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The Prospecting Problem: Sell More Efficiently By Making One Simple Change

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Prospecting Problem

The average sales team spends the only ⅓ of their working day actually talking to prospects. Depending on how efficient the team, that fraction can be a lot less.

For a salesperson, actually speaking to prospects and engaging with them is where you close deals. So why isn’t 100% of the working day spent speaking to prospects?

Prospecting. The first and dreaded stage of the sales funnel. The process of finding appropriate and relevant leads to contact. Ideally, the leads that will turn into deals.

In this article, I am going to run through my own prospecting hell as a solo salesperson and founder, and three key ways you can start seeing genuine ROI from your sales team by making one simple, structural change.

The Prospecting Problem

Prospecting is hugely time-consuming. Despite being the bane of every salesperson’s life, often the hardest part of their job not to mention requiring a very different skill set, most companies still have their internal teams trawl the web for leads, or worse, buy lists that are often poorly targeted and inaccurate.

The most thorough lead generation strategy isn’t scalable long term if you haven’t got the resources, and many runs into the same issue: data sources. Paying for the use of databases like Crunchbase, Angellist, Credit Safe and LinkedIn Sales Navigator is an overhead cost most smaller businesses can’t afford.

There are automated solutions to the prospecting problem but they often depend on existing web traffic (collecting leads based on IP address of your visitors such as Lead Forensics or Lead Feeder) or simply support manual list building, which is a huge limitation if you don’t have much web traffic, you are just starting out or you are building something new.

My Prospecting Experience As A Startup Founder

When I first started Taskeater, there were two employees, myself included. I was spending hours each day prospecting. The contact lists I bought saw more bounces than positive replies and trawling the web for my own leads, leads I could rely on to be relevant and verified, was cutting into the time I needed to build my company. The hours I spent doing this without the support of a company or team really highlighted to me how few lead generation solutions worked for my set up.

A quick word about Taskeater. We are business process outsourcers. We handle long, time-consuming tasks for growing companies so their internal teams can focus on the valuable tasks: selling, developing, marketing and innovating.

Once Taskeater was off the ground, I wanted to build a solution for sales teams, either in the startup space or expanding into new countries and new markets, that would create the time to focus on growth and business development.

By applying Taskeater’s offshore model to the prospecting problem, we were able to offer a unique combination solution to the issues with both manual and automated lead generation.

We provide specialist offshore lead generation teams to manually build lists to order, from the best databases available. The manual collection ensures that only the most relevant data per campaign was being collected, key under the newly enforceable GDPR, and means more engagement because your offering is actually relevant to your prospects.

How To Handle Your Prospecting Problem

A managed service provider like us comes with benefits – access to databases, subscriptions to more expensive tools and technology, and industry expertise in the lead generation field – but it is not the only option. My learnings as a founder and solo salesperson are something you can replicate even in the first months of your company.

Beyond going with a managed service provider, there are two key options we have found really work to leverage this lead generation philosophy and see genuine ROI.

1. Split your internal team by function to increase productivity

You don’t want to dilute the effectiveness of your existing sales team by forcing them into tasks they don’t enjoy and they aren’t good at. It is key to your restructure with the fundamental split between the act of prospecting and the act of selling in mind. Focus on molding a sales team and a team of lead generators.

How do you do this?

By implementing four basic functions within the team:

  • Outbound Prospecting — Your sales development reps or new business development reps. These are the people who source lists of potential customers/clients, and ‘cold call’ them to set up a conversation. This team is dedicated to proactive business development, and source the right contacts to pass along to the salespeople, who will then go on to close the sale.
  • Inbound Lead Qualification — Otherwise known as your market response reps. Only needed if you have an inbound lead collection. These are the people who qualify for any marketing leads that come through your website or by phone. These leads could discover you through marketing programs, search engine marketing or simply organic word-of-mouth.
  • Account Executives/Salespeople — These are team members who close the sale with a client. They will stay a part of the process until the new customer is up and running with the product or service that they have been sold, and will then pass this client along to the Account Manager.
  • Account Managers — These are the people who keep the customers happy long term, providing ongoing client management, renewal of contracts and generally being there to provide the service that the salesperson would likely have promised the client during negotiations.

2. Outsource your lead generation on a smaller scale using freelance marketplaces.

Cheaper than a managed service provider, freelancers can also take on the overhead cost of database subscriptions to manually source leads for you or your team.

Marketplace models mitigate risk as they handle the invoicing and payment process. You pay the marketplace, the marketplace pays the freelancer, taking a small commission. A few examples of marketplaces you can try are:

There are a lot of lead generation roles advertised so the marketplace search can be overwhelming. The best option is to decide on the most valuable database for you (most likely LinkedIn Sales Navigator for the B2B space) and search for outbound lead generators or specialists with that in their bio or listed as a skill.

Some things to bear in mind when working with a freelancer is the tradeoff between price and quality, something you want to be very careful about with the new privacy and data regulations.

Look for a freelancer with:

  • Good communication skills in whatever language you are operating in. You will need to be able to communicate throughout the lead generation process.
  • Some expertise in your field. This is really helpful is setting your targeting criteria and benchmarking your progress.
  • An understanding of data security and the impact of the regulations on their lead generation process. GDPR-compliant lead generation is possible, but certain precautions need to be taken, such as keeping records for data subject requests and taking the appropriate safety precautions with data storage.
  • Good reviews from past clients. Have a look at who they have worked for, what industries they have worked in, and at the feedback, they have received.

Cutting corners with data security or during the lead generation process is no longer a viable option in the UK or the EU so take sufficient precautions in choosing who you work with if you are collecting data from those areas. If you are unsure about your lead generation process for a campaign, we provide expert consultation for setting compliant targeting criteria and can advise you on your best collection options to meet your business objectives. 

Mikko founded Taskeater when he was just 25, and it has since grown to a bootstrapped startup with over B2B 150 clients and 300 employees across Dhaka, London, Stockholm and Helsinki. Having worked across the world on startup projects in emerging markets, he has become expert in offshore outsourcing, B2B startup growth, RPA, automation and bootstrapping.

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