Sitting back and expecting customers to just come to you? You’re missing out. Like all good things in life, you have actually to go out and find them.
This is called sales prospecting, and it can be one of the most difficult and intimidating parts of the B2B sales process. But it’s crucial for loading up your calendar with meetings and maintaining a healthy sales pipeline.
Not sure how to start with prospecting, or need to review the best sales prospecting techniques and advice? You’re in the right place.
Keep reading to learn our top 10 prospecting tips for sending prospecting outreach that actually gets attention, bookings, and deals.
- What is Sales Prospecting?
- What are the Benefits of Sales Prospecting?
- So Why is Prospecting So Hard?
- 7 Common Sales Prospecting Myths
- 10 Sales Prospecting Techniques That Book More Meetings
- Sales Prospecting Tools You Should Be Using
- On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Book More Meetings!
What is Sales Prospecting?
Sales prospecting is the first step in the sales process. You reach out to people who you think might be interested in your product or service.
Your goal is to book a meeting with the prospect. In that meeting, you’ll educate them on your offering and eventually convince them to buy—but don’t worry about all that just yet.
Right now, as a prospector, your job is to grab the prospect’s attention and get them to agree to that meeting.
Rather watch than read? The Sales Feed team asked top sales experts for best practices in sales prospecting on this episode of Sales Stuff Explained.
What are the Benefits of Sales Prospecting?
Your prospecting outreach is your first encounter with a buyer. It’s a chance to make a great first impression on behalf of yourself and your brand.
If you can hit it out of the park in the prospecting phase, you’ll establish a relationship with your prospect that’s based on their trust in you. This trust is an important foundation for the rest of your sales cycle.
Prospecting also gives you insight into your potential customers. What do they want? What do they hate? Prospecting gives you a look at what’s going on inside your buyers’ heads and into the state of the market at large. You can use this information to refine your overall sales strategy.
So Why is Prospecting So Hard?
Prospecting may be an incredibly important stage of your sales process, but it can also be the crappiest.
If you’re in an outbound sales role, you know prospecting is hard. Sellers across the board agree that reaching buyers is getting more challenging. 42% say booking meetings with potential customers is a top challenge.
Nobody likes getting rejected. Picking up the phone and getting in front of prospects only to be shut down over and over can be demoralizing.
What if your prospect has a question you don’t have the answer to? Or an objection you can’t shoot down? What if they ignore you or, worse, yell at you? (Let’s just say that there’s a reason why so many SDRs secretly hope that their prospects won’t pick up at all.)
And, possibly worst of all, prospecting is just plain time-consuming. You have to spend hours a week on the mind-numbing grunt work of scrounging up prospects and sending your outreach.
But the truth is that sales prospecting is, like anything, an acquired skill. The more you prospect, the better you’ll get at it and the more comfortable you’ll feel doing it.
You can make it easier on yourself by going into it with the best sales prospecting strategies and tactics on hand to back you up, along with tools like sales prospecting software and AI-powered automated prospecting to help save precious time and effort.
Feeling a little better about prospecting now? Next, we’ll bust seven common sales prospecting myths—then dive into the 10 sales prospecting techniques that help you book more meetings.
7 Common Sales Prospecting Myths
1. “Cold Calling is a Waste of Time”
“Cold calling doesn’t work” just isn’t true. Some sellers swear by email, but do you know what a prospect can do to your email? Just click Delete. A cold call often gets ignored, but there’s at least a chance that the prospect will stop and listen to your voicemail. Email, by comparison, is frictionless: One click and it’s gone.
So always make that dial, and always leave that message, just in case. And if you feel like your cold call tactics need a bit of a modern update, consider trying out video prospecting as a compliment. (We’ll discuss it in more detail later in this guide.)
2. “You Have to Email Before You Call”
Don’t ask for permission—just make that call. (If anything, send the email after the call containing relevant info and the next steps that the prospect can take.)
