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Prospecting - the fundamental guide

  • Oct 26, 2023
  • 4 minutes

Prospecting is an essential role of any sales function to effectively generate leads and create sales pipeline for the future. It involves directly contacting and building relationships with new sales prospects who have not yet directly expressed interest in your product or service. 

Done right, prospecting can help you generate highly qualified leads, land new customers, and dramatically increase revenue. 


What is prospecting?

Prospecting, also known as cold outreach or sales outreach, refers to initiating contact with people who have not requested information from you. This form of lead generation could involve cold calls, emails, LinkedIn messages, and other outreach methods. Prospecting tends to follow a sales cadence or sequence which can be followed as best practice to convert as many prospects as possible. 

The goal is to capture attention, spark interest, and ultimately acquire new customers. Prospecting works by casting a wide net and targeting many prospects at once - as long as they fit your ICP. It allows you to control the narrative around your product, guide more of the customer journey, highlight your offering's value, and build relationships.

Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Before executing any prospecting campaign, you must deeply understand ICP. This is a detailed description of your perfect customer including demographics, pain points, and motivations. 

Clearly defining your ICP will help you identify organizations and roles to target that are more likely to become customers. Avoid spraying and praying by carefully researching accounts within your ICP to allow for more personalized, relevant prospecting.

You can then prioritize target accounts into tiers, based on the likelihood of converting them, to make your lead generation even more efficient.

Look for prospecting triggers 

The most effective prospecting happens when you can align your offering with prospect’s needs or pain points. To identify those needs, look for outreach triggers like recent funding rounds, leadership changes, new product launches, mergers and acquisitions, job adverts or other events. 

Prospecting triggers imply an underlying need your product or service can address. They act as conversational hooks to capture attention fast. Make prospect research part of your routine to keep a finger on the pulse of timely triggers around your ICP.

Create a sales cadence 

A sales cadence is a sequence of organized touchpoints over time to engage each lead. It should include a mix of phone calls, emails, LinkedIn and maybe gifting. 

Well-executed cadences lead prospects along a journey from cold to warm to hot. Avoid spamming, by carefully balancing persistence and patience throughout your cadence. Typical cadences last 2-3 months and involve 6 to 12 total touches spaced 3-5 days apart - each offering a different bit of value to the prospect.

Tips for email prospecting

B2B sales email might seem like a thing of the past, but they can be ideal for personalized cold outreach at scale. To get openings and responses:

  • Personalize every email with research and triggers
  • Keep emails concise, perhaps three to four sentences
  • Highlight value clearly and concisely in the subject line (no longer than four words) and the body of the email
  • Establish credibility and social proof by naming partners or customers
  • Include a strong, interest-based call-to-action (CTA), for example ‘Sound interesting?’,  ‘worth learning more?’ or  ‘is this an issue for you?’. These have been shown to improve open rates.
  • A/B test different email versions to optimize performance for better open rates


Tips for prospecting calls 

Cold calling allows you to make an energetic first impression and have a direct conversation.

Remember to:

  • Start with a permission-based opener, to get them on-side
  • Personalize your pitch with research insights, highlighting the issues that other people in their role are facing (you never know for sure what pains someone has until the conversation starts to flow)
  • Ask smart questions that uncover needs, detail and context
  • Actively listen and respond to the objections given with an open question to keep the conversation going
  • Have a clear CTA around scheduling a demo
  • Leverage call scripts to sound natural but focused
  • Leave energetic, compelling voicemails that encourage a callback
  • Always follow up with an email summarizing the call and the next steps


Tips for LinkedIn prospecting

LinkedIn is invaluable for sales prospecting thanks to its immense reach and its nifty sales tools.

Use LinkedIn to:

  • Search for prospects by industry, role, keywords
  • Join industry groups to connect with prospects
  • Review company pages for trigger events

The combination of cold outreach and social selling is extremely powerful. Use them together to accelerate pipeline growth.

Consider these steps:

  • Optimize your LinkedIn profile to establish credibility
  • Send personalized connection requests for example, ‘I saw you posting about X topic’
  • Share insightful content and engage with your network
  • Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find and target potential leads
  • Build and maintain relationships with your connections

If LinkedIn forms a part of your sales sequence, be sure to refer to emails and calls (where the bulk of your value should be communicated) within your LinkedIn messages. That way you can keep LinkedIn communications feeling concise and social, as they should be. 

Prospecting in today’s market 

If prospecting were easy, everyone would be crushing their quotas.

The truth is prospecting is challenging and never more so than in today’s market:


  • The remote/hybrid and post-COVID world makes it harder to get through to a decision-maker when calling an office number
  • Automated email systems mean people's inboxes are flooded with sales outreach - even if yours is personalized and well-crafted some people will never see it. That’s why a multi-channel approach is crucial.
  • Markets have never been more crowded with sellers and more scarce on buyers with budget
  • Sign-off is harder and decision-making groups are bigger 

But don’t despair. 

You can be successful with the right preparation, persistence, skills and tools. 

Invest the time to master cold outreach. The long-term payoff for your career will be huge.

Cold outreach allows you to proactively fill your funnel versus waiting on warm leads. 

Replicate top-performers - the gamechanger

Listen back to call recordings of the top-performers at your company to understand their approach. Analyze everything from tone of voice and language used to the number of questions they ask. Ask yourself questions to dive deeper into what worked, such as:


  • What part of their call had the greatest impact?"
  • How did the customer react differently to their approach?

Once you’ve understood how they are achieving their results, you can begin to replicate their tactics in your prospecting. 

Ready for your next step?

Check out our fundamental guide to sales methodologies here.

Shelley Lavery is the COO and Co-Founder of Jiminny, the leading conversation intelligence and sales coaching platform that helps companies maximize their revenue. With over a decade of experience in coaching B2B sales teams, Shelley was previously Group SVP of Sales at Reward Gateway now leading the conversation intelligence discussion with expertise and insight.

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