What Is a Prospective Client? (With Sales Conversion Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 16, 2022 | Published January 3, 2022

Updated June 16, 2022

Published January 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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Sales representatives gain business by pursuing potential clients to purchase their business's products or services. An essential part of the sales process is in converting leads into prospective customers and closing sales with these new customers. Understanding what prospective clients are and how they relate to the sales process is key to effectively bringing in new business. In this article, we explain what a prospective client is, describe how they work, and offer helpful tips for turning prospects into clients.

What is a prospective client?

A prospective client is a potential customer who fits a certain criteria which allows sales reps to identify them as an opportunity to target with their sales pitch and make sales. Prospectives can differ from one company to the next. This often depends on which industry the business is in, the services or products they sell, and the nature of their clientele.

The first step in turning a sales lead into a sales opportunity is identifying your client prospects. For instance, if you sell hiking shoes to retailers, your prospect list may include outdoor equipment stores within a 20-minute drive from popular hiking trails. By targeting these prospects, it can narrow down the stores you may decide to approach to the accounts most likely to engage in business with you.

Is a prospective client different from a lead?

The sales process often begins by gathering leads. While sales representatives use both leads and prospects, it's important to distinguish the two. Leads are opportunities that are previously unqualified and don't satisfy particular criteria for a sales opportunity. Prospects, conversely, meet established criteria for potential sales targets and so are pre-qualified based on the opportunity they represent. Reps may gather leads through channels such as marketing campaigns, email, or sign-ups. With leads gathered, the reps can then identify which of them are prospects based on their potential, or which are non-prospects.

When reviewing leads, a business's marketing or sales teams may not yet know if individuals are potential customers or clients. Usually, this is because they don't yet have enough information to identify whether they satisfy the criteria to become prospects for their specific service or product. Here are two additional ways that prospective customers differ from leads:

  • Companies may group leads. Organizations often group leads together and communicate with them collectively via media, such as emails. Sales teams may address prospects more directly than leads to understand their unique needs and meet them.

  • Leads receive one-way communication. Leads tend to be recipients of information about the business making sales, while prospects engage in more of an interactive relationship with the sales team and often across multiple communication channels.

How do prospective clients work?

If you're a sales representative, you're likely to have a variety of ways to identify prospects, but the most common way is to start with your list of leads. With your criteria set, you can engage in prospecting your relevant leads to convert them into prospects and start them in the company's sales process. You may find leads through an email list, a demographic search, or a website's visitor list. The goal at this stage is to identify if the lead you're approaching qualifies as a prospective client.

Throughout this process, it's wise to spend time accurately and thoroughly qualifying your leads. By doing this effectively, you can identify and focus your attention on the prospects with a higher likelihood of engaging in business and presenting lucrative sales opportunities easier. Not only can promising prospects offer a higher number of sales opportunities, but they can also make bigger or higher values sales.

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Using criteria

The sales process of converting leads into prospect clients most commonly starts with a single criteria point. For instance, as a hiking boot sales rep, you may seek leads between the ages of 21 and 35 because they represent the highest portion of people who go hiking regularly and spend money on specialized foot ware. With this point identified, you can move on to another criteria point to further narrow down your prospect's compatibility with your product, such as their spending habits, their fashion choices, or their gender.

Tips for turning prospects into clients

After a lead becomes a prospect, the next stage is to convert them again along the sales process into a paying client or customer. Reps do this by employing a set of sales techniques. Here are a few helpful tips for success in transitioning prospects into clients:

Show them how your product applies to the real world

A prospect may want to understand how your product or service works, applies to, or exists in the real world before feeling confident about spending their money on purchasing it. It's wise to consider ways to showcase to your prospects how what you're selling can relate to their own life. You can do this by explaining relevant features which differentiate your offering, scheduling a trial or test opportunity, or providing samples where possible. Sometimes, elements like video guides are effective for exemplifying your product to a prospect.

Communicate through alternative channels

Traditionally, sales personnel have used phone calls and emails to reach and communicate with prospects to turn them into clients, but there are many other effective communication channels that can be beneficial for sales reps to explore, as each one has its own strengths. For instance, you may consider using website chat features or social media to contact and communicate with prospective customers. This channel allows immediate contact and the ability to address small topics quickly. Print media, such as fliers, allow sales representatives to provide more communication without the expectation of a reply or discussion.

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Meet face-to-face

One of the most effective ways to communicate with clients is by having a conversation with them face-to-face. Building a call cycle in which to visit your most promising prospective leads is an effective way to convert more of them into clients. By meeting in person, it's much easier to employ sales tactics and techniques and gain the prospect's trust. In-person meetings also make it easier to offer demonstrations of your product, present various offers or negotiate deals. It's also easier to present a sales offer to multiple individuals when meeting face-to-face rather than on a phone call.

Use soft selling

Often when prospects enter a company's sales process, the business may employ hard-selling strategies to achieve sales quickly. This works for some companies, although it can deter particular clients because this tactic offers less opportunity to connect. You can consider employing soft selling techniques, which involve spending time getting to know the prospective customer's needs, motivations, and considerations. Soft selling also allows you to build relationships with your prospects and establish trust and understanding, which then helps your prospect to feel valued and can lead them to make purchases.

Building relationships is an effective way to affect the success of your sales efforts. When you're proposing a sales opportunity to a potential client, you're asking them to potentially risk their money by purchasing your product or service. With trust in place, prospects are far more likely to spend funds on your product based on the possibility of it providing them with equal or greater value to their spending. Similarly, with a stronger relationship, clients are more likely to recommend your product to others.

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Use case studies

An effective method for converting prospects into clients is to provide them with access to prior case studies and customer reviews. You can direct them to resources where they can read or hear about the experiences other have had with your service or product. This can help them gain confidence when making a purchase decision by reinforcing the benefits of your offer. Allowing prospects to relate to others' experiences can be a powerful motivator in sales. This also provides an example or proof that your product or service has been worthwhile for others.

You may consider building a marketing campaign that features positive testimonials and reviews to share with prospects. It's wise to collect these success stories throughout your ongoing relationships with your converted clients to gain new clients in the future. Ask your current clients to offer reviews, engage in social media channels, and recommend your product or service. You can also collect impressive statistics from the sales or marketing team. Collecting a range of positive testimonials is a valuable tool for gaining the interest and trust of your prospective customers.

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