Subscribe
    Subscribe to The Art & Science of Complex Sales

    8 Common Prospecting Problems and Their Solutions

    New Call-to-action

    Prospecting is hard. In my experience, very few organizations have fully cracked the nut of how to do it well across the entire organization.

    When I talk with sales teams, these 8 prospecting problems come up again and again. The good news is that there are effective solutions to all of them that can help your team grow stronger and produce more predictable results.

    Based on decades of experience and hundreds if not thousands of conversations with sales experts, here are the top 8 prospecting problems I hear, and their best-practice solutions:

    1. No way to prioritize prospects effectively
      Salespeople may be skipping their prospecting work because it takes up too much time, or they may experience a roller coaster effect because they can’t focus on prospecting while also focusing on other aspects of sales.

      However it shows up, many salespeople don’t have an easy or effective way to prioritize prospects so that they’re spending the right amount of time with each. And sometimes the organization has done a poor job in identifying their ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) causing salespeople to waste time with the wrong prospects. 
    2. Struggling to fill the pipeline with enough meetings
      Many salespeople have “activity” quotas to meet each week and may struggle with checking the box next to the number of prospect meetings. This in turn results in poor end-of-pipeline results that hit the salesperson’s and the company’s bottom line.
    3. No structured way to approach new prospects
      Beyond the problem of accessing prospects, to begin with, many sales teams provide little support to their salespeople in terms of a structured approach. Salespeople are left to use their “gut” and “instincts” to decide when and how to approach new prospects. This can work in limited circumstances, but over time it produces inconsistent results and often ends in good prospects falling through the cracks.
    4. Not measuring what works
      All of the above problems lead to an inability for sales teams to measure what works and doesn’t work. Without good data and a structured process, salespeople are left to judge by gut and practice what’s effective for them and what is not. Also, if there’s no clear definition of when the pipeline starts, we can’t trust and benchmark sales cycle length.
    5. Poor access to the right content
      Access to sales enablement content is a long-standing problem that can be traced to poor alignment with marketing, difficulties in organizing the content, and poor reinforcement of what to use when. Whatever the reason is, many salespeople have a few go-to pieces they rely on, or they create their own materials on the fly, leading to poor consistency across the organization. Additionally, those who do have access to good content often don’t have tools for finding it quickly, and may be wasting time switching among apps and tracking down the right pieces to move each sale forward.
    6. Bloated pipeline
      Almost everyone in sales has been guilty of it at some point: Leads, opportunities, and prospects in the pipeline with nearly zero chance of a win, but they stay there because of any number of reasons, like the sunk cost syndrom. It's related to the first problem and causes a lot of the headaches in #7.

      A bloated pipeline makes it difficult for salespeople to focus effectively, and for managers to get a clear view of what’s happening.
    7. Inaccurate forecasting
      One ultimate outcome of the factors above is that it becomes nearly impossible and/or extremely time-consuming to access accurate forecasts. Sales managers spend large amounts of time and energy “massaging” numbers to compensate for what they know each salesperson’s tendencies are, and trying to guess at the actual likelihood of closing on each person’s pipeline.

      Furthermore, some salespeople wait until near closing to enter opportunities, meaning that those opportunities are completely invisible to the manager for most of the process, and also that salesperson’s “win rate” becomes skewed.
    8. Not enough good leads from marketing
      The age-old discussion between the sales and marketing department. This problem can be a problem of quantity or quality or both. Marketing may have good intentions and talk a big game, but there is very often a major gap between the number of leads the sales team needs and what marketing can deliver. I added this one last, as it shouldn’t be used as an excuse by salespeople to source their own prospects.

    How not to fix prospecting problems

    There are hundreds of sales tools and techniques and consulting programs on the market that attempt to fix these common prospecting problems. Unfortunately, a great number of them amount to spamming people.

    Sales leaders set up cadences and automation of “sequences” targets for salespeople that force salespeople to reach for as many “activities” as possible each week, with little regard for whether they are effective outreaches.

    This ends in emails that look like every other sales pitch in the market. It annoys customers, and often gets salespeople - and the entire organization - blacklisted and filtered into spam.

    I don’t know about you, but I throw hundreds of spam emails in the virtual garbage every week. Many of those contacts are then automatically filtered to spam for the rest of their life. Ouch.

    If you’re operating in a complex b2b environment, you can’t afford to burn bridges. There aren’t enough of them.

    So what are we to do instead?

    How to solve your prospecting problems once and for all

    The real solution to prospecting problems is not simple or quick, but it will solve the problem permanently, as long as you stay on top of it. And it is, ultimately, not so very difficult with the right guidance and tools. In a nutshell:

    Create and reinforce a disciplined, structured, consistent approach focused on customer needs.

    Such an approach will have the following qualities:

    • A focus on effectiveness FIRST, then efficiency
    • Clear and consistent qualification criteria based on your ideal customer profiles
    • A guided process through the prospecting pipeline that ends in qualification or disqualification into the pipeline
    • A clear and effective guideline for performing research on prospects before initiating touches
    • A disciplined, structured approach to communicating with potential customers based on that research
    • Access to enablement content in context, at the salesperson’s fingertips
    • Analytics that show who is engaging with what content, and the ability to use that information to improve engagement
    • Integrations between the CRM and Zoom, email, and other tools so that salespeople can stay in the same application without task switching
    • Rules for qualifying and disqualifying BEFORE opportunities are placed into the primary pipeline
    • Access to analytics and statistics that enable more effective coaching to the process
    • In complex b2b, integrated tools that allow for stakeholder mapping, so that you can approach prospects as a company, not just as individuals

    How Membrain supports effective prospecting

    When I envisioned Membrain, it was as a tool to help guide salespeople through a structured sales process. We started with workflows for opportunities and active pipeline management. Then we expanded to include tools for prospecting and then for account growth.

    In a complex b2b environment, you can’t afford to burn bridges

    At every step, we have maintained a focus on what salespeople in a complex b2b environment really need in order to be more effective and, once they are doing the right things, to do them more efficiently.

    The result is that our prospecting module is designed to enable you to design and build a structured, milestone-based sales process directly into the salesperson’s daily workflow. It guides salespeople through while providing everything they need at their fingertips at every moment. And it automates what can be effectively automated without resulting in spam.

    It enables sales leaders to embed qualification criteria and best practices into the system to reinforce and ensure that salespeople are following those best practices. It also enables the embedding of enablement content, from sales collateral to training videos. And, finally, it provides analytics to enable effective coaching.

    And the best news of all is that you can try it out for yourself for free. Our new free trial option gives you the chance to get into the tool, check it out, and see if it is the right tool to help your team reach the next level in prospecting success.

    Check out the free trial here.

    If you’d like to see how it’s being used in other organizations before you sign up for the trial, or after, please contact me as I’m happy to walk you through or connect you with another expert who can.

    George Brontén
    Published February 18, 2021
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn