A bloke called Natsu Dragneel said that ‘the beginning is always the hardest’. And he definitely wasn’t wrong.
Every salesperson and their mother has a gazillion of different lead nurturing strategies - the internet is filled with those; you just need to find the one that works for your crowd. The question is - where to find a crowd to begin with?
According to research, 42% of sales reps consider prospecting to be the most challenging stage of the sale process.
Prospecting can be a real tough nut to crack. For it to be successful and bring your business profit in the end, you need to put a lot of thought and effort into it.
Don’t panic though. NetHunt is a certified nutcracker when it comes to particularly tough nuts like prospecting. We have it all sorted, and are aching to share our ways with you!
What Is Prospecting?
Prospecting is the process of locating and qualifying customers who would potentially be interested in your product and, granted adequate nurturing, would eventually purchase it.
According to Rain Group, it takes an average salesperson 8 touches to get through and generate a conversion. Top Performers, on the other hand, can convert a prospect in 5 touches.
Any sales cycle shorter than that, however, is an anomaly. You need multiple follow-ups to attract your prospect’s attention and bring your message across. In fact, the best way to tackle prospecting is to build a prospecting sequence.
Why Do You Need a Prospecting Sequence?
A prospecting sequence (also known as a cadence) is a detailed and well-structured step-by-step plan of prospecting activities in order to convert a contact into a lead.
The reasons for creating a prospecting sequence are very straightforward and surface-level, but with deep-rooted benefits for your sales process:
- Building a prospecting sequence allows you to bring order to your prospecting and, therefore, know exactly where you stand and which steps you need to take next.
- Building a prospecting sequence allows you to streamline your prospecting process - instead of committing to a single activity, you can execute multiple activities simultaneously.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Prospecting Sequence
The whole process of building a prospecting sequence can be broken down into three major stages:
- Planning the sequence
- Building the sequence
- Executing the sequence
Each of these stages consists of several steps that you need to take in order for your prospecting sequence to be successful and generate conversions. Let’s have a closer look at what exactly you’re expected to do.
The Planning Stage
A good plan is the key to success, so before you get down to the actual prospecting sequence building and execution processes, it’s important to map it all out.
At this stage, you need to set clear goals for your future prospecting sequence so that you could be more specific in your subsequent actions and have an opportunity to benchmark your results against the prospecting expectations.
One of the most actionable pieces of advice you need to consider when planning out your cadence is to think about why you’re really doing all of this. Instead of focusing on a single positive result that is scheduling a qualified sales meeting, come up with a bunch of different outcomes and contemplate how each of them is going to affect your sales. For your prospecting sequence to be a success, you need to be prepared for different situations - regardless of whether or not you manage to get a new customer in the end, your efforts shouldn’t be in vain.
That’s why you need to go deeper and ask yourself an array of questions. For instance:
- Who are you trying to convert with your action? What types of people are you most interested in targeting when building a prospecting sequence?
- What outcome is desired, and which one is still acceptable? What are you hoping your prospect will take away from the messaging if you fail to establish a two-sided conversation with them?
- Do you prioritise lead nurturing or do you want to get a meeting straightaway?
These questions will help you better understand what you’re seeking to achieve with your prospecting sequence and, therefore, better coordinate your subsequent efforts.
Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience
The prospecting pool is vast - there are lots of people who could potentially be interested in your organisation and the products you offer. However, not all of them are a match made in heaven for your business. In fact, the results of the study conducted by Marc Wayshak suggest that over half of all the prospects you can potentially draw into your sales funnel aren’t actually a good fit for what you’re trying to sell.
If you want to increase your chances of success, you need to identify your ideal customer profile. To do this, you can tap into the customer database that you already have and analyse the profiles of people in there.
- Who are your top five customers?
- Who are your worst five customers?
- Who are your most profitable customers?
- Which ones are the least profitable?
Create profiles for each of these groups based on the traits they share. This will allow you to identify your specific target audience and compile a hyper-targeted list of the contacts most suitable for prospecting. Essentially, at this step, you determine the entry point for your sequence.
According to Sales Gravy, the most optimal number of prospects per targeted list is 10 to 25 people. Anything above that would make it challenging for the sales rep to focus and provide prospects with a truly personalised experience.
