as daunting as ever.

5 Tops Tips for Sales Prospecting Success

In a task that has so many challenges, how can you make sales prospecting a success? When it is done right, it has the potential to be an exciting experience that not only hones the skills of sales reps but draws new customers that fit your business. Here are 5 top tips for sales prospecting success to help get you started:

Think about the perfect prospect profile. Do your homework to discover exactly what kind of customer you want to attract, based on the customer base you already have and through some external market research too.

Find ways to contact these perfect prospects. Once you have a clear profile in mind, think about the best way to contact them. Should you have a stand at a trade show? Should you attend community events? Should you post ads on Facebook, Instagram, or another social media channel? Once you know your ideal customer, do some research into the best places to find them. In this way you will be putting yourself in the best place to make a sale.

Work on your call lists. You no doubt have many lists of different contacts to call. Improve the usefulness of these lists by prioritising the contacts you have, and then act by setting aside a little time each day to work through calling them. Don’t underestimate just how powerful a phone call can be! Be prepared and rather than using their time to offload your sales pitch, ask open-ended questions, listen to their responses, and adapt accordingly. Keep in contact with the people you reach out to, and with consistent effort and a friendly manner you will be able to turn cold calls into hot leads!

Send out emails that are personalised for the prospect. Another valuable contact tool is that of email but be warned that bulk or mass emails are far less effective. You need to make sure that for a customer to actually open and read your email, you customise it and make it personal to them. Think about their individual needs, adapt the email to read well on any device, and carefully consider the content you will include.

Always remember to follow up. Take the time to cultivate your leads and prospects. You won’t see growth from the off and it may take time to see the lead grow but be patient and persistent. Build a relationship with the prospect and demonstrate what a reliable and trustworthy business you represent.