Sales Prospect: How to Define and Attract Ideal Leads

Sales Prospect

Do you find attracting sales prospects a particularly difficult task? You’re not alone.

Prospecting is intimidating and time-consuming. People new to sales can be made or broken by their ability to handle dismissals, overcome sales objections and generate genuine leads.

The good news is that most people appreciate the process and are willing to listen to what salespeople have to say. Statistics show that only 2% of prospects want to avoid talking to sellers during their journey as a buyer. 

That said, if you want to be heard, you need to target ideal sales prospects. Once you generate a pipeline full of optimal prospects you can build a successful, repeatable process that gives you an edge over the competition.

Let’s dive into how to define your ideal prospect and six techniques you can use to attract them into your pipeline. In this article, we’ll explore:

  1. What is a sales prospect?
  2. How to prospect for sales
  3. How to define your ideal sales prospect
  4. How to qualify leads and turn them into prospects
  5. Six sales prospecting techniques to attract your ideal customer

What is a sales prospect?

First question: Do you understand the difference between a lead vs. a prospect?

The single biggest difference between a lead and a prospect is the level of engagement they’ve had with your service or product. A prospect has shown interest in your product, has demonstrated an intent to make a purchase and is open to communicating with you further to find out more about your solution.

Leads still have a place in your sales funnel, but if we’re talking about how valuable they are compared to prospects, it’s a no-brainer.

Leads sit at the top of your sales funnel, but because a prospect has already shown an interest in your product or a need for your solution, they can move to the middle of the funnel.

Closing prospects is a lot easier when you know they’re interested in what you’re selling.

sales prospect vs leads

Defining a prospect vs. a lead couldn’t be easier: a lead is someone who has entered your company’s nurturing process but is yet to show interest beyond opening your emails and reading your content. They haven’t engaged further or reached out to see how your company can help them more.

Prospects are ready to be pitched and sold to. For a lead to become a prospect, they must show more interest than just interacting with your content or signing up for your email newsletter.

They must have some kind of interaction with a sales rep, whether that is done by reaching out through email, or a member of your sales team making a call.

How to prospect for sales

Successful sales prospecting is all about taking advantage of the channels available to you and leveraging them as effectively as possible. Here are some of the channels you can prospect on and how to prospect on them:

  • Use social media: Social media is a great resource for salespeople looking to qualify leads. You can use it to increase your personal presence in your industry, engage with potential customers, research potential prospects, identify decision makers and even contact them. Read more about using LinkedIn in particular later on in the article.
  • Use prospecting tools: There are a number of tools available to salespeople who want to automate parts of their lead generation and prospecting. Try Prospect.io, which helps you find emails and contact potential customers.
  • Network online and offline: Go to trade shows and conferences; ask your customers and clients to help you get in touch with other businesses who might benefit from your service; always keep business cards handy in case someone asks you what you do for a living.
  • Use email marketing and direct mail: Create a newsletter with thought-leadership content and send it out to leads; personalize emails to send out to leads in order to get them interested.
  • Generate referrals: Reward customers who bring prospects to your company; set up partnership deals with brand advocates who promote your business; get testimonials and case studies from happy customers.
  • Make your website a prospecting tool: With the right content, you can drive prospects to sign up for your newsletter. LeadBooster, for example, is a chatbot that you can add to your website to capture leads and prospects and deliver them to your salespeople.
  • Pick up the phone: Cold calling may not be the hot sales technique anymore, but if you call a qualified lead at the right time, with the right script, you are more likely to turn them into a prospect.

Before you start prospecting, however, you need to work out who to target.

How to define your ideal sales prospect

Not all prospects are created equal. An ideal prospect falls into one (or several) of these categories:

  • Your product meets the customer’s needs
  • Your team’s sales cycle aligns with the customer’s purchasing behavior
  • Your pricing strategy fits in with the customer’s budget

How do you go about finding what this ideal prospect looks like? Take a look at your data and identify traits your customers have in common.

Reviewing your in-house metrics and talking to your sales reps about what deals they’ve had the most success with should be the starting point to finding your ideal prospect.

When analyzing data and meeting with your sales team, aim to uncover the following:

  • Who are your best customers (not just the ones who spend the most money, but those who love what you do)?
  • Where did you find your best customers?
  • What position does the decision maker hold at the companies you sell to?
  • Which industry is your best target based on your historical metrics? For example, if you’re selling a SaaS solution, what industry have you found the most success in? To start off with, look at what industries have the highest conversion rates, along with the shortest sales cycles.
  • What is your ideal customer’s company size?
  • What are some of the common factors that your best customers share?
    • Business size
    • Employee numbers
    • Geographical location
    • Industry
    • Target market
    • Tech stack
    • Budget
  • What is your USP? How does your product solve your customer’s needs better than your competitors? And who are the type of customers who share this pain point? 
  • Out of your current customers, who brings your company the highest amount of revenue? Is there a pattern?
  • What are the purchase decisions that your best customers have? What does their sales cycle look like? 

