10 Common Sales Prospecting Mistakes to Avoid


Margo OvsiienkoFreelance Growth Marketing Strategist

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

No matter how great you are at closing sales with hot leads, if you don't do good lead prospecting, you won’t have many leads to talk to and sell to.

Article 8 Minutes
10 Common Sales Prospecting Mistakes to Avoid

There are unforgivable mistakes of sales prospecting that even the most seasoned sales reps make. These mistakes kill their chances for closing sales at the later stages of the sales process. You might say “No one's perfect!” However, by becoming aware of these mistakes and working them through, you can start landing more sales calls every month.

1. Not researching your leads

There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t neglect lead research. With good lead research, sales reps can identify prospects with a high potential to convert into opportunities and new sales.

Instead of spending hours on phone calls and writing emails, avoid seeling a product to a person or company that doesn’t have a need for it in the first place.

In your company, there are probably a few other criteria, such as budget or job position, that qualify a lead for an opportunity. With a bit of research, you can understand if it’s worth your time to chase someone who doesn’t qualify for an opportunity or you should better focus on the leads with a higher potential to convert.

Also, by doing more research, you can personalize your communication better – not only can you write a more personalized email that resonates with your leads, but also you can relate to client needs better once you both jump on a call.

2. Writing lengthy emails

An outbound sales process usually starts with cold email outreach. You can easily find key decision makers using Crunchbase lists of companies and then find a lead’s contact details using email finder tools. The problem with this approach is that, as it’s so easy to do, your competitors are most likely approaching lead prospecting in the same way, and with so many of them being sent out, people will already be wise to the purpose of your outreach within the first few sentences.

As you are probably someone’s sales target as well, think about yourself – do you respond to all sales emails you receive?

Writing brief, engaging and personalized emails is one way to break through the cluttered inbox of your prospects. Check this email out to get an idea:

Example of a personalized sales email

3. Talking too much

With B2B prospecting, sales emails should convert into booked calls. When optimizing your prospecting, every effort should lead to increasing the ratio between sent emails and booked calls. So what should you do to maximize your chances for having more high-quality conversations with your prospects?

TWhen you bring a prospect to this stage, it’s important to spend more time listening than talking. In sales, this is called a talk-to-listen ratio. There have been a number of studies done that have discovered a link between the amount of time sales reps talk on their calls with prospects and sales.

On this graph, you can see that the best sales reps have a talk-to-listen ratio close to 40:60.

Graph showing the talk-to-sales ratio of the most effective sales staff


4. Not listening to feedback

By collecting feedback before or after your calls with prospects (not yet clients), you can learn what you need to improve in the whole sales process. In some situations, sales reps have a gut feeling of what doesn’t work – they simply read between the lines and understand the implied messages. However, you should necessarily rely on guesswork – there is a replicable way of collecting feedback on this stage of the sales process.

Companies usually run customer satisfaction surveys to understand if some clients are close to churn or are happy enough to keep using the company's services. These surveys are a great way to identify problems for high churn and curb it. However, these surveys are of no help when it comes to understanding why some prospects never converted in the first place.

To learn about your prospect objections, ask them directly or collect feedback with pre-sales surveys. Run them before your first call or demo session to collect information needed to qualify a lead for an opportunity and learn about your leads’ needs and objections more. Here’s what this survey looks like.

Example of a sales survey to gather feedback

5. Not updating your CRM

A good CRM can help keep track of multiple touchpoints that clients have with your company. CRM prospecting features such as tracking email clicks and opens, syncing email providers and keeping all contact history in one place will help you understand the engagement level of your prospect at a given stage of the sales process.

If a contact doesn’t respond to emails or even doesn’t open and read them, it can give you an idea to reach a prospect through a different channel. For example, you could experiment with writing a message on LinkedIn or calling your prospect directly.

Apart from tracking prospect’s interactions with your emails, you should be regularly reviewing leads in your sales CRM, making notes after each call and creating tasks so nothing goes through the cracks.

