Automated Prospecting - A Newer, Better Approach to Outbound Sales

Automated Prospecting - A Newer, Better Approach to Outbound Sales

Prospecting seems to have become increasingly difficult compared to the previous 2-3 years – at least according to this Hubspot research. The study data reveals that 40% of the surveyed salespeople identified getting a response from prospects as the most laborious task in sales.

Why? Well, the same research shows that most of them spend up to an hour or more each day doing data entry and other manual tasks. That’s time that could be put into the selling process, basically focusing on finding and qualifying relevant leads, crafting personalized messages, setting appointments, and closing deals – the kind of things that are crucial to getting a response from the right prospects.

Clearly, the manual approach to prospecting in sales is just not efficient enough and needs to shift to an automated approach.

Why Does Your Business Need Automated Sales Prospecting?

After doing some in-depth research, we came to the conclusion that these are the 5 main ways automated prospecting can benefit your business:

1. Defining ICPs Is Already a Difficult, Time-Consuming Start in the Sales Process

Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is the bread and butter of any B2B business – you can’t even start the prospecting process until you define it. Targeting ICPs make it easier for you to meet your sales goals more consistently and reduce customer churn by helping you focus your resources on relevant leads. However, there’s just one problem with analyzing and cross-checking them – the more specific and detailed they are, the more unreliable and time-consuming the whole process becomes.

Think of it – to establish a really relevant ICP, it’s not enough to just look at your best customers and use a few data points. You need to explore multiple data types to get a truly accurate ICP, and that means having to sift through tons of information. You won’t just be doubling your workload – you’ll be multiplying it by a hundred or a thousand simply because of all the possible ICP combinations based on all those data types.

Realistically, you can’t deal with that as a human. There’s way too much data to go through just to find a few patterns. If you actually try to do it, you’ll likely burn yourself out and just lose track of everything.

You could delegate this task to an internal team or department, but they might suffer the same fate – plus there’s also the high risk of miscommunication getting in the way. And not to mention those resources and manpower would be much better spent on other things – like customer support, product development, or sales/marketing, for example.

“Okay, so what if I just rely on a few data types instead?”

Well, like we just said, doing that won’t help you find an accurate ICP. Instead, you’ll just get a “grainy” ICP that’s more prone to being riddled with false positive errors. Basically, the ICPs you’ll get will seem like a good match because of the small number of data types, when – in reality – they aren’t a good fit.

So, you end up wasting time and resources on “potential” customers who are probably not very interested in your services/products, or who will likely just leave your brand very soon and contribute to your customer churn rate.

However, if you were to forgo the manual approach to this whole process, and instead rely on automation, the situation would be significantly different. Since the analysis of existing data becomes automated, you get access to specific, accurate ICPs without having to waste too much time and effort on the process.

The end result? You can potentially get thousands of accounts that match your ideal ICP without much effort – all because machine learning can better make sense of various customer data way faster than people can.

2. Prioritizing Leads Is Made Easier

In case you already have an ICP that works well for you, the next problem you’re going to encounter if you rely on the manual prospecting process is having to go through a huge stack of data to find the best leads that match your ICP.

After all, if a single SDR can prospect around 100 accounts/per month, that’s about 1,200 accounts that need to be analyzed and cross-checked annually. If you have more SDRs in your team, the analysis and lead prioritization process will require a lot more time and resources to the point where it just won’t be possible without automation.

Now, you might say that’s not a huge concern – you can just have SDRs get more accounts each month so that you have more deals to close each year and not need to worry too much about fully cross-checking each account against your ICP, right?

Not really. While you could do that, there’s no guarantee you’ll see a huge increase in the deals you can close annually – given that you can’t be 100% sure all those accounts are a good fit with your ICP. Plus, your SDR team might eventually suffer burnout, and the quality of their services and your conversion rate will likely go down since they will focus more and more on making phone calls.

So what should you do instead?

Focus on getting the right accounts instead of just more accounts. That means making sure you get account lists that fully match your ICP, and are not plagued by dead phone numbers, or old email addresses that are probably no longer being used.

That sounds ideal, but the reality is that it’s not really feasible if you try to do it manually – unless you’ve got an entire building of employees ready to work on that. That’s simply because a huge volume of data has to be sourced, you need to cross-reference large databases against each other, and you also must make sure multiple data types match up.

But if you use automated prospecting, you can bypass that hurdle, and cross-reference and analyze everything against your ICP in short time to get exactly what you need – relevant, qualified leads. So you’ll know for a fact your salespeople will be putting in hours approaching, engaging, and following up with prospects who are likely to become clients.

