When we talk about sales prospecting, we’re looking at the act of finding new leads and acquiring new sales opportunities. It’s an essential part of any business . . . and, it can take a lot of time and effort to do right.

In the olden days, sales prospecting looked like flipping through the yellow pages, cold calls, sales presentations, and other energy-intensive activities. But the good news is, there are plenty of tools out there today that can help you to automate huge parts of the process.

We’ve assembled some of our favorite tools to help you automate the most essential parts of your sales prospecting process: lead generation, lead enrichment, email management, social media management, and sales funnel building. Plus, we give you some important tips on the benefits of automating . . . and what to watch out for!

1. You can target more specific demographics through automated lead generation.

Before, if you needed to target a specific demographic, you had to comb through different lists manually. For example, if you want to sell to young restaurant owners in the San Fransisco area, you would need to cross reference professions, age demographics, and location. While you may eventually end up with a solid list, doing all this work by hand is going to take time.

Fortunately, sales prospecting automation tools can generate leads based on information found online--in seconds. One excellent tool is called LeadFuze.

LeadFuze is widely considered to be one of the strongest B2B lead generation tools. It allows you to search for prospects based on several criteria, like profession, industry, keywords, and locations.

Source: Sprout24.com

This means that in addition to saving time, you can also afford to be pickier. Since you won’t need to manually search for each criterion you add, you can be as specific in your demographics as you’d like. This way, your leads become higher quality and offer you a better chance at success.

Another advantage of automating this part of sales prospecting is that there’s less chance for error. There’s human error, of course, but there’s also the chance that data you’re cross-referencing will be out of date. Since these tools gather information from a variety of online sources, you have a better chance of having up-to-the-minute accuracy. Which brings us to our second point…

2. You can work with intelligently-collected, accurate data through automated lead enrichment.

It goes without saying that a lead is only valuable if you can actually contact them. And, it’s much easier to “wow” and win a prospect if you know a lot about their current situation. That’s why it’s imperative that you have accurate, up-to-date information about all of the leads you do ultimately find--a process called “lead enrichment.”

In the past, you would need to manually do some recon on each prospect to fully understand who you’re targeting. You want to know things like relevant company updates, size, up-to-date email addresses, etc, so you’d do research across a variety of platforms--social media, general searches, company websites, the good ol’ yellow pages, and more.

The good news? Sales prospecting automation tools can enrich your leads through intelligent cross-platform research in just moments.

One excellent lead enrichment option is Leadspace. Basically, Leadspace will comb the Internet--social media accounts, blogs, websites, etc.--and fill out profiles for your prospects and customers. Then, it will even take this a step further by using machine learning and predictive analytics to identify who they think is most likely to buy.

A free tool you can use for data enrichment is Hubspot. (Hubspot also has a paid version that works similarly to Leadspace). With the free version, you can plug in a company name and it will pull up things like estimated revenue, websites, location, social media profiles, and more.

Something that is important to note, however, is that your mileage may vary when it comes to the effectiveness of lead enrichment tools. Some are more accurate than others, and since we haven’t quite nailed artificial intelligence and machine learning just yet, you’ll still need to be discerning when it comes to the data these different tools pull. Overall, it’s advisable that you treat data enrichment tools as a starting point rather than the final answer.

3. You can be more reliable and consistent with your communication and follow-ups through email automation.

Way, way back in the day, a lot of prospecting was done through cold calls. Way back in the day, prospecting was done through cold emails. But now, in modern times, cold calling is dead, individual cold emails are laborious, and prospecting can be completely automated through fancy-schmancy email tools.

Email automation can handle follow-ups, sales sequences, and more--with surprising nuance and accuracy. One tool we love is Active Campaign.

In Active Campaign, you can use templates to create custom funnels that score prospects based on their interactions with the email. Think of it like a Choose Your Own Adventure but for sales and marketing. If you love micromanaging things, you’ll have a blast playing around in this tool.

Source: Active Campaign

One obvious benefit of this is that it allows you to be super hands-off for the simpler parts of the process. Since you can get super into the nitty-gritty details, you can give your prospects or leads a unique experience without needing to get involved every step of the way, saving you time, stress, and effort.

