How to build a high-converting prospecting process
Hi! In this week’s post I walk through the basics of creating a high-converting prospecting process. Prospecting is a component of the overall sales process and its goal is to generate meetings with prospective buyers who are qualified to buy your product. The key to making it high-converting is to focus on quality over quantity.
There are two major phases to the prospecting process:
Setup—this is the work you do up front to prepare your salespeople for success. It spans 3 components; the Ideal Customer Profile, the Target Account List and your Unique Insights.
Execution—this is the repeatable process that enables your salespeople to generate meetings with qualified prospects. It spans 4 stages; Research, Outreach, Validate and Schedule Call.
Here’s how the Setup and Execution phases and their components all fit together.
Let’s break down the 3 components in the Setup phase:
The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a description of the company profile, buyer personas and example questions to ask the buyer on the first call. The more specific you make your ICP, the more focused you will be on companies who have the problem you solve, and the higher-converting your prospecting process will be. For a deeper dive into this topic see my earlier post on how to create an ICP for your business.
The Target Account List is the list of companies and contacts that match your ICP, based on external signals such as a 3rd party business database or first party usage data in your product that identifies companies, or a crawler you built to scrape websites. The more you limit the number of companies on your target account list, the higher-converting your prospecting process will be, because you force yourself to focus on those with the strongest external signals. A best practice is to limit the size of your list to 10x the size of your current customer base, so if you have 25 customers today you don’t want to prospect more than 250 companies at the same time. If you are finding it hard to limit the size of your list its a good sign that you need to make your ICP more specific.
The Unique Insights are data points that connect the dots between using your product and achieving a business outcome. Sharing unique insights is the key to connecting with senior executives because data and insights are the currency of decision making for senior executives. The more relevant your unique insights, the higher converting your prospecting process will be and the most relevant insights are always those that relate to industries, competitors or the prospect company itself. For some ideas on how to construct these check out my post on how to engage senior executives with provocative insights.
OK, with the 3 components of the Setup built out, let’s move onto the Execution phase. As a reminder, there are four stages to the Execution phase: Research, Outreach, Validate and Schedule Call, and within each stage are 3 components:
Goal—describes the outcome that you want your salespeople to achieve out of the stage.
Actions—describes the best practices to follow and the content and tools to use in order to achieve the outcome.
Exit Criteria—describes what needs to be true in order to move to the next stage. If you don’t meet the exit criteria for a stage you hamper your ability to succeed in the subsequent stage. For the engineers among you, think of it like an API between systems, that fails gracefully.
Here’s an example Execution phase with a goal, a set of actions and exit criteria for each stage:
Here is some additional context for each stage:
Research—the goal is to find language that will resonate with the prospect, because when you reach out to someone with familiar language they are more likely to respond. The most repeatable things to look for are how a person describes their role, their responsibilities and their customers. For example, are they “head of” or are they “director of”; are they responsible for “partnerships” or “sales”; do they have “customers”, “clients” or “guests”…and so on. For more ideas on how to research a prospect check out my post on building a killer account plan.
Outreach—the goal is to find a way to connect and engage a prospect. The common way to do this is with a sequence of 4-5 messages across Email and LinkedIn (and telephone in certain industries). Each message needs to be Relevant (using the research from the previous stage), provide a Reward (using the unique insights from the Setup phase) and have a Request (e.g. “is this what you are seeing in your business?”, “is this something you’d like to explore further?”), and the sequence of messages should feel connected—an effective way to do this is by replying to your previous email to create a thread.
Validate—the goal is to make sure your assumptions about the contact and company are accurate, so that you don’t waste your time or the prospect’s time having a call. You can usually do this over email (e.g. “just wanted to confirm that you guys are still on GSuite and that you oversee all employee-facing systems”).
Schedule Call—the goal is get the contact on the phone or Zoom for a more detailed discovery call. Creating and sharing the agenda is a key activity, as it shows the prospect that you are prepared and investing time in them. If you’ve made it this far and want to get a head start on prepping for that call, check out my post on how to get your buyers to tell you what you need to know during discovery.
If you found this post useful, please share it! If you got forwarded this email, please subscribe! I post weekly about the common sales, marketing and leadership issues that hold back startups from growing faster.