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Targeted Prospecting: Corey Haines' 4-Part Process to Build a More Effective Sales Prospecting Process

18 May 2020 by

You know by now that generic spray-and-pray prospecting, by and large, isn’t effective. You may have even taken steps to make your prospecting strategy more targeted.

Here’s the thing: targeted prospecting isn’t a tactic—it’s an end-to-end strategy. But many salespeople don’t treat it that way. When targeted prospecting is treated as just a tactic, salespeople:

  • Focus on the metrics and boxes prospects tick, instead of their actual experiences.

  • Spread themselves too thin selling to prospects who may or may not really be a good fit.

  • Don’t know the messaging that will resonate with prospects, so they throw what may be relevant CTAs at the wall.

A truly targeted prospecting strategy has to start from the ground up—and that’s something few SDRs recognize. The strategy has to be built around reaching the right people, knowing when to reach out, how to reach out, and what to say.

In a nutshell, it isn’t enough to say “your prospecting should be targeted.” The key lies in the systems and processes you setup to ensure that targeting is built into every step of your prospecting strategy.

To get an idea of what that looks like in practice, we spoke with Corey Haines. He’s the current Head of Growth at Baremetrics and former Marketing Manager at Cordial. As the first marketing hire at Cordial, he worked closely with the sales team to build a more effective and targeted sales prospecting process.

In this article, we share the key learnings that Corey and his team used to build a truly targeted prospecting strategy—including their four-part targeting process that you can apply to your own strategy. Before we get there, let’s get on the same page about why targeted prospecting is so much more effective than traditional prospecting.

Note: Want to better understand the journey customers take from prospect to closed sale? Sign up and give Leadfeeder a try—free for 14 days.

Why Targeted Prospecting is More Effective than Traditional Sales Prospecting

When Corey joined Cordial, they’d just raised their Series A, and their focus was on building out processes for scalable, sustainable growth—but their approach to that growth differed from most startups.

The bigger the list, the broader and more general you have to be to serve everyone.

The average startup looks to grow their revenue and customer base by talking to as many potential customers, with as many use cases, as possible. The more prospects you sell to, the theory goes, the more customers you can close. Time spent getting to know one prospect or persona is time you don’t spend reaching out to more prospective customers.

But Corey and his team knew there was a fundamental flaw in that strategy: it requires SDRs to spend a lot of time and energy talking to people they don’t have a great understanding of. It takes the emphasis off of the experiences that lead prospects to your product and places it on (often arbitrary) metrics and attributes of the buyer persona.

They recognized that if they put in the effort to better understand prospects upfront, their closing conversion rate would be even better. It isn’t about bringing in the biggest list possible, Corey noted.

“The reality is, the bigger the list, the broader and more general you have to be to serve everyone on the list.” A more concentrated list enables you to be more specific in your messaging, so you can convert a higher percentage of prospects.

With 10,000 prospects, we might get ahold of 100 of them—but with a list of 250, we got ahold of half of them, and many of those turned into real opportunities.

That’s what makes a targeted prospecting strategy scalable. That’s what makes it more effective than what most salespeople do today.

Corey’s 4-Part Process to a More Targeted Prospecting Strategy

We asked Corey if there were any central tenets that led Cordial’s development of a prospecting process along with their sales team. What are the overall guiding principles that transcend prospecting tactics?

From email, to cold calling, to social selling, and beyond, the founding principles they relied on included:

  • Getting a really clear understanding of your ideal customers and target accounts

  • Building the process around customers, not salespeople

  • Starting with smaller, more targeted lists

  • Banishing generic outreach entirely

1. Get a Really Clear Idea of Your Target Prospects

“If you focus on understanding your target prospects’ problems, experiences, and goals, it becomes more like a consultation. Then you can tease out the information you really want to know.”

The traditional sales prospecting process puts making contact before qualifying prospects. That means the information SDRs have about prospects is pretty limited when they go to make that first call or send the first email.

A prospect might end up on their list because they ticked the right box for ARR or because their business fits into the right industry—but that’s typically the only context sales reps have to leverage. Without context, your messaging is inherently broad and generic.

At Cordial, they turned that process on its head, by putting qualification up front. Corey and his team knew that, to have the most effective messaging, salespeople needed way more context about prospects’ businesses.

“Prospects qualify because of their experiences,” he said, “not because they hit the right revenue target or some other objective metric.” Cordial’s sales team needed to understand those experiences long before they started trying to sell—so they whittled down their list of prospects and reached out to only those most likely to need a customer experience solution.

The smaller list meant they could spend more time personalizing and refining their messaging, instead of throwing out one-size-fits-all tactics and trying to appeal to 10,000 different prospects.

