Where do your sales come from? It’s a straightforward question and one most of us can answer easily. Yet how you answer it can have a big impact on your business. If your company doesn’t regularly engage in sales prospecting, you’re missing out on a range of benefits – from more sales through to greater market insights.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at sales prospecting. We’ll be highlighting the value it could bring to your business and looking at the main techniques you can put into action.

What is Sales Prospecting?

During the goldrush of the 19th century, the prospectors where the people who went out first to scout the land and look for traces of gold hidden underground.

They used just about every technique you could think of to work out where the gold was. They would interpret features in the world around them in the hope that they might offer clues in the search for precious metals.

One hundred and fifty years later, sales prospecting is a similar activity. Instead of going out into the wilderness, modern prospectors scan the business environment to identify potential clients. Sales prospecting is when your sales staff proactively search for people or organisations that conform to predefined characteristics making then prospective clients.

Sales prospecting is one of several techniques to bring more people into the top of your sales funnel. It uses a direct approach, not to be confused with lead generation, which is a different technique to achieve a similar result.

Very often these two terms are used interchangeably, but there is a clear difference. Have a look at the table below for a breakdown of exactly what we’re talking about.

Sales Prospecting Lead Generation
A sales function A marketing function
An external activity where staff identify potential customers and reach out An internal activity that aims to attract people to your organisation
A manual effort Usually automated
Starts with a large group of prospects gradually reducing that number until you have a customer Starts with a smaller number of people who have previously expressed an interest and are thus more likely to make a purchase
Tactics include cold calling, direct marketing, email shots, advertising, networking events Tactics include content marketing, thought leadership, building communities based on brand values
Tried and tested sales technique Relatively new in comparison
Uses technology common tools and technology, email, telephone, postal Requires newer technology. Software, web analytics and automation


The Benefits of Sales prospecting

There are many benefits of sales prospecting. The most compelling is the promise of more customers and higher revenue.

But sales prospecting is a lot more than just a simple numbers game. By consistently finding new sales prospects and engaging with them you’ll establish yourself as a key player in the sector, with strong positioning. Even when the prospect doesn’t become a lead straight away, they’ll be more likely to think of you when they are ready to take that step. This enviable position will give you a good chance of converting those prospects into qualified leads and then paying customers.

The act of sales prospecting facilitates better market insights. As you talk to people and establish new relationships, you’ll benefit from a greater understanding of the market and the needs of your potential customers. Remember, the quality of the data you get out is limited by the quality of the data you start with. Sales prospecting should be based on accurate, GDPR compliant data and a detailed knowledge of your existing customer base. Used properly, that B2B data can help you identify or predict new markets – it’s a domino effect.

The quality of the data you get out is limited by the quality of the data you start with…

Sales prospecting is self-empowerment. It’s a proactive technique. You must take the initiative and reach out to people rather than waiting for them to come to you. When you engage in sales prospecting, you’re taking control of your sales funnel, learning and improving as you go.

Sales prospecting at IBM

Sales prospecting is an important part of IBM’s success and has been since the very beginning of the company more than a century ago.

IBM are open and transparent about their use of sales prospecting. A few years ago they even published a how-to guide, in partnership with legendary marketing agency Ogilvy. It has detailed information and lots of great advice for B2B marketers.

IBM have positioned themselves as helping companies adopt smart digital technology. It doesn’t matter where an organisation is on their digital transformation journey, IBM has the tools to help them take the next step. The company takes a systematic and data focused approach to sales prospecting. They use detailed market research to identify organisations that could benefit from their products. They look for information tells them where each company is in terms of digital transformation, then they can reach out directly with a targeted offering for that organisation.

Prospecting strategies and techniques

  • Cold calling

Cold calling is a tried a tested technique that gives direct and immediate contact with prospects. It’s an opportunity to establish and build relationships, answer questions and get fantastic insights into your target market.

When it’s done properly, cold calling is one of the single most effective sales strategies a company to undertake. Learn how to do cold calling the right way, check out our handy tips and tricks.

  • Email campaign

This is another proven strategy. A good email campaign, well planned and targeted with a compelling message is cost effective and scalable method for reaching large numbers of people in just a few clicks.

With modern email marketing platforms you can create coordinated campaigns that look great and get the results you need. Marketscan Edge is our inhouse email software. It can help you create, automate, test and send emails to your prospects. We’ll help you create visually appealing emails with a drag and drop interface that link to stylish landing pages that you design.

  • Social media

The power of social media in B2B markets cannot be overstated. It could be through LinkedIn, or increasingly through image or video-based sights like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. These platforms give you access to a highly targeted and engaged audience. This is a topic we’ve covered on the blog before, read our advice on TikTok for B2B marketing here.

Social media gives unparalleled opportunities for market research through user groups and influencers. You can gauge the feelings and sentiments among your prospects and identify changing market situations in real time.

Use social media to solidify your business relationships and build trust, but be careful not to rely too heavily on it. These are platforms that you don’t own or directly control, and that brings with it a degree of risk.

A professional social media marketing campaign is time consuming and resource intensive. It’s best to use it as part of a wider strategy including multiple channels. When you talk to a prospect, you can direct them to your social media accounts. Ask people to connect and join your growing online community.

  • Networking and events

Trade shows and networking events are a fantastic place to engage in sales prospecting. There are detractors, people who claim that trade shows aren’t as important as they once were. I think they are still as important as ever, but they have changed in the past 20 – 30 years.

There was a time when people would come to a trade show expecting to make sales there and then. In some industries that’s still the case. But more commonly, industry events are about relationship building, branding, and market research. All of which makes these events ideal for sales prospecting.

Sales prospecting is a great technique in B2B markets

To put it simply, sales prospecting expands your customer base, boosts sales, and drives business in the competitive B2B world.

It’s all about actively finding and engaging potential customers, not waiting around for them to find you. By focusing on specific industries or groups, sales prospecting uncovers new opportunities and qualified leads.

It means using personalised messages at scale to build relationships and establish your reputation in the market.

The best sales prospecting is based on the having the best data, and that’s where Marketscan can help. We’ve been in the business for more than 40 years, and we’ve got a team of experienced professionals on hand to give advice and expertise. Contact us to find out more.


Related Topics: B2B data