8 Proven Sales Prospecting Techniques & Tips for Better Leads in 2022
When I first began selling, nervous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about sales prospecting.
Picking up the phone to cold call leads that didn’t know who I was, and delivering a sales pitch on why they should hand over their hard-earned money in exchange for my product, was enough to make my stomach turn in my early days.
But as with all things in selling, enough practice, the right training, and a willingness to learn and experiment will help you push past the nerves and build a habit of successfully executing on critical actions throughout each stage of the sales process. Your approach to sales prospecting should be no different.
Now, before we dive into our proven sales prospecting techniques, let’s cover a few key questions we’ve long fielded from readers on this topic.
What is Sales Prospecting?
Sounds pretty simple, right? While the concept of sales prospecting is pretty straightforward, it’s much more nuanced (and individualized) in practice.
What’s the Difference: Lead vs Sales Prospect
Leads come first. Leads could come in from your website, scouted via your own hard work, or even purchased. Once a lead makes it through qualification, they become qualified leads... i.e., sales prospects.
While a sales lead could technically jump in and buy immediately, they’re usually less likely to convert than a sales prospect. After they’ve been qualified and become true sales prospects, they have a much higher likelihood of converting into becoming a paying customer.
Defining the Sales Prospecting Process
The process of sales prospecting is fairly straightforward, if not labor intensive. There are five phases, starting with collecting all potential contacts and ending with closing deals.
- Gather Leads & Prospects - Your first step in sales prospecting involves creating a prospect list based on any leads that may have already expressed interest in your product, and any research you do to identify additional prospects. Your list should include prospect names, contact information, pain points, and any interest they may have already shown regarding your product.
- Qualify Prospects - This part of the sales process focuses on doing research to ensure that your prospects are indeed high quality and worth pursuing. This will involve reviewing prospects’ job responsibilities, company organization charts, and online activity to make sure you’re reaching out to the right person.
- Outreach & Discovery Calls - These stages occur during your first few calls. In the outreach phase, you’re getting your prospect on the phone to hear your sales pitch and promote interest in your product. The discovery call will be a separate meeting where you host a demo or otherwise discuss the prospect’s needs and how your product can solve them.
- Product Education - This may occur over a series of calls or meetings. In this stage, you’ll fully educate the prospect on your product, while also learning the specifics of their needs that must be addressed. This stage will also include responding to prospect objections.
- Close the Deal - With all education provided and a full understanding of your prospect’s pain points, all that remains is convincing them to buy. This stage may include pricing negotiations.
Why is Sales Prospecting Important?
Sales prospecting is the first part of the sales process, laying the foundation (and determining the success rates) for the rest of your sales funnel.
Better prospectors turn out to be better sales professionals. According to RAIN Group, 81% of top performers in prospecting met or exceeded their organization’s sales goals, compared with only 56% of the rest of the organization’s sales team.
By following great prospecting strategies, you fill your pipeline with qualified leads and increase your potential for closing deals. You become an expert in not just your product, but also your industry. You learn who’s who, and the common pain points in your space. This helps you hold informed conversations with potential customers, building your customer relationships and raising your credibility.
How to Find New Sales Prospects
Your biggest bet for finding prospects? LinkedIn. It’s the largest platform that professionals use to join communities, share ideas, and build their professional brands.
It’s also your perfect opportunity to search through ideal-fit companies and job titles, find your decision-makers, and reach out to start a conversation.
Here’s how you can use LinkedIn to find new leads and build your prospect list:
1. Type in the job title or company you’re looking for in the search bar at the top of the page, and hit enter. This will bring up a list of relevant results.
2. Use advanced search and filter options to narrow your results by location, number of connections, companies, and more. Select filters that meet your ideal customer profile.
3. Click into the profiles that fit your search, and confirm that this person is a good lead. If the listed responsibilities don’t match your ideal customer profile, try clicking on the results shown in the ‘People Also Viewed’ section.
4. Uncover each lead’s contact information using online software—here are 21 of our favorite sales prospecting tools.
And while LinkedIn is a pretty great place to start, it doesn’t have to be your only bet. Additional prospecting methods for finding new sales leads include inbound marketing, content marketing, implementing referral incentives, and more. Read all about it in our related article on ways to generate new leads without cold calling.
Sales Prospecting Tips: Qualifying and Contacting Potential Customers
Once you’ve gathered a lengthy list of leads, your next challenge is to determine lead quality and gauge (on an individual basis) whether or not they appear to be strong potential sales prospects that are worthy of your time and effort. Here are our tips for making sure that your time is spent finding and contacting the right person.
Use a Qualification Framework
The first step in your qualification process is to confirm all identified leads as decision makers for this product purchase. If you’ll need to check to make sure all identified leads meet all the major criteria you and your salesforce have identified that point to a prospect being a strong potential buyer.
Important note: These qualification questions will help prioritize your outreach efforts, so be sure to go through them before reaching out to leads. You’ll discover who you want to quickly connect with, while others will be immediately ruled out.
10 quick qualification questions you need to answer right away:
- How well does this lead match your ideal customer profile?
- Are they in one of the key geographic areas you service?
- What’s the size of their organization? (Revenue, # of customers, # of employees)
- What’s the size of the relevant department you’re selling to?
- Are they in an industry that’s a good fit for using your product or service?
- Are they currently using a competitor product? If so, which one?
- Have they already expressed an interest in buying your product?
- Does their use case align with the way your product should be used?
- How long have they been in business?
- What would automatically make them a bad fit for your product?
Score Leads & Prioritize Prospects
After running through your list of quick qualification questions, you should have two clear buckets of leads—those who’ve been disqualified as not a good fit, and those who may be qualified sales prospects.
Prioritizing the order in which you start conversations will help you avoid chatting with lukewarm prospects while your hottest leads grow cold. This is where lead scoring comes into play, with the goal of ranking new prospects and advancing your highest-value leads (and most likely to close) quickest through your sales cycle.
The most effective way to create a basic lead scoring system is by using data from your past leads—especially those who’ve become customers—to assign value to your existing ones.
- Which qualities of your existing customers contributed most to them purchasing?
- Which of these characterizations do your customers share in common?
- What do your leads that rarely convert share in common with each other?
In some cases, it’ll be obvious that a contact needs to be elevated to the top of your prospect list (like if they’ve viewed your pricing page multiple times, frequently open and click on your sales emails, or have downloaded a particular resource from your website). Other factors like team size, annual revenue, and referral source may also play into how you score your leads, and subsequently how quickly your sales team reaches out.
Review & Follow Prospects’ Social Media Channels
Most data and insights about your leads will come from your leads themselves. What are they already telling you about their business?
Make doubly sure that your prospect is indeed a great fit for your product by reviewing their social channels. Review their LinkedIn profile to make sure their day-to-day responsibilities match up with your typical customer.
Then, send a connection request on LinkedIn, sign up for RSS notifications when new blogs are posted, and follow them on Twitter to stay informed on what they post about, what they’re interested in, and any publications or awards that they earn. Staying informed on your prospects’ social media posts, job responsibilities, and career achievements help you understand their needs, while also enabling you to build rapport and establish trust earlier in the game.
Block Time for Prospecting and Outreach
With upwards of 70 or more outreach and follow-up calls that should take place each day—plus research time that needs to be accounted for—it’s important that your prospecting time goes as scheduled so you can remain on target to hit your goals.
That’s where time blocking comes in. Time blocking, or the practice of assigning specific time periods in your day for each activity to be done, has been proven to prevent procrastination and improve concentration.
To get started with time blocking, all you need to do is note down the things that need to get done each day. Calculate how much time each activity should take, and block off that amount of time on your calendar as Focus Time, not to be interrupted.
Then, set yourself up for success by making sure you have all of the tools you need for each activity, ready to go. For instance, when it’s time to start making those calls, have your prospect list and call script in front of you. Sure, making hundreds of calls in a day may sound overwhelming, but when you block the time off on your calendar, ensure no interruptions, and have all of the tools you need ready to go, it becomes a much smoother process. (And with a predictive dialer, you take much of the manual grunt work out of any dial marathon.)
Strategically Structure All Contact
Knowing how to talk to your prospects is one of the most impactful skills of any salesperson. And, lucky for you, there’s a best practice for it that works for both emails and phone calls.
Capture their attention - When emailing your prospects, start with a catchy subject line. On the phone, offer an enthusiastic and personalized greeting once your contact picks up—something personal acknowledging a recent blog post, milestone, or past conversation would work well.
Transition into a confident sales pitch - The ‘main body’ of your email or phone call should transition into your sales pitch. Ask an intriguing question or bring up your prospect’s pain point. Then, immediately describe how you can help your prospect alleviate it.
Offer added value - Adding value is critical in any sort of sales communication. Offer your prospect a free demo or sales guide to help them in their work, and if they accept, give it up freely. This gets your prospect more familiar with your product and gives you an opportunity for follow-up later.
End with a single call to action - Whether on the phone or via email, always include one of two calls to action: either ask for your next meeting, or ask the prospect to buy. Need guidance for making those asks? Check out our guide on How to Close a Deal.
