Sales Prospecting Definition: What, Why, and How?

Prospecting is an essential part of successful sales. Understand the Sales prospecting definition and why it's important for your business.

Ah, sales prospecting. It’s one of the things that, in spite of the thorough guides and research, most of us are terrible at. Whether you’re brand new to dales, or a battle scarred industry veteran, it’s incredibly likely you’ve engaged in some form of prospecting. The question, though, is are you good at it?

Data has shown that a rep’s prospecting capability is directly related to their success in sales. So this question has become more and more relevant as companies watch their forecasts fall short and lose reps to performance-related issues.

There’s no shortage of reps fighting for buyer attention - millions are contributing to the top-of-funnel activity. If you check LinkedIn you’ll find over 1.5 million reps with those titles, and that’s barely scratching the surface.

Thus, whether it’s a SDR/BDR/ADR/whatever your company calls sales support, or AE/Sales Rep that closes the deal, everyone on your sales team should be spending time prospecting. Why? Because there are plenty of ways to be better at sales, but only a few to be great at it.

What Is Sales Prospecting?

Sales Prospecting Definition: The search for potential customers or buyers.

At a high level, the concept of sales prospecting is about as simple as they come, right? Find potential buyers to engage them. Yet, there have been thousands of articles, books, videos, and podcasts dedicated to this subject. The reason: Prospecting is simple in theory, and vastly complicated in practice.

The term prospecting in sales strategy consulting comes from the gold rush and the idea that people would search through piles of useless garbage looking for that one gold nugget that would make it all worth it.

Why You Need Sales Prospecting?

In essence, a company requires only 1 thing: a product/good/service. In order for a company to succeed, someone has to sell a product that somebody else wants to buy. The relationship between the buyer and seller is a tale as old as time, and for good reason.

The Rain Group, a B2B sales consultancy in Boston, studied nearly 500 buyers and sellers in relation to prospecting. They found some incredible data that highlights the absolute importance in sifting through rocks to find gold. Here are a two key findings:

  • 82% of buyers take meetings with sellers
  • 71% of buyers want to hear from sellers early in the buying process.

To break that down, 82% of buyers have actively admitted they will take a meeting with a seller even if they didn’t know their product existed. Secondly, 71% wanted to hear from the seller before they make a decision.

Imagine, in a perfect world, you have a product and 10 people to sell to that have never heard of your product before. Would you feel satisfied if 2 of those people sought you out, knowing there were 8 other people that would have taken a meeting if you asked? Now imagine 7 of those 8 wanted you to tell them about your product, but you sat in the corner and spent all of your energy on those 2 that came directly to you, ignoring everyone else because it was easier this way.You might have made 2 sales, but there were 8 more on the table that you neglected.

As John Barrows put it - “A big fat pipeline solves most problems.” (Seriously though, what is up with Boston and their sales leaders being excellent).

Let’s remove the hypotheticals now and look at HOW this mindset directly contributes to success (or lack of) in sales.

According to The Bridge Group, a Sales Development Consultancy also out of Boston, 28% of AE pipeline is sourced by Marketing, leaving 72% to Sales. They also found that 64% of AEs are supported by SDRs, yet only 25% of pipeline is generated by SDRs on average.

For all of you that didn’t grow up around Harvard, that leaves 47% of pipeline responsibility to the AE.

Statistically speaking, if you’re on a team of 10 reps, more than 3 of you (68%) won’t hit quota. The Rain Group also found that 44% of low-mid level prospectors don’t hit quota. By those numbers, you only have a 38% chance of breaking quota if you’re not an exceptional prospector.

If your career is on the line, those odds are certainly not in your favor.

How To Approach: The Right Mindset

They say the first step to recovery is acceptance. In sales, the first step to recovery is accepting that success and prospecting are tied hand in hand. You may not love it, but you should probably start to try.

According to The Rain Group, 66% of sales leaders agree that their organization doesn’t dedicate enough time or energy to prospecting. The data shows a clear relationship between mindset and success when it comes to prospecting and sales.

When the Rain Group surveyed those 500 sellers, they broke them down into two categories - ‘Top Performers’ and ‘The Rest’. Take a look at the data and tell me if you see a connection:

  • 73% of Top Performers enjoy prospecting vs 49% of The Rest,
  • 80% of Top Performers say they feel energized after prospecting vs 52% of The Rest,
  • Only 20% Top Performers say prospecting is the least appealing part of their role vs 37% of The Rest.

By the numbers, it’s clear that there is a significant difference in mindset between top sales development platform and others. Viewing sales prospecting as a means to success won’t only affect your mindset but will also impact your success. Hence, before you even think about prospecting another rep, the most important thing you can do for yourself is accept that not only is prospecting necessary, but it’s crucial to your success, and learning to enjoy it will have a huge impact on how well you do in your role.

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