Another benefit is that you’ll never forget a follow-up since a computer will do it for you. This means that fewer leads will slip through the cracks, and ultimately, you’ll be in a better position to close more deals. Plus, if you use a program like Active Campaign that keeps records and scores on how each target interacts with your messages, you’ll end up with more enriched leads.

And finally, a not-to-be-overlooked benefit is templates. Whether you’re using the email automation tool’s included templates or creating your own, it will save you some serious time and energy if you don’t have to write emails from scratch each and every time.

It is important to note, though, that boilerplate cold emails don’t tend to be as effective as customized ones--so use them as a framework, not the final product!

It’s time to talk . . . about Robocalls.

Alright. We knew we’d get here eventually.

Robocalls are a part of sales prospecting automation. For as much heat as they get, they are a legitimate part of some businesses--like the robocall you get reminding you to pick up your prescription from the pharmacy. But the truth is, robocalls as an alternative to cold sales calls is becoming less and less effective . . . and more and more hated by the FCC.

For the best chance at success, it’s most advisable to automate other parts of your sales prospecting and keep it old-school with real, live phone calls.

That being said--there are some super handy tools out there to help you make the most of your live calls, like Gong. Gong records your sales calls and intelligently helps to identify your reps’ most successful “plays.” It can suggest things for your sales reps to say to help them close deals and even give them statistics on how their calls are going.

Source: Gong

4. You can increase your prestige and brand awareness through social media management tools.

So far, we’ve started each of these by talking about the original, back-in-the-day version. But for social media, there really wasn’t a precursor. Which is what makes this type of sales prospecting so exciting and so essential, and gives it a ton of potential.

According to Hubspot, companies that use social selling techniques regularly are 40% more likely to reach their revenue goals. More and more, prospects will find new brands on social media through ads and the recommendations of their friends or will do some digging on a new brand through their social media pages. It’s an excellent way to create brand awareness for your business and to cultivate the exact image that appeals most to your target audience.

The biggest downside? It’s extremely time-consuming. The internet never sleeps and trends come and go in a matter of minutes. In order to fully take advantage of this new space, your company needs to have a fairly active presence.

Fortunately, there are tools to help you look much more active than you are--like social media management tools. Like Hootsuite.

Hootsuite allows you to build a social media calendar and schedule posts weeks in advance. You can even cross-post on different platforms, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. It’s a super handy way to stay relevant and visible without pulling your hair out.

Source: Hootsuite

And, social media management tools let you do more than just schedule--they also help you to monitor your various platforms, all from one place. In the era of social faux pas, it’s especially important to keep an eye on all your various outlets, just in case.

5. You can build sales funnels that run while you sleep through process automation tools.

You won’t always be around to field questions and direct new prospects--you have to sleep sometime, right?

Although prospecting is only one part of your sales funnel, it would be remiss to not address the big picture. Of course, automating your entire sales funnel is beyond the scope of this article . . . but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw some awesome tools your way to help push those prospects along.

A basic but essential part of automating your sales process is creating landing pages. One solid option to consider is Leadpages. Leadpages allows you to create completely customizable and trackable landing pages so that when you do ultimately send a prospect to a sales page, you know exactly how they behaved and interacted with your material.

One fun (and increasingly popular) solution is an AI chatbot. You’ve definitely seen them before--sometimes, when you visit a website, a little chat box will pop up in the bottom right corner. Hate to break it to you, but there’s not usually a live person sitting on the other end.

Chatbots--like Intercom--are fully customizable. You can program them to say whatever you want them to say and you can have customer service representatives on standby to jump in for the more pressing questions.

Source: Intercom

Conclusion

Prospecting is an essential part of any business’s playbook. It can take time and effort, but by using some of the many powerful automation tools on the market today, you can prospect more easily, accurately, and effectively than ever before. Check out tools that help with lead generation, lead enrichment, email automation, social media management, and other elements of your funnel to see how you can simplify your day-to-day operations.

Do you have a favorite sales prospecting automation tool that didn’t make our list? We’d love to hear from you! Comment it below.