Effective sales prospecting is a pillar of any sound sales process — it ensures the leads you're communicating with have an immediate or potential interest in a solution like yours.
But the practice — tracking down and qualifying viable sales opportunities to set deals in motion — can be every bit as frustrating as it is essential. That's why we've put together this guide to help you navigate the process.
Here, we'll cover:
- What Prospecting Is
- How to Prospect
- Sales Prospecting Tips
- Sales Prospecting Tools
- Sales Prospecting Process
- Outbound vs Inbound Prospecting
- Sales Prospecting Questions
- Prospecting Email Examples
- Prospect Marketing
What is prospecting?
Prospecting is the process of initiating and developing new business by searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers for your products or services. The goal is to move these prospects through the flywheel until they convert to revenue-generating customers.
Why is sales prospecting important?
Prospecting allows you to connect and work with potential customers whose needs and interests align with your solution. It gives you perspective on a prospect's pain points — ensuring that you're getting in touch with contacts who will be receptive to your value proposition.
It's extremely effective, too. Research from RAIN Group found that more than 7 out of 10 buyers want to hear from salespeople early on in the buying process. In fact, 82% of buyers accept meetings when a salesperson reaches out first.
Top-performing salespeople generate nearly 3X more sales meetings via prospecting than those who don't prospect at all.
When you prospect successfully, you can schedule meetings with better-fit leads — ones with a legitimate need for or interest in your offering. Good-fit customers generally provide more long-term business.
They become particularly valuable customers, and they're much less likely to churn shortly after closing a deal than their worse-fit counterparts. But how can you identify good-fit customers? Well, that typically starts by asking the right for more insight on that process, check out this article.
Prospects are often conflated with another type of contact: leads. As a salesperson, you need to be able to distinguish between the two. You and your team will be connecting with both when prospecting — and each one requires a different approach.
Though they might seem similar — for one, they both exist around the top of the sales funnel — but there are some important distinctions between the two. Let's take a look at how they differ.
Lead vs. Prospect
Leads are potential customers who've expressed interest in your company through behaviors like visiting a website, subscribing to a blog, or signing up for a free trial.
Prospects are leads who have been researched further and qualified — meaning they have the qualities, potential needs, and interests that align with the solution you offer.
For instance, let's say your business sells project management software for growing construction firms. If the owner of a mom-and-pop construction operation that recently scored a big contract with a fast food chain subscribes to your blog, you'd probably treat them as a prospect — not just a lead.
Depending on their qualifications and fit, a prospect (not a lead) can be classified as a potential customer even if they have had limited or no interaction with your company.
But for all of their differences, the endgame when interacting with prospects and leads is the same — to nurture them until they buy your product or service. That process begins the moment you start prospecting and doesn't end until you close.
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But how do you even begin prospecting? Below, we've put together a simple guide for getting started. We'll then cover some proven tips for finding good-fit prospects who will be more likely to close.
How to Prospect
- Research your prospect and their business to gauge whether you can provide value.
- Prioritize your prospects based on their likelihood of becoming a customer.
- Prepare a personalized pitch for each prospect.
- Craft the perfect first touch — and ensure you're helping, not selling.
- Iterate on your prospecting process to understand what you can improve.
Unproductive prospecting is a huge time-waster, and certain approaches have proven to be more effective than others. To get the most out of your efforts, we recommend leveraging the inbound framework — a method that can apply to virtually any sales process.
That said, the most productive prospecting method for you is exactly that — the one for you. The prospecting frameworks, tactics, and concepts that best align with your skillset and offering won't be exactly the same as all of your peers.
That's why we’ve also weaved in personal prospecting tips and tricks from the best salespeople we know. Pick and experiment with whatever works best for your own sales hustle.
1. Research your prospect and their business to gauge whether you can provide value.
You're going to hear this again and again throughout this post — but you can't prospect effectively if you don't qualify your prospects. It's by far the most important aspect of prospecting. You can't provide value to a business if you have no idea what's valuable to them in the first place.
You're should look to accomplish a few goals in this stage of prospecting:
- Determine if the prospect is workable.
- Qualify and begin prioritizing prospects.
- Find opportunities to develop a connection through personalization, rapport building, and trust development.
2. Prioritize your prospects based on their likelihood of becoming a customer.
It might go without saying, but closing with some prospects is more viable than it is with others. So if you want to save yourself time and maximize your deal potential, you need to know where to dedicate most of your time and effort — that starts with prioritizing the right prospects.
How you prioritize your prospects will likely be specific to factors like your role, your vertical, and your sales org's preferences. But regardless of those elements, the fundamental concept always boils down to one common process — creating a few buckets of prospects and focusing on one at a time.
Scoring Potential Prospects
Prospects are usually qualified according to certain dimensions, meaning certain characteristics — including factors like deal size or timing — are deemed more important than others when identifying viable prospects. Those elements hold more weight when qualifying.
For example, let's say you're qualifying a lead to see if they could be a legitimate prospect. You would approach the situation by thinking of the process as a matter of percentages and scores.
The "percentages" aspect has to do with how important certain dimensions are, relative to others. So if your sales org prioritizes the size of a deal above all else, that quality might make up 70% of what makes an ideal prospect. If timing is considered a relevant — but less crucial — factor, it might make up 10% of what makes an ideal prospect.
Once you've assigned a percentage to each quality, you assign a score to each dimension for each potential prospect — meaning you would assign a value between 1 and 100 to each dimension based on how well a lead fits your ideal picture of that quality.
