The Definitive Guide to Sales Prospecting With Proven Outreach Methods

I’ve been in sales now for nearly ten years. When I first set foot into the role, I panicked at the idea of sales prospecting. How was I going to do cold outreach and convince people to speak with me?

I like to put relationships first, so the thought of picking up the phone or sending an email asking for someone’s time to let me pitch to them was the rudest thing I could imagine.

I started to hit the pavement and had some success, but it never seemed to be with the right targets. The people I wanted to talk with weren’t interested in responding to my emails.

Life was rough…

Table of Contents

What is Sales Prospecting?

Sales prospecting is the initial step you take in the sales process. Here, you employ various tactics that we will discuss in this article to identify potential customers.

Your aim in prospecting is to generate a database that has likely customers. You will then use a systematic method of communication to pitch your sales ideas.The goal of sales prospecting techniques is to convert prospects to current customers.

How Do You Successfully Prospect In Sales?

Since you already have the prospecting definition, it’s time to understand vital activities for a sales rep. Whenever you engage in these activities, you will be contacting sales suspects who may or may not be prospects. Here are the tactics to use:

Making Phone Calls

Design a script that you will use to initiate a conversation with the recipient. When an individual answers the call, engage them in a meaningful discussion that will convince the prospect that you can add value to their business or life.

Automated voicemail messages

Design voicemail messages that will provoke the recipient to respond. The target response is either visiting the website that gives the sales suspect more information or giving you a phone call.


Come up with persuasive emails that appeal to the emotions of the reader. Share information that draws the recipient to take further action, such as reaching out to you.

Use Direct Mail

Design informative flyers, postcards, or other creatives and send them via mail. These documents should contain enticing content that persuades an individual to buy the service or product.

Once you have engaged in these activities, have in-depth conversations with the interested parties. Pitch your ideas to the respondents, turning them into sales prospects. Now add each sales prospect to your database and carry on with the sales prospecting process.

Bonus: 4 Surprising Places to Find Warm Leads

My Personal Best Practices for Sales Prospecting

I spent some time with one of my mentors, Jim Durham, who kindly suggested that I scour his LinkedIn for connections. LinkedIn prospecting had worked for him. He was then the Chief Marketing Officer of a prominent law firm and was incredibly well connected.

He trusted me to reach out to anyone that I’d love to meet with and mention that we know each other. How could I turn down this generous offer?

What happened next was incredible, and here’s what I learned:

1. Show Me You Know Me – SMYKM


My team and mentees would tell you that this acronym may eventually be my first tattoo because I think it is the key to sales. This tactic is the heart and soul of how to prospect and runs through every point below.

Here’s the gist: when you’re on the prospect’s side, successful prospecting doesn’t feel like prospecting. It feels like somebody has already done the research about what you need, and has proven quickly that they understand you and they can help you.

Your task here is to do a comprehensive research about the pain points of your sales prospects. Come up with solutions for each problem that the prospect is going through. When you are engaging in a conversation, be sure to mention these solutions in understandable language.

It will help if you relate the prospect’s pain points by giving a concrete context. For example, if your sales prospect is interested in a product, tailor your message to show how the product has helped a client face the same challenge.

2. Your subject line is EVERYTHING

My first two dozen emails buried the lead, as journalists say. I only mentioned Jim towards the bottom of my email, almost as a footer, rather than making it my headline.

I basically made my pitch and then said, “oh, and by the way, I know Jim.”

As soon as I changed this, the email responses came pouring in. My subject line read, “Account Inquiry, from a friend of Jim Durham’s”

Like many of your target prospects, I receive an average of 100 unsolicited emails a day – yes, every day. The subject line is the first line of evaluation to whether or not I’ll open it.

The unfortunate part here is that I may even be in the market for what many of them are selling, but I need to be convinced to open the email first.

3. Your first sentence is almost as important

This is a highly underrated sales prospecting tip. Keep in mind that your prospects are reading your emails in one of two places – as a pop up at the bottom hand of their screen, or on their phones.

All they see before they decide if they’re going to delete is the subject line and a hint of the first sentence. Make it meaningful so that the sales prospects don’t just swipe left and delete you.