Some of the aspects you need to consider when profiling your prospects include:
- Industry verticals
- Roles and positions
- Competitor and conquest accounts
- Identified buying windows
- Opportunity size
Step 2: Define the Key Characteristics of Your Sequence
Once you have your ideal customer profile, you can start identifying the key characteristics of your future prospecting sequence. Think of how and where you can meet your ‘best’ customers; what is important to them; and what kind of outreach they would value the most.
Based on that, you can focus on ensuring that the sequence you’re planning on building is either:
- Automatic or manual
- Call-heavy or email-dominant
- Personalised or fairly generic and pre-scripted
- High-level entry or lower-level entry
Step 3: Choose the Relevant Outreach Channels for Your Prospecting Sequence
After determining who you’re talking to, it should be pretty easy to see which outreach channels would work best in the given situation.
🔥 NetHunt Pro Tip: For the best results, adopt a multi-channel approach to prospect sequencing.
It’s recommended that you include different communication channels into your sequence as it’s one of the key conditions to bending the statistical probability in your favour. By adding several channels into the mix, you increase your chances of meeting prospects where they are and how they prefer to communicate.
Be careful, though! You need to pay close attention to the skills that your sales reps already possess as a tiny percentage of people are actually Jacks of All Trades. Naturally, sales reps are more comfortable with one of the channels, so they can end up ignoring the rest. It’s your responsibility to provide adequate training so that no communication channel is left behind.
Simultaneously, no matter how hard you try to keep your prospecting sequence balanced out with different channels, there will still be one of the channels that appear the most. That’s why you need to evaluate the pros and cons of different ones and decide on the most appropriate one:
1. Cold Emails. Cold emails are a great way to connect with prospects as cold emailing is scalable - you can reach hundreds or even thousands of people with a single email. At the same time, however, you need to be careful with these as everyone is using them and you risk getting lost in your prospect’s inbox.
🔥 NetHunt Pro Tip: To become a pro at cold emailing, read our article that covers the basics of writing an effective cold email; and check out this post with the insights and best practices from the sales experts.
2. Cold Calls. Speaking over the phone is a great way of getting your message across - thanks to the one-on-one nature of cold calling, you can overcome objections on the spot. In fact, sellers say that ‘using the phone represents three of the top five most effective prospecting tactics’. [Source: RainSalesTraining] Speaking with a prospect has the highest potential to lead to a scheduled meeting. However, because of how time-consuming cold calling is (it requires a high volume of “no answer” calls), it’s not very scalable.
🔥 NetHunt Pro Tip: Give this article a read to find some tips and templates for heating up the hotline!
3. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is prospecting heaven, we’ve raved about this on multiple occasions. Partially because of the very nature of the platform, partially, thanks to its InMails feature. According to LinkedIn, when comparing InMails and emails with exactly the same content, InMails has a 300% higher hit rate for generating prospects’ responses. Moreover, LinkedIn is amazing for social selling and can help you to stay on top of your prospects’ minds. The only downside of this communication channel is that it’s far less scalable than emails, and sometimes - although it’s very unlikely - your prospects might not be on this platform.
🔥 NetHunt Pro Tip: Use relevant tools and extensions like NetHunt CRM LinkedIn Integration to improve your LinkedIn prospecting.
The Building Stage
Once you have a solid plan of actions, it’s time to get down to business and start building your prospecting sequence. At this stage, we’re tackling the questions of the sequence’s duration, frequency, number of touchpoints and overall structure.
Step 4: Decide on the Timeframe of the Sequence
Depending on your goal, persona, company size, the proximity of future buying windows, and many other factors you’ve identified at the previous stage, the start and the end date of your prospecting sequence, the timeframe, will vary.
The most popular choices here are:
- Two Weeks
- Three Weeks
Usually, when you’re targeting large accounts that have stakeholders that are difficult to engage, you’re required to build a longer sequence, while prospects with shorter sales cycles can be engaged with a shorter sequence.
As a rule of thumb, the longer your sequence is, the less flexibility you have with it. On the other hand, short sequences are more prone to ‘bad timing’ as your prospects can be affected by seasonal business changes or simply be OOO for the period.
Either way, it’s recommended that you run several A/B tests to identify the optimal length for each particular group of prospects.
