The everlasting battle to sustain businesses always comes down to finding and successfully onboarding new clients. That’s why every business that’s aiming for growth should have a growth strategy in place. A strategy that’s based on X prospecting pillars.
There are, of course, a handful of quite fortunate businesses without the necessity of constantly being on the lookout for new clients. They may have a couple of clients that are paying extremely well for the businesses’ offering, so they are able to cover expenses over multiple months.
But this type of business and clients are the exception and not the rule. For the majority of us in the entrepreneurial and professional service-providing landscape, the reality is that we need to find, and convert prospects into paying clients to keep our businesses afloat.
So then comes the question – “How (and where) to proactively look for new prospects, and how to convert these prospects into paying clients?”
Well, I can assure you that it is NOT by yelling out loud “I provide [insert your service/product here], so buy my services/products!”, and expecting clients to magically come knocking at your door. If you want a shot-in-the-dark approach where you HOPE to find any potential client, then yes, you could try this.
But I firmly believe that there is a better way, a more structured, organized, and proactive approach of looking for the types of prospects that are ideal for you and your business, and converting them into sales-ready prospects.
At the center of this approach, is the driving force that makes any of this possible – relationship building.
But how do you build professional and business relationships, especially online? Do they even truly matter when it comes to finding clients?
In my 10+ years of experience working as B2B outreach consultant, serial entrepreneur, and growth enthusiast, I’ve discovered the 6 prospecting and outreach pillars to create your own constant stream of highly-targeted and (nearly) sales-ready prospects.
A better way to understand these 6 prospecting pillars is to think about them as steps or stages. Yes, they are quite potent on their own and can bring you many benefits, but the true power lies in merging the 6 prospecting pillars, thus creating one unparalleled, seamless, and streamlined process.
Pillar #1: Profiling Your Ideal Client
How certain are you that the prospects (almost sales-ready clients) you are targeting are actually the ones that are most interested in your products/services?
Well, to clear any dilemmas of this sort, you will have to define and profile your ideal client.
An Ideal Client Profile (or ICP for short) summarizes your ideal client’s traits. By knowing your ideal client’s traits, you will be able to target and approach them much better and interest them with your business offer.
But first, you need to define and profile:
- The industries your ideal client operates in,
- The type of companies your ideal client works in,
- The job positions your ideal client occupies within the companies they work in, and
- The best topics for starting professional conversations with your ideal client.
Pillar #2: Database creation as one of the key prospecting pillars
The second of the prospecting pillars is the creation of a constant flow of high-quality and (almost) sales-ready prospects – creating a database containing information about your ideal clients.
Creating an exceptional database is extremely important because not having a quality database of potential sales-ready prospects can seriously damage the results of your outreach, no matter what you do.
So, to ensure the creation of the best possible ideal client database, I’ve divided the database-creation process as one of the 6 prospecting pillars into a couple of steps:
- Database preparation,
- Prospecting (finding the right companies and people),
- Prospecting (finding the right contact information), and
- Database automation and quality control.
Before diving into the creation of the database, you have to decide which ideal client information is relevant for you. You might want to know the names and the positions of the people that you will be reaching out to, you might want to know the length of their employment in that position, or maybe the type of technology/software your ideal client company uses.
This information is the basis of your database on which everything is typically built upon.
Next, you should decide where to add the data – a Google spreadsheet? An Excel file? A CRM? Whatever is the most convenient to you, should be the pick.
Lastly, the database prep ends with the selection of some tools or web browser extensions that can augment the prospecting process.
Prospecting pillars (finding the right companies and people)
As I previously mentioned in the ICP section of this blog, you need to know your ideal client on a company and an employee level. This also translates to the database as one of the six prospecting pillars– you will need to find and add the most relevant companies and employees into your database.
Finding the right companies
The most success I’ve had with finding relevant companies for my databases was with LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator – the leading tool for finding companies, with its searchable database of 30 million companies.
If LinkedIn’s tool does not provide the results you were hoping for, worry not, as there are many other ways and places to find lists of companies representing your ideal client. Some of them are: Yellow Pages/Yelp, Google Maps, Associations or NGOs, Fairs and exhibitions, Government databases, Pre-existing databases that you can use: ZoomInfo, Hoovers, Crunchbase, and Angel.co are just a few.
