In sales, connection is key. Whether you’re seeking out new clients or learning more about your target market, it can make all the difference between a sale and a “no thanks.” This is why prospecting matters.
Prospecting is the process of searching for new customers, clients, or business opportunities. It involves researching and contacting potential leads, as well as presenting goods or services to potential buyers. Ultimately, the goal is to turn prospecting possibilities into concrete sales.
The numbers prove that prospecting is a worthwhile process. In a study of 488 buyers by the RAIN Group, 82% accepted meetings with salespeople who reached out proactively. This means early connections with potential leads get your foot in the door — and bring you one step closer to making a sale.
Why Prospecting Matters for B2B sales
Successful prospecting is vital to business-to-business sales. To start with, it allows salespeople to identify and nurture potential customers who are well-suited to the product or service that they’re selling. This can remove some guesswork from the selling process, which is a huge advantage.
Prospecting also helps salespeople understand the needs of their target markets. It gives them valuable insight into the buying process, allowing them to better tailor their sales approach and more effectively close deals.
What’s more, new buying preferences have made prospecting even more important than it already was. With more avenues for communication than ever before, businesses demand responsiveness. A recent McKinsey survey of more than 3,500 B2B decision-makers indicates that they expect 24/7 availability across in-person, remote, and self-service engagement modes.
Because prospecting is so important in B2B sales, it’s critical that salespeople adapt to these new preferences. Above all, this means responding to prospecting challenges quickly and decisively.
3 Challenges of Prospecting and How to Solve Them
There are several obstacles that can impede your prospecting efforts. Here are some tactics you can use to overcome three of the most common:
1. Finding qualified leads
The first step of prospecting is also one of its biggest challenges: finding qualified leads. This can be a time-consuming, research-intensive process. It can even be difficult to identify the right type of prospects for your products or services.
This is where your knowledge of your customer base matters. Once you define your ideal customer profile and create a list of leads who most closely match it, you can use targeted marketing tactics such as email campaigns or content marketing to reach them. It’s a tactic that other companies have come to rely on: A recent survey from Content Marketing Institute indicates that 80% of respondents succeeded in creating brand awareness with content marketing.
2. Lack of time
Prospecting takes time and effort. In fact, Crunchbase found that top sellers spend about six hours per week researching prospects. The process pays off, but it may be too time-consuming for some business owners to make use of.
To make the process faster, consider using automation tools. For example, a customer relationship management system or some kind of lead-tracking software might be what you need to speed things up. These solutions streamline the prospecting process and reduce the amount of time you spend researching and contacting leads.
You could also outsource your prospecting. Because outsourcing reduces costs and increases efficiency, it’s a great investment in general. It allows businesses to focus on core responsibilities while third parties handle the tedious tasks of the prospecting process. This reduces overhead costs associated with hiring and training staff and allows businesses to access larger pools of potential customers.
3. Too many leads
A successful prospecting strategy can actually generate too many leads. While this might seem like a good thing, it can quickly become a problem. A mountain of leads can overwhelm salespeople and lead to missed opportunities. Invesp found that, on average, 80% of sales require five follow-up calls to close a deal — far more than an overworked sales team can do for any lead. No one wants to lose out on an opportunity because of a missed call.
Organization is key. Segment leads into different categories and create a specific follow-up plan for each group. This will help with prioritizing efforts and ultimately ensure that no leads are overlooked. Even something simple, such as making a plan for a personalized follow-up, can lead to success: Outreach found that personalized subject lines increase open rates by 22%.
In sales, adapting to market preferences can be a game changer. It’s clear that prospects now want a range of communication options. They know their worth, and they won’t hesitate to walk if they don’t get what they want. This is why anticipating and responding to prospecting challenges is so important. Setbacks don’t have to result in failure — they just take creative solutions.
Let the Urgency of Your Customers’ Needs Guide Your Sales Strategy
When companies are creating profiles of possible target customers, there is a dimension they often overlook: the urgency of the need for the offering. This article provides a process for segmenting prospective customers in this fashion and creating a sales strategy.
Many business leaders believe that they fully understand their best target customers. They’ve developed clear profiles (a.k.a. personas) that are richly detailed with well-researched parameters, such as standard characteristics (e.g., age, education level, years at the company, role) or firmographic (e.g., annual revenues, number of employees, industry, geography, years in business). While such characteristics are important, they ignore another crucial characteristic: urgency of need.
