Selling Power Blog

News & Insights for B2B Sales Leaders

September 25, 2023

Rediscovering Effective Sales Prospecting

By Julie Thomas, President and CEO, ValueSelling Associates
An animated man in a suit holds up a magnifying glass.

Using effective sales prospecting techniques to fill the pipeline with qualified opportunities has always been one of the most challenging aspects of the sales process.

For years, revenue engines depended on the work of SDRs and BDRs to find and qualify prospects before handing those opportunities over. And it worked – until it didn’t.

While many revenue teams have changed tactics and are making prospecting the responsibility of multiple roles across the revenue engine, this has revealed another problem: Many salespeople have forgotten how to prospect. 

The good news is that there’s a proven method for setting more meetings and adding more qualified opportunities. This is a topic I cover extensively in my new book, The Power of Value Selling: The Gold Standard to Drive Revenue and Create Customers for Life, and I want to give you a high-level overview – along with proven techniques that will serve everyone on your team, from early-career SDRs to seasoned account executives.

We all know how to prospect more effectively: the right message, at the right time, to the right person, and the commitment to consistently put in the work day in and day out. Yet we’re inevitably tempted to find that one hack that promises to make this all easy and predictable. We fall into the trap of thinking, “If only I had a better email template or the phone script to rule all phone scripts!” or, “Maybe a dialer is the only thing I’m missing?”

Don’t get me wrong – you’ll likely see a marginal lift from the above. And it will be just that…marginal. To transform your sales prospecting results, you must make small tweaks like the above examples and apply them to a proven sales prospecting framework.

Sales Prospecting Mindset

Make no mistake – the mindset of your sales team is the single most important variable in this whole equation. Start by emphasizing the importance of focus, confidence, and mindfulness:

  • Focus: Salespeople should block off non-negotiable time on their calendars and stick to it! After all, if they don’t respect this time, why should others?
  • Confidence: Are your teams confident they’re prepared to add value at every opportunity? If they don’t believe it, don’t expect prospects to.
  • Mindfulness: Tone and body language convey as much information as the words themselves. Physicality matters, so encourage your sellers to find an energizing position and to smile even when the prospect can’t see their face.

Strategically Crafted, Multi-Channel Cadences

Aside from your mindset, step one is always, always research. If you’ve done the right research, you’ll have insight into the prospect’s industry/role and their company’s market position and financials – and you’ll have a solid understanding of likely business challenges on their radar. What you do not (and cannot) know is their preferred communication method. That’s where strategic sales prospecting cadences come in.

The proven ValueSelling approach is built on a strategic, multi-channel framework and based on the mere-exposure effect: the psychological phenomenon responsible for converting familiarity into preference. This helps you build familiarity and eventually break through the noise.

Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll send out five emails in a week and call three times the following Thursday. This is a strategic approach that mixes communication channels and creates a whirlwind of value-added activity that’s difficult to ignore.

Constructing Prospecting Cadences

Sales cadences are the conductor of your outreach – they’ll determine which types of messages go out when and across which platforms. Like so many things in sales, effective cadences begin with research and value. The ideal cadence will vary based on the prospect’s industry and role, and the first few touches should always be heavy on value and insight.

Build your cadences using a mix of phone calls, social media actions, InMail messages, emails, and voicemails. The first few touches should be focused on thought leadership and sharing valuable content.

When building these cadences out, fall back on your research. For instance, research by LinkedIn shows that potential buyers are 65% more likely to accept InMail if they switched jobs within the past 90 days. With these prospects, it’s a safe bet to start with InMail. On the other hand, if your primary prospects are manufacturing leaders, your best bet might be a phone call.

Respectful and personalized persistence is critical. To stay top of mind, never go more than five business days between touches – and remember that a typical cadence involves 15 to 17 attempts across 20 to 24 days.

Never overlook the importance of relevant messaging, either. For instance, do your sellers know the prospect’s company well enough to list out the CEO’s top three initiatives for Q4, the company’s latest product news, or if they recently implemented new technology?

Sellers must develop the knowledge to present themselves as problem experts who are showing up to solve business challenges. One way to demonstrate expertise is to share third-party content – relevant to your prospect’s challenges – that establishes you as a subject-matter expert. Another effective tool is the value-based story that details how your company has helped similar individuals and companies in the past. These two methods can be used together to demonstrate relevance and build credibility – because, ultimately, buyers spend their time wisely before spending their money wisely.

Overall, the key to effective sales prospecting is consistency. By never going more than five business days between touches, sales professionals will ensure they stay top of mind and significantly increase their odds of connecting. And never forget the importance of setting expectations: Most salespeople have to walk the tightrope between managing the pipeline and filling it. Ensure that expectations are set between manager and reps to allow for success in both.

Headshot of Julie Thomas

Today's blog post is by Julie Thomas. She is President and CEO of ValueSelling Associates.