So if a lead's potential deal size was perfect, you would assign them a score of 100 for that quality. If it was an absolutely awful fit, you would assign them a score of zero.
Next, you would multiply the score you've given a lead for each quality by the percentage of weight you've assigned to that characteristic. So if a lead's potential deal size was a 50 out of 100, and you've assigned that quality a percentage of 70%, that would add 35 to the potential prospect's score.
Finally, you would add up the products of each quality's score and percentage, giving the prospect in question a total score. From there, you can put together a list, ranking each potential prospect by their viability — allowing you to prioritize your prospecting efforts.
Obviously, that's a lot to keep track of on your own. Thankfully, there are plenty of lead management resources that can do this automatically.
3. Prepare a personalized pitch for each prospect.
Every prospect is unique — with their own unique backgrounds, interests, needs, and preferences — and absolutely none of them want to be treated like another name on a list.
That's why you need to gather in-depth information on your prospects — ensuring you can put together effective, personalized pitches and conduct more thoughtfully targeted outreach.
But you can't do that without understanding what your prospects care about — and there are a few ways you can figure that out, including:
- Taking a look at the prospect’s blog to learn what they care about through the articles they're writing and publishing.
- Identifying and reviewing their social media profiles. Do they have recent updates or new posts?
- Checking the company website to review their “About Us” information.
Obviously, that list isn't exhaustive. There are other ways you can get a pulse on key elements to shape your efforts — like your prospect's interests, what their business does, how it's performing, the state of its industry, where it stands in its competitive landscape, and common pain points similar companies face.
Once you've learned more about your prospect’s business and role, you need to find a reason to connect. Do you have mutual connections? Has there been a trigger event? Have they recently visited your website? If so, which search terms drove them to your site? Which pages did they look at?
If you want to get more high-level with your prep, you can create a decision map to outline the prospect's options and end goals. That can help you better handle any objections and personalize a pitch that aligns with their primary objectives.
4. Craft the perfect first touch — and ensure you're helping, not selling.
As I just touched on, personalization is key to crafting an effective pitch — but its utility isn't limited to what you're going to say. If you want to prospect effectively, you need to personalize how you start your conversations.
Regardless of whether you call or email, your outreach needs to be tailored to suit your prospect's business, goals, needs, industry, and personal preferences.
Keep these tips in mind when contacting a prospect, whether on the phone or through email, if you want your outreach to be as specific and effective as possible:
- Personalize. Reference a specific problem that the prospect is encountering with a specific solution.
- Stay relevant and timely. Ensure the issue a prospect is trying to solve is still relevant to them and their team.
- Be human. No one likes to communicate with a professional robot. Adding in details like wishing someone a happy holiday weekend or bconveying how awesome their company’s product is are real touches that allow us to establish a connection on a deeper level.
- Help, don’t sell. Provide value and ask for nothing in return. This process isn’t about us, it’s about them. For example, instead of scheduling a follow-up meeting, you could offer to conduct an audit on their digital media presence and get back to them with your findings in a week.
- Keep it casual. Remember that this is just a conversation. Stay natural and as not sales-y as possible. The key to prospecting is that we’re never selling. We’re simply determining if both parties could mutually benefit from a relationship.
5. Iterate on your prospecting process to understand what you can improve.
Effective prospecting isn't stagnant. You need to constantly track, learn from, and ultimately improve upon your process — constantly refining your approach and finding a groove that will consistently deliver results.
Every time you engage in prospecting, keep notes throughout the process — assess what activities generated value for the prospecting process and which wasted time.
After each contact with a prospect, assess how well you:
- Uncovered challenges
- Helped create well-defined goals
- Confirmed availability of budget
- Understood the decision-making process
- Determined consequences of inaction
- Identified potential results of success
This self-reflection will help you improve your sales prospecting techniques in the future.
Now, let’s look at a few tips straight from the sales desk on how to better qualify prospects and win more deals.
Sales Prospecting Tips
- Look at your prospects’ career pages.
- Use the GPCTBA/CI sales qualification framework.
- Classify prospects with ratings.
- Subscribe to your prospects’ blogs.
- Keep track of your prospects on Twitter.
- Batch prospecting sessions.
- Use a healthy mix of email and phone communication.
- Use the BASHO sequence for emails and calls.
- Follow-up after a closed-lost deal.
- Thoroughly understand your vertical.
- Ask for referrals.
1. Look at your prospects’ career pages.
Understanding a company's priorities and direction can inform smarter, more targeted prospecting. Having a pulse on where a business is investing or growing reveals its specific interests and challenges — helping you shape more thoughtful, specific value propositions. But where can you readily access that kind of information?
Well, a company's careers page is a good place to start. A business's job board is one of the most reliable, public-facing resources you can reference to find that intel.
Let's say you sell a suite of marketing solutions that includes a content management system. If you see that a company has job listings for multiple content marketing roles, you can tailor your pitch to highlight the benefits of your CMS.
Or, if your prospect's company is public, you can also look at their annual financial report (dubbed a 10-K) under the “Risk Factors” section to see if there’s alignment between its stated business challenges and your product offering.
2. Use the GPCTBA/C&I sales qualification framework.
There are a "bajillion" sales qualification frameworks. At HubSpot, the reps have coined the GPCTBA/C&I framework (which they vouch sounds more confusing than it is).
- GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline)
- BA (Budget and Authority)
- C&I (Negative Consequences and Positive Implications)
Here is the basic breakdown and some examples of questions asked when connecting with potential customers to follow the framework:
With that in mind, you can focus on creating a highly targeted, relevant list. Based on your research, you should have a fine-tuned profile of your target customer — and every company or individual on your prospect list should meet those criteria.
3. Classify prospects with ratings.
Qualitatively classify prospects by rating them on a spectrum from high to medium to and low suitability. Here’s what that looks like:
- Matches criteria for customer persona
- Has clear business challenge that aligns with your product offering
- Able to connect with a decision-maker
- You have a mutual connection or common interest (i.e. mutual friend on LinkedIn or both graduated from the same college)
- High level of interaction with your website or social media accounts
Recommended effort: Five touchpoints every other business day
- Match some elements of your customer persona
- Has clear business challenge that aligns with our product offering
- Able to connect with an influencer
- Some level of interaction with your website or social media accounts
Recommended effort: Four touchpoints every other day
- Doesn’t match your customer persona
- Unclear business challenge
- Not able to connect with an influencer or decision-maker
- Limited or no interaction with our website or social media accounts
Recommended effort: Three touchpoints every other day
4. Subscribe to your prospects’ blogs.
Kyle Van Pelt, Executive Vice President of Sales at Skience, reads 30 articles in 30 minutes every day and uses the content in his email outreach in a tailored, relevant way. And he achieved a 90% response rate.
Kyle uses Digg to subscribe to the companies’ blogs he thinks would make for good prospects.
Here’s how it works:
- Open each interesting post in a new tab.
- Skim each post.
- Read the most interesting posts.
- After skimming through all of the options, narrow the final list down to the most interesting posts. There will typically be between 20-30 posts left. You should put yourself in the prospect’s shoes as we’re reading these articles, searching for pain points or trigger events.
- Use the most interesting, relevant information you find in the articles to tailor an email or a call to your prospect.
- All of these questions will help us craft more context around our prospect’s situation, which will help us when we’re ready to make that initial contact.
All of these questions will help you craft more context around your prospect’s situation, which will help you when you’re ready to make that initial contact.
5. Keep track of your prospects on Twitter.
Everyone’s on Twitter — including your prospects. Create a list of top-priority prospects on Twitter to more easily track trigger events and streamline the research process. Here’s how to set it up on Twitter’s mobile app:
- Click your profile picture in the upper left-hand corner, and then click "Lists."
- Now click the blue button with a list icon and a plus sign on the bottom right-hand corner
- Name the list and then set it to "Private" so only you can access it.
- Now add the prospects you want to track to your list. Just search for their accounts and click the button that says "Add."
Note: You may want to group your high-priority prospects in one list, followed by your medium-priority prospects, and then low-priority
Now that you’ve created the list, you can easily monitor your prospects’ activity using a tool like HubSpot Social Inbox. HubSpot’s Social Inbox color-codes your customers and leads and helps you prioritize your engagement. You can see what type of content resonates with your prospects by tracking their interactions, conversations, and new follows.
Now, you can focus on creating a highly targeted, relevant list. Based on your research, you should have a fine-tuned profile of your target customer, and every company or individual on your prospect list should meet those criteria.
Watch as this feed populates with prospect activity. You can check this every morning and afternoon to see if any trigger events have occurred that would provide a valuable opportunity for you to connect.
6. Batch prospecting sessions.
Batch prospecting sessions for two to three hours at a time and take a quick five-minute break between each hour. Get an egg timer, and set the timer on a countdown for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, depending on how much time you scheduled for the call.
End the call on the timer’s beep, use 5 minutes for following up, 5 minutes for updating notes and administrative tasks in your CRM, and then use 5 minutes to prep for the next call.
7. Use a healthy mix of email and phone communication.
In terms of establishing contact, you must decide between email or phone communication. Some of us will initially jump on the cold email approach while others will dive into the cold call. This strategy will vary based on what each salesperson feels most comfortable with.
First, let's take a look at the pros and cons of email communication:
Email communication Pros
Email communication Cons
|Emails are visual and allow prospects to consider the offer on their time.||Email is a cluttered space so it may be harder to grab a prospect’s attention.|
|Emails provide prospects with adequate time to research the company and product.||They're easily deleted or forgotten.|
|They're easily forwarded to key stakeholders who might be a better fit to speak with.||We may have to follow up multiple times before we get a response.|
Now, let's look at the pros and cons of phone communication:
|Phone communication Pros||Phone communication cons|
|Calls are less common than email, so they can grab a prospect’s attention quickly and more easily.||Some prospects may feel overwhelmed by a call and thus be less inclined to consider a pitch or schedule a second meeting.|
|They immediately establish a more intimate connection and offer salespeople the chance to develop rapport.||While intimate, calls can be seen as intrusive, especially when unscheduled.|
|They're often more timely than email communication and can accelerate the time it takes to close a deal.||There’s no guarantee a prospect will pick up the phone. Voicemail can often be as cluttered as email depending on volume.|
Successful first-touch strategies often incorporate both approaches to take advantage of the pros and minimize the cons.
8. Use the BASHO sequence for emails and calls.
Jeff Hoffman pioneered the BASHO sequence, which advocates a combination of voicemail and emails to gain leverage with prospects.
- Voicemail / Email: Wait for 24 hours
- Voicemail / Email: Wait for 48 hours
- Voicemail / Email: Wait for 72 hours
- Voicemail / Email: Wait for five days
- Breakup Voicemail / Email
Alternating between voicemail and email, with unique messaging each time, this technique allows prospects to consider your offer, conduct their own research, and respond at a time convenient for them.
