40% of Salespeople Say Prospecting is the Most Difficult Part of the Sales Process. Here’s What to Do About It.

There’s a lot involved in the sales process. HubSpot breaks it down into these seven key steps

All of these steps present a certain level of challenge. But hands down, prospecting has been chosen as creating the most difficulty for reps. In fact, “more than 40% of salespeople say this is the most challenging part of the sales process, followed by closing (35%) and qualifying (22%),” HubSpot explains. 

Given that so many reps have such an issue with this critical first step, for this post I’m going to tackle how to streamline prospecting so you can make it ultra efficient and keep a steady stream of quality leads coming. 

Develop Prospect Personas

Similar to customer personas where you define segments of your buyers, a great starting point is to create prospect personas that accurately represent the decision makers you’re looking to reach. 

“A well thought out prospect persona helps you to focus on both of the following,” writes sales process expert Marylou Tyler:

  • “The decision maker’s factual variables
  • The decision maker’s personality variables that impact the prospecting/selling process.”

If, for example, you’re selling a B2B SaaS product, you may primarily be going after higher level individuals within a company, such as account managers, executive directors, or COOs. They would have more sway within their organization as compared to a customer service rep, and you would likely get much further speaking with them. That covers the first part of prospect personas with the factual variables. 

As for the personality variables, you’ll want to look at things like:

  • What key pain points they’re likely experiencing
  • What motivates them
  • The best time to reach out to them
  • The criteria they use to evaluate potential vendors
  • Potential objections

You may also want to check out this resource from Business 2 Community, which outlines how to create a persona matrix to ensure you cover all the bases. 

Once you have your prospect personas fleshed out, you’ll have something tangible to reference, which should go a long way in helping your salespeople target the right people and use the optimal approach. 

Identify Top Outreach Channels

“Back in the day,” there were only a few outreach channels to choose from. Mainly phone, face-to-face networking, and paper mail. These days, there are a wide variety of options, including social media, text, chatbots, and SEO just to name a few. 

This graphic from LeadMD shows just how many ways there are to communicate with prospects. 

As you can see, it’s pretty overwhelming. Without a clear cut strategy, your outreach is likely to just become “busy work” and miss the mark. That’s why you need to be super specific about which channels you want to use and personalize your outreach for each individual prospect. 

This in itself is a science, but here’s a simple strategy I suggest that involves two main steps. 

  1. Analyze what’s worked best for you in the past based on quantifiable data and select the small handful of outreach techniques that are most potent. Then focus on those. 
  2. Do some sleuthing for each prospect to see which channel they’d likely prefer. Maybe, for instance, they’re highly active on LinkedIn, which would make this network a great choice for outreach.

This should prevent your salespeople from having a “spray and pray” mentality and greatly increase their chances of starting meaningful dialogues with quality prospects.

Leverage Referrals

Your salespeople have a 30% higher chance of converting a referral than they do an average prospect. And in the long run, referrals have a 16% higher lifetime value. 

But even though data clearly shows referrals are incredibly potent, it’s a highly underutilized prospecting strategy for most reps. In fact, 58% of salespeople say they ask for less than one referral per month, and 40% say they rarely ask at all. 

If this is an area where you’ve been lacking up to this point, I highly recommend developing a referral program, which you can learn all about here

Batch Prospecting Tasks

The concept of batching where you complete similar tasks in one high concentration session has become incredibly popular in recent years and for good reason. It helps you achieve a high level of focus and minimize disruptions, which almost always leads to better results than completing tasks at random. 

Studies have found that “we need at least 15 minutes to get fully concentrated on one task after switching to it,” and “if we quickly change from one task to another, we lose about 40% of productivity, because our brain still lingers to the previous task for a substantial amount of time.”

Batching can apply to numerous areas of business, and prospecting is no exception. I suggest having your salespeople block off a certain period of time each week (2 to 3 hour sessions tend to work well) where they focus solely on prospecting tasks. That way all of their energy goes toward this vital yet difficult stage of the sales process, and they’re not bouncing around to other duties. 

Turning Prospecting Into a Science 

The fact that 40% of salespeople struggle with prospecting shows that it demands more attention than any other stage of the sales process. Implementing the strategies above, such as developing prospect personas, picking the right channels for outreach, capitalizing on referrals, and batching prospecting tasks should put your salespeople on the right track to turn a weakness into a strength. 

Underwhelmed with your current sales team? Find out how HireDNA can help you find A+ reps by sourcing top talent and combining intelligent matching with science-based assessments. 

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