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Sales Prospecting Tools

Sales Prospecting: From Calling Cold To Striking Gold

The sales prospecting landscape today looks a lot like California after the great Gold Rush. When James Marshall first discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill, word traveled quickly, even in 1848. Within a year, more than 300,000 prospectors were panning the streams, picking up whatever they could find on the surface. A few years later, most of those streams had run dry. The only way to strike gold was to dig.


Today’s buyers are more informed and empowered than they’ve ever been. They can research a product or service from their smartphone and make a purchase without ever having to talk to a sales rep. Making an easy sale by simply sifting through a list and calling enough prospects rarely happens.

You’ve probably heard all the excuses about why your team’s sales prospecting efforts are failing.

  • No one answers their phone anymore.
  • If they do, they’ll hang up within seconds.
  • Social media is the best way to reach buyers these days.
The truth is, prospecting has never been easy or glamorous — not even in at the height of the Gold Rush. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. We just like to think it’s impossible because it makes it easier to accept failure, or worse, avoid trying at all.

If you’ve sworn off cold calling and you're content with being an average salesperson or having an average sales team, you should probably stop here. But if you’re willing to reconsider classic prospecting techniques and train your sales team to apply them in a new way, keep reading. Many of your competitors have already abandoned these “old school” techniques in search of a silver bullet. The best sales people know these tactics still work, if you're willing to dig deeper.

Sales Prospecting Techniques: What Works, And What Doesn’t

Sales is a science and a discipline, although it’s rarely treated that way. Confidence and charm may seem to win the day, but they’ll only take you so far. Real, consistent success only happens when sales professionals follow a scientific method based on proven results. That’s why we analyzed more than 100,000 sales prospecting calls at 100 companies across 19 industries to determine what sales prospecting techniques really work. Here's what we found.

Cold Calling

Cold outreach tends to get a bad rap, but cold calling is still an important part of the sales cycle. Our research found live phone conversations are still the best way to book a meeting with a prospect. 70% of decision makers said they are most likely to book a meeting while having a phone conversation, compared to just 15% who preferred email.
We analyzed surveys, polls and internal data to determine how and when introductory appointments are best scheduled. Methods evaluated include:
  1. Live conversation = outbound call made by seller
  2. Email = no phone interaction
  3. Conversation & Email = any combination of phone interaction and email (order doesn’t matter)
  4. Exec Call Back = Prospect calls the seller after VM/email
  • dot-1Live Conversation
  • dot-2Email
  • dot-3 Conversation & Email
  • dot-4 Exec Call Back
70% 15% 9% 6%

Yet sales professionals often view cold calling as a necessary evil and an exercise in drudgery. That’s because all too often, they’re reaching the wrong people or not making direct connections with them. Here are a few of the most common mistakes salespeople make when cold calling.

3 Big Cold Calling Mistakes

Failing to Prioritize Leads and Target Accounts

If you’re just going down a long list of leads, you might as well be shooting arrows into the dark. Instead, take the time to identify the best companies you want to work with, using criteria like industry, company size and revenue, and rank them.

Failing to Reach Decision Makers

Look beyond LinkedIn job titles and identify prospects based on their responsibilities.

Not Calling Direct Lines

Direct lines are far more efficient and effective than switchboards. On average, it takes 5 minutes to connect with a prospect using a direct line compared to 24 minutes when dialing through switchboards. And our research found sales professionals are 146% more likely to connect with an executive when calling a direct line!

If you’re just going down a long list of leads, you might as well be shooting arrows into the dark. Instead, take the time to identify the best companies you want to work with, using criteria like industry, company size and revenue, and rank them.

Look beyond LinkedIn job titles and identify prospects based on their responsibilities.

Direct lines are far more efficient and effective than switchboards. On average, it takes 5 minutes to connect with a prospect using a direct line compared to 24 minutes when dialing through switchboards. And our research found sales professionals are 146% more likely to connect with an executive when calling a direct line!

ProTip
Use tools such as DiscoverOrg, TowerData, KiteDesk  and ZoomInfo to find direct lines.

Starting the Conversation

Any experienced sales professional understands the importance of researching your prospects before picking up the phone. Yet many still don’t know how to start the conversation.

Your sales professionals need to give prospects a valuable piece of information that will resonate with them. Talk about a trend that’s affecting their role or their industry. You’ll be much more likely to get their attention, even if they’re not actively buying.

Fact:According to LinkedIn research, 74% of the time, buyers select the vendor that is the first to provide value and insight.
Fact:Only three percent of the people in your prospecting universe are actively looking for a solution you provide, according to research by CHI. If you’re only talking about features and benefits, you’re offering nothing to the other 97%.