But how do you leave a voicemail or send an email that prospects want to respond to? Let’s dive into the dos and don’ts of each communication method below.
The Warm Email
If you're looking to send a first-touch email that gets opened, there are some essentials that we must include:
- Engaging subject line: The subject line has to pique the prospect’s interest while avoiding cliché hooks.
- Personal opening line: You should begin your cold email by saying something about them, not about your business. After all, this process is about finding the prospect’s pain points and determining a way to add value to their business or processes.
- Creating a connection: Now, you have to make the connection. In your opening, they learn why we’re reaching out to them, but now they need to know why they should care about what you do.
- Clear call-to-action: Suggest a concrete time to connect or ask a close-ended question to make it clear that the ball is in their court. Try using one of these lines: "Do you have ten minutes to catch up tomorrow?" or "Are you available for a 30-minute call on Tuesday between 9 and 11 AM?"
Try sending a calendar invite, instead of an email, to get straight to the point. In the description section, you can type up a personalized message like this:
Jill Konrath also suggests scheduling a short five-minute meeting to get your foot in the door with prospects whose calendars are particularly swamped.
The Prospecting Call
If you decide to call a prospect, whether in conjunction with an email or not, you can follow this basic structure for the call:
- Establish rapport: You shouldn’t shy away from personal conversations, like asking how a prospect’s weekend was or what team they’re rooting for in the game tonight. These intimate touches help us develop a more meaningful relationship with prospects and enhance your likeability which, hopefully, means a prospect will be more likely to buy from you.
- Leverage pain points: Dive into their pain points during the call. By the end of the conversation, you should know all of their primary business challenges and the underlying causes associated with them. Once you have an understanding of these key issues, you can better position your product or services to solve them.
- Create curiosity: Ask questions about their business. Ask more than tell. This conversation is about them and understanding their needs and problems. The less you talk about your business and product, the more your prospect will be interested to hear the final pitch.
- Wrap it up: Find a calendar time between 24-48 hours after the discovery call to book a follow-up meeting. Try this line: "Would you have 30 minutes to follow up this week? My colleague, John, will join us — he’s an expert in X, Y, Z. My calendar’s open, what works best for you?"
9. Follow-up after a closed-lost deal.
Bryan Kreuzberger, founder of Breakthrough Email, sends a follow-up email if prospects respond with a rejection. The purpose of this email is simple: Learning. You can use this rejection as an opportunity to better understand how you can improve your sales techniques by sending this template:
Hi [prospect name],
Thanks for your email. I just closed your file. I have a quick question as a final follow-up. Why aren’t you interested? Was it something I did?
If there is any way I can improve, let me know. I’m always looking for input.
Thanks for your help,
One of HubSpot's sales managers uses Gmail labels to visualize his prospects as they move through the flywheel.
For example, after an initial discovery call, he sends a follow-up to his prospects and labels their response according to the action required. This allows him to easily shift gears when contacting cold prospects versus re-engaging old prospects or moving warm prospects further down the funnel.
10. Thoroughly understand your vertical.
Sound prospecting is about identification and consultation — meaning you need to be able to identify prospects who will be receptive to your efforts and frame yourself as a consultative resource to almost-instantly build trust in your initial conversations.
Your ability to deliver on both of those elements starts with you thoroughly understanding the space you operate in. You need to know your vertical inside and out — the nature of the industries you serve, how companies within it generally operate, relevant technical jargon and concepts, and the most common issues the types of prospects you connect with run into.
That starts with thorough research. Once you start operating within an industry or serving businesses of a particular scale, get a pulse on the space's more technical aspects. Know how the products or services the businesses you connect with work — as best you can.
Also, learn industry-specific terminology that you can reference when talking with prospects. That will help establish you as an authority in your prospects' space — not just some random salesperson.
Additionally, get a feel for how your vertical has evolved by brushing up on its history — and stay abreast of industry trends via company blogs, industry-specific publications, or any other contemporary resources that give you perspective on where the space stands and where it might be headed.
Taking those kinds of strides will give you a more productive understanding of who you should be connecting with and what you can say to resonate with them.
11. Ask for referrals.
According to HubSpot's recent survey of over 1,000 sales professionals, 66% of salespeople say referrals from existing customers offer the best leads — and high-quality leads often become productive prospects.
By asking for referrals, you can generate a wider base of warmer, more easily convertible contacts — giving yourself a crucial leg up when prospecting. When an existing customer connects you with a referral, they're essentially saying, "I think this person could stand to gain from your solution."
In turn, you can go into your engagement with those leads knowing they're more likely to consider your offering than most cold contacts. You can also reference the customer who put you in touch with that lead when conducting your outreach — a solid conversation starter that lets you develop instant rapport.
So how do you ask for referrals? Well, obvious as this might sound, you just ask for them. When you convert a prospect into a customer, follow up with them and ask if they know anyone who might benefit from your solution.
If they don't know anyone straight off the bat or are reluctant to immediately hand out names, wait until they've leveraged your product or service for a while. Then, check in when you know they're happy with your offering. If they hit that point, they'll likely be willing to put you in touch with some contacts who will be willing to hear you out — especially if you offer them some sort of incentive.
With all of the steps and tricks involved in the prospecting process, you might find yourself spending too much time on menial tasks. Luckily, you can use sales prospecting tools to boost productivity and automate tasks.