3. Automated Prospecting Is Less Affected by “Human Error”

Now, that’s not to say no humans are involved in running automated sales prospecting tools – someone has to program and maintain them, after all.

However, there are some “human-specific” issues that make sales prospecting software outperform SDRs in general:

  • Nowadays, SDRs are being hired with less experience than before, meaning there’s a huge risk you might hire someone who isn’t qualified enough for the job, and won’t be able to deliver quality leads.
  • Most SDR roles nowadays are transitional – the average tenure is approximately 1.4 years. Most SDRs are looking to get promoted to an AE (Account Executive) position as fast as possible (not surprising given the salary is better) or are quick to switch jobs if they can get a better deal.
  • A lot of SDR positions have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) they need to adhere to – like having to make a certain number of phone calls each day. The problem with that is the KPIs aren’t exactly strategy-oriented, and they encourage SDRs to perform certain actions (like cold calling potential leads) just for the sake of fulfilling their KPI quota. Sadly, that can result in your sales funnel getting flooded with irrelevant leads.
  • The average ramp-up time (the time it takes a salesperson to reach full productivity after hiring) for an SDR is around 3 months. Even outsourcing to lead generation companies can have a ramp-up time of around 1-2 months.
  • And, lastly, there’s the problem with human limitations and actual human error. Like we already discussed, there’s just no way human SDRs can sort through hundreds or even thousands of prospects to find the perfect leads in a short amount of time.

Using machine learning and automated prospecting means not having to deal with those problems – there’s no need to worry about getting unqualified leads, investing time and resources into a SDR role only for it to be vacated after a few months, and letting inexperienced people approach valuable potential clients.

Plus, it also means you could potentially reduce the ramp-up time to only a few weeks at most since once everything is set up, the rest of the process is automated.

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4. It Makes Setting Up Appointments Less Frustrating

Having a qualified lead be interested in a meeting or agree to a follow-up phone call always feels like a victory – at least until you actually start scheduling a said meeting or call. Most of the time, finding a time slot that works for everyone is a very frustrating and, ironically, a time-consuming process.

The worst part is that the meeting/call itself is usually more important to your business than to the potential client, so it’s not uncommon for them to reschedule the meeting/call at the last moment because something came up.

Well, one way to make this process more bearable and less stressful is to automate it. How? By relying on appointment-setting software that can handle everything on your behalf. There are tons of services that were designed for this purpose. According to this AcademyOcean’s study, these are the top three ones:

  • Calendly – is a clear leader being the most used demo scheduling software among SaaS companies with a rate of 60,71%. It’s basically an intelligent assistant that helps you schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails. All you have to do is let the software know your availability preferences and share your links via email or embed it on your website. The potential clients can pick a time and the event is automatically added to your calendar.
  • Hubspot Meeting Schedule – is a simple tool which you can connect with your Google or Office 365 calendar, so prospects can always see your availability. You can also send group meeting links to allow prospects to schedule time with more than one person in your organization.
  • Google Calendar – is an efficient software that allows syncing your schedule across platforms as well as different devices, helping you organize the meetings on the go. You can set up and share appointment slots in your calendar that people can reserve.

5. Personalizing Messages and Sending Them Becomes Easier

Personalization is a must when it comes to email prospecting in sales. According to statistics, around 57% of email recipients will consider a message as spam if they don’t find it relevant. Plus, personalized emails can increase conversions by 10% and click-through rates by approximately 14%.

Personalized email templates are a good way to automate writing emails. It’s even better if you can get a seasoned copywriter to draft them. But there’s no reason to stop there – it’s possible to further improve the automation process and open rates by using more relevant data to further personalize the templates:

  • Industry-related info (tech trends, industry growth statistics);
  • Company-related info (the company’s position on the market, the company size, and its growth rate);
  • Individual-related info (how long the recipient has been in a company position, what role the recipient has in the company).

That’s the kind of data that makes a recipient much more likely to open and engage with an email. It’s also information SDRs can research and collect, though it can definitely take them a long time to do it – especially if they need to enter it in a database. Alternatively, you can rely on automation and machine learning to source everything from large databases directly instead.

At the same time, such automating sales prospecting techniques will help you increase the output of your sales team. Instead of just sending out a couple of personalized messages, you’ll get to send hundreds of them – including follow-ups.

The Bottom Line

Automation in prospecting will definitely change the way we handle sales. Instead of wasting time on repetitive tasks and error-prone data analysis, you’ll be able to automate most of that to focus on what really matters for your business – acquiring, nurturing, and closing deals with relevant, quality leads.

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