Prospecting: definition, techniques and methods

Prospecting: definition, techniques and methods
13 minutes

Find out quickly in this article all there is to know about prospecting: Definitions of prospecting, synonyms, techniques to transform a prospect into a client and concrete examples.

In short, what it takes to become the best sales expert.

The Prospecting definition

I found this definition of prospecting on Journal du net, and frankly I think it’s the best of all:

Prospecting is the business process of seeking out potential customers (called prospects) in order to turn them into actual customers. But prospecting is a broad topic, so let me rough out the landscape a bit and explain in more detail what it’s all about. 👨‍🏫

Direct Prospecting Meaning

Physical or direct prospecting is usually done in the B2b or B2c world for specific products (home renovation for example) . It is a very (very very very) old fashioned method and less and less profitable. It usually involves sales people in suits, briefcases and company cars coming to canvass other companies to sell them solutions. 😆

The goal is usually to sell immediately. But there is still a distinction between two types of prospects:

  • 🧊 The cold prospect: You don’t know much about this prospect. They match your target, but has never shown any appetite for your products or brand.
  • 🔥 The hot prospect: They express interest in the company or in the solutions you offer. You have enough information about this prospect to know that they are ready to buy what you offer, if you can differentiate yourself from the competition.

Here’s an example: you sell solar panels in the industrial sector.

  • 🧊 A cold prospect: An industry that doesn’t have solar panels yet.
  • 🔥 A hot prospect: An industry that has researched your site and downloaded informational materials.

Indirect prospecting Meaning

Indirect prospecting is much “softer”. It requires a little more patience. The idea is to let the prospect approach you through different marketing-sales strategies:

  • Data collection through events, virtual trade shows, cookies on the blog. 🍪
  • Informative emailing, where you will give added value to your prospects through quality articles.
  • Increase of reach and raising the brand image (partnership, visibility on social networks).
  • Participation in certain physical or virtual events related to your business. (fairs, sports shows…)

Briefly

  • Direct prospecting = you try to sell right away.
  • Indirect prospecting = you make yourself known, arouse curiosity, develop the brand image.

Can you see the difference?

Now, what are the marketing techniques that turn the temperature of your contact from cold to hot?

Definition of inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is defined by a communication strategy to create qualitative content, on a blog and on social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for B2b sales. 🔥)

The idea is to convert a cold lead > into a qualified lead > and then into a customer. To do this there are different techniques which we will talk about a little bit below. 😱

A little taste of the topics we’re going to cover?

  • Direct and indirect sales techniques.
  • Marketing automation: automated tools. 🤩
  • Lead nurturing.
  • Engagement on social networks.

Inbound marketing = indirect prospecting combined with a digital strategy. We whisper in the prospect’s ear that we exist 👂 that we do cool stuff, and that they should come check it out on our site, blog or business. 👀

Definition of outbound marketing

Outbound marketing (some call it outbound marketing) brings together several communication and marketing techniques aimed at targeting a population of prospects. The technique is more “aggressive” than inbound marketing

Generally we will use an advertising message (POS, advertising spaces) or direct digital marketing (emailing companies, SMS, LinkedIn 🔥). Outbound marketing therefore brings together a large number of actions and levers and is an important part of customer marketing. The term is mostly used in opposition to inbound marketing strategies in which we “let” the consumer come to the brand and the company.

Briefly

Outbound marketing = direct prospecting. It is associated with a “push” communication strategy where we encourage the consumer to buy.

Prospecting methods: what to do or not to do in 2021

Here are the most used prospecting methods, by category, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Outbound marketing, what you need to know

Emailing campaigns:

  • 🟢 If you already have a good base of qualified leads through your blog or site. (Focus on informative emails rather than aggressive selling which doesn’t work very well anymore)
  • 🟠 Doing a trade show type event that will cost you a lot of money to end up with only a handful of warm leads. (Unless you’re selling high-end products, then it might make sense for you).
  • 🔴 Buy databases. Already, depending on where you buy them, it’s not legal. 😆 And you may end up with old databases that are very unresponsive or unqualified. (Definition: database).

SMS campaigns:

  • 🟢 It works great when done right, and it’s cheap when you have the data.
  • 🟠 Works well in BtoC, less so in BtoB. (It’s not done too often and is hard to get the phone number of a prospect if your target is Business oriented).
  • 🔴 Same observation as for emailing campaigns. Do not buy databases from just anywhere.