Be straightforward as you write this first statement. The solution you are offering the prospect should be clear without beating around the bush.

Since readers often decide whether to read your email or skip within the first few seconds, you must grab their attention.

Make sure the language you write with is friendly and communicates with ease. If you use confusing terms, you will not hook the readers. As a consequence, you are going to lose a potential customer.

Therefore, it would be best if you drove the point home using the least amount of words possible.

4. Not everyone has a Jim in their life

But what you do have is access to incredible tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google in general. Your success rate of getting a response to an email will be infinitely better if you focus on a SMYKM aspect in the subject line and throughout the text.

Exploit all the resources available to you in delivering your message. Hook the prospects from every angle you can think of. I mean, seek information about prospects and the services they need from the platforms at your disposal.

Link with prospects that you are targeting through social media and other platforms. Here, you will be able to find relevant information about their pain points. Focus on that information and work out a plan that addresses their needs.

Use Google to research how to deliver certain services that you are not sure about.

Now use that new information to create catchy emails and other communications, hooking more prospects. The research will prove that you did your homework.

5. SMYKM can be achieved in a variety of ways

The first thing I coach my reps on is to look for a prospect’s previous set of employers. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Did they work at a company that is an existing client of ours and is in good standing? (If so, reference that in the subject line!)
  • Did that prospect attend your alma mater, or go to a school for which you actively cheer?
  • Is that person involved in any activities or charities that are tied to your passions?

If you struggle to find commonalities, also look for awards they’ve won or anything they’ve recently published across social media.

One side tip on that last remark. I once found a great article that a CEO had posted on Twitter and sent it to a former rep on another team. The article was a road map of exactly how to prospect and what not to do to get a C-Suite’s attention.

I sent the article to the rep and noted, “This is gold – use this to reach out to him!” Rather than reading the article, the rep sent it along, mentioned a few things in his email and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, the rep did precisely what the CEO said not to do, and we still haven’t gotten in that particular door. So, take the time to read what you reference.

6. Stretch yourself


Remember, SDRs at your competitors have access to those same resources, and can do the same research!

Successful sales prospecting requires more work than it used to. Think strategically about the prospect you’re reaching out to. There is a certain seniority in title that is going to demand that you do more than the status quo.

At my company, one of our dream titles is Director (or above) of Demand Generation. When a rep emails this person, it needs to be SMYKM, but also extremely value driven.

What are the reps saying in those emails that convinces those prospects that they are worthy of their time?

How are they showing value, and displaying a level of intelligence and expertise that will convince someone like that to give them 15 minutes to hear their value proposition? It’s easy to get lazy and send out the same generic messaging while altering your subject line, but you gotta be smart here.

7. Don’t be basic


Effective sales prospecting requires you to set yourself apart from the hundreds of other companies that are competing for your target customer’s attention. Think strategically about what you can deliver to them that drives value.

Are they responsible for global marketing? Find an article the speaks specifically to how to scale content across a global audience. Find something they’ve posted about a struggle your prospects had or a question they’ve posted on a forum, and answer it with your own data or company’s documentation.

Once you can consistently SMYKM, there is still plenty of room to improve. Continue to stand out from the crowd of basic SDRs by creating systems and processes for scaling your now ultra-effective outreach.

The point is to think outside the box about how best you can deliver your services. Research on ways that other businesses have used to satisfy the needs of their clients. Now fill in the gaps that they missed.

For instance, if competitors addressed a problem after their clients had made several complaints about it, make sure you address problems without waiting for any complaints.

What Are Three Prospecting Techniques?

To get better results from sales prospecting, you need the following crucial keys:

1. Target the Right Sales Prospects

What determines the success you will have is the people you have in your prospecting database. How strong is your list? Have you targeted serious people who are likely to go into business with you?

Instead of starting low in the organization you are looking to work with, target the organization’s decision-makers. You will avoid having to wait for an answer as the junior workers follow the communication line.

how to prospect

Build your competency in initiating phone calls. Schedule appointments with various prospects as you take the initiative to open relationships with prospects. As a sales rep, you have to practice cold calling to land a client.