Once you sort through all of your historical data and cross-check it with insights from your reps, your ideal prospect will become clear. 

Dive a little deeper to understand how you can interact with them in future communications: 

  • Who are your ideal prospects’ target customers?
  • What are the biggest pain points in their industry right now? 
  • What social channels, organizations or charities are they most active in?
  • What blogs do they read? What publications are they featured and interested in?
  • Who are their biggest competitors and what sets them apart?

You now have a clear picture of what your ideal prospect looks like, and how you can communicate with them to show you’re the best solution for their problems.

Pro-tip: Use a CRM to simplify this process, save time and automate admin tasks. For example, Pipedrive has a useful feature that allows sales teams to map their ideal customer profile.

Using the platform, you can bring up your entire sales funnel and check how many deals your team has won and lost. Having this data in front of you will help identify why certain opportunities fall by the wayside. 

It also helps sales reps more easily identify where they should be focusing their efforts, meaning they spend less time analyzing data and more time selling.

How to qualify leads and turn them into prospects

Every sales team has its own qualifying process, but some outshine others. The stricter the process, the less time your sales team will spend on chasing dead ends. 

Here are a couple of ways you can make sure your team is only spending their time on qualified leads.

1. Pick out leads on a surface level

A lead may have downloaded an ebook, subscribed to your emails, visited a store and become intrigued or been referred by a friend. There are many ways that leads can find your business, but until you reach out to them, you’ll never know how interested they are in your solution.

Reaching out is a great way to qualify leads and prioritize those that are most likely to become prospects. This may not work for every business, but it’s worth testing to see if you have success.

So, how can you reach out?

Offer to call them

Giving leads the option of talking with you is one of the easiest ways to gauge how interested they are in your product.

If they’re up for the call, that’s already a strong sign that they’re moving their way down your sales funnel. If they don’t get back to you, or are resistant to the idea, it’s likely they have a low buying temperature and you should continue to nurture them.

Not sure how to start the conversation? Read our cold calling guide, with 25 scripts to help you find the right thing to say.

Figure out what they want

If they do take you up on your call, it doesn’t automatically make them a prospect. View the call as a chance to figure out what their need or problem is, where their company is at, and if they’re at a stage where they’re looking to purchase.

If you feel on the initial call that your product isn’t a good fit, or they don’t have the budget right now, then keep them as a lead. Their situation may change down the line, and it’s well worth contacting them at a later date.

Paint a picture of your solution

If a prospect is actively open to a demo of your product, and they've made it clear that they're looking to purchase, then it's time to show them how you can solve their biggest, most painful problems.

Paint a picture of your product and what kind of solution you’ll be able to offer. Conducting research on the lead before the call will allow you to customize your solution to their problem.

By doing this, your prospect will be more excited to hear from you and follow up with how your product can help their business.

Read our sales follow-up email article for guides and templates to help you craft the right message.

Pipedrive has a wealth of email templates that are easy to download and simple to use. Whether it’s to re-open channels, send follow-ups, or circulate helpful materials to assist in a close, automating email sends by infusing your personal touch into a template is a great way to stay top-of-mind.

2. Build a targeted prospect list

Depending on the size of your company, you may have hundreds of leads entering your sales funnel every month.

The best way to manage them (without pulling your hair out) is by building a targeted prospect or account list.

Not only does this increase your chances of finding your ideal prospect, but it also saves you time avoiding leads that were never that interested in your product to start with.

Is your sales team experiencing unsuccessful calls from leads in your funnel? Have your reps struggled to generate responses from their emails? Or worse, were they never even opened in the first place?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then your sales process needs optimizing with a target prospect list. To increase your chances of success, ask these questions before you attempt to make contact with a lead:

  1. Does this lead align with your ideal prospect persona?
  2. Is the lead in a field that your company is able to help?
  3. How big is the company? 
  4. Is this a senior decision maker?
  5. Are they already using a product like yours (i.e. from one of your competitor’s solutions)?
  6. Will your product be a good fit for their problem?
  7. Have they made any buying signals? For example, have they looked at your product’s pricing page?
  8. Are they a new business? Do they have a budget to afford your product?

You don’t have to spend hours answering these questions; it’s a quick list to run through before you spend too much time preparing for a call. If a lead doesn’t have the budget, or purchasing power, it’s unlikely they’re a good fit.

Not sure whether your lead is looking at your product’s pricing page? Try LeadBooster. It’s a customizable chatbot you can put on any page of your website to engage visitors.

sales prospect techniques

Six sales prospecting techniques to attract your ideal customer

You’ve identified your ideal prospect and you know how you’re going to qualify them. 

Now, it’s time to fill your sales funnel. Let’s look at six proven techniques to attract and close more of your ideal customers.

Technique 1: Get social

Building and maintaining a social selling strategy is a great way to engage with prospects.

Customers don’t buy products the first time they see them. They’re likely tracking your product over a range of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn (and others, depending on your industry).

