Sales Prospecting Definition with Techniques to Do it Well

Josh Slone posted this in the Sales Terminology Category
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Sales prospecting

Sales prospecting doesn’t mean what it used to and it can even be automated!

Sales prospecting is one of the most important aspects of an organization, let alone a sales process. Yet, many companies don’t even have the same prospecting definition in fact many people still don’t know what sales prospecting is—making it difficult to have a set procedure to gather leads.

All companies (startups especially) have to fill their pipeline with good leads in order to acquire customers. There are several ways to find people who may want to buy:

  • Inbound Marketing (Content marketing, SEO)
  • Referrals (Colleagues of current customers)
  • Networking (People you meet and rub elbows with)
  • Outbound Sales Prospecting (The subject of our post today)

There are setbacks to each of these sales prospecting techniques. Getting around these hold-ups is part of growing a business.

Inbound sales prospecting takes time and effort on the front end.

Referrals may not be plentiful enough to grow your business.

Networking doesn’t mean you’ll meet the right people.

Outbound sales prospecting means hitting the proverbial pavement and finding lead data from scratch.

Motivated yet?

Don’t worry. We (obviously) feel strongly about the potential of developing, qualifying, and closing B2B outbound leads.

It’s this passion that has led us to write a series of posts on sales definitions including the definition of prospecting. In this one, we’ll define the term “sales prospecting”, talk about the process, define who should be doing it, and how to best get around the time-consuming process of lead generation.

The goal is to teach you:

  • Sales Prospecting Definition (What is prospecting, exactly? We define it in detail)
  • Answer the Question, What does sales prospecting mean for your business or quota

That way you can do what makes you money—talking to people who actually want to buy.

Let’s Start With Some Definitions

sales prospecting

Sales Prospecting: The act of recruiting or seeking out new customers for a business. Prospecting is a common role of a salesperson. It is associated with a goal of increasing the customer base of the company and generating new revenue streams. (source:

It’s important to note that the term “prospecting” and a “prospect” mean two different things in the sales world. We want to define prospecting.

A prospect is a lead in the pipeline that is likely going to make a decision. Click To Tweet

Let’s quickly define prospect, too. A sales lead that is close to being qualified for an appointment with a closer is a prospect. We have a whole post outlining what a prospect is right here. We’ve also covered how to qualify prospects here.

So, What Does Prospecting Mean Again?

In the sense of prospecting, it’s just like a gold miner. You are sitting by the river, checking mounds of dirt for a few specks of gold.

You are trying to create new leads. Maybe researching a new market, or digging deeper into the same sectors.

The point is, you’re starting with a clean slate.

When you start a sales prospecting session, you have no leads nor contact data. When you’re finished with that session, you have leads and contact data.

Networking is not prospecting.” — Mark Hunter

The difference between leads and prospects

It can seem difficult to discern between leads and prospects. Plenty of companies have their own definitions of the two terms, while different marketing automation and CRM software solutions have their own ways of defining them.

There are those that consider leads to be qualified prospects, while others state that prospects are sales-qualified leads.

For the sake of this blog post, it’s crucial that we’re on the same page regarding what constitutes a lead vs. what constitutes a prospect.

A lead is a potential customer that has expressed interest in your company, products, or services through one or more actions such as visiting your website or subscribing to your blog.

Once you qualify leads, they become prospects.

The difference between lead generation and sales prospecting

Lead generation represents all the inbound and outbound activities a marketing team does in order to generate leads. 

Sales prospecting, on the other hand, is directed toward activities that help to convert leads into customers, such as meetings and phone and email conversations with leads.

Who Should Be Doing Sales Prospecting?

what is sales prospecting?

There are several stages in the life of a company, but really there are just a few different roles that will handle the crucial process of outbound lead prospecting.

  • Owner/Founder: In the early startup stages, founders will likely handle the outbound lead gen. There are ways of automating the entire process by using lead generation and sales prospecting tools (such as ours), making it much easier. We’re talking the earliest time of your company. The one where you do the coding/creating/packing, pay the bills, and handle the sales.
  • Sales Rep: Some companies may have a stage where they have sales people that handle the entire process from generation to close. This isn’t a preferred method, but it may be unavoidable for your organization.
  • BDRs: If you really want a healthy sales team, it should have both sales and business development reps. SDRs will handle mostly inbound leads (the other ways of getting leads we talked about earlier). BDRs will strictly be for finding and qualifying leads in an outbound setting.

If you can afford to hire a person specifically to find and qualify outbound leads, we encourage you to do so.

When trained and focused, these reps can enter into new markets that will likely bring in more referrals and inbound leads in the future. While they may not set as many appointments as an SDR, the ground they open up can grow your company for years to come.

Using LeadFuze to Quickly Find Targeted Leads

With LeadFuze, anyone can find thousands of qualified leads in a matter of minutes. Then, you can automatically send those leads to the other tools in your outreach stack. 

Enter a few details like:

  • The industry you’d like to target
  • Size of the average company you’d like to see
  • Roles of contacts you’d like to target
  • Geography (if interested)
  • Even tech being used and ad budgets can be searched.

