Before you can make a sale, you have to prospect.
You have to identify your dream customer, find them, get their contact information, build trust, and explain the value of your product or service.
Shoved into just a single word — “prospecting” — you might think that the concept is simple.
But there’s a lot that goes into it.
And every step is critical for the sales process.
So in this guide, we’re going to explain the “new normal” of sales prospecting and then we’re going to give you 8 sales prospecting ideas.
First thing’s first.
The New Normal of Sales Prospecting
Some people, when they hear “prospecting”, think of somewhat archaic modes of online lead generation — cold emailing or cold calling, for instance.
Now before the expert salespeople attempt to crucify us for calling cold email and cold calling “archaic”, allow us to explain.
Cold emailing and cold calling aren’t dead — they work, kind of.
Jacob McMillen used the following cold email pitch, for example, to land his first client as a freelance writer.
And according to Nutshell, this is the best cold email they’ve ever received…
So it’s not dead.
It can work.
But the question we want to ask is: is there a better way?
Yes, we think there is.
Let’s look at the data.
The first thing to understand is that 45% of prospects (unsurprisingly) want to identify their own needs and evaluate possible solutions before they engage with a salesperson, according to Resourceful Selling.
And that goes beyond just a desire — 95% of B2B buyers research companies online before making purchases.
People want autonomy.
They want to think for themselves before they run the risk of having a salesperson pressure them into making a decision that might not benefit them.
But there’s good news, too.
The consideration phase of the marketing funnel is where people do want to talk with salespeople — after they’ve done some research but before they’re totally convinced to buy.
As HubSpot puts it,
“The good news for sales is that the majority of business buyers want to meet with sales during the consideration phase — after they’ve done some research and know they need more information to make a sound decision.”
Just as the independent research phase is important for prospects, so too is the ability to talk to a sales rep when the time is right.
The question then, is… how can you generate leads and find prospects en masse (without cold outreach) but also give prospects the opportunity to speak with a salesperson when the time is right?
We call the solution a sales funnel.
The Best Prospecting Idea We’ve Ever Had: Sales Funnels
Let’s starts with a definition.
A sales funnel — as defined by ClickFunnels 😉 — is a sequence of pages that have been crafted to convert visitors one step at a time.
Unlike a website which allows users to navigate wherever they want, a sales funnel directs the visitors only toward the single action that you want them to take — which could be opting in, purchasing, downloading a free resource, registering for a webinar, or something else.
At ClickFunnels, we specialize in helping members create sales funnels — we provide proven-to-work templates and easy-to-use software that makes the whole process simple and effective.
For example, here’s one of our sales funnels that’s built to get applications (which is great for high-ticket offers and pre-qualifying leads)…
ClickFunnels members get access to more than 20 of these sales funnel templates (for generating leads, making sales, or hosting an online event) — if you want to join the club, get a free trial by clicking here.
Let’s briefly look at a more real-life example.
Amy Porterfield sells online courses to teach people how to grow their email lists and create profitable online courses.
Here’s one of her Facebook ads…
This ad drives clicks to this page — which serves as the first page of her sales funnel…
(Notice that there’s no navigation and the only CTA is to “Reserve My Seat”)
Here’s the full page.
Click on “Reserve My Seat” and you get this pop-up (the second page of here sales funnel)…
Once you’ve registered for the free masterclass, she asks a question…
And then there’s a “Thank You” page and a few email confirmations — you get the point.
But that’s only the start of her sales funnel — she uses the free masterclass to generate leads and then attempts to make sales for her online course during the masterclass and afterward with follow-up emails.
Amy Porterfield uses sales funnels to sell high-ticket services ($2,000+) and to give away free stuff for lead-gen.
Because sales funnels work.
Here’s a video from our founder, Russell Brunson, that’ll give you an intro to how sales funnels work…
Now, why are sales funnels more effective for prospecting than cold calling, cold emailing, or traditional websites?
A few reasons…
- They’re Scalable — Since sales funnels don’t require an actual salesperson to get on the phone with the prospect, they’re much more scalable than traditional marketing tactics. You can send as many people through a sales funnel as you want and get tons of results. The more traffic, the better!
- It’s What Prospects Want — As we saw earlier, most prospects want to learn about your offer without talking to a salesperson. Sales funnels give them an environment to do that… an environment, however, where you still have a lot of influence.
- They Convert Like Crazy — Because of their single-minded focus, sales funnels convert much better than traditional websites do.
So how do you build one?
We recommend signing up for a ClickFunnels free trial so you can play around and build your first sales funnel — it’s easier to understand when you see it for yourself. 🙂
We believe sales funnels lie at the heart of a successful prospecting strategy — and now that we’ve got the heart beating, let’s walk through 7 more prospecting ideas!
1. Create a Customer Avatar
How will you find prospects if you don’t know who they are?
Well, you can’t… not very easily, at least.
This is why we’re putting this piece of advice right at the top.
Before you start prospecting — heck, before you even build a sales funnel — you need to have a crystal clear idea of who your dream customers are.
Try to answer the following question…
- What is your target demographic?
- Where do they live?
- What industry do they work in?
- What’s their income level?
- What are their hobbies?
- What challenges do they face?
- What objections do they have to your products/services?
You might not be able to answer all of those questions, but it’s worth diving into as many as possible.
