If you can perfect your B2B prospecting process, you’ll be able to generate new leads on autopilot.

But, it’s not easy. There are multiple steps in the process, and each step has its own challenges.

In this guide, I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know about B2B prospecting, from the steps involved to channels you can use, to best practices.

By the end, you’ll be able to start optimizing your prospecting process and filling your sales pipeline with qualified leads.

  1. What is B2B Prospecting?

  2. 3 Key Steps in the B2B Prospecting Process

  3. 3 Common Challenges in Your B2B Prospecting Process

  4. 4 Effective B2B Prospecting Channels to Connect With Leads

  5. 4 B2B Prospecting Best Practices to Get Results

Let’s dive in.

What is B2B Prospecting?

B2B prospecting is the process of identifying and reaching out to potential customers for your business.

We’ll refer to these potential customers as ‘prospects’.

Your prospecting is how you ultimately drive sales, so it’s a vital process in any business. To ensure your prospecting process drives results, you need to break it down into actionable steps that you and your team can follow. 

3 Key Steps in the B2B Prospecting Process

1. Prospect Research and List Building

The first step in any B2B prospecting process is research.

At this stage, you’ll be figuring out who to target and adding people that fit your criteria for a prospect to your prospect list.

Your prospect list doesn’t need to be complicated – a spreadsheet will work just fine. 

You can use our free prospect list template to get started.

This is going to keep you organized and ensure all of your information on prospects is in one place. You can make notes, and customize your prospect list template to match your needs.

Then, you’ll need to find prospects. You can use B2B data providers like ZoomInfo or RocketReach to identify customers based on things like:

  • The number of employees at a company

  • The revenue a company does per year

  • An employee’s job title

  • The type of software they use on their website

Whatever kind of prospect you’re targeting, you can find them with tools like these.

Source: RocketReach

Once you find prospects that match your rough guidelines for a customer, add them to your prospect list.

In your prospect list, make sure you have the information on each person, including:

  • Their full name

  • Their job title

  • Their email address

  • Their contact number

  • Their LinkedIn profile

The more information you have that you can use to personalize your prospecting messages, the better.

2.  Important Steps to Take Before Sending Outreach

Before you reach out to any cold prospects, you need to verify that they’re definitely a good fit and that the information you have on a prospect is up-to-date.

The first step in this process is to use an email verification tool like NeverBounce to check that your prospect’s email address is valid.

If you have a subscription with an email verification platform, you integrate it with your QuickMail account to automatically verify email addresses at the same time that you’re importing your prospect list.

This will save you time and ensure you’re never reaching out to emails that will bounce.

If an email isn’t valid, you can remove it from your prospect list, or spend more time finding their up-to-date address.

At this stage, you also need to be doing extra research that’s going to help you stand out when you reach out to your prospect.

This means:

  • Checking if you have any mutual connections that you can use to build trust

  • Seeing if their company has been in the news lately

  • Looking for angles to approach your prospect that stand out

You can then use this information in your cold outreach opening line to break the ice.

When your prospect receives a prospecting email from you, the first thing they see will be something fully personalized like:

  • “Just listened to your podcast episode with [guest] - thanks for sharing your insights on B2B growth.”

  • “Saw that you’ve hired three new SDRs this month. Great to see {{company.name}} growing so quickly.”

  • Enjoyed the article you shared on Twitter yesterday about {{topic}}. I sent it straight to my marketing team.”

After that, you can let them know why you’re reaching out.

This extra research step will add some extra time to your research process, but it’s worth it.

Imagine you received a cold prospecting email that was so personalized that it couldn't have been sent to anyone else. Straight away, you’d trust the person reaching out more than if they’d sent you the same generic template as they did to 50 other prospects.

This extra time spent researching and qualifying prospects ensures every person you reach out to is a perfect fit for your product/service. In turn, this will boost your reply rates and help you win more deals in the long run.

3. Getting in Touch with Prospects

The final step of your B2B prospecting process is reaching out to your prospects.

This step is critical: if you choose the proper channels and messaging, you’ll see a high reply rate.

When choosing your channels, consider:

  • Do your prospects spend time on that channel and will they see your message?

  • Is it a channel that your prospects will be open to receiving outreach on?

  • Can you scale the channel if it starts to deliver results?

When choosing your messaging, consider:

  • Is there a specific pain point you can solve?

  • Do you have social proof that you can use to build trust with your prospect?

  • Does your call-to-action make it easy for your prospect to continue the conversation?

At the end of the day, there’s no secret to getting results from your prospecting outreach. You need to put time and effort into personalizing each email or LinkedIn message you send, as well as ensuring the people you’re reaching out to will have an interest in what you have to say.

Even with these prospecting steps laid out, there are some common challenges. In the next section, we’ll take a look at those challenges so you can proactively address them.