The purchase of offline advertising space (posters…):

  • 🟢 This can be valuable when you have the budget and a well defined target, as it allows you to reach a large number of people.
  • 🟠 Very expensive.
  • 🔴 Digital (online) advertising is really taking over offline advertising. If you are not a big organaization, we higly recommend you use online advertising first.

The purchase of online advertising space (Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Facebook Ads.):

  • 🟢If you know how to do it well, you can really boost your sales without breaking the bank. It’s all about choosing the right keywords. Thanks to Semantik, it’s much easier.
  • 🟢 Digital communication is the future.
  • 🟠 It doesn’t replace a social media communication strategy or the development of other acquisition techniques.

Prospecting campaigns on LinkedIn:

  • 🟢 It allows you to access a database of thousands of users for free and segment its searches (see how 👀) to find its target.
  • 🟢 Thanks to the automation of actions, especially with tools like ProspectIn or Waalaxy (for cross-channel prospecting), you can send hundreds of automated and personalized messages per day.
  • 🟢 It’s very inexpensive. (See pricing 👀).
  • 🟠 It’s mostly for BtoB.

Inbound marketing, what you need to understand

Inbound marketing was born because aggressive sales techniques were already known by consumers and therefore became less effective.

Moreover, they needed to be more seduced, to know more about the brands and to get more information.

According to LSA, this is still the trend in 2021 for 60% of consumers, who want to focus on these 3 key points (transparency, information, communication).

Companies also needed more efficient, less expensive and better adapted to new uses to conquer their customers.

There is also another trigger for this shift from outbound to inbound sales: the Internet.

Yes, it’s not a small change. 😂

In 10 years, the internet has turned all the codes upside down. Inbound sales have become a must for a good strategy in the long term.

There is therefore much less red on the board. All indicators are green to now start a good strategy of Inbound leads generation.

  • 🟢 Quality content.
  • 🟢 Communicating on social media, especially LinkedIn. 🔥
  • 🟢 Search engine optimization through SEO.

Of course, combining outbound and inbound marketing strategies is key. You just have to do it right. We discuss this a bit below 😉

Prospecting synonym

  • Campaign.
  • Sales development.
  • Research of prospects.
  • Acquisition of contacts.
  • Profit seeking through sales.
  • Development of a customer portfolio.

Prospect synonym

  • Potential buyer.
  • Future customer.
  • Contact.
  • Lead.

Prospecting plan

What is a prospecting plan? How do you approach it and personalize it according to your target and the tools you have at your disposal?

A prospecting plan is all the steps you take one by one to acquire new customers.

 

Your sales strategy will result in a prospecting plan that you will define step by step.

Prospecting plan template

Let’s say, you are selling a B2b marketing solution. For example, a personnel management tool. You will then define a target, in this example we can chose:

  • HR managers, HRD of large companies in France.
  • Managers of small companies or start-ups in France.

Note that this is an example and that you can very well choose another target for the same product, it depends on your strategy and your marketing analysis.

Your prospecting plan will include 5 key steps:

  • Build a database – to be able to contact your prospects, they must be in your CRM.
  • Create a campaign, for that you have to go to your automation tool, and launch a new Campaign and title it.
  • Create a prospecting message. (Email, LinkedIn message…) – Outbound Marketing.
  • After receiving the first returns, you must respond to your hot prospects.
  • Once the customer is acquired, it is important to have a long term vision. How are you going to retain your current customers? – Inbound marketing.

So, since you are targeting BtoB and you don’t have a database, what should your prospecting plan be? Where are you going to find your prospects? How are you going to both personalize and automate your approach to reach high volumes? 😍

I’ll break it all down for you. ✨

prospecting plan

Following our example, you can use an automation tool like Waalaxy, to create a 1000+ qualified leads campaign with just a few clicks.

So you send your campaign with your personalized message, and you respond through your LinkedIn email CRM, Piwaa. 💌

To keep your customers loyal, you set up a communication strategy on the network using a tool like Podawaa.

Podawaa allows you to join professional groups, generate more engagement on your posts and automate your publications (learn more about engagement groups 👀).

This is an example of what you can do to find, contact, convert and generate leads from scratch and with a very affordable budget.

AIDA Method

In terms of sales, there are certain techniques that are unbeatable. The AIDA method is clearly one of them. At Waapi, it’s the one our CEO strongly recommends.

He generates 75k+ views on his LinkedIn posts, so I think you can feel assured he knows what he’s talking about 😏

AIDA is an acronym that stands for:

  • A for Attention.
  • I for “Interest”.
  • D for “Desire”.
  • A is for “Action”.