3. “I Can’t Take This Callback Right Now”
If a prospect is taking the time to call you back, it means you’re in. You need to be as excited to pick up that call as a high schooler would be about a call from their crush. If you miss this callback, you probably won’t get a second.
4. “Don’t Be Picky About Your Prospects”
If a prospect isn’t a good fit for your product, they’re almost definitely not going to buy. So why are you wasting time on reaching out to them? Focus your time and effort on qualified prospects that are good fits for what you’re selling.
5. “Prospecting Scripts Aren’t Personal Enough”
No way! Sales scripts are a great way to save time and brainpower, and it only takes a little effort and creativity to customize them for each prospect. Ensure you’re plugging in tightly targeted information about the prospects, their pain points, and the benefits they can gain from your solution.
6. “You Have to Book the Meeting in the First Conversation”
If you’re laser-focused on booking that meeting ASAP, you’ll likely come on too strong, which can drive the prospect away. Take the time to answer the prospect’s questions, clear up their misconceptions, and make them feel comfortable with both you and your solution.
7. “Prospects Never Change Their Minds”
Even if a prospect turns you down today, circumstances can change. They may develop new needs in the future that your solution is a great fit for—or maybe their company opts for a competing product that the prospect winds up totally hating. If a prospect seems perfect on paper but says “no,” give them some time to cook, then come back to them in the future to see if they’ve changed their mind.
10 Sales Prospecting Techniques That Book More Meetings
Let’s jump into 10 sales prospecting techniques that you can use to start booking more meetings right now. They are:
- Identify your ideal customer
- Find your prospects
- Set your goals
- Customize your outreach
- Prospect to the right people
- Pick your prospecting method
- Structure your day to maximize your time
- Use a sales cadence
- How to handle sales prospecting objections
- Stay active and follow up
Below, we’ll dig into each of these milestones in your prospecting sales process.
1. Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
To start, getting an idea of your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP) is crucial. An ICP captures the ideal or perfect customer—that is, the customer that’s the perfect target for your solution.
How to Identify Your ICP
Remember the following when identifying your ICP:
- What does the typical customer look like?
- What’s the status quo of what goes on within their organization?
- What are they typically trying to accomplish with a product like yours?
Once you have your ICP, you might get overwhelmed by the sea of people you can potentially call. The best way to approach this is to select a specific niche of ICPs to narrow down on.
“If I get more into that ICP niche, my confidence in selling to that customer will increase, and my ability to provide value to that customer quicker will also go up.”Kara Smith Brown LeadCoverage Founder & CRO
You can do this by looking up people who work at companies in the niche you’ve chosen. From there, make a list of people who’ll benefit from your product, and then choose people who are senior enough that they can probably make the purchase.
Figure Out How to Actually Meet Your ICP
Once you have your ICP in the bag, it’s time to figure out how to connect with them.
Where do they spend their time? What events do they attend? Where do they get news, information, or inspiration?
Those are the channels you want to chase. If your ICP consists of buttoned-up business execs, they’re probably not big on TikTok. But if your ICP is young people just starting out in their professional careers, TikTok may be the perfect avenue into their awareness.
2. Find Your Prospects
So you know who your prospects should be. Now it’s time actually to go out and find them. Here are a few places to look:
- Social media. X (formally Twitter) and LinkedIn are great for finding prospects who match your target customer profile.
- Automated prospecting tools. Virtual sales assistants and prospecting-focused AI tools can automatically dig up high-quality prospects for you.
- Events. Webinars, trade shows, and other events, whether in person or online, give you the chance to rub elbows with potential customers.
- Industry-specific groups. These can be professional organizations, forums, blogs, etc.
- Company info databases. Resources like Crunchbase can give you the inside scoop on companies you’re interested in pursuing.
- Your competition. Who are other competitors in your space going after? Their prospects could become your prospects. It’s especially useful if your product can do something that your competitor’s product can’t—and that “something” is important to your prospect.
All the information you’re gathering on your ICP is called a trigger.
Triggers provide context behind the reason why you’re reaching out to the prospect. Triggers are typically the first sentence or subject line in a sales email or an opener in a cold call. This way, the person you reach out to (who may not know who you are) has some summary/context.