3 Common Challenges in Your B2B Prospecting Process

1. Identifying the Right Prospects

The first significant challenge in B2B prospecting is identifying the right prospects. If you’re targeting the wrong people, you’re going to see low reply rates, and won’t close enough deals to move the needle in your business.

If you’re seeing worse results than you expected from your prospecting efforts, the answer usually lies in the initial prospect research phase.

When you target the right people, you give your prospecting campaigns the highest chance of success. 

Another interesting way of prospecting for qualified leads is building a funnel that will enable prospects to basically qualify themselves. This will eventually save you time looking for fitting prospects and researching them.

2. Standing Out Against Competitors

Another key challenge when prospecting is finding a unique way to stand out. 

Even if your product/service is relevant to your recipients, you need to prove why you’re uniquely qualified to help someone. This is going to help you stand out from your competitors and improve your chances of someone wanting to book a meeting with you.

Make sure you understand what makes your business and offer unique, understand why people buy from you, and use those angles in your prospecting efforts to stand out.

3. Reaching Out at the Right Time

You can never reach out to someone at the perfect time. But, in your research, you can identify triggers for what would make someone interested in your product or service.

For example, you could use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to track how many new employees a company is hiring. Based on their growth rate, you could assume that they’ll continue hiring and may be in the market for a new recruitment platform to help them scale more efficiently.

If your product or service is highly relevant to your prospect, then that’s going to make your offer timeless. Even if it’s not the perfect time for your prospect, they’ll still be interested in staying in touch and potentially using your solution in the future.

You’ll also need to choose the right channels to connect with your prospect. Next, I’ll show you the most effective channels for B2B prospecting that you can get started with.

4 Effective B2B Prospecting Channels to Connect With Leads

1. Use Cold Email to Connect with Key Decision-Makers

The first B2B prospecting channel you can use to connect with your prospects is cold email.

Cold email outreach is an excellent way to connect with decision-makers.

  • It’s highly personal as you’re emailing individuals

  • You have complete control over your messaging to each person

  • Decision-makers regularly check their inbox throughout the day

Once you have your prospect list ready, you can import it into a cold email tool like QuickMail

Make sure to double-check that the information from your prospect list is being correctly imported.

From there, you’ll write out your email templates.

Your template is going to include personalized snippets of text, which are called attributes. These will pull in information from your prospect list such as:

  • Your recipients’ names

  • Their job titles

  • Any custom information you want, like a unique icebreaker

If your prospects reply, you can continue the conversation with them over email or by booking a call.

If someone doesn’t reply, you can use QuickMail to automatically follow up after a few days. 55% of replies come from a follow-up email step, so it’s important to include at least one.

Just add a new step after your email and choose how long you want the delay to be. Three to five days is usually enough.

After your delay, add a new email step.

Here, you’ll write out your follow-up email template. Treat it as a friendly reminder, rather than pushing for a sale.

If someone doesn’t reply after several follow-ups, you can cross them off your list.

You can then track all of your key cold email prospecting metrics in your campaign dashboard.

Over time you can learn what works and use your cold email metrics to improve how you connect with your prospects.

2. Use LinkedIn for Social Selling

Considering that 40 million company decision-makers are on LinkedIn, it’s a platform that offers huge potential for your prospecting.

LinkedIn can be used for prospecting in a few different ways.

The first is by using Sales Navigator to build prospect lists using the platform. Most people keep their employment history up-to-date on LinkedIn so it’s hard to find a better data source to build your lists.

Sales Navigator adds 30+ new search filters so you can use them to quickly identify qualified prospects.

You can then save those good-fit prospects to a list, source their contact details, and reach out to them with a cold email.

The next method is to run your outreach directly on LinkedIn.

This has some benefits:

  • You have built-in social proof, such as mutual connections

  • Sales Navigator lets you bump your messages up to the top of your prospect’s LinkedIn inbox

  • You don’t need to spend time finding emails for your prospects

The easiest way to run this outreach is to use an outreach automation tool like We-Connect. LinkedIn outreach tools let you automatically send personalized messages to your prospects on LinkedIn without needing to type each message out manually. If someone doesn’t reply, the tools can automatically follow up. 

This is similar to cold email, and you can usually see a 10-20% reply rate like you can with cold email.

The third method is to use LinkedIn inbound B2B prospecting. 

Over time, you can build your network with people in your industry. If you share interesting content and engage in post comments, you’ll quickly build up your network with people in your industry. 

Your profile will get more reach, and you’ll have people matching your ideal customer start to notice you.

If your profile is optimized and you make it clear that you can solve a specific problem for someone matching your ideal customer profile, you’ll start to see people reaching out with questions that they believe you can help solve.

3. Have One-to-One Conversations with Cold Calls

Another option is cold calling.

