Essential Steps Outside Sales Reps Can Take To Prospect Effectively

Oct 27, 2021

Man in a suit and woman with a briefcase shaking hands

Have you ever stopped to think where your company would be without outside sales reps? These valuable employees are the front runners, pairing a face with a name, actively conveying the values and features of your business. There is no debating the fact that outside sales reps are irreplaceable assets to a company.

Yet, are there better ways to support them? Are there tools and strategies that your outside sales reps could use to become efficient, better at time management, and ultimately able to do some more of their own prospecting? Typically, outside sales reps are not accustomed to their own prospecting, and need guidance, direction, and strategies. Let’s take a look at why outside sales reps should be prospecting and some ways to encourage and promote their development.

The Problem With Sales People And Prospecting

The sales prospecting techniques of outside sales representatives may not be as clearly laid out as they should be. Teams typically give a sales representative the CRM field with leads but no steps or strategies to make their prospecting more effective. Teams need to collaborate and communicate to help support the outside sales reps as much as possible.  Here are some of the issues you will run into when outside sales reps try prospecting without proper training and systems in place.

Ineffective Strategies

Many outside sales reps were not trained in proper prospecting techniques. This is not always the outside sales rep’s fault. Companies and teams need to put together step-by-step plans and procedures to help improve the skills of the outside sales representative. There is no right or wrong way to prospect, but some methods will be more effective than others. As a team, these methods need to be tested and then shared with the outside sales representatives.

Commitments Outside of Selling

Hands gripping a car steering wheel driving down a dessert mountain road at sunset
Outside sales reps spend on average 22 hours per week behind the wheel.

Typically speaking, an outside sales rep who is doing a good job will be rather busy throughout their day. According to the Field Sales Benchmark Report, almost 7.7 hours per week are spent doing admin work. In addition, there is, on average, 21 hours per week of driving time for an outside sales rep.

Download the Full 2022 Annual Field Sales Benchmark Report

Teams often underestimate how much time is wasted behind the windshield of a car. Outside sales reps that are great at prospecting have tools to help them reduce driving time and admin time. These tools can range from scheduling to follow-up to route planning.

CRM Utilization & Results Tracking

Without the right tools in place, outside sales representatives tend to be a bit haphazard when it comes to prospecting. They may leave a card somewhere or stop in to enquire at another location, but these interactions are not followed up on. The effectiveness of the prospecting and the techniques is tough to track. Therefore utilizing a CRM and properly tracking the results and planning will be a much better strategy. Teams need to teach their reps to use the tools that they have access to.

Too Much Searching Not Enough Finding

Without the proper sales prospecting tools, outside sales reps can spend hours looking for a new account or opportunity. Spending this much time with potentially no results is not a good use of company funds.

The good news is, outside sales representatives can learn to effectively prospect as long as they have the proper training and tools at the ready.

How Sales Reps Can Prospect Effectively

Now that we know the challenges that some outside sales representatives have when it comes to prospecting, it’s a good idea to put together the path necessary to make outside sales prospecting a breeze. Teams need to take responsibility for increasing the success of the outside sales reps and providing them the tools they need.

Develop A Strategy

According to the 2022 Field Sales Benchmark Report, two-thirds of companies expect their sales reps to do prospecting. However, many of these companies are not providing the reps with a solid strategy. Outside sales representatives need a step-by-step approach to help them get through the basics of prospecting. Remember that without the method and tools in place, prospecting can be a full-time job in and of itself.

Have The Proper Prospecting Tools & Software

The Hubspot CRM deals and proposals screen
The Hubspot CRM is a tool to track sales activities.

Tools can range from anything from a leave behind to a business card to a software solution. Great prospecting tools help reps to make more connections in a shorter period.  Sales prospecting software is what ties the entire process together.

Gone are the days of scribbling a few notes on the back of a napkin in the car. Each and every prospect needs to be appropriately placed in a sales prospecting software system. Without the software, the follow-up and relationship will not be nearly as strong. In addition, intelligent sales prospecting software can help outside sales reps find leads they never knew existed.

Why Is Effective Sales Rep Prospecting Necessary?

One of the most important sales tactics is to keep a sales representative’s funnel full. There should never be a day when outside sales reps feel all their leads have dried up. The best way to go about this is to replenish the funnel constantly. If you can ensure that your outside sales reps always have something to do and somewhere to be, everyone will be more successful.

Another reason that it is essential for sales representatives to be doing their own prospecting is that they are the ones that know what works and what doesn’t. When you spend every day outside in the fields, seeing what closes a deal is much easier. In addition, evaluating the needs of a new customer or client becomes like second nature for an outside sales rep.

