MARKETING EDUCATION

What Is Prospecting?

WRITTEN BY JACK BARRON | JULY 15, 2020 | 3 MIN

Prospecting is a fundamental element of the marketing process. Understanding what it is and how it forms a part of your marketing strategy is key to its success, whatever business niche you’re operating in.

Prospecting, basically, refers to identifying your potential customers – otherwise known as “prospects”. The aim of prospecting is to develop a list or database of potential customers who you can begin contacting with a view to converting them into actual and repeat customers.

The name is taken from the historical practice of prospecting for gold, whereby treasure seekers would “prospect” in river beds and rock formations. On finding a hint of gold they would start the process of separating the gold from the dirt and the rock to find their fortune.

Are Prospects the Same as Leads?

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No, prospects and leads are not the same strictly speaking; however, you treat them similarly, and the goal with both is the same – namely to move them through the buyer journey and convert them into a customer. A lead is a potential customer that has expressed interest in your business, whether it be through visiting your website or engaging with a sign-up call to action.

A prospect is a lead that has been qualified as fitting certain criteria, namely you’ve determined they align with your target audience and buyer characteristics, but they haven’t yet expressed an interest. Prospects and leads are not identical, but they are similar.

The Five Steps of the Prospecting Process

Prospecting is a discipline that is wide open in its approach, though in order to avoid wasting valuable time it’s important that you consider following a proven structure. There are five steps to a successful prospecting approach that you should consider implementing.

1. Researching

The first step is considered by many to be the most important, namely the research of your prospects. It’s this that will allow you to determine the viability of that prospect, and give you the information necessary to begin the next step which is prioritising them. The research stage aims to answer key questions about the relationship between you and your prospect – namely how much do they know about you, what can your business offer them, and how well do they align with your established customer profiles.

2. Prioritisation

The next phase is to begin prioritising your list of prospects into categories, based on their likelihood of conversion to a sale. High-likelihood prospects are those who match your customer profile, have established a key interest in your product or service, and for whom you have a direct method of communication with a decision-maker. These should be your primary targets when you establish your outreach.

Tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator make this process incredibly efficient, allowing you to enter firmographic and demographic criteria to identify both businesses and the individuals who make decisions within them specifically.

3. Plan your outreach

In this step, your aim is to gather more information about your prospect in order to better tailor your communication with them. Establish the exact nature of their pain points, and determine where and how your products and services can alleviate them. You can do this in a variety of ways, namely by scouring their website and social media profile or finding out the exact search terms that directed them to your website.

Once you’ve done this, you can craft your message and make sure it aligns with the identified pains and gains of your prospects. There’s no point reaching out a prospect about giving them more customers, if their problem is lack of capacity or an overburdened workload. It will likely fall on deaf ears! However, repositioning your solution to one that saves time will be received more favourably and leave them open to a conversation.

4. Making Contact

Your contact needs to be tailored to your individual prospect, whether you’re doing it via LinkedIn, email or telephone. This means you need to personalise it by making reference to that prospect’s pains, gains and objections.

You must establish a personal connection with their issue, provide a concise overview of how you can help them overcome it, and provide them with a logical and approachable next step in the sales process.

5. Ongoing Refinement

Throughout each prospecting process, you need to determine where you are making gains and where you can improve. Make notes of your efforts and their results, so you can have a clear reference later on to further improve your prospecting approach for the next set of prospects. The key to every successful marketing campaign is to use data to make more informed decisions going forward. By understanding your customer and how they interact with you, and then adjusting as you learn, you give yourself the greatest chance of success.

JB
Jack Barron, Director

Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. As Director of Invoke Media, he is responsible for overseeing the planning and implementation of every campaign, getting stuck into the execution of successful at every opportunity.

Further Reading