Finding the right people
Once you’ve found and added the companies to your database, next, is finding the right people and converting them into sales-ready prospects. When I am looking for the right people for my databases, these approaches brought me the greatest results:
- Looking for the right people on LinkedIn (Sales Navigator),
- Inspecting my target company’s website – more specifically their “About Us”, “Contact Us” and “Meet the Team” pages,
- Google-ing the right person – ‘company name’ + ‘target position’.
Prospecting (finding the right contact information)
Knowing the people that are right for your business offering is one-half of the task – now you need to find a way to connect with them. This generally means finding out their business email or connecting with them via LinkedIn.
Below are the tried and tested strategies that helped me find my prospects’ right contact information:
Using pre-populated databases,
Checking out the company’s website, especially the regular About Us/Contact Us/Meet the Team pages,
Working out the email pattern that the company uses: Name.Surname@domain.com,
Google-ing the person’s contact information – “person’s name” + “email”.
Database automation and quality control
If your database has custom fields that you want for each person, then this is best done manually. This way you will minimize the risk of entering incorrect data into your database. The aspects of database building that are typically automated are the ones related to researching positions and finding their contact information.
The last step in the creation of a quality ideal client database is performing a quality check. All this effort can go to waste if you don’t complete a quality check. Remember that all of your efforts up until this point could be jeopardized if you get people’s names wrong, or if the majority of your emails bounce (which could raise red flags with your email service provider).
Pillar #3: Copy crafting as one of the major prospecting pillars
I’ve come to understand that the quality of your copy (the messages you will use in your outreach efforts) is the single most important prospecting pillar that will make or break your outreach campaign.
This is the point where you start building business relationships with your ideal clients, by getting them to respond to you and engage with you in meaningful conversation.
Your chances of achieving this exponentially increase if you stick by the following process of crafting messages:
- Targeting the right audience,
- Defining your goal,
- Creating your message strategy,
- Creating your outreach messages.
- Your target audience
You’ve already identified your ideal client – you know the industry that you will target, you already know the type of companies that you be approaching, as well as the employees within these companies that you will be communicating with. You are good to go.
- Your goal
Although it is quite tempting, the goal at this point is not closing your ideal clients. I can suggest two goals to work towards:
Goal #1: Get your prospects to respond and engage with your messages, by addressing the pain points of your target audience.
Goal #2: Get the prospects who have responded to your messages on a call or a short meeting.
- Your message strategy
You know the target and the goal(s). Now you should start strategizing on how best to create and deliver the message sequence and convert those cold leads into sales-ready prospects.
I will leave you with a couple of things to ponder:
How many messages will you include in your message sequence? Or how many different conversation starters can you set up, while avoiding pitching?
What will your actual messages look like? Their style, tone, and level of (in) formality?
Which channels will you use for sending the messages? LinkedIn is more of a short-form chit-chatty channel, while Email is more structured, with a slightly more serious tone.
- Your messages
Depending on your ideal clients you will have to customize your messages. This means adjusting your writing style, and the tone of (in) formality in the messages. If your outreach channels are LinkedIn and/or Email, just remember to properly adjust the messages – their basis is the same, but the format should be different.
Pillar #4: Campaign execution
You are finally here! You’ve reached the fourth of the six prospecting pillars and you are about to learn how to launch your outreach campaign and start seeing the results of your labor. Knowing your ideal client profile, having a quality database full of your ideal clients, as well as the personalized messages to start the communication, you are mere steps away from pressing that campaign “Launch” button.
To maximize your outreach campaign’s results, I strongly advise double-checking and making sure that everything is in good order when it comes to the outreach channels you’ve selected, the messages you will be sending, as well as the database with your ideal clients.
What I mean more specifically, is that you should ensure that:
- Your outreach channels (Email or LinkedIn) are well-configured,
- Your outreach messages are set up, and
- Your database is also set up and ready to go.