A few good ways to identify triggers include looking at the following:
- The prospect’s LinkedIn profile
- The prospect’s company website (press releases, newsroom, etc.)
- Interviews on YouTube done by the prospect
Once you’ve identified those triggers, start reaching out to your prospects so you can start filling up that sales pipeline.
3. Set Your Goals
Set a clear goal for your prospecting. Is your goal to book a meeting? Scheduling a demo? Just getting a reply back? Life can be tough in the prospecting trenches, so setting manageable, realistic goals is a good way to keep your morale high while you’re stuck on the grind.
However, here’s one specific goal for your consideration: Instead of targeting a booking, aim to simply build a positive relationship with your prospect. Focus on offering them value. Show that you’re listening to their needs, or send relevant content they might find interesting.
Buyers generally want to trust salespeople before they feel ready to sign, so working to establish that rapport from the outset can take you a long way.
4. Customize Your Outreach
The fastest way to turn your prospect off is to hit them with a plain old form email or call script. They’re probably getting at least a dozen of those a day. Why should they pay attention to yours?
Gather as much info as you can about your prospect’s challenges, goals, and pain points, then use that information to personalize your outreach. How can your product solve the prospect’s specific problems? What relevant content can you send to the prospect in order to add value to the conversation you’re having with them?
If you don’t have specific intelligence about your prospects, look at what other similar prospects you’ve previously connected with have dealt with or what’s going on in the prospects’ industry or professional circles right now.
Does a sales script make your outreach feel too formulaic? Only if you aren’t using the right script. Scripts are a fantastic resource for taking the time and elbow grease out of your outreach—so long as you’re including lots of opportunities to customize pieces of that script to fit your prospect.
Need some scripts to get started? Try our 10 favorite sales scripts.
Using a sales script can speed up your prospecting—but letting AI write custom scripts for you can make it faster than ever. Try using a prospecting-focused AI tool, like our own Vidyard Prospector, to automatically generate personalized emails for your outreach.
5. Prospect to the Right People
If you aren’t prospecting to the right people inside a company, you’re wasting your time. Make sure you understand the internal structure of the company you’re pursuing and how your targeted prospect fits in that structure.
Wasting time and resources on lower-level employees who lack decision-making power can lead to fruitless efforts and missed opportunities. However, prospecting these gatekeeper employees can help you, too: Your conversations with them can give you insight into the company’s challenges, needs, and pain points. Having this info in your pocket lets you tailor your pitch when you do climb the ladder to engage with the employees who do have the authority to sign a deal.
If you think a certain company is a sure bet for your product, try a two-tiered sales prospecting strategy. Start by prospecting employees with more modest titles, then progress to higher-ups. This gives you a better understanding of what’s going on inside the company and also demonstrates your commitment to providing solutions that align with the company’s objectives.
6. Pick Your Prospecting Method
It’s time to decide how you’ll connect with your prospects.
Nearly 60% of sales pros agree it’s taking more touchpoints to move deals forward to close. So, the best chance of success is an omnichannel outreach approach that employs a variety of touchpoints across different mediums.
Right now, the most popular sales prospecting techniques are:
The best sales reps don’t just use one prospecting method, though. They use a good mix of all of these.
How to Cold Call for Sales Prospecting
The first prospecting method, and probably the most well-known, is cold calling.
If you’re calling a customer without having an appointment on their calendar, it’s a cold call.
When cold calling in sales, always introduce yourself and recognize that you’re calling out of the blue. From there, get into your conversation.
Cold calling can be awkward initially, and you might encounter failures or rejection. But don’t take them personally. Truthfully, customers have different priorities, and sometimes they’re just not interested in buying. Just keep cold calling, and you’ll eventually find the people willing to buy from you.
In this episode of Sales FAQ, eight trainers, leaders, and practitioners dish out the best way to open a cold call. Watch this video to learn what works best for them!