2. Build Your Sales Prospecting Process Around Customers

The typical sales process is all about moving prospects forward toward a sale, and it’s built around KPIs salespeople have to hit. “There’s a tendency with prospecting of thinking, ‘I just need to get my prospect to do one thing, and my job here is done,’” Corey said. You just need to:

  • Email ‘X’ number of prospects today

  • Schedule ‘Y’ number of calls

  • Book ‘Z’ number of demos

When that’s the entire premise of your prospecting process, it often leads to messaging that’s unnatural and forced. It isn’t designed to meet prospects where they are in the buying journey—it’s designed to push them to close—and that can translate into making prospects jump through hoops of your own design.

Instead, the Cordial team took a more holistic approach and built the entire sales process around the natural behaviors prospects were already taking. “It’s less about how they’re qualified and more about the behaviors they exhibit,” Corey noted.

He recommends focusing on creating opportunities for sales reps by understanding the context underlying each prospect’s interest in your product. “The best prospecting system has more to do with enabling your sales team with when to reach out and what to say,” he said.

3. Start with Smaller, More Targeted Prospect Lists

The traditional approach to sales prospecting and lead generation says that the bigger your initial list of prospects, the more customers you can ultimately convert. But we know that isn’t always the case.

As we touched on earlier, a bigger, less qualified list automatically means your messaging has to be less targeted. In Corey’s experience at Cordial, a big list of prospects wasn’t all that useful. “With 10,000 prospects, we might get ahold of 100 of them,” he noted. “But with a list of 250, we got ahold of half of them, and many of those turned into real opportunities,” he added.

That’s why he recommends narrowing in on the best fit prospects and spending your time talking to them—instead of trying to convince prospects who aren’t as good of a fit.

Cordial had a few novel ways of finding those targeted prospect lists, too.

  • Partnerships with Complementary Brands:


    Part of the prospect persona Cordial put together included other brands and technology that their best fit prospects use (in addition to theirs). That made it easy to partner with those complementary brands, sharing prospect lists and using each others’ foot in the door.

  • Sponsoring and Attending Conferences:


    Conference attendees are often semi-qualified for you—you know their industry and interests—and it’s no secret that they’re a good place to meet with prospects. Cordial took it a step further by sponsoring relevant conferences, which often granted them access to the full attendee lists.

4. Banish Generic Outreach with a Zillion CTAs

One of the big problems Corey and his team saw with the way most SDRs prospect came down to messaging. We’ve all seen emails riddled with CTAs and rambling messaging that ends with something like “Does this apply to you?”.

Prospects qualify because of their experiences, not because they hit the right revenue target or some other objective metric.

When you spread yourself thin—sending the same generic message to 10,000 prospects—your outreach will always be less effective. A good targeted prospecting strategy, up to this point, should lead SDRs to the right messaging and CTA for the decision maker persona they’re prospecting into.

When your prospects qualify because of their experiences—instead of objective metrics—it’s easy to speak to their challenges and needs.

You’ve done the upfront work of getting to know your prospects inside and out, along with building smaller, targeted lists of those people… so there’s no reason to send broad messages. You should be well-equipped with a really targeted message, and that includes the action you’re asking prospects to take.

How Leadfeeder Can Enable a Targeted Prospecting Strategy

Most of Corey’s advice for building a targeted prospecting strategy emphasizes on getting to know your prospects and the journey they take to close. That understanding is what makes up the difference between traditional prospecting and a targeted prospecting strategy.

But how do you find information about prospects? Leadfeeder is one tool that can help B2B businesses learn more about their prospects.

Leadfeeder shows you the companies visiting your website, including in-depth information on company size and revenue, plus contact information, so you can search to find the right decision maker.

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In your Leadfeeder dashboard, you can also see how prospects behave on your website.

  • Which pages do they visit?

  • How long do they spend there?

  • Did more employees from the company visit after you gave a demo?

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Set up email or Slack notifications, and you’ll always know when a prospect crosses from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next. You can also integrate Leadfeeder with popular CRM software, so your data is never siloed.

That means you have access to richer, more contextual data about each prospect throughout the entire journey to closed customer.

Note: Want to see how Leadfeeder can inform your targeted prospecting strategy? Sign up and give Leadfeeder a try—free for 14 days.

More Effective, Targeted Sales Prospecting

We know that spray-and-pray sales prospecting just doesn’t work, but there’s a lot of gray area between traditional prospecting and an end-to-end targeted prospecting strategy.

If your process falls somewhere in that middle area, Corey and the team at Cordial’s hard-won takeaways can help you build a more effective sales prospecting process that turns more prospects into new customers.

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