A Guide to Sales Research: Get to Know Your Prospects
Let’s face it, sales calls aren’t easy. Not only do you have to go through the pain of trying to book a call with a businessman but you also have to essentially sell to an absolute stranger. To the average person, this may sound like a breeze, but only salespeople know the excruciating pain of having to sell without the aid of visual clues, such as facial expressions and body language.
With so many barriers to phone selling, you may have one question, “How are sales reps able to successfully sell to absolute strangers?” Well, the answer is – they’re not. The key to a successful sales call is making your prospect your best friend. By the time you get to the sales call, you should be brimming with prospect-related information. No, you don’t need to know that they went on holiday to Madrid 5 years ago or that they had a cheese sandwich for lunch but it is important that you know enough to guarantee that your sales call turns into a sale.
What is a Prospect in Sales?
A prospect in sales is an individual who is a potential purchaser of your product or service. However, a prospect has not yet engaged with your company or entered the sales process. Essentially, a prospect is a member of your total addressable market, fits your ideal customer profile, and has the means to purchase, but has not been engaged.
What is a Prospect vs. a Lead?
A lead is a top of the funnel, unqualified contact. Leads have typically expressed some level of interest in your product or offering, but have not been qualified to determine if they fit the ideal buyer persona or would benefit from using the product. A prospect is a contact who has been qualified as an ideal customer who would consider buying.
How to Become a Sales Prospecting Master
While generating customers takes time, you can speed up the process by learning how to prospect, and how to guide those customers toward a sale. And since many potential customers won’t buy on their first contact with you, you also need to develop a plan for staying in touch until they are ready to buy.
Step 1: Zero In On Your Target Market
It’s a no-brainer that you’ll save time and money by marketing to people who not only want what you’ve got, but also are willing and able to pay for it.effective method of marketing is to first define the most likely buyer of your product or service. How old are they? What gender? What is their socio-economic background? Knowing who your market is, makes it easier to find them and deliver messages that entice them to check out your product or service.
Step 2: Build a Potential Customer List
You can’t plan a party without a guest list and, likewise, you can’t run a business without making a list of potential customers. But there are other sources from which to start your potential customer list. Here are just a few:
• Existing customers: If you’ve already made a few sales, call upon your existing customers to see if they need more of your product or service.
• Ask Referrals: Call your friends, family, and prior customers to see if they know anyone who needs your product or service.
• Internet Research: This is ideal for B2B businesses. If you know the ideal customer, you can go online and search for them, and then reach out to them directly. While you can do this online for all businesses, it works particularly well for doing local searches of businesses you want to work with.
• Speaking: The easiest way to show off your expertise is speaking, either at a conference, or buy setting up your own workshops.
Step 3: Make Contact
Once you have a list of potential clients, it’s time to reach out. This can be done over the phone, via email, in person or traditional email.
Step 4: Follow-Up and then Follow-Up Again
The fortune is in the follow-up. You’re going to hear “no” a lot. Many business owners hear “no” and give up. But 80% of sales are not made on the first, second, or even a third contact! It can take five or more contacts to achieve a sale.
10 Great Places to Research a Prospect Before a Sales Call
Preparation has always been one of the big keys to success in sales. Sound planning inspires confidence, and careful research is a great way to show your prospect that you’ve taken the time to understand their needs on a fundamental level.
Thanks to a host of innovative online services, every sales rep has the tools they need to conduct meaningful research before a big call or meeting.
With over 360 million users worldwide, it can be argued that LinkedIn is the one major network that B2B sales people are massively underusing. By looking at a prospects interests, previous jobs and education, you can spur up some pretty interesting conversations. Not only do you benefit by building a relationship with your prospect, but you also increase the likelihood of your prospect taking time to listen to your pitch (after all, you’ve taken the time to learn about them).
2. The Company Website
Your prospect’s company website will give you the answers to all of your burning questions. Let’s be honest, the “About Us” section is really an undervalued gold mine, and by utilising this, you can discover a whole ton of information about your prospect. Want to find out the company’s goals and values? No worries, it’s on the “About Us” page! Want to discover the company’s number of employees and location? Well, just head over to their “About Us” section!
Use Crunchbase to discover your prospect’s acquisition history, funding rounds, investors, team members, news, timeline, competitors, former employees, customers, partners, sub-organizations, board members and advisors, and other related details.
4. Your Marketing Automation System
Search the prospect’s name in your marketing automation system to turn up any existing contact records or interaction history. You might just find this particular buyer knows a lot more about your product than you thought. Use this information and tailor your approach to their current stage in the buying process.
5. Your CRM
In addition to the marketing automation system, stop by your trusty CRM to determine if another sales team member has reached out to this prospect in the past … and if so, what (if anything) happened.
6. Competitor Research
Mentioning your prospect’s competitors may sound like an absolute no-go but what if we told you that this can help guarantee you a sale? By conducting a gap analysis on your prospect’s competitors, you can figure out where they’re selling themselves short and how to pitch your product in a way that gives them a competitive advantage. There’s nothing that quite riles up a CEO than mentioning how their competitors are doing better than them and by turning a weakness into a solution, you can drastically change the outcome of your sales pitch. This impressive tactic doesn’t only show that you’ve done your research but it also shows that you understand the industry leading to a more beneficial conversations with your prospect.
7. Various Blogs
Read what your buyer reads, and read what your buyer writes. If your prospect maintains a blog, be sure to read at least the last few posts and comment on them during your call. In addition, visit the websites of popular industry blogs and peruse the latest posts to learn more about the trends and challenges shaping the environment.
8. Current Customers
When a prospect asks whether you’ve ever worked with a company similar to theirs before, it pays to have a quick, confident answer. There’s a good chance that you have current customers who are similar to your prospect in company size, industry, and location. Look for case studies and testimonials to get a feel for what has worked with similar prospects in the past.
9. Google Alerts
When you’ve identified a few contacts, set up a Google Alert for the contact’s names, email addresses, and company keywords to make sure you are notified when a new product, company news item or topic of interest is released. This will allow you to keep track of what’s going on with your contact without having to actively devote time to researching prospects online.
10. PR Releases
Are there any news publications discussing this company’s struggles? Has it been trying to push any particular piece of content? Have they recently released any new products or features? These are all important questions that sales people like you need to start asking.
Not Getting Enough Data from Your CRM?
Researching prospects online can be a full time job if you let it be. Instead, put some of these strategies into place to help you identify and track business opportunities without devoting all of your time to it.
A more robust CRM tool can be used as an add on. This can help with prospecting and making better quality sales calls.