You will be able to convince your interlocutor thanks to a short, relevant and selling message. The idea is to find the right balance between a discourse that incites curiosity and the desire to know more, without using aggressive sales techniques.

Want to know more about this method and how to implement it?

Here’s an example to help you launch a digital marketing strategy on LinkedIn.

aida

A concrete example of a prospecting message

Using the famous AIDA method, here is what you can send your prospects in your prospecting campaign:

Hello {{firstname}}, I see you’re in the marketing too. 🚀 (attention)

We have developed a tool that’s 100% focused on the user experience. When prospecting, It takes you to a completely new universe 👽. (interest)

Are you curious about our new cross-channel prospecting CRM? (desire)

You can find it here 👉 Waalaxy.com (action)

All you need to do is adapt this message to your tool/solution. As you can see, the message is short and to the point. I use keywords “marketing”, “user experience” “prospecting CRM”… as they correspond to digital marketing thermals. Use the words that will catch your audience’s eye, based on your industry.

The SPANCO method to turn a prospect into a customer

Actually, prospecting is a no-brainer. ⛵ It should be a natural exchange between two individuals. The one who is interested in the other’s needs (the salesperson) and the one who confides in them (the potential buyer).

The SPANCO method is also an acronym in 6 steps.

  • Suspect.
  • Prospect.
  • Approach.
  • Negotiation.
  • Closing.
  • Order.

spanco

The purpose of this sales method is to remind you that you must not miss a step in your strategy, otherwise, you will rush the prospect and they will leave.

Never forget: you have to be the one who listens, understands, rephrases… Essentially, the less you talk, the more information you get that will help you start the negotiation.

When you contact a prospect via an automated message on LinkedIn, it is quite similar to a face-to-face prospecting. You have to make the conversation fluid and natural.

Develop a sales technique that works

According to e-marketing.fr, the definition of a sales technique is as follows:

All the techniques and methods available to the sales force sales forcein order to achieve the most effective sale of the product.

Simply put, they bring together both professional skills and interpersonal skills. To me, it’s intrinsically linked. You can’t claim to be a good salesperson if you can’t develop certain soft skills that are essential to selling.

Soft Skills to sell better

We are talking about online sales – (via social networks or prospecting campaigns on LinkedIn for example) and physical sales – (if you are in the field).

In all cases, you need to focus on:

  • Empathy. How can you sell a product if you don’t know how to put yourself in the customer’s shoes? You must absolutely understand their problems and therefore their needs.
  • Sympathy. To improve this sympathy capital, don’t get a big head. 😵 It’s as simple as that, put your arrogance in the closet. Arrogance prevents you from questioning yourself and puts the customer below you, when the customer should always be the focus of your attention.
  • Credibility. Continue to learn about your business, keep up-to-date with the latest developments etc. You must know your tools inside out. You will be more comfortable in your discussion.
  • Inspiring confidence. If the other 3 points have done their job, you will naturally inspire confidence. How do you know if this is the case? Analyze the feedback from your customers.

The hard skills to turn a prospect into a customer

  • Be comfortable with digital tools and digital sales techniques. (Social networks, CRM, automation).

Let’s face it, the world is turning to virtual sales. In recent years, inbound marketing has taken over traditional marketing strategies. The multiplication of containment has only accelerated the process. Switching to digital prospecting is cheaper, faster and can be automized. 🚀

Online prospecting is not the future, it’s the present.

How to do online prospecting

How are you going to start your 100% remote prospecting?

Getting started can be scary. It’s a world where competition can be heightened. But, honestly, if you make the right moves and stay on top of both what’s new and your KPI’s, everything should work out. 😊

As explained a bit above, there are two techniques you’ll be able to develop:

  • Inbound marketing (communication strategy focused on the long term).
  • Outbound marketing (sales strategy more focused on the short term).

Content strategy: Inbound marketing

To find leads online, you must take care of your brand image.

The idea is to attract new prospects to your site, to work on your credibility and your reputation. To achieve this, we will focus on 3 essential points.

Optimize your social media profiles

  • If you sell services for companies: optimizing your LinkedIn profile is more than essential.
    • Complete your profile. (Intro, photo, About section…)
  • If you’re more focused on a BtoC (business to customer) market: you’ll also need to get on social media sites  like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.
    • Write a bio, be consistent in your editorial line and your visual choices.