How to Cold Email for Sales Prospecting
The next most common prospecting method is cold emailing. Like cold calling, you’re sending an email to a prospect without any prior contact.
Some people waste no time deleting prospecting emails in their inboxes. So, the best way to approach cold emailing is to keep your email short and structured like this:
First sentence: Quick context as to why you’re reaching out.
Second sentence: Describe the current state and the current problem with it.
Third sentence: What does the future look like for them with your product or solution?
Final sentence: Finish with a call to action (CTA), like booking a meeting.
Try to avoid the following when sending a cold email:
- Long emails
- Poorly formatted emails
- Cliches (“I hope this email finds you well,” “bumping this for visibility,” etc.)
- A calendar link to book at their convenience—instead, suggest specific times (“book a call with me tomorrow or Thursday”)
Make sure to read your email out loud before sending it. You’ll hear issues that aren’t apparent while reading and can edit them before the email goes out.
After sending, don’t be discouraged if your email doesn’t get a response. Even the best emails don’t get responses sometimes. Don’t give up! Just keep sending.
Need inspiration for your cold email subject lines? Check out our collection of over 40 winning email subject lines for sales.
Alternatively, you can just let someone else write your subject lines for you (namely, AI). AI-powered sales prospecting tools can handle all your cold email subject lines and their body copy. Just fill in some key info, let AI generate a personalized message, and you’re ready to go. (Talk about a time-saver!)
How to Use Video for Sales Prospecting
Using video messages to prospect is a game-changing outreach method and is a powerful way to book more meetings. Nearly three-quarters of business or sales development reps use video messaging for outbound prospecting.
Video stands out in inboxes—over 60% of reps say it’s helped increase response rates. The customer gets to see you and feel your energy. And best of all, when you use video for sales, you can personalize your message in no time flat (even if those videos are only 15-30 seconds long).
With video tools like Vidyard, you can easily record and send a video via email clients, sales engagement platforms, or even LinkedIn InMail messages. You can also take advantage of video analytics to see how much of the video somebody watched and even get notified when they view it so you can follow up immediately.
Here are a few things to consider for your video outreach:
- Avoid looking creepy (filming in a dark room, in the corner, etc.)
- Don’t make it too long (shoot for 30-60 seconds)
- Provide a brief written summary before the video embed in case they can’t watch it in their current situation or need additional context.
Not sure what to say in your prospecting video? We have an array of video prospecting templates that you can use to get started.
Sales Feed’s Chris van Praag asked eight sellers and sales leaders about the most creative and memorable sales videos they’ve ever seen or sent. Here’s what they said.
How to Use Social Selling for Sales Prospecting
Social selling is a newer but efficient prospecting method. It’s a great way to create your personal brand, be recognized by millions of people using social platforms, and produce content to drive sales.
Use social media to educate people in your networks about your solution or product by commenting on posts, sharing content about your product, or sending video messages.
You can also leverage video to further engage and connect with your audience. Video can be an eye-catching way to start conversations with prospects. 93% of businesses landed a new customer because of a video on social media. Just remember to keep your videos authentic to who you are.
How to Ask for Referrals for Sales Prospecting
Sometimes, your best way to reach out to a prospect is through someone else. A referral from a satisfied customer is a better foot in the door than any kind of cold outreach.
Try asking for a referral right after the deal closes. They’ll still be riding high on securing a great product, as well as the positive experiences they had with you throughout the sales process. Your product and the buyer’s positive experiences with you during the sales process.
But once you secure that referral, don’t leave that customer out to dry—reconnect every now and again to see how they’re doing with your product, to show them that you care about more than just that referral.
7. Structure Your Day to Maximize Your Time
Now that you know what prospecting methods you should use, your success as a salesperson will be very predictable based on how you also choose to spend your time.
Ask yourself: How much time do I need to spend to fill up my pipeline? What do those daily pipeline-filling activities look like?
Breaking up your day into smaller doses, like time-blocking your weekly calendar to create focus periods, can help maximize your prospecting time.