Configuring your outreach channels and prospecting pillars
Avoid using your business email for your outreach campaign, it can get chaotic maintaining a clean track of your business and outreach campaign-related messages. So the next best thing is to create a new email address (if your company’s policy is “firstname.lastname@example.org”, then just create a new email with “email@example.com”).
Next is improving the deliverability rate of your email address – meaning that you should warm up the address by sending manual emails to your friends, family, and colleagues.
Lastly, if you are using any automation tool to automate email delivery, then make sure to conduct a few tests to see if the connection between the automation tool and your email address is working properly or not.
If your outreach campaign involves communication over LinkedIn, your profile speaks louder than any words. This is why your profile should have a clear message – a synergy between your photo, your experience, and the “About” section.
Having a strong LinkedIn profile affects acceptance rates, response rates, and even conversion rates.
Setting up your messages
You’ve already crafted your messages. That’s one of the biggest challenges when climbing up the ladder of prospecting pillars. However, if you’ve decided to automate message delivery to your ideal clients, then I would like you to pay closer attention to:
- The message sequence – make sure the right message is following the previous one.
- The delays between the messages – use a couple of days between messages. This way, the majority of your prospects won’t be annoyed when they receive a message from you (someone they don’t know yet).
- The time when the messages are being sent – based on your ideal clients’ work day and time zone, set up the messages from Monday to Friday, during a nine-to-five working day.
Setting up your database
The final check before launching your outreach campaign is making sure the data in your database is entered correctly and in the right places. You need to map the attributes to the columns, ensure you have the right fields, and check any issues with letter case or diacritics
Pillar #5: Nurture
I’ve written in far greater detail about the prospect nurturing process in my previous blog “Lead Nurturing: Obstacles and Challenges”. I won’t go to great lengths explaining it here again, but to surmise it briefly:
The nurturing process starts as soon as someone responds to your messages. One of the six prospecting pillars whose importance is invaluable. Now, there are many communication obstacles you need to overcome, to successfully move the prospect from casual chit-chatting to realizing that your business offering is the answer to their specific business issues and pain points.
Pillar #6: Campaign optimization
How will you learn anything if you don’t try. Or even if you tried, how are you going to convert the outcome into actionable insights which can help improve your outreach campaign? Well, the answer is campaign reporting, measuring, and tracking.
Without a good campaign report, optimization is impossible. You can’t improve the campaign if you don’t know how it is performing,
So for your Email and/or LinkedIn outreach campaigns, I will highlight the elements I think you should be keeping an eye on, and tracking.
If you are using LinkedIn as your outreach channel:
Invitations sent – By looking at this number, you ensure that you have consistency in the outreach process, as well as a consistent inflow of new leads.
Invitations accepted – Here you look at potential improvements to your target, your messages, and your LinkedIn profile.
If you are using Email as your outreach channel:
Emails sent – This will let you know whether your ideal client database or email domain’s deliverability needs some quality improvements or not.
Email delivered and opened – This informs you whether your emails are ending up in the spam folder, and whether the subject line needs improvements or not.
Metrics for both channels:
Response rates – This shows if you need to adjust the message sequence or your target.
Meetings – This should measure the quality and the number of people who scheduled a meeting with you.
The six prospecting pillars farewell
I am aware that this blog might be a little heavy to digest, having so many steps and concepts introduced and to keep track of, but know that once you’ve understood the pillars of the concept behind creating your own stream of nearly sales-ready prospects, everything will start coming together and start making sense.
If you are still not 100% confident you’ve understood the pillars and the steps explored in this blog, I would like to kindly suggest checking out my book “Sweet Leads” or the Prospecting Hive founded on the 6 prospecting pillars I’ve talked about in this blog.
Dancho is a serial entrepreneur, founder & CEO of BizzBee Solutions, proud father of two boys, and a ‘kafana’ enthusiast. He’s also the author of Amazon’s bestseller, ‘Sweet Leads.’ Dancho believes in building relationships with people and is inspired by growth. His ‘ZZ framework’ and formula for growth have brought 500+ clients the results they sought.
Eager to learn more? Follow Dancho on LinkedIn and Facebook.