If you are persistent in cold calling, you will realize the great return on the investment you are making. With constant practice, you will build on your skills and appeal to prospects faster.

2. Make The Right Offer

Carefully craft your offers in a way that attracts prospects to begin working with you. If you are offering a service, design an irresistible offer that the prospect will not resist. Similarly, package your product in a manner that attracts people. Be sure to have reasonable prices that benefit both you and the prospect.

sales prospecting tip

Integrity is vital in creating long-lasting business relationships. If you keep tricking your prospects, they will lose faith in you. The tricks may involve bending the truth about a product or service. You may also fail to mention the downside of buying a given product.

When the sales prospect decides to buy your product, they trust you. However, when they find out there’s some information you withheld from them, it could potentially lead you to lose them.  Consequently, they will blame you since you did not provide all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Withholding information on prospects will affect how your business runs. You will lose money and hurt your reputation.

3. Follow Up, Follow Up, and Follow Up

Once you have targeted the right people, and have drawn the attention of sales prospects, follow your business plans. Make each prospect a priority without any bias. Make sure you maintain an open line of communication, which will continue to build your reputation.

Research your prospect’s needs and ensure you tailor questions that help them shed more light on what they want. If you are not sure about something, ask the prospect directly without making assumptions. The sales prospect will feel wanted and listened to.

What is the prospect looking for? If the sales prospect has a solution in mind for their problem, can you deliver? You can even invite them for an interpersonal communication session to understand their challenges better.

What Prospecting Methods Can You Use in Sales?

You need to be up to date with technology and market trends. People are now looking for services online and through other modern methods. Sales reps must, therefore, adopt the following prospecting methods for better sales success.

1. LinkedIn Prospecting

LinkedIn prospecting involves connecting with people around the world without the limitations of geographical boundaries. Millions of people check their LinkedIn accounts in search of information that eases getting services and products. This online platform becomes a great sales prospecting opportunity for you.

Join relevant groups that will increase the chances of you connecting with suitable prospects.If your target is specific organizations, join groups that the organization is likely to be in. Build connections from here.

Take advantage of the information present on this platform to keep track of your competitors, current clients, and potential customers. Identify the people they are connecting with and the content they are posting. This information will be helpful in your future communications.

2. Referrals

In referral prospecting, you will be making sales prospecting through people you are familiar with. These people are the contacts you already have. The clients you are currently working with refer their friends and colleagues to you to solve a problem through what you are selling.

If you have contacts in an organization you aim to work with, utilize these contacts to build new relationships. Ask your current clients to introduce you to other people with similar business needs.

 3. Content Marketing

Communicate regularly with your current customers and prospects. Give them information about your products and services without selling to them. Here you will be giving them content that markets your business.

Instead of selling, you will be enlightening your customers and prospects. The result will be building a rapport that facilitates better business dealing.

4. Attend Beneficial Events

Take the initiative of attending events that your target prospects attend. These events are a platform for meeting people that you will make sales prospecting in.

You can find these events by checking competitors and target prospect’s websites and social media platforms.

Alternatively, you can ask current customers about the events they plan to attend. If you are not comfortable asking, search through the internet for events that your target prospectus is likely to attend.

5. Cross-selling to Current Clients

This is an excellent prospecting method for aggressive sales reps. If you are not afraid of appearing pushy, you can take advantage of this sales prospecting method. Since the clients already trust you, use the connections you have to build your business.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • A/B test your subject lines and templates to further optimize for reply rates.
  • Test timing of sends on multiple touches.
  • Try reaching out on different channels.

Key Takeaways

  • Show value and that you did your homework in sales prospecting. If you don’t show that you put the time in, sales prospects won’t be open to giving you their time in the first place.
  • Find commonalities between you and the sales prospect at all costs! Be creative.
  • Show the prospect you know by noting something significant in the subject line.
  • Show you know the sales prospect and their pain points in the text of the email by finding another commonality of some kind.
  • Make sure your subject line and the first sentence are always compelling.
Sam rose from being an individual contributor in sales to running an enterprise sales team. She also created ON24’s mentorship program, and has seen these tactics successfully used over the course of many years and across all industry types and company sizes.

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