Sales Enablement Defined: Your Guide to Sales Prospecting

February 14, 2019

Let’s face it; prospecting isn’t the most fun part of selling. However, it is a crucial part of finding potential buyers, developing relationships with them, and closing deals. Without prospecting, reps have no one to actually sell to.

In the next blog in our “Sales Enablement Defined” series, we’ll talk about sales prospecting and where it fits into the sales enablement ecosystem. We’ll also discuss sales prospecting techniques and best practices, and how they support sales enablement. (Earlier posts in this series include “What is Gartner” outlining why the analyst firm is an essential resource for enablement professionals and “What is a Sales Enablement Tool?” so you can get more familiar with the solutions in the space.)  

For sales enablement professionals, it’s imperative to train and regularly coach sales reps on the best techniques for prospecting. The best practices outlined in this post can be incorporated into the onboarding program and continually refreshed through ongoing coaching and training.

What is Sales Prospecting?

Sales prospecting is the way sales reps search for potential buyers in order to move them through the funnel, and ideally, convert them into a customer. While discovering leads is relatively easy, finding quality leads that align with your target persona enough to become a prospect takes a bit more time and effort.

Leads fall at the earliest stage in the funnel; they come from referrals, lists either built manually or acquired by a third party, or a response to either an email or inbound marketing campaign. Once a certain lead has been qualified (learn more about lead qualification), has been proven to be a candidate for your offering, and is continuing to correspond with you, they have progressed to a prospect. This stage can last quite long, until they either explicitly pass on the opportunity or decide to consider your solution.

Sales Prospecting Techniques

Once reps have a list, they need to go through and determine which contacts to consider prospects. They should have a complete grasp of the following in order to determine whether a lead is a good fit for the product or service they are trying to sell:

  • Brand story
  • Value proposition
  • Current/future customer needs

Sellers can use various outbound and inbound prospecting techniques.

OUTBOUND:

Outbound sales prospecting is just how it sounds; it’s when reps are reaching out to leads in hopes to get a response and move that lead to a prospect. Cold calls, emails, and social media messages are common methods to contact leads; they involve reaching out “cold” to potential buyers having had no prior communication with them. While these strategies are the easiest way to get out a large amount of messages in the shortest amount of time, they may feel spammy and impersonal to buyers. Outbound prospecting techniques can be effective, however, if you practice them carefully and responsibly.

INBOUND:

Inbound sales prospecting is when leads come to you, either through your website, downloading a piece of content, clicking in an email, or having some other engagement. Social selling has become an effective way for reps to educate and engage buyers on a more personal level. By showing them you understand their challenges and pain points, you can cut through the clutter and grab their attention. Warm emails are for leads who are familiar with your brand; they require research and personalized messaging to position yourself as a trusted expert in the space. Finally, a thorough content marketing strategy targets leads based on industry, company size, current solution, and other traits. Content that resonates with buyers and provides them value is more likely to peak their interest. The overall advantage of inbound sales prospecting is that the customers are willingly raising their hands and have realized you provide a solution from which they can benefit.

Best Practices for Sales Prospecting

Research the buyer. You can warm up a cold call by doing some upfront investigation into a buyer’s industry, current solution, and competitive landscape. Introducing yourself with some background knowledge of the organization increases your chances of getting through a gatekeeper to key decision makers. It also helps to know whether the organization has invested in other areas of operational improvement, as it shows a willingness to innovate and a higher likelihood they would be interested in other solutions.

Know your UVP. Ultimately, every buyer you speak with wants to know what’s in it for them; this is where your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) comes in. Your UVP should focus on the customer and why they should consider your solution, setting yourself apart from competitors.

Prioritize. Not all leads are created equal; you’ve got to give more or less weight to each based on the opportunity size and potential lifetime value of the organization, as well as the seller’s knowledge of the industry and offering. Doing this ensures you are dedicating the most time and effort towards the prospects that are most likely to convert. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be a manual process; many sales prospecting tools have the capabilities to automate lead qualification and prioritization.

Examples of Sales Prospecting Tools

Leveraging the aforementioned prospecting methods is a lot easier using sales prospecting tools like the following:

CRM: Where sales reps manage leads and prospects and track sales activity, including what stage buyers are at in the sales funnel.

LinkedIn company pages: Most organizations feature industry and company updates on their LinkedIn page feed, so sellers can stay up-to-date on leads.

Google alerts: Set up alerts for high-priority leads to stay informed on any mentions or news across the internet.

Note taking tools: Certain tools like OneNote and Evernote allow sales reps to take notes and easily sync them across platforms and devices.


With so many sales prospecting tools and methods available, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to do it. Try the techniques mentioned above, find what works and what doesn’t, and continue refining your prospecting strategy to see the best results.

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