Sales Prospecting Tools
You can select specific tools from this list to use independently or in tandem with each other. Consider which tools you currently use for prospecting to determine your needs and gaps. Then, experiment with the options below to discover which ones work best for your business.
1. HubSpot CRM
Pricing: Free Plans Available
Best for Accruing and Applying Data for Detailed Company Insights
The HubSpot CRM has a robust suite of features that can cover a range of your business's needs — but when it comes to prospecting, the solution sets itself apart with how it supports detailed company insights.
Your prospecting efforts can't take you too far if they're poorly informed — and sorting and applying relevant prospect information you gather can be a process that's as frustrating as it is essential.
The HubSpot CRM automatically populates new contact, company, and deal records with details from its database of over 20 million businesses. All you need is a prospect’s corporate email address.
Ultimately, the software includes several resources that can accommodate virtually any business's needs. But if you're specifically in the market for a solution that can streamline, simplify, and ultimately enhance your prospecting efforts by giving you a fully-fleshed picture of who you're selling to, the HubSpot CRM might be the way to go.
Key Features and Benefits
- Automatically populated business insights, informed by a database of over 20 million businesses
- A centralized location for easily sorting and tracking prospect details — including intel from sales calls, emails, and notes, deal activity, lifecycle changes, and social media information
- An accessible dashboard that lets you choose which information to display on your contact, company, and deal records — all without help from IT
Pricing: Free Plans Available
Best for Aggregating Email Data for Prospecting
Hunter offers a unique resource that can set effective email prospecting efforts in motion. Its solution allows users to quickly and easily translate web data into a list of email contacts — giving its salespeople ready, targeted access to a solid base of prospects.
Hunter boasts an impressive roster of customers — including Google, IBM, and Microsoft — and for good reason, it's a solution that reconciles accessibility with powerful functionality. Virtually any salesperson can easily leverage it to verifiably identify and connect with almost any prospect they need to.
Key Features and Benefits
- Searching and finding prospects' email addresses by role
- Identifying emails via common email format used in the organization from dozens of possible combinations
- Producing email addresses either in bulk or individually
Pricing: Plans Starting at $35 per Month
Best for Reliable, Easily Integratable Calling and Texting Automation
Kixie is one of the preeminent prospect outreach resources on the market. It's a customizable business calling and texting platform that allows you to thoughtfully and effectively time and target your sales calls — letting you connect with the right prospects at the right time.
The software folds easily and seamlessly into your tech stack — integratable with several high-profile platforms, including HubSpot, Slack, and Pipedrive. It's also one of the most accessible options in its space.
Virtually any user can quickly pick up and leverage the program without extensive training. If you're looking for a streamlined, low-maintenance solution that lets you connect with your prospects when they're most likely to be receptive to your outreach, look into Kixie.
Key Features and Benefits
- Supports an extensive suite of integrations
- Able to contact thousands of prospects in a single day
- Easy implementation with minimal training required
Pricing: Free Plans Available
Best for Establishing a Baseline for a Sound Prospecting Infrastructure
The purpose and utility of HubSpot's Sales Leads and Prospecting Software are captured in its name. It's a collection of resources that help you refine and more effectively conduct your engagements with leads and prospects — one that covers a lot of bases.
These solutions include a conversation intelligence system that can give you perspective on how to best tailor your messaging — they also feature automated email sequencing, customizable email templates, predictive lead scoring, and several other first-rate resources for better understanding and catering to your prospects.
HubSpot's Sales Leads and Prospecting Software is essentially a one-stop shop that offers a fundamentally sound basis for effective prospecting. If you're looking for a suite of free resources that provides virtually everything you need to set your sales org up with a solid prospecting infrastructure, check out these resources.
Key Features and Benefits
- A range of programs — including conversation intelligence, email templates, email sequences, predictive lead scoring, and reporting
- Ability to track and filter leads to identify viable prospects
- Seamlessly blends with your tech stack
Best for Sound, Approachable Cold Email Outreach
SalesHandy is an outreach resource that allows you to reliably send thoughtful, effective, high-converting cold emails. The solution offers features like automated, multi-stage sequences for consistent follow-up — ensuring interested prospects don't fall through the cracks.
The software lets you standardize your outreach strategy without sacrificing personalization — helping you tailor your subject lines and email copy to suit individual prospects without too much legwork. It also ensures that the content of your emails isn't too robotic, letting you circumvent spam filters and deliver emails your prospects will actually read.
Ultimately, SalesHandy is a cold email solution with a robust suite of features — several of which aren't mentioned here — that can help support how you reach out to prospects. If you're looking to integrate a platform that can enhance how you connect with prospects into your tech stack, consider looking into SalesHandy.
Key Features and Benefits
- Automated follow-up for scheduling multi-stage email sequences
- Merge tags that allow for personalization
- Easy integration with your current email provider
Best for Screening and Discovering Businesses That Fit Your Ideal Customer Profile
Crunchbase is essentially a business intelligence gathering platform that lets you pull live company data to inform more targeted, effective prospecting. The program lets you search and pull information from a massive database of organizations — providing insight into individual companies' characteristics and operations.
The platform gives users a picture of key elements of how a business functions and performs — including investment information, founding members, leadership profiles, mergers, acquisitions, news, and industry trends.
Crunchbase effectively centralizes and streamlines your prospect research efforts — providing you with valuable intel that can help you structure more thoughtful pitches and execute better-targeted outreach. If you're in the market for a solution that can both simplify and enhance how you understand your prospects, consider investing in Crunchbase.