After your search yields high-quality contact data like names, emails, phone numbers and social profiles, it’s time to see the full power of LeadFuze.

One you pull up every single contact that match your criteria — You can use Fuzebot to automatically send a number of those leads to tools like Mailshake, Close, dux-soup and more.

25, 50, 100 leads a day can enter your funnel without you doing anything other than setting it up once! Cold outreach going out, warm leads coming in. 

What Do Sales Prospectors Do Exactly?

Now that we’ve given you the technical definition and who should be in charge, we’ll share some details into the process, a few sales prospecting tips, as well as talk about what the sales prospector will need.

Extensive Knowledge of the Product

sales prospecting definition

Yes, everyone should know the product(s) well.

But there is a real possibility that those who prospect have to know how to use your product better than even closers. If you are supposed to think about who else can use the product, sometimes you’ll have to think out of the box.

An intimate knowledge of the product will go a long way to finding those customers that aren’t finding your brand.

Extensive Knowledge of Your Ideal User/Client

sales prospecting

  • What roles really love your products?
  • Who are your happiest customers?
  • What industries are they in?
  • How about the average revenue of these companies?

Yep. These sound like the questions you ask when you’re developing a buyer persona.

Prospectors can use your personas to quickly profile potential leads and contacts in different industries.

Make a product that helps HR reps in manufacturing? Great!

BDRs want to try and sell it to HR folks in restaurants, or government, and even more manufacturers.

They can use the data of those who love your stuff (and the ones your company loves back) to deconstruct and find new contacts.

Crazily Good Research Skills

what is sales prospecting?

Sales prospectors have to dig, right?

It’s the same thing here. But instead of getting in a river, it’s on government websites, social media, lead gen software, or countless other sources.

The intricacies of lead gen aren’t all covered here, but there are three broad areas that are essential for sales prospecting.

sales prospecting

Researching Firmographics

We touched on this earlier, but firmographics are a playground for good prospectors.

Finding new industries and then narrowing down brands by this data to find potential contacts are the entry level of the process.

This is where the buyer personas you currently employ can be handy. Prospectors can look at several things here including:

  • Industry: Finding other whole sectors and sub-sectors that can use the product to their benefit.
  • Number of Employees: If this seems to be an important indicator of those who buy, then it should be considered when sales prospecting.
  • Geographic Data: Where companies are located can have an impact. Seasonality can be an issue too. Certain times of the year can be busier/slower for industries and roles.
  • Revenue: Small fish may not be able to afford your stuff and big fish may have a custom solution. Prospectors are like Goldilocks and find those that are just right (see what we did there.. prospector, Goldilocks).
  • Sales Cycle: Is a target industry bogged down by red tape and bureaucracy? These are the questions prospectors ask.

With these types of data (and more), your reps will be able to generate a great list of brands.

But the work is just getting started at this point.

Researching Companies

Now that you have that fancy list—it’s time to find out more about them.

Reps will be sleuthing out their current solution, finding out where each individual stands on issues that pertain to your product.

They’ll also be looking into the industry and becoming a relative expert on all things that potential contacts will care about.

Depending on who is doing the work, you may even develop a valuable resource to help with the cold outreach you’ll be doing later on. You know, something that merges the interests of interested parties while merging the offer of your product and the pains that it solves.

Researching Contacts

Click To Tweet

This makes researching your contact data the last, but indispensable part of research before you begin contacting these new leads. This has historically been the worst part of lead gen.

Finding those who make decisions within the protected borders of assistants and gate keepers has made the end of many-a-prospector.

While it still sucks getting told “no” so often, software has made finding B2B contact intel so much easier—it doesn’t make sense to do it manually anymore.

A step-by-step guide to effective sales prospecting

This is the part where we guide you through the process of sales prospecting. In our book, sales prospecting has five distinct steps:

1) Research and prioritize prospects

The first thing you need to do when looking to start sales prospecting is conduct extensive research on your prospects to determine if they’re a good fit for your products or services.

You’ll want to find out if the prospect falls within your target buyer personas’ demographics, industry, and company size. 

This will allow you to prioritize prospects based on how good a fit they are, as well as their potential lifetime value.

Additionally, try to find out the prospects’ budget limitations and time constraints before getting on an exploratory call. 

While you won’t be able to find this information on all your prospects, you’ll still be able to eliminate a number of prospects who don’t have the bandwidth to take you up on your offer.

Take all of the above into consideration when prioritizing prospects, and give priority to those that are the most likely to convert, as well as those that represent the highest opportunity value.

2) Identify key stakeholders

Going further, you’ll need to identify key stakeholders, including decision-makers and influencers. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of company influencers – they might not have the final say in whether the company will do business with you or not, but they can often become your biggest internal advocates.

Getting influencers to understand the value of your product can result in them making a compelling case regarding your offering to decision-makers before your sales team even gets a chance to talk to the people in charge.

3) Prepare for outreach

All the information you’ve gathered on your prospects will help you personalize your outreach and enable you to create the perfect pitch for each specific prospect.

To prepare for outreach, you’ll also want to find out what your prospects care about the most by looking at their website and social media profiles and seeing what they post about most frequently.