While this prospecting method has fallen out of favor in some companies, it’s still effective if you’re consistent.

During your prospect research process, you will have identified the phone numbers for the people you’re reaching out to. 

You can use a cold calling platform like Aircall to automatically call through your list.

Aircall integrates with QuickMail. 

That means you can add cold call steps to your cold email campaigns, and when the step arrives, make your cold calls directly from QuickMail.

It’s always worth preparing a cold call script beforehand. This can be as simple as a list of bullet points that will guide you through the conversation. If you get off track on a call, you can use your script to bring the conversation back to the main points you want to chat about.

Cold calls can catch your prospects off guard, so it’s best to avoid discussing too in-depth information. Use your call to gauge your prospect’s initial interest and then schedule a follow-up meeting with them.

4. Ask Your Existing Clients for Referrals

Referrals aren't always the first thing that comes to mind when you think about B2B prospecting, but it can be extremely effective.

71% of B2B sales personnel say that referrals convert at a higher rate than other prospecting channels, so it’s important to have a process to generate referrals.

Your customers will have connections in similar businesses to theirs. 

If you deliver a product or service that drives value for them, they’ll be glad to refer you to new customers.

Asking for a referral works best if you tie it into another metric that shows success. For example:

  • A customer has renewed their contract with you

  • Your product has helped generate a specific value in ROI for your client

  • You’ve just had a catch-up where they let you know they’re happy with your services

You can reach out with a friendly email and let them know that you appreciate any referrals they can send over.

You could even offer an incentive program, such as giving referrers a cut of new sales that they sent your way.

If you can leverage referrals, you’ll have a steady stream of new prospects entering your pipeline every month.

4 B2B Prospecting Best Practices to Get Results

1. Only Focus on People Matching Your Ideal Customer Profile

The first best practice is to be ruthless about who you include in your list.

Having fewer, but more relevant prospect on your list means you can:

  • Spend more time researching each prospect

  • Add more personalization to your outreach templates

  • Have a higher reply rate, as you’re not emailing people who won’t be interested 

It’s better to reach out to 100 perfect prospects than reach out to 1,000 who don’t match your ideal customer profile.

2. Leverage Tools at Each Stage of Your Prospecting Process

Prospecting can be a long process if you do it manually. 

To avoid wasting time on repetitive tasks, you can leverage outbound prospecting tools to speed up your workflow.

Some of the essential tools in any prospecting toolkit include:

  • Google Sheets or Excel to build your prospect list and stay organized.

  • A B2B database like ZoomInfo, UpLead, or RocketReach to help you find prospects.

  • A LinkedIn Sales Navigator account for identifying prospects on LinkedIn.

  • A cold email tool like QuickMail to send personalized cold emails with automatic follow-ups to your prospects.

  • A CRM like Pipedrive manages your prospects once they enter your pipeline.

Source: Pipedrive on GetApp

Having the right B2B prospecting tools in place will make your job easier, as well as ensure you can reach out to more prospects in less time.

3. Create Clear Processes So You Can Scale

You never want to be in a position where you’re wondering where your next customer will come from. 

Having a predictable B2B prospecting process ensures you can:

  • Have a schedule for engaging with new potential customers

  • Easily move those prospects through your sales funnel

  • Will be closing new deals every month

Once you’ve found a process that works for your business, make sure you write down how each step works.

You could use a platform like Process Street for this.

Having clarity in your process means you can then share information about the workflow with your team, outsource prospecting work to freelancers, or work with a lead generation agency to help you speed up your prospecting process.

4. Track Your Metrics to See What Works

Always make sure you’re tracking your metrics. This is the only way you’ll know if your B2B prospecting process is working.

Some metrics you can track at different stages include:

  • How many new prospects you’re sourcing per week

  • How many people you’re cold-emailing or sending LinkedIn outreach to per week

  • How many replies your campaigns get

  • How many positive replies you’re getting

  • Your meeting booking rate

  • Your deal-win rate

Metrics like these are there to help you improve and optimize your processes. For example, if you see your campaigns have a low meeting booking rate, you might not be targeting the right people, or your value proposition may not be clear.

You can then work to improve each part of the process and make your prospecting process drive tangible results for your company.

Wrapping Up

Now, you have all of the information you need to start executing on your B2B prospecting process.

Once you’ve identified the prospects you’re going to reach out to, you’ll need to craft a relevant outreach message, then choose the best channel to reach those prospects.

If you can perfect your prospecting process you’ll always know that you can strike up conversations with people matching your ideal customer type and drive new potential customers towards your business.

When you’re ready to start reaching out to B2B prospects with cold email, you’ll need QuickMail.

Our cold email platform will help you:

  • Send personalized cold emails at scale

  • Automatically follow up with prospects to boost response rates

  • Keep track of performance and track your metrics

Try QuickMail with a free 14-day trial here.