Overcoming Objections In Sales Calls

“What is this about? Is this a sales call?”

When a prospect objects, it might be tempting to give a diplomatic response or flat-out ignore it and get right back to a script. Instead, acknowledge the objection and address it honestly. Then, take the opportunity to provide value using your research.

For instance:
“I would never try to sell you on [product/service] on a two-minute call, but I noticed…”

If your prospect tells you they’re already working with a competitor, respectfully address why it might be a good time to evaluate alternatives. Don’t bash the competition.

Comprehensive Guide to Cold Calling

Want more cold calling techniques?

Check out this comprehensive guide. 
DOWNLOAD

Sales Prospecting Emails

In the mid 1800s, the average person was lucky to receive a letter once every two weeks. People spent hours crafting those letters. They would be intensely personal and read with great anticipation. Today, the average person receives 121 emails each day, according to the most recent data from Campaign Monitor.

How many of those emails do you read with great anticipation?

Email is still an effective prospecting tool, but it’s become so overused, it’s no wonder many of us delete the majority of our emails without even opening them.

If you want your sales team to send the kind of emails that stand out, they have to have these four elements.
Sales Prospecting Emails

Here’s a good example of a prospecting email that has been successful for us at Funnel Clarity.

Note the subject line includes a personal detail. The email addresses their role and mentions one of the challenges in that role. It mentions hiring and planning for next year’s initiatives, which adds a sense of urgency. It closes with a clear request for a meeting next week.

Both the subject line and opening are unique to a recent event for the recipient
Personalized to include a current initiative
Relevant to their work identity
Wow, that's something I need to consider. I wonder how they can help.
Building a case to meet soon
Both the subject line and opening are unique to a recent event for the recipient
From: Tyler Vance
To: olivia@Company.com
Subject: congrats/9-year anniversary

Olivia –
I noticed you recently got promoted last month and you’re celebrating your 9-year anniversary with Company—congrats. I did some homework and found out Company is in the market for Lead Development Reps. I understand you’re overseeing the demand gen strategy.

We’ve been speaking with a lot of marketers who are telling us they aren’t completely satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why, they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products/services and internal systems and
processes - they just don’t have enough time to cover skills training.

For that reason, Funnel Clarity has spent the past 10+ years researching the first half of the sales process. The research has resulted in best practices that our clients use to uncover/qualify opportunities on an initial contact to a potential client.

Since you’re hiring and many of our clients say now is when they start planning for next year’s initiatives, I’d like to share our research and how it helps sellers develop and manage their funnel. What’s your availability this week?


Tyler
Personalized to include a current initiative
From: Tyler Vance
To: olivia@Company.com
Subject: congrats/9-year anniversary

Olivia –
I noticed you recently got promoted last month and you’re celebrating your 9-year anniversary with Company—congrats. I did some homework and found out Company is in the market for Lead Development Reps. I understand you’re overseeing the demand gen strategy.

We’ve been speaking with a lot of marketers who are telling us they aren’t completely satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why, they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products/services and internal systems and
processes - they just don’t have enough time to cover skills training.

For that reason, Funnel Clarity has spent the past 10+ years researching the first half of the sales process. The research has resulted in best practices that our clients use to uncover/qualify opportunities on an initial contact to a potential client.

Since you’re hiring and many of our clients say now is when they start planning for next year’s initiatives, I’d like to share our research and how it helps sellers develop and manage their funnel. What’s your availability this week?


Tyler
Relevant to their work identity
From: Tyler Vance
To: olivia@Company.com
Subject: congrats/9-year anniversary

Olivia –
I noticed you recently got promoted last month and you’re celebrating your 9-year anniversary with Company—congrats. I did some homework and found out Company is in the market for Lead Development Reps. I understand you’re overseeing the demand gen strategy.

We’ve been speaking with a lot of marketers who are telling us they aren’t completely satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why, they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products/services and internal systems and
processes - they just don’t have enough time to cover skills training.

For that reason, Funnel Clarity has spent the past 10+ years researching the first half of the sales process. The research has resulted in best practices that our clients use to uncover/qualify opportunities on an initial contact to a potential client.

Since you’re hiring and many of our clients say now is when they start planning for next year’s initiatives, I’d like to share our research and how it helps sellers develop and manage their funnel. What’s your availability this week?


Tyler
Wow, that's something I need to consider. I wonder how they can help.
From: Tyler Vance
To: olivia@Company.com
Subject: congrats/9-year anniversary

Olivia –
I noticed you recently got promoted last month and you’re celebrating your 9-year anniversary with Company—congrats. I did some homework and found out Company is in the market for Lead Development Reps. I understand you’re overseeing the demand gen strategy.