Key Features and Benefits
- An extensive pool of live data on thousands of potential prospects
- Filter function that lets you pare down your searches based on ideal characteristics
- Live tracking to keep tabs on key company events and developments
Pricing: Contact for Pricing
Best for Improving Outreach Efforts via Coaching Reps
Gong might be the most prominent conversation intelligence platform on the market. It's a powerful solution that boasts an impressive list of customers, including LinkedIn, Zillow, and Okta — and for good reason. The platform is dynamic, intuitive, and can enhance virtually every aspect of your sales process.
The solution offers a range of sales call-related features, but its support for more targeted call coaching might be its most practical — especially when it comes to improving sales orgs' prospecting efforts.
Gong gives sales managers the recordings, transcripts, and data necessary to zero in on where reps are hitting hitches when conducting outreach — all of that information can also expose other flaws and inefficiencies in elements of a sales org's prospecting efforts like its call cadence and sales messaging.
All told, Gong is one of the most effective, accessible resources your sales org can leverage to ensure your phone outreach is first-rate — helping your reps prospect more thoughtfully and effectively.
Key Features and Benefits
- Guided workflows to help you establish repeatable processes for better-targeted call coaching
- Visible transcripts for focused call analysis
- An impressive suite of integrations — including HubSpot, Salesforce, and Slack
Pricing: Free Plans Available
Best for Easily Sourcing and Accessing Prospects' Contact Information
Lusha is a first-rate data enrichment resource for finding prospects' contact information — including email addresses and phone numbers. The solution allows you to easily and reliably connect with decision-makers and other key contacts at a range of businesses.
The program's "contact search" feature provides as many as 1,000 contacts — supported by enriched data — in a single search. It also lets you pull up millions of potential prospects' direct dials.
From there, the software lets you convert those searches into focused, clean, exportable contact lists. And all of these features come in a straightforward interface that reconciles accessibility with powerful functionality.
Key Features and Benefits
- Robust and thorough "contact search" function
- Similar "company search" function
- Extensive suite of integrations — including HubSpot, Salesforce, and Gmail
Pricing: Free Plans Available
Best for Conversationally Connecting With Prospects
Datanyze is an intuitive Google Chrome extension that allows salespeople to easily access B2B contact information and other valuable prospect data — including email addresses, direct dial numbers, and company details.
But Datanyze really sets itself apart with its personalization. The program leverages automated machine learning to support one of the most detailed B2B databases on the internet — and that degree of detail doesn't go to waste.
The solution uses that insight to structure relevant icebreakers for individual prospects — unique conversation starters informed by elements like prospects' social media feeds and local news publications.
Key Features and Benefits
- A robust, detailed B2B contact library
- Easily integratable — so long as you have Google Chrome
- Generates specific, effective icebreakers for prospect outreach
Best for Improving Sales Call Productivity
Ring.io is a sales dialing solution that streamlines your team's sales call process and ultimately improves your org's sales call volume without sacrificing productivity. It allows your reps to dial directly out of your CRM — easily and reliably connecting them with the right prospects.
The program also includes features like automated local caller ID and automatic pre-recorded voicemails — making your prospect outreach more efficient, personalized, and approachable.
Leveraging Ring.io also lets you shape and refine an effective call cadence, and the software accommodates even the longest leads list. Taken together, all of those factors amount to wider-reaching, more productive sales calls.
Key Features and Benefits
- Direct dialing out of your CRM
- Automated local caller ID to improve connect rate
- Automated pre-recorded voicemails for prospects you miss
Now that you're prepared with the guidance, tips, and tools you need, let’s take a step back and look at the sales prospecting process as a whole.
Sales Prospecting Process
Let's say you've decided whom to pursue. Now, it’s time to get even more granular and jumpstart the nurturing process — ideally resulting in a closed-won deal. Regardless of what your sales pipeline looks like, you’ll typically go through the following phases.
Effective prospecting begins by further researching the prospects whom we’ve determined are generally a good fit. The goal during this phase is to determine the quality of the prospect — how likely they are to make a purchase, based on factors like their budget and challenges.
You get there by evaluating the prospect using preset qualifying dimensions — a set of criteria to evaluate the probability that a lead or prospect will become a customer — and keeping track of your findings through a CRM.
Once you've qualified the prospect, you need to reach out to someone at the business — once you've identified that contact, you can connect with them directly using a sales prospecting email.
In many cases, you'll have to deal with a gatekeeper — a company representative who essentially screens you before you can connect with someone with decision-making authority — like a personal assistant or receptionist.
Ideally, once you've worked your way past a gatekeeper (or multiple gatekeepers), you'll be put in touch with a decision-maker — someone who has the seniority and relevant authority to purchase products or services like yours — typically someone in the C-Suite or at the director level.
3. Discovery Call
After connecting with a gatekeeper, you're going to want to schedule a discovery call — a preliminary conversation with a prospect where you ask thoughtful, relevant questions to uncover a prospect's goals, interests, and pain points.
A discovery call is a unique opportunity for you to simultaneously understand and impress your prospect. Asking the right questions on your call can help you tease out the information needed to understand whether your offering suits their business — giving you a solid basis for an effective value proposition.
But an effective discovery call is more than a conversation for gathering intel — it's a chance for you to demonstrate your relevant knowledge and start building rapport with a prospect.
By asking thoughtful, articulate questions that speak to how well you understand elements like their industry or scale, you can establish yourself as a trustworthy authority in their space — right off the bat.