Help guide them to your product as a solution to their problem through these channels. Answer their questions and share case studies that demonstrate your product as the right solution.

Not convinced social selling works? According to one report, companies with consistent social selling processes are 40% more likely to hit their revenue goals than non-social sellers.

Technique 2: Hunt for prospects in their own backyard

You know what your ideal prospect looks like, so why not try digital door knocking?

We’re talking about connecting with them in their own backyard. For instance, if your ideal prospects are B2B companies selling financial services, find out where they’re hanging out online. This includes the blogs they’re reading, questions they’re asking on platforms like Quora and how they use LinkedIn to connect with their peers.

Crunchbase Pro has a feature that allows you to build a list of leads based on their industry, funding round and location. Once you’ve created a list, narrow it down by following the prospect checklist you created earlier. You can integrate Pipedrive with Crunchbase using AeroLeads.

Technique 3: Put your prospect marketing on autopilot

Marketing automation is one of the fastest ways that sales teams can nurture their customers without manually sending emails every day.

Linking up marketing automation using a CRM tool can help supercharge your lead nurturing and make sure your emails are landing in the right person’s inbox, at the right time. Building a sequence of automated emails will keep your leads engaged and your brand at the top of their minds.

Edit email template

Sending these emails, on autopilot (or even on Autopilot), to leads who have shown buying intent is one of the best ways to keep them warm. But to rank those leads, you may need a bit of help.

For example, in your CRM, you can use lead scoring to automatically measure how qualified a lead is. The higher the score, the more confident you can be investing your time in that lead. If your marketing has been put on autopilot, however, it makes nurturing this promising lead a whole lot easier.

A tool like SalesWings can automatically score leads based on how they’ve interacted with your website, forms and videos. Or, if you prefer to set up your own lead scoring system based on your ideal prospect persona, you can do that as well.

Without marketing automation, you may be missing valuable opportunities to connect and nurture a lead into a prospect.

A study by Nucleus found marketing automation leads to a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overheads. Don’t miss out on using these powerful automation tools to nurture leads into prospects.

Technique 4: Keep a closer eye on a lead’s buying signals

How closely are you following a lead’s buying signals? Are you tracking their email opens or what pages they’re visiting on your website? 

If not, you’re missing out on important selling opportunities.

Buying signals are simply actions triggered by a lead. For example, if they click on a “free demo” CTA, or they’re constantly visiting your pricing page, they are giving off strong buying signals.

A buying signal might be something that has happened in the lead’s own company. For example, if they reach the next stage in their funding cycle, or are hiring several new employees at once, it might be time to revisit them as a potential prospect.  

Using a tool like Vainu, you can automatically track your lead’s buying signals, and filter the information back into your CRM. 

By tracking buying signals as they happen, you can make sure you’re getting to the lead first to offer up your product as a problem-solver. 

Technique 5: Headhunt the decision maker (and avoid gatekeepers)

Company gatekeepers are one of the biggest time-sucks for a sales rep.

However, getting the details of a company’s decision maker isn’t the mammoth task it used to be.

If you’ve found a company that matches up with your ideal prospect persona, and you know the name of a key decision maker, this is even easier. Simply use a tool like Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data feature to find out even more about your lead, their company and if they’re a decision maker.

Start off by looking back at your ideal prospect’s role. If it's the CFO, for example, then try finding this person at the target company first.

First stop? LinkedIn, of course. Using their Sales Navigator for Chrome extension, you can filter out specific roles in a company until you find the employee that fits your ideal title.

Once you’ve found the person you want to connect with, match up their name with your email database search from earlier, and you’re one step closer to a sale.

Technique 6: Don’t underestimate the power of a follow-up

Okay, we’re a bit obsessed with the customer experience. But nurturing a lead is one of the best ways to convert them into a paying customer.

If you reach out to a lead and it’s clear that they’re not thinking about buying, that’s fine. But don’t forget about them. Make a note in your CRM to send them a follow-up email in the next quarter to see how things are going.

Don’t send a generic “just checking in” email either. Add some value and entice them to open it. You could send a blog post relevant to their job or pain-points they’ve raised in previous discussions. Or a recent case study from your company about how you helped a company like theirs.

If your follow-up emails trigger a buying signal, the lead may be ready to embark on their buying journey after all.

Keeping at the front of their mind is the goal for this prospecting technique. After all, they’re going to need to solve their problem at some stage, whether its next month or next year. If you show them that you’re still willing to help them when they’re ready, then you’re already a step ahead of your competitors.

Conclusion

Once you’ve built an effective prospecting system, the sales game becomes much easier. 

Stop wasting valuable time and resources following up with dead ends and leads who only want a free ebook. Put your time and effort into defining your ideal sales prospect instead.

This requires some analysis of your historical data to identify common traits among your best customers. But once you’ve built this persona, it’s easier to measure leads and weed out those who aren’t a good fit.

Defining and attracting your ideal sales prospect requires some groundwork, but the extra effort will pay off. Your sales quota (and your company’s bottom line) will thank you for it.

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