If you spend time sales prospecting every week, you’ll always have an active sales pipeline that you can turn into paying customers.

But sometimes, it can feel like you’re facing an impossible task. Where do you find your ideal customers online? How can you engage with them in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re just trying to sell to them?

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about sales prospecting.

We’ll show you proven prospecting methods and techniques, as well as the steps you can take to start engaging with them using personalized cold outreach.

Let’s dive in.

What is Sales Prospecting?

Sales prospecting is the way you identify people that match your ideal customer profile (ICP) and engage with them in a way that builds awareness for your business.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, not exactly. Most businesses — from lead generation agencies to software companies — don’t have customers knocking on their door. Every success story starts with a focused effort to create a sales pipeline filled with people interested in your product or service.

Staying Focused on What Matters

When you’re prospecting for new sales opportunities, you need to keep a narrow focus on your target audience.

It’s easy to get carried away and end up spending hours on prospecting activities that don’t move the needle for your business.

Rather than focusing on vanity metrics like the number of cold emails you sent, or how many impressions your Facebook Ad generated, focus on quality.

That means: 

  • How many people you spoke with were qualified for your offering?

  • How many demo calls or consultations did you book?

If you want to improve the chances that your prospecting leads to tangible results, you need to focus on engaging with people that match your ICP: not just engaging with as many people as you can.

3 Best Practices for Effective Prospecting

1. Casting a Narrow Net for Your Prospecting

Effective prospecting requires focus. But, how do you ensure every person you contact will be legitimately interested in what you have to say?

Look for indicators that suggest they will be, such as:

  • Are they hiring for any new roles?

  • Have they recently raised funding?

  • What technology stack do they use?

  • How many people are in the company, and in what functions?

From there, you can make assumptions about if they’ll be interested.
For example, if you run a marketing agency, a company that recently posted three job vacancies for marketers would be a good fit for you to approach.

Or, if you run a SaaS company that sells to people using WordPress sites, you know that anyone with an established WordPress site may be worth targeting.

When you’re doing any sales prospecting, always ensure your efforts are targeted at generating engagement with the right audience. 

2. Carefully Select and Prioritize Your Prospecting Channels

Not every channel is a fit for your business. It’s important to understand that, and then choose the channels you invest your time and money into wisely.

For example, if you sell to Fortune 500 companies, there’s probably not much point in attending a local meetup for small business owners. It’s not a fit for your business. On the other hand, sending a personalized cold email to a key decision-maker could be a perfect way to get your foot in the door at a big company.

Make sure the channels you’re investing your effort in make sense for your business.

3. Always Add Value

The concept of adding value is one of the most important parts of any effective sales and marketing strategy.

Whenever you’re prospecting, make sure everything you do is focused on adding value to your prospects’ life and business.

For example, if you’re reaching out to someone to see if they’d be interested in using your webinar software, make sure to verify that they’re running regular webinars. If not, they’re not a good fit.

Or, if you’re posting in a Facebook or LinkedIn group to generate interest for your product, make sure the content you post is genuinely helpful, even for people who don’t want to become your customer.

At the end of the day, if your prospects remember that you were genuinely helpful, providing them value in some form, they’ll be more likely to remember you and more likely to become a customer in the future.

5 Sales Prospecting Methods to Find Qualified Customers

1. Looking for Vacancies on Job Boards

Good prospecting is timely. One powerful way to ensure you’re reaching out to a prospective customer at the right time is to look at job vacancies they’ve recently posted.

Often, checking out job boards is the simplest way to do this.

For example, let's say you run a London-based marketing agency and your ideal customers are startups. Head to a startup job board, like AngelList Jobs

Look for any company hiring a marketer, or head of growth, and add your location. You could also filter by company size or job type.

Instantly, you’ll have a list of companies you know are actively hiring. 

You can start building a list of these companies, then reach out to decision-makers such as the CEO or CMO with a personalized introductory email or with a LinkedIn connection. What’s more, you’ll already have the perfect talking point to break the ice and start a conversation.