Develop a content strategy

If there’s one article you need to read about BtoB content strategy, it’s the one on LinkedIn’s algorithm.

Basically, it tells you that the more people engage on your posts, the more LinkedIn believes you’re a trustworthy person – and therefore promotes that post to a wider network of potential customers. 🤑

So what’s the conclusion to this golden nugget?

xxx

  • Your content must be qualitative and engaging.
  • The more likes and comments you have, the more you will reach new targets. 🎯

Automated tools that post, like and comments are all the rage. With them, you’ll dramatically increase your views.

Analyze your results – test – persevere

As Didier Barbelivien would say

you have to give time to time.

It’s a strategy that can’t be ignored, but it takes time and perseverance to become an influencer on social media.

Certain time slots work better on certain targets, certain topics are more conducive to creating conversations and engagement than others. You have to test everything.

💡 Another important nugget:

What got the buzz once is already out of style.

If you rehash the same post as a competitor to hope for the same success, you’re just going to look like an uninspired person. Don’t do it.

Sales strategy: Outbound marketing

Get your hands dirty, get to the front of the line, don’t be afraid – you’re going to have to go for it, it’s time to grab your best pen and send a message to your prospects. ✍

Use an automated prospecting CRM

Before I explain how, I’ll tell you why you should use an automated prospecting CRM.

  • 😱 You can contact 100+ people a day with 1 click.
  • 😎 You can add 1000+ leads to your CRM in less than 1 hour.
  • 🔥 You can centralize all your data in one software and track your KPI’s without using Excel.
  • ⏩ You always know where you are and how your campaigns are progressing.
  • 🎯 You can choose prospecting Scenarios according to your target and your objectives.

Now, if you want to compare the tools on the market, study them by clicking here. 👀

Launching prospecting campaigns

To launch a 100% digital prospecting campaign, you need to:

  • Define your target.
  • Find your target on the social network of your choice (LinkedIn for B2b).
  • Segment your research: qualify your prospects.
  • Exporting your prospects in an automated prospecting Campaign.
  • Choose a Scenario.
  • Create a personalized teaser message.
  • Proofread your message.
  • Launch the prospecting Campaign.
  • Consult your prospects’ messages and respond to them using the SPANCO or A.I.D.A. method.
  • Once all actions in your Campaign have been comppleted, check your results, analyze your sales, question your techniques and consider segmentation so as to improve.

Tip 💡: Segment your searches well so that your prospects in each Campaign are similar.

waalaxy automated prospecting

Pamper your sales messages

Let’s zoom in on your sales message. 👀

It’s crucial to have a salesy approach. If you have the best B2b lead generation services on the market, but you don’t know how to write to your prospect, you’re never going to convert them. We’ve given you a full review of the best prospecting messages, how to write them, and what mistakes not to make. I’ll let you take the time to look over the article, and then we’ll get together and talk about the sales funnel that converts your leads. 🎯

A sales funnel: what is it?

It’s the foundation of online sales.

A marketing funnel or conversion funnel  is one of the essential concepts, if not the most essential in digital marketing. It is the foundation of your digital success. One of the most famous techniques is the AARRR, an abbreviation for:

  • Acquisition.
  • Activation.
  • Retention.
  • Referral.
  • Revenue.

sales funnel

It’s all about the ways you will, step by step, transform your prospect.

This technique focuses on 3 points: develop your site and your image, contact your prospects by adding them to prospecting campaigns, boost your trust index by publishing and highlighting positive feedback to reassure the prospect. Then, test your methods and constantly readjust.

Technique for closing a sale

Closing a sale can be the most delicate moment of the exchange. How do you close a sale in a natural way?
  • Leave the choice to the prospect: they should not feel forced or frustrated. They should feel that they have free will and that they are the only ones making the decision.
  • Emphasize the benefits – the prospect should be able to picture how this tool will improve their life
  • Synthesize your pitch – no long sentences, have a clear and concise sales pitch.
  • Check if the prospect has any unanswered questions – clear up any grey areas. ⛅

Conclusion and Faqs of the article

In this article, you have discovered:

  • The definition of prospecting.
  • Synonyms for prospecting.
  • What a prospecting plan is.
  • Sales techniques: AIDA method, SPANCO method.
  • Techniques to transform a prospect into a client.
  • The prospecting tunnel (AARRR conversion funnel).
  • Concrete examples of prospecting messages.
  • How to develop your online sales techniques.
  • Tips on the best inbound and outbound marketing techniques.

Now, you know all about prospecting! 🚀