A company that offers a software-as-a-service billing solution for small and mid-sized private dental practices may focus on classic demographics, such as the size of the practice (number of employees or number of dentists), the age of the practice (since older practices may more likely have outdated systems), or the amount of insurance billing the practice does each year.
These variables are useful in helping to produce a list of prospects, but they don’t determine which of these dental practices the sales team should call on first. If, however, the company added data that reflects which of these practices’ needs is most urgent — say, those that have advertised for billing and claims administration help more than twice in the past year (suggesting that they are struggling to keep up with billing) — salespeople would be able to prioritize their attention on these prospects.
The Four Segments
This needs-based approach entails segmenting potential customers into four segments:
- Urgent. The customer recognizes that it has an immediate need. (We just had another billing person quit!)
- Non-urgent. The customer recognizes the need, but it isn’t a high priority at this time. (We realize that our billing needs are changing and our current system will need to be revamped. We plan to start looking into this in the next year.)
- Currently met. The customer believes it already has an adequate solution to address the need at this time but recognizes it may not be a long-term solution. (We have an older billing system in place that still does the trick for now.)
- None. The customer simply has no need nor expects such need anytime soon. (Our small practice has a limited number of patients who pay out of pocket. Since all payments are made at the time of service, we simply don’t need a complex new billing system.)
This focus on the urgency of target customers’ needs may sound like common sense, but we have found in our work with B2B companies — from mid-sized firms to Fortune 50 giants in an array of industries such as financial services, enterprise information technology, utilities, industrial solutions, and health care technology — that they often fail to consider this dimension. Here is a process a firm can employ to apply this approach.
Identify new customers.
To identify prospects outside of your existing customer base, you can use available information. One is a source we mentioned: help-wanted ads that reflect a particular need.
But there are plenty of others. For instance, if a company sells inventory management solutions, a source of valuable data might be manufacturing industry merger-and-acquisition data, which could reveal companies with an urgent need to change or merge systems such as those for managing inventories. If a company sells quality-management solutions, a source of valuable data could be companies that are getting hammered for poor quality on social media.
Gather the necessary information.
Identifying your customers’ true urgency of needs requires looking beyond your typical demographic and firmographic profiling. This starts with an outreach initiative to talk to customers and prospects. The purpose is to ask questions to identify new target customer parameters that may be impacting the customer’s urgency of needs:
- Frustrations. How urgent is the need to resolve these frustrations? Which frustration would best accelerate success if resolved?
- Goals. Are your goals clear, consistent, reasonable, and measurable? Have your goals shifted recently?
- Roadblocks. What keeps you from reaching your goals? (i.e., What keeps you up at night?) What is the magnitude of the impact of these roadblocks?
- Environmental and situational factors. Are you experiencing any industry consolidation, organizational or executive management changes or instability, competitive changes, regulatory changes, and so on? What is the magnitude of the impact of these factors?
- Technology factors. Are there new or changing technologies that will impact your ability to achieve your goals? Are you at risk due to technology end-of-life issues or incompatibility?
Assess your firm’s ability to serve lower-level segments.
Once a company has performed its needs-based segmentation effort, it should seek to answer the following questions about each of the four levels. The findings will dictate the sales and marketing strategy, level of investment and resource allocations.
Level 1. Urgent need
How quickly can we meet their need? How can we best serve them? Is the market opportunity large enough to focus only on these prospective customers? Given the customer’s urgency, how do we price our products to optimize margins without damaging relationships by appearing exploitive?
Level 2. Non-urgent need
Can we convince them that their need is more urgent than they currently believe? How do we effectively stay in touch with them so we remain top of mind when they perceive that their need has become urgent?
Level 3. Need currently met
Should we walk away from these prospects? If so, when and how do we touch base with them to see if their needs have changed? Or is there an opportunity to continue to work to convince them that their need is either more significant than they realize or could be much better addressed? If so, what’s the best approach to get them to reconsider their current situation and recognize their true need and its urgency?
Level 4. No need
Should we completely remove these contacts as any potential prospect? Is there some other need we may be able to address for them — perhaps with another product? Should we be in contact on a planned basis to see if their situation has changed? How do we best do that?
The ideal customers are those who clearly understand and recognize they have an urgent need for your offering. However, if that opportunity is not enough to meet the company’s sales volume target, it may be necessary to extend efforts beyond Level 1. Gaining the attention of these additional target customers, challenging their perceptions of their needs, and educating them on how your offering could benefit them will require resources. Consequently, a critical assessment is required to determine whether the opportunity outweighs the investment necessary to address customers in these other levels.