And by having a conversational, disarming conversation on the call — without sacrificing professionalism — you can plant the seeds of a productive working relationship with your prospect.
4. Educate and Evaluate
After your discovery call, you need to use the insight you gathered to evaluate and qualify the prospect's needs. This stage provides the basis for whether a prospect legitimately needs your solution, how viable a potential deal is if they do, and how to frame your value proposition — making it one of the most (if not the most) crucial steps listed here.
Here, you're going to consider two main factors — pain points and potential objections.
A company's pain points are the issues, concerns, or gaps in its operations that your product or service could remedy. With the information from your discovery call, you should be able to piece together what those aspects look like.
For instance, let's say you work for an edtech outlet that offers curriculum scheduling software. You've just had a discovery call with a midsize community college. During your call, you learned that it takes students at the school an average of three years to earn an associate's degree as opposed to two, leading to reduced enrollment.
You also found that classroom scheduling conflicts — stemming from the institution's existing curriculum scheduling system — are making required courses for popular majors fall by the wayside every semester.
With that in mind, you could piece those two bits of information together, identify degree velocity as a major pain point, and point to how your software can fix it — giving you the basis for an effective, concrete value proposition.
You also need to be mindful of potential objections your prospect might raise. Those can include elements like budget or time constraints. When preparing for this side of the process, make sure you thoroughly understand the pain points you identified and the state of the business in general.
Have a pulse on the company's current buying power, whether it legitimately needs a solution like yours, exactly how urgent that need might be, and the soundness of the rapport you've established with your prospect up to this point. With all of that in mind, try to account for the potential pushback that might stem from those issues.
Know your prospect's business inside and out, and when they raise objections, make sure you're specific in how you respond. Talk about how your solution will address their issues, don't just tout your product or service's features in general.
At this point, you should have all the information you need. You know the prospect’s challenges, pain points, and possible objections. Now, it's time to try to turn them into customers — to demonstrate and convey the value you can offer them. This will result in one of two outcomes:
- Closed-won: When the buyer purchases a product or service from the sales rep.
- Closed-lost: When the buyer fails to purchase a product or service from the sales rep.
From these two numbers, you can calculate your closing ratio — or the ratio of prospects that a sales rep closes and wins.
As you move through the process, you can typically engage with prospects one of two ways: either through outbound or inbound prospecting.
Outbound vs Inbound Prospecting
Sales, as a field, is constantly shifting, and naturally, how prospecting is conducted is shifting with it. Sales reps no longer have to choose between inbound or outbound prospecting — now, they have the flexibility to decide whether they want to incorporate elements of both into their efforts.
Outbound prospecting is when you reach out to leads who haven’t yet expressed an interest in your product or business. You typically identify prospects through independent research — by finding them via LinkedIn, Google, or another platform.
Inbound prospecting is when you reach out to a lead who shows an active interest in your business or product. They’ve visited your website, subscribed to your blog, or maybe even submitted a form asking to speak to a sales rep. You then engage with them to understand whether they’d be a good fit for the product.
Here are the key differences between the two methodologies.
|Outbound prospecting||inbound prospecting|
|Outreach||Cold calling or emailing — unsolicited calls to sell a product or service||Warm emails to explore a relationship with a lead who has already expressed familiarity with your product or service|
|Social "spamming"||Unsolicited social media messages to sell a product or service||Using social media to explore a relationship with a lead who has already expressed familiarity with your product or service; sales reps can provide value to prospects on social media by answering their questions and introducing them to useful content|
|Process||Research takes longer without any prior history with a contact — less context for us when we’re ready to reach out to establish a connection||Research process is shorter as we already have their contact information and interaction history — it provides us with context about the prospect’s interests or prior behavior, allowing us to develop more personalized outreach|
|Example||“Hi John, I wanted to reach out to you because I’ve worked with companies similar to yours in the past."||“Hi John, I’m reaching out because I noticed you were looking at our e-book on improving sales productivity.”|
Our recommendation? Lean mostly on the inbound methodology when you prospect — but still include a responsible approach to outbound tactics like cold calling and cold email. This last piece is especially important for businesses that don’t have enough qualified inbound leads.
Before a salesperson even has a chance to contact a prospect, they're already over half of the way through the sales process. It’s time companies and sales reps start helping the buyer rather than selling to them by leveraging their context and understanding who they are and what they need.
But how do you do that? How do you find prospective buyers and learn the context surrounding their business needs? Even more importantly, how do you determine whether or not you should begin the process of selling to them?
You’ll do this by asking a few basic sales prospecting questions.
Sales Prospecting Questions
Knowing who to pursue saves us a significant amount of time. Not every lead is fit to be a prospect, and not every prospect will become a paying customer. Luckily, you can ask a few questions that can help you determine whether a prospect is worth pursuing.
Even if you use outbound prospecting methods, you should see a much better response rate because you took care to vet their business for suitability.
Below are some qualifying questions and related takeaways to help you evaluate whether or not a prospect has a high probability of becoming a customer.
Is the prospect's business an organizational fit?
This type of qualification is based solely on demographics. Does the prospect fall within your territory? Do you sell in their industry? Does it fit your buyer persona?
Say your target market consists of small- to medium-sized businesses with anywhere from 100 to 1,000 employees. You should eliminate any potential customers outside of these criteria.
Diving deeper, your product or service will naturally provide higher value to a particular profile within that target market. For example, medium-sized businesses consisting of a larger team. Those customers are also more likely to upgrade to a higher tier of your product, providing more lifetime value as a customer.