The deeper you dive, the better you’ll start to understand the people you serve.
And the better you understand them, the easier it’ll be to find them and market to them.
2. Find Your Dream Customers’ Hangouts
I once got an opportunity to ask a marketer from The Hustle — a newsletter with over 1.5 million subscribers — how they grew their email list in the beginning.
Here’s what he said…
“Depends on the newsletter a bit. There’s ton you can do. Most effective early on for The Hustle was 1.) Scope out Reddit communities that overlap your newsletter. 2.) Write a viral-ish article for that community. 3.) Have email capture on the article. We’d drive a 10k+ folks with an article like that. Capture a decent chunk as subscribers.”
Now I know you’re probably not building a newsletter.
But the advice is pertinent because he talks about a basic and effective prospecting tactic:
- Finding where your prospects already congregate and then
- reaching out to them there.
Once you’ve defined your dream customers, it’s pretty simple to find out where they congregate online.
- Facebook groups
- Email newsletters
- Reddit communities
- YouTube channels
- Instagram influencers
Make a list and then reach out to these places and either A) pay to reach their audience via ads or sponsorships or B) collaborate with people behind the scenes to get some publicity.
These communities — what we often refer to as the “Dream 100” — are going to be your biggest asset for driving high-quality traffic to your sales funnels.
Remember Amy Porterfield’s “masterclasses” she runs to generate leads and make sales?
Well, those are just another version of what we call webinars.
In fact, we love webinars so much that we’ve created a sales funnel dedicated to getting registrations and generating post-webinar sales.
Here’s what it looks like…
It starts with a registration page where you capture the person’s email address. Then they go to a confirmation page.
Consider, once more, the example from Amy’s masterclass…
Then a series of emails get triggered over the next few weeks — what we call a “follow-up funnel” (you can create these inside of ClickFunnels!). These emails have been crafted to A) encourage attendance and then B) make sales after the webinar has run.
We don’t want to oversell it…
But webinars have literally generated more leads and revenue for our business here at ClickFunnels than any other prospecting strategy.
It’s definitely a marketing tactic worth mastering.
And if you don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered — click below to download our Perfect Webinar Framework & Scripts.
4. Free Audit/Consultation
One of the best ways to attract your target market is to offer a free audit or consultation — this works really well if you’re a service-based business, a freelancer, an agency, or even a SaaS company.
BounceX (now known as Wunderkind) is a SaaS company that helps businesses provide personalized experiences to their customers.
Fittingly, then, they used to offer a “complimentary behavioral audit”…
Here’s an example of a company offering a free personal fitness consultation…
Of course, these prospecting offers aren’t as scalable as webinars or free online tools (see the next prospecting idea), but they can be useful for companies with high-ticket offers or personalized solutions.
It’s something to consider.
5. Free Online Tools
Have you ever gone searching in Google for some sort of free online tool?
Maybe you were looking for a tax calculator… or a file converter… or an image sharpener…
Whatever the case, the free tools you found exist because company’s want you to notice and engage with their brand.
You can do the same thing!
Create some free tools that you know your target market would love and then try to get them some SEO juice.
Now, of course, this is a long-term strategy and not one that will result in tons of prospects overnight.
But with time, it will improve brand awareness and maybe even result in more prospects signing up for your service or your email list.
Now if you’re selling a high-ticket complicated software or service that requires personalized solutions… Maybe it’s just an absolute necessity that a salesperson hops on the phone with people before they buy.
In that case, the salesperson’s (or salespeople’s) time is extremely valuable.
You want to make sure that your salespeople are only talking with people who are actually part of your target market, people who are interested in buying and likely to do so.
How do you know which leads are serious and which ones aren’t without getting on the phone?
- What problem are you trying to fix with this offer?
- What’s prompting you to do something about it now?
- What’s your budget for this project?
- What hurdles could crop up and derail this project?
- How soon do you need to solve this problem?
Then send that survey to your email list or include it as a part of your sales funnel — after you get their contact information would be ideal — and use the answers you gather to determine who your salespeople should spend the most time with.
7. Build Follow-Up Funnels
We’ve mentioned follow-up funnels a few times in passing.
What is a follow-up funnel?
Follow-up funnels are a functional part of sales funnels — they are the emails that get triggered when someone takes a certain action inside of a sales funnel.
Maybe they abandon their cart…
Maybe they download a free resource…
Or maybe they purchase…
Whatever the case, the follow-up funnel kicks into action… delivering the right emails to the right people at the right time.
To give you an example of what this can look like, let’s go back to Amy Porterfield.
Earlier we signed up for her online course building masterclass. Then we attended the webinar. Here’s an email that we received afterward (this is part of her “follow-up funnel”)…
Notice how the email “follows up” about the thing she offered during her masterclass presentation?
That’s the point of follow-up funnels…
To capture conversions from people who need a little more time and convincing.
And from our experience, sales funnels with built-in follow-up funnels get wayyy more conversions than their one-and-done counterparts.
People need to be reminded.
And follow-up funnels remind.
Prospecting is an important part of the sales process.
And while the sales environment has changed over the last decade or so, those changes have made the sales process easier and more scalable.
Using sales funnels and the additional 7 prospecting ideas above, you can create a system that consistently generates leads and conversions.
Click below if you want to dive even deeper 😉