Step 5: Decide on the Number of Touches (Overall and Per Channel)
Then, when you have your communication channels all set and know the optimal timeline for your sequence, you need to decide on the number of touches you want to make throughout your cadence. How many calls, emails, and LinkedIn touches will it take to get a response from the prospects?
There are many different combinations that you can settle on, depending on your sequence’s characteristics. One thing that you need to remember is that the ultimate goal of any prospecting cadence is to increase the probability of engaging prospects, without harming your brand reputation by them viewing you as spammers.
There needs to be a perfect balance between the overall number of touches you are planning to use and how they are distributed across different communication channels. Here are a couple of examples of what your touches schemes can look like:
- 4-3-2 = Phone 4x, Email 3x, Video Message 2x
- 5-4-3-2-1 = Phone 5x, Email 4x, LinkedIn 3x, In-person 2x, Video Message 1x
- 3-3-3-1 = Phone 3x, Email 3x, LinkedIn 3x, In-person 1x
The same way you would A/B test the optimal duration of the sequence, it’s also recommended you try out different combinations of touches to find the one that works best for your target audience.
Step 6: Decide on the Frequence of Touches
After you know the overall number of touches for your perfect prospecting sequence, you also need to schedule them in the most efficient way - you need to decide on the frequency of your communication with prospects.
Usually, there’s a direct correlation between the frequency of your communication and the urgency to connect with a particular prospect.
However, there are some baseline rules to follow:
- Don’t be overly aggressive. Even if you’re very eager to reach out to your contact, restrain from sending multiple messages across different channels in a single day.
- Inbound sequences should consist of a high frequency of touches.
- Cold outbound sequences should go from low frequency to high frequency back to low.
Step 7: Craft the Message that Converts for Each Touch
Depending on the goal of each touch you include in your sequence, you need to create a relevant message with the appropriate information and a clear CTA. It’s essential to make each of your interactions valuable and give your prospects a direction regarding the next steps you expect them to take.
It’s not just the message that matters, it’s also the communication channel you choose to use to convey that message. You need to ensure that each message is appropriate for the particular channel. For example:
- Phone: A phone call is your most potent asset; if you manage to engage your prospect straightaway - the chances of you converting them are higher than when using alternative communication channels. That’s why you need to play a trump card - centre your message around the two main pain points your prospect has and let them decide on the topic to cover in detail.
- Email: Email is a great medium for keeping information dosed. You can set up a drip campaign and arrange your emails in such a way that each subsequent drip covers a single specific value proposition or challenge your product helps to solve.
- LinkedIn: Being a social media platform, LinkedIn is perfect for more casual outreach. You can step away from formalities and be a bit friendlier and relaxed in your messages. LinkedIn direct mail is a great way to spark a two-sided conversation, so you can even include questions for your prospects here.
While your understanding of appropriate content for your messages can be different, whatever you do, remember that you’re contacting prospects to meet their needs and not yours. You need to craft a message that would be compelling to them and would gauge their interest.
Step 8: Structure the Sequence
Finally, when all the other components are ready, you need to put them in the right order. Think of the best combination of different touches, different messages and how to arrange them in such a way that they flow seamlessly and naturally.
The whole point of a prospecting sequence is to enable continuous, coherent outreach that unfolds as time goes.
Here’s an example of a prospecting sequence outline from Kyle Vamvouris:
The Execution Stage
Hurray! You’ve made it this far! By now, you should already have everything you need for the prospecting sequence ready (including its structure), and it’s time for one last push.
Step 9: Pick a Reliable Tool for Your Outreach and Set Off the Sequence
For your prospecting sequence to be successful, you need to make sure it’s well-organised - there’s no room for mistakes. That’s why the last step you’re going to take is to employ a reliable CRM system and a sales automation tool.
You want to keep track of all the communication between you and your prospect and ensure that it’s timely, coherent and consistent.
I’m pretty sure that I know the perfect tool for that. You guessed it right! NetHunt CRM allows you to make your prospecting sequence more orderly and automate your email sequences. Thanks to the ‘Workflows’ feature, you can set up an advanced campaign that will help you convert prospects into leads!
Moreover, thanks to the reporting feature, you can keep track of the performance of your sequence. It’s easy to see what techniques work well and which need to be amended for better results.
Prospecting might not be an easy task, but when you already have a list of prospects, the real fun part of sales starts. So get down to the business and don’t miss out on revenue!