Test your new targets.
Before committing to a complete revamp of how your salespeople are prioritizing opportunities, select one or two experienced salespeople to help you test your new target customer parameters. Identify a few prospects that align to your revamped target profiles, and see how the selected salespeople are able to penetrate them.
Revamp your sales messaging and training.
Include prospective customers’ level of need in your sales messaging — the language that the sales team uses in its interactions with customers. Revamp your sales tools (materials such as brochures, technical papers, and customer testimonials used in the selling process) to include the urgency of need. And teach salespeople how to read and react to the prospective customer’s level of need and adapt their language appropriately.
By adding urgency of need to target customers’ profiles, companies can do more than differentiate their offerings more effectively. They can also identify new growth opportunities and successfully pivot away from slowing or tightening markets. They can accelerate the sales of new products. Last but not least, they can turn underachieving sales teams into strong performers.
11 Ways Tech Adoption Impacts your Small Biz Growth
Small businesses rely heavily on technology to drive development and innovation. Adopting the correct technological solutions can help to streamline processes, increase efficiency, improve client experiences, and create a competitive advantage in the market.
In this post, we will look at how technology contributes to the growth and success of small enterprises.
1. Streamlining Operations
Implementing small business technology solutions can automate and streamline various aspects of small business operations. This includes using project management software, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, inventory management tools, and accounting software. Streamlining operations not only saves time and reduces manual errors but also allows small businesses to allocate resources more efficiently.
Tip: Regularly assess your business processes and identify areas that can be automated or improved with technology. This continuous evaluation ensures that your technology solutions remain aligned with your evolving business needs.
2. Enhancing Customer Engagement
Technology enables small businesses to engage and connect with their customers more effectively. Social media platforms, email marketing software, and customer service tools allow businesses to communicate and build relationships with their target audience. Customer relationship management systems help businesses track customer interactions and preferences, providing insights to deliver personalized experiences and improve customer satisfaction.
Tip: Leverage data from customer interactions to create targeted marketing campaigns and personalized offers. Use automation tools to send timely and relevant messages to your customers, enhancing their engagement and loyalty.
3. Expanding Market Reach
The internet and digital marketing platforms provide small businesses with the opportunity to reach a broader audience beyond their local market. Creating a professional website, utilizing search engine optimization (SEO), and leveraging online advertising channels allow small businesses to attract and engage customers from different regions or even globally. E-commerce platforms enable businesses to sell products or services online, further expanding their market reach.
Tip: Continuously monitor and optimize your online presence to ensure your website is discoverable and user-friendly. Leverage analytics tools to track website traffic, visitor behavior, and conversion rates to make data-driven improvements.
4. Improving Decision-Making with Data
Technology provides small businesses with access to valuable data and analytics, enabling informed decision-making. Through data analysis, businesses can gain insights into customer behavior, market trends, and operational performance. This data-driven approach allows small businesses to make strategic decisions, optimize processes, and identify growth opportunities more effectively.
Tip: Invest in data analytics tools and dashboards that can consolidate and visualize your business data. Regularly review and analyze the data to uncover patterns, identify bottlenecks, and make data-backed decisions to drive growth.
5. Facilitating Remote Work and Collaboration
Advancements in technology have made remote work and collaboration more feasible for small businesses. Cloud-based tools, project management software, and communication platforms enable teams to work together efficiently, regardless of geographical location. This flexibility opens up opportunities to access talent from anywhere, increase productivity, and reduce overhead costs.
Tip: Establish clear communication protocols and project management workflows to ensure effective collaboration among remote teams. Use video conferencing tools for virtual meetings and foster a culture of transparency and accountability to maintain productivity and engagement.
6. Embracing Emerging Technologies
Small businesses should stay informed about emerging technologies that have the potential to transform their industries. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and the Internet of Things can offer new opportunities for growth and innovation. Being open to adopting and integrating these technologies into your business strategy can give you a competitive advantage.
7. Data Security and Privacy
Data security and privacy are critical considerations when using technology in small businesses. Implement robust cybersecurity measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and secure data storage, to protect sensitive customer information and intellectual property. Regularly update software and educate employees on best practices for data security to minimize the risk of data breaches.
8. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems
A dedicated CRM system can help small businesses manage customer relationships more efficiently. It allows businesses to track customer interactions, store contact information, and monitor sales pipelines. Utilize CRM software to streamline sales and marketing processes, personalize customer interactions, and nurture long-term customer loyalty.
9. Continuous Learning and Skill Development
Encourage continuous learning and skill development among employees to keep up with technological advancements. Provide access to online courses, training resources, and workshops to enhance digital literacy and proficiency. Embrace a culture of learning and innovation to ensure your small business remains adaptable and competitive in the digital age.
10. Scalable and Flexible Technology Solutions
Choose technology solutions that are scalable and flexible to accommodate your growing business needs. Consider cloud-based software and platforms that allow you to easily scale up or down as your business evolves. This scalability enables small businesses to adapt to changing demands and seize new opportunities without significant disruptions.
11. Regular Technology Assessments
Regularly assess your technology infrastructure to ensure it aligns with your business goals and remains up to date. Conduct technology audits to identify areas for improvement, eliminate outdated systems, and explore new technologies that can drive growth. Stay proactive in evaluating and optimizing your technology stack to maximize its impact on your small business.
Technology serves as a catalyst for small business growth. By leveraging technology effectively and staying agile in an ever-evolving digital landscape, small businesses can unlock their full potential, adapt to changing customer expectations, and drive sustainable growth.
Nine Reasons Why Turning Down a Client Is the Best Option for Your Business
While your business may not be right for every client, every client may not be right for your business. To that end, what’s one sign you should turn down a client, and why?
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.
1. The Client Has Unrealistic Expectations
Sometimes you’ll meet clients with unrealistic expectations — even when those expectations are incompatible with your products and services. They might demand services that you may not be able to deliver. Trying to keep such clients can often damage your relationship with them, encourage them to spread bad word-of-mouth, and hamper your reputation. Identifying such clients in time can prevent that.
s2. They’re Unresponsive
The number one way to tell if a client isn’t right for your business is if they are unresponsive. For client-business relationships to work, mutual understanding, communication, and respect are essential. If a client keeps pushing you aside when you need to clarify something for a project you’re working on for them, it may be time to move on at the end of the assignment.
3. They Complain During Every Step
An obvious sign that a client isn’t a good fit for your business is when they complain about your work every step of the way. I’ve encountered clients who complain because they think they will get a better price or free work. If they are truly unhappy, try to correct the mistake once or twice, and if that doesn’t work, give them a refund. Catering to toxic clients will not help you grow or succeed.
4. You’re Unable to Meet Their Needs
One should turn down a client whose expectations are hard to meet. They may not be in the wrong in the situation, and they have the right to expect certain things since they will be paying for the solutions offered. However, you should assess whether it will be possible for you to keep up with those expectations considering your current scale of operations or resources available.
5. They Exhibit a ‘Blame-Oriented’ Mindset
Watch for a “blame-oriented mindset” in your prospecting and sales conversations. Ask a question like, “What solutions or service providers have you tried before to solve this problem, and why didn’t they work?” Observe if the prospect takes any ownership for past failures or solely blames previous providers. Such an attitude is a clear sign of a lack of accountability and collaboration. Turn down such prospects!
6. They Constantly Dismiss Your Advice
Picture this: a client who insists on guiding you through uncharted territory while you hold the compass of expertise. When faced with a client who consistently dismisses your professional advice and insists on going against best practices, it’s time to question the compatibility of your collaboration. Remember: You’re the expert for a reason, and your recommendations should be valued.
7. They Aren’t Engaging in the Project
When a client consistently fails to provide the necessary resources, feedback or engagement required for a successful partnership, it’s time to hit pause. A one-sided relationship will leave you feeling like a solo artist in a duet. Seek clients who actively participate, collaborate and invest in the success of the projects you undertake together.
8. There Is Value or Goal Misalignment
Turn down clients if their values or goals are not aligned with your business. This can lead to conflicts and dissatisfaction and even damage your reputation. Focus on clients who share similar values and goals to maintain your brand’s integrity and benefit from the work you do for them.
9. They’re Always Adding ‘One More Thing’
You can tell a client is not right for your business, especially if you’re a freelancer, if they keep adding “one more thing” to the project. For instance, if you’re a writer and a client asks you to edit some of their other work “as a friend,” it may be time to end the partnership. This situation will lead to you doing tons of work and extra assignments for free, which was not the arrangement.
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