Don’t Close Bad-Fit Sales Prospects
Now that you’ve made contact with your sales prospect, the goal at this stage is to take a final pass at truly qualifying their needs for their specific use cases and to make sure there’s a mutual fit for the prospect to become a happy customer. The last thing you want is to set prospects up for failure by selling your product to them before they’re ready for it.
This final round of qualification is much more hands-on and in-depth. It should be based on a back-and-forth conversation, rather than your initial upfront research.
There are four key areas you want to focus on with your final qualifying questions:
- Customer profile - How well does the sales prospect match your ideal customer profile? How big is the company? What industry are they in? Does their ideal use case fit how your product should be used? Which tools have they tried in the past? If your prospect’s answers don’t match that of an ideal customer, it may be worth recommending an alternative solution.
- Needs - What are this prospect's specific pain points? What are the needs of the individual, the team, and the company? Make it your mission to confirm which specific results your prospect wants to achieve. The better you’re able to illustrate realistic positive outcomes at all levels, the stronger their case for choosing to buy.
- Decision-making process - How does your prospect’s organization make decisions? When do they plan to buy? While smaller companies can make a purchasing decision in a month or less, bigger companies can take up to 12 months—or longer. If you need to close new business deals in three months or less in order to make your unit economics work, that sales prospect is no longer a good fit for you.
- Competition - Who are you competing against for the sale? Are they evaluating your solution vs. building their own solution right now? What are the criteria they’ll base their purchasing decision on? If you can gather clear answers to all of these questions, you'll have a great idea of whether or not your sales prospect is fully qualified or not.
Our advice? Create a simple, one-page document that lists all the crucial questions you want to ask or the information you want to elicit. Grab our B2B qualifying questions and get started today.
Be Patient and Used a Mixed Approach
Persistence is the name of the game in sales prospecting.
Whether it’s a prospecting email or short phone call, committing to ambitious activity goals for the number of conversations you start or follow up with each day will be the backbone of a strong sales pipeline for the days, weeks and months to come.
Focus on varying your sales cadence to include a variety of phone calls, email messages, and even SMS messages. There are pros and cons to each medium, and mixing up your outreach can help you get a hold of your prospects in the format of their choice.
For instance, phone calls are great for building a more personal connection between you and your prospect. They also happen in the moment, so responses are received immediately and next calls are scheduled right then and there, resulting in an overall faster time to close.
Being a visual medium, emails allow prospects to take their time to fully consume your message and identify how your product can meet their needs. It also gives them time to consider your offer, research your product, and respond back with sincere interest.
SMS messages offer the benefits of both emails and phone calls. Most prospects keep their phones on them at all times, and SMS messages are usually read in the moment—or perhaps just moments later. Short message lengths and the ability to chat back and forth provide a personal feel, like a phone call.
Follow Up on Lost Deals
Not all deals will be won—and the best sales reps always want to continue learning from every experience. When you lose a sale, it doesn’t hurt to reach out with a message thanking the prospect for considering your product, and asking what the deciding factor was that eventually led them to go with a competitor or end the search completely.
Sales Prospecting Tools that Accelerate Qualification Efforts
To further increase your speed to lead qualification (and overall prospecting efforts), consider employing these incredibly useful sales tools at various different stages of your prospecting journey.
1. Close CRM
Naturally, we’re fanatics about employing the right CRM in your sales organization—that’s why we decided to build Close (with the goal of helping every SMB and startup double their sales productivity).
And aside from the obvious benefits of using a CRM for prospecting activities like scaling your email outreach beyond what you’re able to type and send in Gmail, keeping a close pulse on every deal in your pipeline, and creating automated email and calling Sequences—employing the right CRM for the stage your business is in today can unlock massive productivity gains for your team.
Before deciding on which CRM is best for your company, take a hard look at your existing sales process… Which activities do your reps perform on a daily basis? Are they sending a high volume of emails, or making calls all day? How many leads are being managed at a given time? How much can you afford to allocate to a CRM today?
What really sets Close apart from the rest is the intense focus on sales productivity—that is, doing everything we possibly can to gear the product around helping salespeople to sell more products.
Here’s what makes Close different from other CRMs on the market:
- Built-in calling means your sales reps never need to leave Close to make calls, log notes, update the lead status and set follow up reminders (with as few clicks as possible) all while still on a call. Our calling software is also packed with automated and predictive dialing, which eliminates the need to ever manually dial numbers again, and dramatically cuts down the amount of time they’ll spend listening to dial tones, voicemails or answering services.