Once you gain a better understanding of the prospect, you’ll need to find a reason to connect. Look for any mutual connections or trigger events that could help you have an easier time connecting with the prospect.

4) Reach out to the prospect

Once you’re ready, reach out to your prospect. Make sure to tailor your outreach to the prospect and their company, as well as their particular industry and goals.

No matter how you decide to reach out to the prospect, you’ll want to personalize your message by referencing a specific problem or issue that’s relevant to the prospect.

You should also strive to genuinely help the prospect, instead of simply trying to push your product or service. No one likes being sold to, so don’t make the prospect feel like you’re only interested in getting their business.

During your conversation with the prospect, make sure to fully qualify them and determine if they’re a good fit for your product or service. 

For a prospect to be a good fit, your offering needs to align with their specific needs and use cases. They also need to align with your target buyer persona and have potential lifetime value that’s big enough to justify you working with them.

If all of these conditions have been met, you’ll know that you’ve found a good fit.

5) Analyze your results

Finally, you should analyze your conversation with the prospect and see if there’s anything you could have done better, regardless of whether you closed the prospect or not.

Think about how you uncovered the prospect’s challenges. Did you help them create well-defined goals, determined their budget, and helped them understand what kind of results they could get with your product or service?

Consider all of the above and try to improve your approach before you talk to the next prospect.

Sales prospecting techniques, methods, and best practices

Before we finish up this guide, we’re going to go over our favorite sales prospecting techniques, methods and best practices.

Use a script

You should always have a script prepared when talking with a prospect. This will help you use the right language and have an easier time responding to objections, as well as reduce any awkward pauses.

Using a script will also ensure that your conversation with the prospect doesn’t go off-track and that you guide the prospect into making the purchase.

Note that using a script doesn’t mean reciting everything that’s written in it verbatim. Adapt and personalize your script for each prospect. 

Take advantage of marketing and sales automation

You don’t have to do your sales prospecting manually in today’s day and age. 

Take advantage of the marketing and sales automation solutions that are available and automate follow-ups, lead nurturing campaigns, and anything else that can help you prospect more effectively.

Educate instead of trying to sell

Don’t go into a call or meeting with the attitude that you’re solely looking to make a sale. You should try to genuinely help the prospect solve their issues and pain points. 

One way of doing this is educating your prospects on their issues and the potential solutions they might want to try. Provide them with content that discusses their specific pain points.

This content can be in the form of blog posts, ebooks, white papers, or any other medium your prospect enjoys using to consume content.

Apart from helping your prospects, producing industry-related content will also establish your company as an authority and thought leader in your industry.

Educating your prospects and being supportive of their goals will give you the best chance of closing them.

Try using video

Video has been rising in popularity as both a marketing and a sales tool in recent years. 

70% of B2B buyers state that they watch one or more videos during their buying process, with 60% considering videos sharing platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo to be important when making a purchasing decision.

You can create educational videos on topics that are relevant to your prospects, or even personalized videos where you address the prospect directly, discuss their specific pain points, and offer potential solutions.

Ask for referrals

As much as 91% of B2B buyers are heavily influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations. However, only 40% of sales people ask customers for referrals.

Ask your satisfied customers if they know anyone else that could benefit from your products or services. If they do, politely request that they introduce you to them.

Make it easy for your customers to refer you by offering them an email script that they can use to introduce you to referrals. Once customers send referrals your way, make sure to thank them with an email or a handwritten letter.

Getting recommended by your customers will help you establish trust and have an easier time converting prospects, so make sure to develop a system of asking your existing customers for referrals.

Remember to follow up

Finally, remember not to give up after the first try and follow up with all your prospects. Try to provide prospects with additional value with each follow-up you make – don’t follow up just for the sake of following up.

One way of doing this is sending them valuable information related to their industry or pain points in the form of a blog post, ebook, case study, or white paper.

Remember that you don’t have to follow up the same way you did in your initial outreach. If you sent an email to the prospect when you first reached out to them, try following up by calling them on the phone or leaving a voicemail message.

Reaching out to prospects through multiple channels will increase your chances of getting their attention and receiving a reply.

Finally, make sure to let prospects know what they need to do to move on to the next step of the process.

How Often Should You Be Prospecting for Leads?

sales prospecting definition

Reps who prospect on at least a weekly basis have been proven to hit quota more often than those who don’t prospect regularly.

Pipelines and funnels are meant to hold a constant stream and those organizations and sales teams that balance lead acquisition and lead nurturing grow faster than others.

If it’s not in the routine, you’ll end up in a “feast and famine” scenario. Too many people to talk to for a few months and then—crickets panic!

Now that you’ve learned how to prospect…

You should be using LeadFuze to automate the entire sales prospecting process! : )

Check it out if you’d like to avoid (or get out of) the feast and famine cycle.

How often do you (or your team) perform sales prospecting activities?

Josh Slone
About Author: Josh Slone
Josh Slone is the Head Content Writer for LeadFuze. Josh writes about lead generation strategies, sales skills, and sales terminology.

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