This strategy also works on more traditional job boards like Indeed or Ziprecruiter, but usually, niche job boards are more effective.

When you reach out to them you can highlight that you know they’re currently hiring, which is a key pain point for many growing companies.

2. Tracking Company Funding Rounds

When a company gets a new round of funding, they’re in growth mode. That means they’re ready to start investing in new hires, tools, or have money to spend on external consultants or agencies to help with different areas of their business.

Recent funding also means a variety of pain points. Whether it’s related to hiring, marketing, development, or process improvement, if you can reach out and offer to solve a pain point they’re experiencing, it’ll be hard for them to say no.

You can discover companies that have recently raised funding on platforms like:

For example, on Crunchbase, you can add in any filter you need, finding companies based on: keywords, amount of funding raised, date of funding, location, and more.

Once you’ve added your criteria based on what you believe your ICP matches, Crunchbase will show you a list of companies that match.

It’s a simple, powerful way to quickly build a list of qualified prospects.

Keep in mind that when you do reach out to these companies, your email needs to be more personalized than a simple “Congrats on the funding”. You won’t be the only one who noticed they were recently funded. Look at their job vacancies, plans, and press releases to find opportunities for extra personalization.

3. Find Prospects with LinkedIn’s Search Targeting

LinkedIn is the ideal social platform for B2B prospecting. Almost every company with a digital presence is on there, and you can use LinkedIn’s powerful search feature to quickly narrow down companies (or decision-makers) that are a fit for your offering.

First, you’ll need a Sales Navigator account. You’ll need to pay, but it’s worth the cost if you do any prospecting on LinkedIn.

Then, use LinkedIn’s search criteria to quickly build a list of prospects.

You can search for either people or companies.

Two of the most interesting filters include:

  • Department headcount growth

  • Recent senior leadership changes

Both of these indicate that a company is growing, which means there’s potential for them to be interested in new vendors.

For example, if you run a SaaS company with a product for sales teams, you can run a search for companies that have recently added new Sales Development Representatives to their team. Chances are, they’ll be looking to get results and will be open to help.

You can automate parts of the LinkedIn prospecting process using automation tools, such as:

They can automate the process of finding companies or individuals that match your search criteria, letting you do things like automatically connecting and sending a personalized introductory message.

You do need to be careful with LinkedIn automation as it can put your account at risk, but if you need to prospect at scale, it’s a viable option.

4. Use Twitter’s Advanced Search to Find Opportunities

Twitter isn’t the first social media platform that most people think of when it comes to prospecting. But, there’s a powerful feature: Advanced Search.

The advanced search feature lets you search all of Twitter for tweets or accounts mentioning key phrases, or with a certain amount of followers.

For example, if you’re a Google Ads consultant or run an agency, you can run a search for any Tweets with terms like “paid ads”, “Google Ads”, or “PPC”. You could even add keywords like “help with” or “agency” to get more granular.

You can also set constraints around date, language, and number of followers to help you narrow down your search.

You’ll need to filter through the results because there will be some noise, but it’s an effective way to find people asking their network for advice and help.

This method is unique because you can jump in and engage with the Tweets you find and even book calls thanks to it.

It’s a more personal approach to find B2B prospects 

5. Join Niche Communities and Groups

If you know your ideal customers spend time in niche communities or groups (either online or in-person), you need to find a way to get there too.

But, once you’re there, you can’t just sell. You’re there to build relationships, provide value, and show why you’re a trusted member of the community.

Picture this: you run a software development agency helping business owners grow their company without hiring an in-house team. You join a group on Facebook or LinkedIn for CEOs and founders. Instead of jumping in and pitching your services, you join existing conversations, answer questions, and be a good member of the community.

Over time, you’ll build trust with your audience. People matching your ICP will start to trust you, learn about your business, and will know what you can help with.

If you want to automate parts of this process, you use social listening tools like Awario or HootSuite Monitor to track mentions of specific keywords and names across social media.

Social selling takes time, and it’s a prospecting method that works best if you do it alongside other methods, but it’s a great way to build awareness for your business.

