Sales prospecting is as important as it is challenging. Without it, your sales pipeline will dry up and leave you scrambling for a fresh batch of leads to work. Without a solid prospecting strategy, your sales pipeline will be full of potential leads that are more likely to drain your energy and morale than turn into customers. If this sounds like a familiar and frustrating situation, you’re not alone. You’re in sales.
Sales may always include more than your fair share of nos, but there are many ways you can improve your prospecting methods so you spend less time spinning your wheels and more time closing sales. We’ve gathered a list of prospecting obstacles that are common not only to the commercial real estate industry but to many industries. We’ve also proposed tactics to overcome them so you can get more wins.
6 Common Sales Prospecting Obstacles
Before we dive into tips on how to improve your sales prospecting methods, let’s explore common challenges that make sales prospecting hard in the first place. This is what we’ve found:
Lacking a targeted prospect list: One of the most common obstacles to successful sales prospecting is not having a well-defined list of potential customers. Without a targeted prospect list it is hard to direct your efforts and be effective. When this happens, you end up spending just as much time trying to figure out who to contact as you do working leads.
Lacking time for prospecting: Sales development reps tend to be pulled in many directions, so it’s easy to feel like there is not enough time in the day. Follow-up calls, running demos, answering emails, doing research and creating proposals can leave you with little time to refill your sales pipeline.
Struggling to identify and get in front of decision-makers: Identifying decision-makers is critical for successful prospecting, but it’s not always easy to do. And even if you know who the key decision maker is, you still have to get in front of them. It is not always easy to find contact information or get past gatekeepers, especially in larger organizations (find out how Biscred makes this easier for CRE prospecting).
Lacking personalization: An authentic approach is important when you reach out to a prospect. Having some insight into their business and pain points can quickly help you create an authentic connection, but that requires time (see #2) and information (see #3). This gets even more challenging if you have a large number of prospects on your call list (see #1!).
Difficulty overcoming objections: Sales development reps have to quickly identify and counter objections. While some objections may be common and predictable, counters that sound scripted and are not tailored to the prospect are likely to fall flat.
Difficulty establishing credibility and building trust: A viable contact list is great, but you still have to get the person on the receiving end to talk with you. Your prospects hear pitches all the time, from online ads and DMs to their overstuffed inboxes, so why should they talk with you?
Methods for Winning at Sales Prospecting
No matter how you look at it, sales prospecting isn’t for the faint of heart. Here are 5 ways to improve your sales prospecting strategies.
1. Create a process for identifying prospective CRE clients
Mapping out a process to guide your commercial real estate prospecting efforts will save you lots of time and frustration, especially for people on your sales team who are developing their prospecting skills. With a workflow, you never have to wonder “What’s next?” because you have mapped your process. Your process should be individualized to your organization, but consider having a simple daily and weekly process, along with workflows for how you identify prospects and work leads.
For example, you may spend mornings on calls and afternoons on research. Maybe Monday through Wednesday you work new leads, saving Thursday and Friday for follow-ups. However you set it up, a mapped process can quickly make it seem like you have more hours in a day.
Your workflows for working leads can also free up time and make you far more effective. These should be individualized, but here is an example of what a pre-contact workflow may look like:
Create the ideal prospect profile.
Identify potential prospects that fit the profile using trusted sources of information and filtering out irrelevant data. For instance, Biscred customers use Criteria Search filters to create their ideal prospects’ profiles.
Create a short list of viable leads with personalized company information about each to inform your conversations.
Send your initial communication or make your introductory call.
Take notes using a template you create to make sure you capture the same, pertinent information from every prospect you talk with.
Set up a follow-up call with any details you need and move the lead to your post-contact workflow.
Don’t overlook the importance of templates. By creating templates that you can quickly personalize for communications and common requests, you can speed up repetitive tasks.
2. Target your prospect list
A targeted prospect list allows you to focus your efforts on leads that are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer. This prevents you from sinking time into leads that are unlikely to do anything other than take up your time and energy.
When you’re able to use smart datasets that cull through prospect lists based on parameters you set, you can spend more time crafting a personalized approach that resonates with your prospects and improves your overall sales performance. Your targeted list should focus on your ideal prospect profile and leverage the tools and resources you have available.
The smarter your dataset, the better your targeted prospects.
3. Become a pro at overcoming objections
There are dozens of objections and dozens of ways to successfully counter them, but only if you’re prepared. While some objections may be the end of the road, many can be worked around to the benefit of the prospect (and you). Your goal is to have answers for objections, deftly provide them and move the conversation forward. For example, you should have several answers for common objections like “I don’t know how this will benefit me” and “The timing isn’t right.”
Instead of having scripted retorts to objections, create a list of talking points. The talking points allow you to naturally tailor your responses to your prospect’s objections.
As a sales pro, you also have to understand the meaning behind an objection. For instance, when someone says the cost is too high it might mean the price point is truly out of reach, but not always. Sometimes this type of statement means they cannot see the value provided, therefore the cost seems too high. Your job is to read between the lines, have answers ready, and get the heart of the objection.
4. Know when to move on (AKA ‘read the room’)
Courting prospects is a lot like dating. Sometimes, they’re just not that into you, but for whatever reason, we hold onto a glimmer of hope.
Some leads are never going to convert, but that doesn’t stop some salespeople from keeping them in the pipeline. When you keep these types of prospects in rotation, you prevent yourself from moving on to more promising leads. Stop wasting time.
A lead-scoring process separates unlikely-to-convert leads from qualified leads, so you can cut wasted time. Here are a few questions that can help you separate prospects that may convert from those unlikely to move forward in the sales process:
Did they take your call because they have an identified need or urgent timeline?
Do they have a budget now or will they have it in the near future?
Is the timing right on their side or are they window-shopping?
Do their pain points align with your solutions?
What are their expectations?
Your list may be different, but the goal is to quickly determine the viability of the prospect. Some sales tools like Salesforce and Hubspot have built-in lead-scoring features that let you define the criteria. For example, if a prospect has no budget or your solutions aren’t aligned with their pain points, their low scores would remove them from your lead list. Lead scoring allows you to let data drive your decision-making, so you know when to move on from unlikely prospects and follow up on warm and hot prospects.
5. Ask for referrals … without looking desperate
Just like your prospects can be lead-scored, your customers can also be promoter-scored. How many times have you been asked to provide feedback after a service experience? “Based on a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us?” That is called a net promoter score (NPS), and it’s often used for business development teams when they reach out to existing customers to solicit referrals.
Your happy clients are more than evidence of your success; they are potential lead-generators. Asking clients for referrals is standard practice, as well as a great way to get viable leads into your pipeline. This too can be automated through email workflows or platforms like Salesforce and Hubspot.
There’s no doubt about it, sales prospecting is a challenge that directly impacts your success. If you do it well, you will see better conversions and close more deals. If you struggle with it, you are more likely to feel like you’re spinning your wheels. The good news is that successful sales prospecting isn’t magic; it comes down to having a process that you follow and repeat. These tips can help you improve your prospecting so that you have a thriving book of business instead of an empty sales pipeline.