There is no better employee in the company to handle sales prospecting than the outside sales representatives.

Step By Step Sales Prospecting Technique for Outside Sales Reps

Now we get to the fun part, the actionable strategy to help improve your outside sales representatives prospecting techniques. This step-by-step plan should be followed by all outside sales reps, and if the proper software is used, the results will be tracked. It won’t take long to see the impact and improvements that this plan can bring about.

Look for Similar Business and Add To Account List

Map My Customers app with customers on a map.
Map My Customers suggests nearby prospects to visit when route planning.

Using Map My Customers, it is easy to search for nearby companies or businesses in a similar industry. Have outside sales representatives take a few minutes at their next sales call and simply search to see what is around them.

Map My Customers lets you add a business directly to your account list so that they can be put in the rotation for future sales calls and visits. The lead generation and prospecting tools help to ensure that a sales representative will always have something to do.

While waiting for a customer or a meeting, there is plenty of time to add a few prospects to the system and look for new business.

Make A Cold Call

Once the sales rep has the new business in the system, A CRM will help pull up the correct contact information. With the contact information in place, go ahead and make the first cold call. We all know that these cold calls don’t always lead to an appointment or a sale, but they are a necessary evil in the world of sales.

Have the outside sales representative make the introduction, present themselves and the product or service, and work to start building that positive sales relationship.

The cold call is often the hardest part of sales, but it can lead to tremendous new business if it is done right. Making a cold call in an area where outside sales representatives are used to working can be quite a bit more effective. Dropping a name of some of the other businesses that a rep works with can help establish trust. Developing the best sales hooks is a learned behavior, and there are lots of ways to go about this.

In-Person Visit (Set up A Prospecting Route)

Road map with red pin
Use a sales tool to optimize your route when visiting customers and prospects.

The next step in the process is to set up an in-person visit. The process and the specifics of these strategies will have to be worked out depending on the schedule and requirements of the sales representative.

One way is to choose a day of the week or a part of a day where the representative can specifically target prospects. The Map My Customers software and app will allow you to create a route that can effectively transport you from one prospect location to another. The Lead Finder feature within the platform enables reps to optimize their prospecting efforts like never before. They can search the map for new leads that may be near their current location, along their sales route, or near current customers that they are visiting that day. These new leads will show as pins on the map and can provide detailed business info in just a tap. They can then be easily imported into your account and synced back to your CRM.

If, however, there are too many other requirements or sales calls to make, a route can be set up that incorporates the prospects into the sales calls for that day.

What type of impact would it have on your bottom line if your outside sales reps could sneak in two or three prospecting calls each day they are out on the road? What about five or six prospecting stops? Sneaking in some prospecting calls from the road is the best way to maximize time in a day.

As you can imagine, the growth that is possible with these extra stops that are already directly on the sales route are astronomical. The best thing about this process is that it does not require much extra time, simply a shift in mentality and being smarter about the way routes are planned.

Leave Behind

It is smart to have an effective leave behind when prospecting. Remember that these prospects are already going to be located along a predetermined route for your sales rep. They will have had the customer contact information automatically entered into your CRM system. Therefore this customer acquisition cost is relatively low.

Spending just a bit more money on a quality leave behind can be all your outside sales representative needs to create a lifelong customer relationship. Carefully plan the leave behind to be as effective as possible because these are high-quality leads.

Ensure that outside sales representatives have great strategies for getting through to the gatekeeper and ensuring the leave behind will make it into the right hands. Large amounts of marketing dollars are wasted when the leave behind is presented haphazardly.

Leverage Existing Customers

Last but not least, the outside sales representatives in your company need to learn to leverage their existing customers. A great outside sales representative will have solid relationships with their customers. These relationships are built on trust and a sense of common interest.

More often than not, a customer would love to help get a sales representative more business. If your outside sales rep goes above and beyond for a customer, asking for a referral or contact is more than acceptable.

Outside sales reps should let customers know they are growing, expanding, and continually looking for new business. Many customers love to make a connection between your sales rep and a friend of theirs, especially if they are happy with the goods and services being offered.

Leveraging existing customers to help grow business and increase prospecting is a necessary skill for any outside sales representative.

Conclusion: Why These Steps Are The Most Effective In Prospecting

It would be hard to place the complete responsibility of sales prospecting on the plate of the outside sales reps. Instead, it makes sense to have a combination of leads flowing into the representative while they work to grow and expand on their own. Following a step-by-step sales prospecting guide can help make this part of an everyday routine for sales managers and outside sales representatives who are smart and looking to grow.