4 Ingredients in Effective Sales Prospecting Strategies

As a sales leader, you’re responsible for putting your team in a position to succeed.

Part of that responsibility is ensuring your sales process is optimized. The slightest bottleneck can disrupt stages further along in the process.

One area in particular where you can’t afford to have bottlenecks in is prospecting. This is the stage that sets the tone for everything else.

In this article, we’ll look at four key things that go into creating effective sales prospecting strategies.

First, What Does “Strategy” Mean?

When people think of strategy, they often confuse it with a tactic.

What’s the difference?

A strategy lays out a vision for the future and how you’re going to get there. A tactic is a specific action you take or thing you use to make the strategy’s vision come to life.

For prospecting, a simple strategy might look like this:

  • Our goal is to build a data-driven sales team to put us in a position to identify more opportunities and drive more revenue. To do this, we’re going to train the sales team on how to use data throughout the sales process. The primary focus will be on prospecting since it’s the quickest way to move the needle.

The tactics your team might use based on the above strategy may look something like this:

  • Implement a CRM or upgrade an existing one to improve team productivity
  • Enrich company information in your CRM or database using a data enrichment tool
  • Use a tool that monitors “buy signals” to show when a company is ready to invest in growth

Why is it worth developing a strategy before outlining tactics? The main reason is that you create alignment across your sales team at a high level. Plus, the extra context helps each person understand what’s expected of them.

Now that we’re on the same page, let’s take a closer look at what makes an effective sales prospecting strategy.

Effective Sales Prospecting Strategies Lead with a Vision Statement

As any good leader will tell you, a vision is one of the most important parts of a strategy. Why? It establishes a shared goal a team can rally behind and work towards together.

In order for a team to stay motivated, they need to know where they’re headed. This is the purpose of creating a vision statement.

For salespeople, prospecting is hard. In fact, according to research by HubSpot, 42% of salespeople say prospecting is the hardest part of their job. It can be downright demoralizing – you’ve been there.

A vision statement is like having a North Star. No matter how bleak things look, if you’re focused on it, you’ll never stray from the path.

Let’s take a look at two examples that show the difference a vision statement can make:

  • Our goal is to implement prospecting tools and provide training to help our sales team exceed quota each quarter.
  • In the next five years, we plan on going public. To help us hit this milestone, the sales team will double down on what’s currently working. Plus, we’ll explore new ways of identifying prospects that are in a position to use our product.

Which vision statement resonates with you more?

While there’s no right or wrong answer, the second example has a North Star – going public – with additional context.

While hitting quota is important for sales, having a North Star that motivates your team to go above and beyond is also important to have.

Effective Sales Prospecting Strategies Include Detailed Buyer Personas

As the old saying goes, time is money. The last thing you want is your team wasting time on prospects that won’t buy your product.

Instead of having your team chase any lead, narrow their focus. Create detailed buyer personas so they’re reaching out to prospects that have a higher chance of buying.

When developing buyer personas (ideally in partnership with marketing) go as deep as you can with the details. Include items such as:

  • Firmographics, such as company and employee size
  • Where your ideal prospects spend their time (offline and online)
  • Publications or websites they read
  • Online and offline communities they’re a part of
  • Behavior patterns
  • Goals/pain points
  • Job responsibilities

The more detail you can include, the better. This level of intel will enhance your team’s prospecting efforts.

Effective Sales Prospecting Strategies Have a Qualification Criteria Checklist

Have you ever chased an unqualified prospect in hopes of landing a deal anyway? Chances are this deal never materialized and you wasted valuable time.

With pressure on your sales team to hit quota, it’s easy for them to fall into the trap of pursuing any prospect. If they have the budget they can be a customer…right? As you already know, this isn’t the case.

Like buyer personas, a qualification criteria checklist is important to include in your strategy. It’s a simple way for your team to immediately know when a prospect is worth pursuing.

Used in tandem with buyer personas, your team has a powerful combination that will help them be more efficient with their time. Not to mention they’ll have access to a treasure trove of insights that can help with personalization.

A checklist should include questions that a salesperson can ask themselves and prospects. For example:

  • Does the prospect fit your ideal customer profile?
  • Are they currently using a similar offering?
  • Are they kicking tires or have they expressed an immediate need?
  • Do they have budget?
  • Do they have a use case where your offering can make an impact?

These questions, and many more like them, will help your team to qualify prospects before pouring hour of work into them.

Effective Sales Prospecting Strategies Have SMART Goals

Goal setting is important. It establishes a finish line – something to strive for.

However, there’s a throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks way of setting goals and then there’s a smart way, literally called SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It’s a more purposeful way of setting goals.

Here’s what each word means in more detail:

  • Specific – A SMART goal targets a specific area for improvement
  • Measurable – A SMART goal can be measured quantifiably
  • Achievable – A SMART goal is audacious yet still achievable with effort
  • Realistic – A SMART goal can be achieved with current resources
  • Time-bound – A SMART goal specifies when the result(s) can be achieved

A SMART goal serves two purposes:

  • It forces you to think deeper about the goals you’re setting
  • It makes your team dig deep and see how far they can push themselves to accomplish an audacious goal

What does a SMART goal look like in practice? Here’s an example:

  • We’re currently generating $1.5 million in ARR. Our goal is to generate $3 million in ARR within the next year by pouring more resources into what’s working. Plus, we’ll add 3-5 more account executives and use them to tap into new markets such as Europe and Australia.

Final Thoughts

A common theme throughout this article is focus.

Whether it’s SMART goals or buyer personas, each ingredient helps your team focus their efforts in order to maximize results.

Any sales leader worth their weight in salt knows the importance of having a prospecting strategy. They know how this impacts a sales team’s effectiveness and efficiency.

With competitive markets, prospecting is an important and unavoidable part of the sales process. Having an effective strategy is not a nice-to-have, it’s mission-critical.

  • Originally published November 4, 2019, updated May 5, 2023