By creating tasks for each lead, you know exactly what you need to do next – write a follow-up email, outreach them on LinkedIn, etc.

For example, in Pipedrive you can easily create a task and receive task reminders when the deadline for each task is getting closer.

Pipedrive task management for lead generation

6. Being too slow to respond

When you have finally attracted your prospect’s attention and they have got back to you, you should respond as fast as possible. The best option is coordinating processes in your sales department to ensure your lead can get a response the same day (or even better immediately after they send the email).

Lead response time is one of the metrics that you have to track, as there is a clear correlation between the close rate and the time needed to respond to prospects’ inquiries. There have been numerous studies done to examine this topic and they all get down to one thing – the faster you respond, the quicker a client signs a contract with you.

Study showing the importance of response time in lead generation

According to this study, by responding within one minute to a call you can notice a 391% increase in conversion compared to when responding within 24 hours.

7. Forgetting about personalization

Personalizing emails is no longer just about adding your prospect’s name after “Hi...” or “Dear…”. A good personalization is all about doing a proper research on your clients and it often works the best with the prospects that need your product, and are currently searching for a solution similar to what you’re offering.

Focus on the leads that are currently in the research stage and use additional personalization lines. For example, if you’re an HR recruitment firm looking for new clients, you can reach out to the startups who have just got a new investment round and write an email with these two personalization lines:

  1. A line containing congratulations on achieving another growth milestone
  2. A line that relates to a current job position posted on their website

It took just a minute to research that Hopin, an online event platform, has got investment recently and is looking for a Javascript developer.

Hopin job advert showcasing importance of research for client outreach

Once you get the hang of this research, it’s easy to do this at scale and end up with a better targeted list and more personalized emails.

8. Buying low-quality lead lists

When buying low-quality lead lists, get ready for a big amount of poorly researched contacts who no longer work with the companies you are planning to outreach. How can you know? Do some research on a few companies on the list – you’ll quickly notice some mistakes in records or discover that there’s some outdated information.

When using such lists, you can run into even more problems. By sending badly personalized emails containing mistakes (for example, wrong company names), you can be blacklisted by those contacts. Alternatively, your email will be returned as the contact’s email address no longer exists.

Next time, do your contact research on your own or with your dedicated virtual assistant who you instruct on the research criteria. At the end of the day, you know better what kind of contacts convert and who it’s worth reaching out to. For companies selling lead lists, it’s all about volume of research, not list quality.

9. Forgetting to follow up

Even the most persuasive cold emails won’t get a prospect to talk to you, unless you send a follow up in due time. Emails can get lost or sent to the junk folder by mistake. Also, your prospect might be busy with work or currently out of office when they receive your email.

That’s why a successful email outreach is all about establishing the right process, with follow-up emails playing a key role in it. Consider setting up short follow up emails in each email sequence you send to prospects. Here is an example of such follow up.

Email conversation showing the effectiveness of follow-up emails

Consider sending up to 2-3 follow-up emails.

10. Getting your ideal prospect profile wrong

If you keep targeting prospects that rarely become clients, there is probably something wrong with your understanding of an ideal prospect profile. Even though creating an ideal prospect profile often involves guesswork, you can still be more precise by using the data about your current clients.

Analyze top three, top ten, or even top fifty customers and look for similarities among them. You may also want to create a negative prospect profile – a prospect you don’t want to sell to for a variety of reasons.

When doing your research on an ideal prospect profile and adjusting your previous assumptions on your ideal customer, try to focus on finding the main pain points of those prospects and think of the solutions you can offer them.

Wrapping up

We all make mistakes here and there when it comes to sales prospecting. However, by working on improving the process of sales prospecting, you can fill your pipeline with good opportunities that convert at a high rate. Think of what mistakes you make that we have mentioned in this article and come up with a plan for fixing them.

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Margo Ovsiienko

Freelance Growth Marketing Strategist


Margo is a Freelance Growth Marketing Strategist. She creates content that converts website visitors into paying customers for SaaS companies and tech agencies by building sales funnels. You can read her posts on the blog margoleads.com


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