42% of reps say that prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process. Since most cold outreach campaigns have low conversion rates, finding and engaging with enough prospects every month to meet your quota can be time-consuming and pull your attention away from prospects who are further along in the funnel.
To sustain a strong pipeline and focus on closing deals, you need to source prospects from multiple, high-intent methods so that you’re not solely dependent on lists of cold contacts.
Here are 5 prospecting methods that will keep your pipeline full of high-quality leads.
1) Map Your LinkedIn Connections
If you’re an avid networker (which you should be), your LinkedIn connections are a huge source of potential prospects. Unlike cold leads, your LinkedIn connections are usually willing to have a conversation about their pain points and goals as long as you don’t push a sale too fast.
To find potential prospects in your LinkedIn connections, you need to go through all of your contacts and pull out ones who fit your criteria for being someone who you could sell to.
This prospecting method requires a lot of time upfront but, once it’s running, it’s one of the most effective strategies. Here’s how to implement it:
- Define your target prospect. Include job titles, company size, industry and any other traits that you use to identify potential prospects.
- Export all of your LinkedIn connections to a spreadsheet. This will make it easy for you to sort through all your contacts.
- Review every connection and decide if they are a potential prospect. If they aren’t, delete them from your sheet. At the end of this step, you’ll have a spreadsheet of all the potential prospects you’re connected to.
- Label each connection based on how close you are to them. To preserve your relationships, your closeness with potential prospects should dictate the messaging you use to reach out to them. We use the categories friends, acquaintances, networking connections, and strangers but you can use whatever labels make the most sense to you. Labeling your closeness helps you bucket your contacts based on the appropriate outreach strategy.
- Upload all of your information into your CRM and implement your outreach strategies. Make sure everything is uploaded correctly so you can accurately track the results of this prospecting method.
- Repeat this process once a quarter using the new connections you’ve made.
Don’t have time to map your LinkedIn connections? Our virtual sales assistants are trained to drive this prospecting method as well as the others in this post. Contact us to learn how a VA can take over all of your prospects.
2) Leverage Your Second Connections
Another powerful way to use your existing network is leveraging your second connections. 92% of people trust referrals from people they know so introductions are an easy way to warm up cold prospects.
This prospecting method is simple:
Before trying to get in touch with decision-makers any organization, see if you have any second connections with them. If so, ask your connections to introduce you to your potential prospects. Having a warm introduction will significantly increase your chances of securing an intro call.
If you’re not close with the person who can introduce you to your potential prospect, it may be worthwhile to spend a month or two nurturing the relationship before asking for an introduction.
3) Join Your Prospects’ Communities
To maintain a steady pipeline of warm prospects, you need to constantly build your network. However, instead of attending a bunch of networking events and hoping you meet some valuable contacts, figure where your prospects spend time and join those communities.
Becoming an active member of your prospects’ communities helps you get to know them better and establish authentic connections.
Most industries and fields have on and offline venues where their members interact including:
- LinkedIn groups
- Twitter chats
- Local meetups
- Industry forums
When you’re interacting in these groups, focus on providing value instead of selling. Once you’ve begun establishing relationships, you can pursue sales through 1:1 meetings.
To learn how a virtual assistant can help you group and sustain your network, check out our article:
4) Establish Referral Partnerships
Research shows that referrals have a 75% higher conversion rate than cold prospects. Thus, establishing referral partnerships an effective way to consistently generate high-quality prospects.
Here are three easy to set up referral partnerships that will keep your pipeline full of prospects:
- Offer rewards to clients who refer you. This is the most popular kind of prospecting partnership since it’s easy and cost-effective. All you have to do is create a unique link that clients can share with their friends and offer both parties a discount. If you have a longer sales process that requires introductions, you can reward clients by sending gifts after the person they referred becomes a client.
- Offer cash rewards to other reps that send you referrals. If your product pairs well with a product from another company, reach out their reps and offer them a small portion of your commission in exchange for client referrals. For example, if you do home remodeling, you could give $500 to real estate agents every time they refer you someone who becomes a customer.
- Create co-promotion campaigns with other reps. For example, if you sell security consulting services, you can do co-promotions with the reps who sell the software your company recommends clients use.
One of the benefits of this prospecting method is that once you set it up it requires very little effort. You just have to meet with your referral partners and marketing team once a quarter to optimize your offers. If you’re satisfied with the amount of prospects you’re generating, you can keep your campaign the same for several quarters.
5) Send Personalized Messages to Your Target Accounts
A study found that companies that personalize their outreach efforts increase sales by an average of 20%. People are more willing to engage with personalized pitches since they’re much more genuine than mass emails.
Here are some ways to personalize your templates:
- Reference a major event at their company that makes your offer more relevant. Ex. they got acquired, bought another company, launched a new product etc.
- Mention any prior interaction you had with them or their company. Ex. you briefly spoke with them at an event, you’re both active in the same LinkedIn group, etc.
- Reference an article they’ve recently published that relates to your offer.
Look for any information about them or their company that helps you start a conversation. Since this prospecting method is time-consuming, you may want to limit it to your top target accounts.
Close More Deals with a Virtual Sales Assistant
Our virtual assistants are trained to support all of these prospecting methods and can save you additional time by:
- Keeping your CRM updated
- Managing follow-ups
- Networking support
- Calendar management
And a variety of other activities so that you can spend more time building relationships and closing deals.
About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.