- Automated Sequences can be customized across team-wide or private email templates to automatically deliver a series of nurturing emails and timely calls designed to warm your leads up and encourage a reply to your outreach efforts—at scale without all the manual back & forth. This will help you qualify more leads in less time.
- Simple and robust reporting with a constant eye toward tracking your team’s most important metrics and insights to help move the needle on closing more deals. Our sole purpose as a company is to empower your team to close more sales—and our reporting, focused on starting from a pipeline level view, has the ability to zoom down and review the details of an individual deal, monitor sales rep performance and spot potential soft spots within your sales process.
That being said, we know that we’re not the only CRM on the market, and there’s an entire ecosystem of products out there that may be a better fit for you to leverage, with varying feature sets designed to achieve different specific goals.
- Salesforce: Great for enterprise-level organizations that need tons of features, complex integrations and functionality (and have the budget to support that).
- Copper: Very useful as a limited CRM for email-focused sales organizations that overlays on top of Gmail and works seamlessly with all products in the G Suite.
- HubSpot: Primarily used for contact and pipeline management, HubSpot’s CRM functionality can be a good (no-frills) starting point if your company already uses HubSpot’s marketing automation tool suite.
For more advice on how to choose the right CRM for your unique needs (yes, even if that means not using Close), check out our guide to choosing the best CRM for your small business.
As we covered above in the researching section of this sales prospecting guide, LinkedIn and their Sales Navigator Chrome extension can be massively useful free tools when it comes to researching your prospects, learning who the company’s key decision-makers are in your target department, finding contact information to reach them, and for gathering more general details about a company to help further qualify the prospect.
Hailed as the leading technographics provider, Datanyze helps (primarily B2B companies) apply their unique technology platform to help identify the different tools, products and online services a company is currently using, thus enabling you to better target the right prospects. On top of technographics, Datanyze also packs powerful data enrichment and predictive analytics tools to help learn more about every lead that enters your pipeline.
This platform is widely recognized as the premier destination for discovering industry trends, investments, and news about literally hundreds of thousands of public (and private) companies from around the world. Crunchbase is a one-stop shop for gathering key up-to-date details about a company’s size whether you’re selling to startups, Fortune 500s or anything in-between.
WordPress is far and away from the world's most popular CMS. To those who lack coding chops, however, creating WordPress sites can prove challenging. Elementor is the perfect solution in that case. Used by more than 6% of all the world's websites, Elementor enables users to create stunning lead-capturing popups. You can engage your audience with the right triggers, display conditions & advanced settings, and convert leads on the spot with Elementor’s custom forms.
Originally launched in 2010, AngelList began as just an online introduction board for tech startups that needed funding. Since then, it’s grown to become a very powerful website for learning more about startups and investors—including the ability to quickly see which roles companies are currently hiring for (often a leading indicator of potential upcoming changes in the company’s tech stack, signaling a selling opportunity).
Quickly scanning through a prospect’s Twitter stream will give you an idea of the topics they clearly care about, an idea of their communication style, and you can get a jump-start on building the relationship by engaging with them beforehand more casually. On a more granular level, you can even utilize Twitter’s advanced search feature to sift through all of their public tweets to see if they’ve ever mentioned our brand or asked a question about a competitor product.
Datafox is a company intelligence platform that helps you find and prioritize your target companies (with the goal of sourcing more qualified opportunities). Their database is built on 219,000+ hours of data science engineering and an army of white-glove analysts who’ve worked hard to help you set and forget your CRM data management (i.e. automatic updates to lead, contact, and account-level data in real-time), so that you can focus on selling based on what’s happening today with always up-to-date B2B data. (Check out our full list of B2B data providers.)
There's much more you can add to your sales stack—just be intentional about choosing the right tools for your team, and ensuring that your organization uses them effectively.
Email Templates for Sales Prospecting
Cold emails are one of the most common ways to reach out to brand new prospects. Most sales reps follow tried-and-true message formats to make outreach and follow-up a bit of an easier task. Go ahead and use some of the prospecting email templates here for referral requests, congratulatory conversation-starters, and getting in touch when prospects view or download your online content.
Cold Email Referral Request
Recent Event Congratulations
Reaching Out After Viewing Site Content
Looking for more? Take in these 10 cold email templates and learn how to write your own cold messages.
Build Your Own Sales Prospecting Strategy and Close More Deals
Doing prospecting right takes time and effort, but all of that will pay off in the end with new business.
Want to learn more strategies to level up your sales game? Get the Sales Success Kit, with 11 checklists, guides, and templates to start closing more deals today.