Time Management Tips for Sales Prospecting
When managing your time for prospecting, consider these things when you time block your day:
- When is the best time to call prospects?
- When is your energy level the highest so you can be the most effective on these calls?
- Are you being consistent when making those calls?
- Will you be able to stick to your calendar?
You have to have a process that works and a goal every day. This way, you’re not letting your day take control of you.
“Prospecting is like working out! It’s hard to do, but if you’re consistent, you’re going to get results.”Morgan J Ingram JB Sales Director of Sales Execution
8. Use a Sales Cadence
A sales cadence (or sales sequence) is a structured and systematic approach to reaching out to prospects. It’s a roadmap showing exactly which touches to make and when to make them.
Using a cadence makes your prospecting more consistent, more persistent, and just plain easier. You don’t have to stress over “Is it too soon to send another email?”—just follow the cadence.
Jordan Leuvoy, Enterprise Account Executive from Salesloft, shares the secrets (and his winning sales template) of how “pleasant persistence” pays off for an outbound sales cadence strategy.
9. How to Handle Sales Prospecting Objections
You call and email and inMail. After all that work, you finally get a reply from a prospect…but it’s an objection. Crap.
Handling objections is just another part of sales prospecting. Objections usually fall into one of four buckets: The prospect doesn’t see the need for your product, they don’t see it as a priority right now, they don’t trust you or your brand enough, or the price just isn’t right. When you break an objection down to its most basic form, countering it is way easier.
We collected responses to 33 of the most common sales objections that you’ll hear in sales conversations. Read our guide to sales objection handling.
10. Stay Active and Follow Up
Yes, prospecting isn’t easy. You’ll get ignored; you’ll get hung up on; you might even get yelled at. (Ouch!)
But it’s important to keep going. Keep following up until you get a reply. Treat every conversation, even the crappy ones, as a learning experience and an opportunity to improve. And most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Prospecting can be draining, but it’ll all pay off when you finally get that buyer who’s been looking for a solution just like yours.
Sales Prospecting Tools You Should Be Using
These days, sales prospecting takes more than a phone and a Rolodex. Connecting with the most prospects possible means using the right tools.
Prospecting-focused platforms often make it easier to dig up leads, send outreach at scale, and plan your next steps. Here are three categories of sales prospecting tools that are worth exploring.
Lead Management and Outreach Software
This kind of tool helps you find the right prospects then reach out to them. Here are a few big names in this space to check out:
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator: Filter LinkedIn profiles to find prospects that check all your boxes, then connect with them through inMail.
- Salesforce: Meet prospects wherever they are and track the progress of your engagement.
- Outreach: A sales engagement platform that helps manage and automate your prospecting workflows.
- Salesloft: Track your sales cadences using playbooks and analytics to refine them until they shine.
- Apollo: A massive lead database that you can filter to find the right prospects with the right buying intent.
- Gong: Helps personalize prospect engagement, plus suggests next steps.
AI is surging in sales lately and has a powerful use case for prospecting. It’s kind of like having your own personal sales team on your side.
Vidyard’s AI Script Generator is one example of an AI-powered sales prospecting tool. It can spin up a ready-to-roll script from just a brief prompt. Alternatively, Vidyard Prospector is a more in-depth prospecting tool. AI digs up high-quality leads and crafts personalized sales emails for you.
Recording and sending a video to your prospect can seem intimidating, but it’s actually one of the most effective ways to make an impression and incline them to call you back. You stop being a faceless name in an email signature and start being a real person that they can build a relationship with.
Vidyard Video Messages is a great way to get started. You can create and send videos to your prospects from right inside your browser, and you’ll get a notification when one of your prospects watches your video.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Book More Meetings!
And that’s everything you need to know about sales prospecting, with 10 easy prospecting techniques to help you book more meetings.
Once you get those tips and prospecting strategies down, you’ll fill up that sales pipeline like there’s no tomorrow.
So get out there and start prospecting. You’ve got this!
This post was originally published on July 13, 2022. It was updated on October 11, 2023.