The customer acquisition process is a long journey. As any salesperson knows, there are many phases to this journey, and while the close might get all the glory, the most important part of the process may be all the way at the beginning: prospecting.
It's a pretty high-stakes task, when you think about it. Fail to put in the work in lead management and proper prospecting, and you risk putting a person in your pipeline who is never going to be a customer. As a result, you'll waste a lot of time on that individual with pitches and closes which are doomed to go nowhere.
Multiply that by a few dozen or even a few hundred bad leads over a quarter, and you're talking about a lot of wasted time, and therefore lost revenue.
Qualifying leads is an art in many ways, and no software solution can do the work for you. But it can help you do it a lot better and more efficiently, so it's important to examine some of the best prospecting tools on the market to see how they can help you.
Here are our picks for the top prospecting tools:
What to look for in a great prospecting tool
But exactly what should you look for when choosing sales prospecting software to improve your lead development and qualification efforts? There are three characteristics in particular that you should keep an eye out for, and they largely drove our selection of the top 10 solutions.
1. Email marketing
One of the best ways to find and qualify a new prospect or lead is through email marketing campaigns. You should look for software that offers strong email marketing features that not only allows you to send out bulk email to a list, but also lets you customize the message through templates and monitor the performance of that campaign, such as who has opened the email or which messages get the best response.
You have so many avenues to collect qualified prospects, and so little time. Perhaps they’re responding to your marketing campaign, maybe they’re just browsing your website, or perhaps they’re filling out a form.
Timeliness is important in getting a qualified prospect’s attention, and automation can really help in making sure they are contacted and none of them fall through the cracks. So look for software with strong automation features to take some of the load off of you and your sales team.
It’s really important that you know exactly where each prospect stands in the sales process at any given time. You don’t want to contact a lead to make a pitch when you haven’t even introduced yourself or gotten to know their needs, after all.
By having a simple way of visualizing each prospect and where they stand in the pipeline, you’ll be more effective when you do make contact.
The top 10 prospecting tools for your small business
It’s tough to determine which software you should use for prospecting, because they all approach it in so many different ways. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best CRM software options with the best prospecting tools to help you in your search.
Of all the choices, we found Pipedrive’s sales prospecting tool most impressive. For one thing, Pipedrive connects your emails with your contacts, so you're never confused about who the prospect is who is contacting you and what stage they are at in the sales cycle.
The software makes it easy to see the status of all your prospects, and if they opened any of the marketing emails you have been sending. This helps guide follow-up contacts and lets you know just how close they are to making a purchase decision.
Pipedrive is also good about timeliness. The software lets you know as soon as a prospect opens an email, giving you an opportunity to respond within minutes, which is critical to successfully closing a sale.
But that's not all: the software does lead scoring and even has a bot that collects leads through your website and then automatically sends them to a sales representative.
2. HubSpot CRM
One of HubSpot CRM's unique features is a real-time chat option that gives you an opportunity to contact a prospect as soon as they check out your website. The chat feature asks website visitors if they have any questions, and that's a great way to turn someone who's just browsing into a red hot lead within seconds.
But that's just one of HubSpot's lead generation tools. They also have a suite of sales and marketing features that allow you to automatically nurture prospects. You can also contact leads straight from the software dashboard, making it a fully integrated solution for prospecting.
The great thing about Insightly is that it can easily contact your lead database with bulk email, and you need no tech know-how to do it.
The software also tracks emails to let you know if leads are opening them, or if they're just not interested and therefore you should strike them from your list. It also offers up to 100 email templates so you can provide a nice variety of responses to leads.
Insightly also does a good job of improving the flow and organization of your business, which has a tremendous impact on your ability to prospect effectively. And its suite of marketing tools offers lots of ways to find new prospects.
4. Salesforce CRM
Salesforce CRM is an excellent sales research tool, and it has a whole host of tools for just about any CRM-related function, and prospecting is no different.
Their opportunity management feature lets you funnel leads through the pipeline easily, and they offer advanced data and sales analytics to determine the likelihood of closing that lead.
They also offer email marketing that allows you to send bulk email to prospect lists and customize the content on each email to get higher conversion rates.
And you can assign a status to each prospect indicating whether they are in the funnel, so your next contact will be the right type of interaction, whether that be a pitch or a close attempt.
5. Zoho CRM
One of Zoho CRM's top aspects is its simple workflow, which helps you do the kind of lead mapping you need to do in order to map out where your prospects stand in the pipeline.
It also makes it easy to decipher exactly what the next step is with your prospect, whether that be scheduling an appointment or doing more lead qualification. In fact, we found that its lead and contact management system are the best aspects of this software.
If you're willing to upgrade to the Zoho Professional version, you'll get access to other prospecting tools, such as the ability to generate leads from social media accounts and CRM for Google AdWords campaigns.
6. Capsule CRM
Capsule CRM effectively fills out your prospect list with all of the details you need. You can import contacts from a spreadsheet, and the software automatically creates fields in the software. And you can easily add an opportunity or case to the contact once it's uploaded so you can track the prospect's progress.
You can use information on prospects to fill out your sales pipeline. The software enables you to input info like expected value, expected close date, and milestones, which helps you track your progress toward sales goals.
The dashboard is easy to use: all you have to do is drag and drop prospects along the pipeline as you make progress with them.
Additionally, Capsule has a limited free version, making it one of the few free sales prospecting tools out there.
Close CRM offers email marketing so you can generate leads, which you can quickly and efficiently contact with their Power Dialer so they stay warm. These email marketing campaigns can be fully automated, and the software makes it easy to deploy drip marketing to improve the quantity and quality of leads.
Additionally, you'll be able to track the emails you send, so you can adjust messaging and determine the best way to find more qualified prospects. Also, you can schedule when the emails go out, and send follow-up reminders.
8. Redtail CRM
Redtail CRM does a great job of compiling prospect information, which is important when you make follow-up contacts: all that vital potential client information is right there at your fingertips, including a detail as seemingly minor as a prospect's birthday. This feature makes it a great B2B prospecting tool.
The software also gives extensive historical details on what activities have taken place with your prospect, whether that be a phone call or an agreement to do a pitch meeting. You can also include notes on the prospect and view an email history.
9. Agile CRM
Agile CRM displays your prospects in kanban style, showing where they are in the sales process, which is helpful for your sales team in that they can quickly check up on the status of their leads and get a broad, overarching view of them.
If you're willing to spring for the paid version of Agile you get access to all sorts of prospecting tools, such as email campaigns, web engagement, a landing page builder, which is perfect if inside sales are a big part of your business, and all sorts of automation tools to bring more prospects into the sales pipeline.
10. Vtiger Sales CRM
Vtiger Sales CRM comes with detailed contact management fields that enable you to input every piece of info you can possibly imagine for a prospect, so you can dial them up later and have abundant information at your fingertips.
It also has customizable fields and notes in case there is info that is specifically important to you and your company.
The software is also capable of conducting a mass email campaign so you can nurture those leads and stay at the front of their minds. Its Professional version lets you do drip campaigns and social media integration.
It’s time to try some prospecting tools out
If you're looking to improve your prospecting, you need a solution that helps you visualize your prospects well, has good email marketing features, and has the ability to automate many of the laborious tasks that can bog down your team.
All of these options do a good job with prospecting, although they can have radically different approaches. The best way to determine which is right for your business is to pick two or three packages that most appeal to you from this list and give them a try.