Takeaway: Prioritize customers based on the size of the opportunity or their potential lifetime value.
Have you identified key stakeholders?
There are two types of people involved on the other end of your sales process: decision-makers and influencers.
Influencers may not have the power to buy, but they’re often the ones that will be using the product and thus can become your biggest internal advocates. If you get them to rally around your offering, they can make a compelling case to decision-makers before you even speak with them.
Decision-makers are, of course, the ones that either approve or reject the buy. You can ask these questions to determine the decision-making process: Will anyone else be involved in this decision? Does this purchase come out of your immediate budget?
Takeaway: Keep a working list of influencers and buyers, perhaps mapped out by the organizational structure of the organization. You’ll use this list later in the outreach phase.
Are the prospect's constraints a deal-breaker?
Time constraints and budget limitations are often the biggest objections you'll receive from prospects. Before wasting time on an exploratory call to hear this objection, do some homework beforehand to see if you can filter out potential buyers who clearly don’t have the bandwidth to consider your offering.
Takeaway: If you see a prospect has just launched a new marketing campaign, they might not have the time to cycle through an extensive sales process. You should take note of prospects who clearly have their hands tied and revisit them at a later date.
Do you have familiarity with the prospect’s market?
You're likely to be more familiar with certain types of companies, markets, or industries than others. Your pitch and sales techniques are also likely to be more refined with markets you feel comfortable talking about, so you should prioritize these prospects first.
Takeaway: Group similar prospects by characteristics such as their service offering, their market, or their industry, and prioritize these groups based on your familiarity with them.
Additionally, value-added prospects to whom you can provide more value are more likely to buy your offering. For example, if you’re selling basic digital marketing services and you see that your prospect already has a robust web presence, the probability you can create tremendous additional value is low.
Another takeaway: Classify prospects by the level of value you think you can provide.
Do they have an awareness of your offering?
Your prospects will likely have varying levels of knowledge about your product or services. The more awareness they have, the more likely they are to see the value in your offering and become customers.
If a prospect has visited your website, subscribed to your blog, or posted content about something related to your offering, they probably know a lot about your company or service.
Takeaway: Group prospects by their level of awareness so you can take advantage of this familiarity later in the sales process.
Prospecting Email Examples
Ready to reach out to prospects? Use the following email templates to get started.
1. Reaching Out After a Referral
Hey [prospect name],
It’s great to meet you. Our mutual connection, [name of referrer], recommended I get in contact with you because [X].
I would love to hear more about what you do in your role — according to [name of referrer], it seems like you may be facing [X] challenges.
[Product name] can help you achieve [X] and increase efficiency by [X]%.
Is that a priority for your team right now?
2. Providing Links After They Downloaded a Resource
Hi [prospect name],
It’s great to meet you. How are you enjoying [name of resource] so far?
I can see that you’re interested in [X] and have compiled three more resources that will help your team do [X] better.
- [Link 1]
- [Link 2]
- [Link 3]
In the meantime, I’d love to hop on a phone call and learn how your quarter is going so far. Are you available on Thursday morning for a 10-minute call?
3. Congratulating Them for an Award or Publication
Hi [prospect name],
Congratulations on receiving [award]! That’s a rare accomplishment — kudos to you and the team.
Now, to introduce myself, I’m a [title] at [company]. I work with small businesses in your industry to achieve [X] results. Just last week, [competitor] told me they finally reached their goal of [X], boosting their ROI to [X]%.
I’d love to chat and see whether we can get similar, if not better, results for you. Would you be available for a ten-minute call on Friday?
Stuck? Here are some more resources.
- Effective Sales Prospecting Email Templates That People Will Want to Open
- Sales Prospecting Email Templates Guaranteed to Start a Relationship
- Templates for Cold B2B Sales Emails and Tips for Writing Your Own
Don’t let it stop here. You can also market to your prospects, warming them up to the idea of making a purchase.
Prospect marketing is a brand of content marketing a business leverages deeper in its sales process than most other types of marketing. It involves providing a prospect with media like sales collateral, technical documents, and other resources to help influence their decision-making as they move closer to closing.
You've successfully prospected a handful of potential clients. Now what? It's time to nurture those prospects with prospect marketing.
Prospect marketing is essentially bringing a prospect into the flywheel and closer to, well, Close. Just because you connect with a prospect doesn't mean you should stop all marketing efforts. Instead, your marketing should become more personalized and targeted.
If you haven't already developed sales collateral, work with your marketing and customer service teams to prepare these materials for potential buyers in each stage of their journey. Email templates, call scripts, and pre-call checklists are just a few of the tools to streamline the prospect marketing process.
Another prospect marketing strategy is creating workflows in resources like HubSpot. Workflows automate your marketing processes — including how you market to your prospects. Use Workflows to set up pre-written emails, SMS messages, or in-app notifications that are sent to your prospects based on certain triggers, such as a video view, content offer download, or inactivity for a certain number of days.
In short, anything that keeps your prospects engaged with and educated about your brand is considered prospect marketing. Even a daily or weekly check-in with prospects counts. Again — just because you've connected with a prospect doesn't mean the marketing should stop.
Begin Sales Prospecting
Prospecting doesn't have to be a difficult and tedious process. In fact, it can be a positive experience for both sales reps and prospects. Adopt a few of the strategies we reviewed above into your workflow and experiment with different techniques and tools to see what works best for your team. Then, you'll be sure to begin converting more good-fit prospects into paying customers.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.