We’ve been speaking with a lot of marketers who are telling us they aren’t completely satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why, they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products/services and internal systems and
processes - they just don’t have enough time to cover skills training.

For that reason, Funnel Clarity has spent the past 10+ years researching the first half of the sales process. The research has resulted in best practices that our clients use to uncover/qualify opportunities on an initial contact to a potential client.

Since you’re hiring and many of our clients say now is when they start planning for next year’s initiatives, I’d like to share our research and how it helps sellers develop and manage their funnel. What’s your availability this week?


Tyler
Building a case to meet soon
From: Tyler Vance
To: olivia@Company.com
Subject: congrats/9-year anniversary

Olivia –
I noticed you recently got promoted last month and you’re celebrating your 9-year anniversary with Company—congrats. I did some homework and found out Company is in the market for Lead Development Reps. I understand you’re overseeing the demand gen strategy.

We’ve been speaking with a lot of marketers who are telling us they aren’t completely satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why, they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products/services and internal systems and
processes - they just don’t have enough time to cover skills training.

For that reason, Funnel Clarity has spent the past 10+ years researching the first half of the sales process. The research has resulted in best practices that our clients use to uncover/qualify opportunities on an initial contact to a potential client.

Since you’re hiring and many of our clients say now is when they start planning for next year’s initiatives, I’d like to share our research and how it helps sellers develop and manage their funnel. What’s your availability this week?


Tyler
Prospecting Emails Perfected

Prospecting email examples you or your team can start using right away.

Check out this helpful resource.
DOWNLOAD
ProTip
Amplify your efforts by using a social selling
platform like Social Horsepower.

Sales Prospecting Metrics

Average sales teams make a certain number of calls each month and hope for the best. They write off what they can’t control and attribute it to a “bad month” or a “weak” business climate. The best sales teams—the Navy SEALs of lead generation—focus relentlessly on the outputs they can control. 

Funnel Clarity’s own research shows what the top five percent of sales development representatives (SDRs) do differently:

  •  They make an average of 608.9 calls per week (120.8 calls per day);
  • They add 57 new contacts to their call list per week (11.4 contacts per day);
  • They schedule 6.7 meetings per week;
  • At least 81.6% of their active contacts have direct lines;
  • At least 95.4% of their active contacts have pre-call research in their contact records;
  • They use auto-dialing and sales intelligence technology to be more efficient;
  • They use LinkedIn and business intelligence data to actively research prospects, prioritize them and prepare personalized talking points so they can make the best use of their time and their prospects’ time.
These sales prospecting metrics are a good benchmark for what it takes to consistently achieve the highest sales numbers. However, effective prospecting is more than just a numbers game. Your SDRs need to do more than just put in the work. They need to have the right approach.

Why Even Seasoned Pros Need Sales Prospecting Training

Chances are, your best sales professionals don’t need to be told to do these things. But many of them have been following the same playbook for so long that they don’t know what they don’t know. They still struggle to get past the gatekeepers and reach C-level professionals. They can’t objectively evaluate their own calls and emails. And their manager assumes they must know what they’re doing because they’ve been doing it for so long. 

 The fact is, everyone needs some level of training if they can ever hope to improve. 

They need to see how other sales professionals are successfully using new tactics to book the meetings that matter.

They need to understand the science and the data behind why some sales prospecting methods work better than others. They need to learn new skills they can start using right away, and they need the opportunity to practice those skills.

We don’t send surgeons away to a two-day summit to learn a new procedure and then expect them to perform it proficiently.

So why do we expect that of our sales professionals? 

A Proven Approach to Prospecting Training

Funnel Clarity offers in-person and online sales training to empower your team.

Our training combines research-based coursework and prospecting call examples with practical exercises your team can start applying right away.

Each training program can be completed in three weeks and includes four weeks of reinforcement materials. Your organization can customize the delivery of this training to meet the needs of your team, condensing the information into just a few short days or extending it over a longer period of time.

Our Persuasive Prospecting© and Persuasive Inquiry© training covers essential skills, including:

  • How to plan a successful prospecting call
  • How to write a “cold” email that intrigues prospects
  • The best way to analyze prospecting opportunities
  • How to reach decision makers and build rapport with them
  • How to listen attentively to your prospect’s needs
  • What questions to ask to influence buyers
mackbook
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Training also includes study groups, coaching resources for sales managers and more.

SEE THE COURSES
Ready to take your team from calling cold to striking gold?

Request a demo of our prospecting training today.