6. Ask Your Existing Customers for Referrals

It’s tempting to always be searching for the latest, undiscovered prospecting method. But sometimes, it’s just as effective to keep things simple: asking existing customers for a referral.

88% of B2B decision-makers rely on word-of-mouth to get advice.

If you provide a great customer experience, you can reach out and ask them if they know anyone else who’d be interested in your product or service.

A simple and personalized email to your high-value customers can be enough. One of the main reasons it works so well is that your customers are likely to know people running similar companies or in similar positions to them. For example, a local business owner will likely know a few other similar business owners who need your service.

Most people won’t mind referring other people to your business for free, but you can always offer a referral fee to compensate them for their efforts and incentivize more referrals.

Preparing Your Prospect List for Outreach

If you’ve used the methods above, you’ll already have a long list of people you want to reach out to.

To keep things simple (but effective), organize your prospect list in a spreadsheet. This allows you to import your prospect list into outreach tools like QuickMail or any of the LinkedIn tools mentioned above.

Include all of the key details about each prospect:

  • Name

  • Company

  • Role

  • LinkedIn profile URL

  • The custom opening line to use in your outreach

Aside from the basics, the final point is one of the most important: a custom opening line for each.

Your custom opening line is a short snippet that proves to your prospect that you’ve done unique research into them. It should be so unique that you couldn’t send it to anyone else.

If you skip on the custom opening line, you’ll get lost in your busy prospects’ inbox full of people who haven’t spent any time doing background research into their prospect.

Once your prospect list is ready, you’re ready to start reaching out, turning them into leads for your product or service that you or your sales team can nurture into customers.

How to Find Personalization Opportunities for Your Outreach

It's one thing to say that you need to make every email unique and personal. It's another to put that into practice.

Here are a few ways to find personalization opportunities: 

  • Look at your prospects’ LinkedIn profile: what unique experience do they have?

  • What past companies, universities, or communities are they part of? Do you have anything in common?

  • Has your prospect recently posted any interesting content (articles, videos, podcasts)?

There’s no exact science, but the key is to find something unique and relevant to say that proves you aren’t a spammer sending the same email template to thousands of people. 

Reaching Out to Prospects Using Cold Email

Your ideal customers are busy. A short, relevant email is the perfect way to catch their attention. The data backs it up, too: 77% of decision-makers say they’ve engaged with vendors after receiving an email from them.

Now, let’s take a look at how to start reaching out to your prospects using QuickMail.

First, you’ll need to import your list of prospects. As you do, you can create a custom property for opening lines to use in your emails.

Now, whenever you add your custom property in the template, it will automatically use the unique opening line you created for every prospect.

You’ll also need to create your campaigns, and add your email templates.

Create the first step in your campaign — this will be where your first email goes. You can use the Properties you’ve assigned to your prospects to ensure every email is unique and personalized. Here’s what it will look like in the email editor:

an example email campaign step in quickmail

Now, that’s a great first step. But, considering 55% of replies come from a follow-up email, it’s essential to include at least one, and preferably 3 - 6.

Every follow-up should highlight a new value proposition and add something to the email thread — don’t just repeat yourself four times.

You can add as many follow-ups as you need by adding new steps:

When your prospecting campaign is ready, you can add your prospects to it, and schedule it to be sent. 

Remember: the work isn’t done after the first email. When someone replies, you need to get back to them as quickly as you can to keep the conversation going.

Choosing the Right Sales Prospecting Techniques For Your Business

It’s always key to remember that there’s no blog post or how-to that will show you the perfect prospecting strategy for your business. The key is to understand your audience and ideal customer, then work backward from there.

The strategies mentioned here, such as finding companies based on funding, growth, or joining communities where your potential customers hang out are all highly effective ways to quickly identify potential prospects.

Whichever way you end up reaching out, remember to add value and show them why you can be a trusted partner in the future.

When you’re ready to start reaching out to prospects, you can send personalized cold emails that help you get replies using QuickMail.