Sales Prospecting 101: How to Find Potential Customers

TLDR: Sales prospecting is necessary for more or less every business in the world. It is, essentially, the process of finding new customers for your business. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this sounds an awful lot like marketing in a different name. The core difference is that prospecting looks to get an answer quickly.

What Is Sales Prospecting?

Sales prospecting is the process of contacting people and finding out if they want to purchase your products or services. Are they likely to move forward with a sale or not? If not, move on. This is the core difference between sales prospecting and marketing.

Pro tip: Marketing tends to work with wider brush strokes and understands that it might take time (sometimes a very long time) for someone to even think about becoming a customer. 

Sales prospecting looks to cut to the chase and is already armed with some core information. It is, therefore, a far more personalized process. You’re reaching out to particular prospects and trying to get answers. It is also the style of business acquisition that many startups will lean on. It (usually) requires a smaller budget, it can get sales quickly and can convert well.

Leads vs Prospects

Many people will use the terms lead and prospect interchangeably and freely, but the truth is that there is a noticeable difference between the two. 

Prospects are those that you already know are sitting in your target market, have the money to spend on your products or services, and are in a position to make a buying decision. 

Leads on the other hand are people that aren’t qualified yet. You don’t know that they are specifically in your target market, that they have the money to purchase your products or services, or that they are even in the position to make a decision. You have to spend time qualifying them first.

Inbound vs Outbound Sales Prospecting

These are the two core methodologies of sales prospecting and the ways in which you can create prospects to contact. Putting it simply, outbound is where you reach out to people and tell them what you have to offer. Inbound is where you convince people to reach out to you, usually via your website or contact details within a piece of content. 

Again, typically inbound prospects come from the fruits of marketing’s labor but that’s not to say that there are still inbound sales prospecting methods that don’t necessarily fit into marketing’s remit.

Outbound Sales Prospecting Methods

Cold Outreach: Both cold calling and cold emailing are well-known prospecting methods. Cold calling, simply pick up the phone to someone who meets your criteria and attempt to sell them your product or service. Cold emailing is much the same but involves somewhat more finesse as there are far more ejection points before a person engages with you. For example, someone might immediately send an email to spam, delete it, open and disengage, or even read then disengage. Tactics and skills need to be in place. 

Social Media: Linkedin is usually the sales prospector’s hunting ground. It’s easy to change a lead to a prospect by keeping track of their position and their company. You have a great deal of qualifying information at your fingertips and users are just a message away.

Inbound Sales Prospecting Methods

Warm Outreach Rather than taking a shot in the dark, you can email someone who has already engaged with you. It might be through a newsletter signup, visiting your office, or even stopping by your stall at a conference, they have engaged and have therefore already shown interest. These prospects are far more enticing than cold ones.

Social Engagement Keeping tabs on social media engagement can be great for sales prospecting. If someone is engaged on social media, asking questions and commenting on posts, they are a likely target as a sales prospect.

Effective Sales Prospecting in 4 Steps

Build your pipeline continuously

If you suddenly find yourself with a lot of prospects, congratulate yourself, then find more. Keeping the pipeline full is the only way to achieve a business that grows sustainably. Build the pipeline through contact form submissions, text messaging outreach through a service like Chiirp, and chatbots.

Track everything

A sales prospector’s best tool is their data. It used to be little black books, now they come in the form of prospecting tools and CRMs. Find the best-suited one for your needs and use it to supercharge your sales team.

Test and adapt emails

Don’t create one template, send it thousands of times, and then wonder why you’re not seeing the returns you wanted. Cold emailing is an art form, it takes time, tests, and understanding of your target audience to succeed. Test, adapt, and evolve to succeed.

Build a follow-up process

Don’t miss out on potential prospects by letting them fall off your pipeline through a lack of follow-up. Build into your routine a process to follow up on successful and unsuccessful calls/emails. Some people simply need time to warm up before engaging.

Key Takeaways On Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting is a necessary process to have in any business hungry for growth. It takes time to perfect the process and methods, but building an effective sales prospecting team can be the route to a successful business.

  • Remember that prospects are those already likely to convert.
  • Build a balance of outbound and inbound techniques.
  • Understanding your target market is the first step.