How to Prospect Like a Pro

Sales Cliche #37532: “Sales is a process.”

We know, we know. Duh. But sometimes it can be helpful to go back to the basics and remind ourselves about what that process entails and who it involves. In this article, we’re gonna take a brief look at the art and science of sales prospecting and give you a few tips on how to improve your own process. Ready?

November 14, 2022

What is sales prospecting?

Sales prospecting is one of the first parts of the sales process in which you look for people and companies who might want to buy what you’re selling. If the sales process is a funnel, then prospecting happens at the top of it. Ultimately, your goal is to move these folks down the funnel using a variety of strategies – like lead nurturing – to eventually become clients or buyers.

Sales Slang

Salespeople use a ton of different terms to refer to people situated at different points in the sales funnel. Three terms are especially common: leads, prospects, and opportunities. Where exactly they fit in the funnel depends on who you’re talking to but, usually, leads are found at the top of the funnel and become prospects after going through a process of lead nurturing. Opportunities, on the other hand, are the prospects most likely to buy from you. They’re sometimes called “qualified leads” or “qualified opportunities”.

Ways to Prospect

There are several different ways to prospect:

  • Cold emailing
  • Cold calling
  • Reaching out on social
  • Networking and referrals

Different situations call for different strategies but you generally want to reach out to your prospect in the medium they’re most comfortable using and in one that’s appropriate for your product. For example, if you sell a product or service where confidentiality is important, a public post on social tagging your prospect might not be the best way to contact them.

📢 Resource Shoutout: If you’re looking for a great guide to cold-calling, look no further than our “Red-Hot Tips For Your Next Cold Call” eBook. It’s a short, practical guide you can follow to make your next cold call a winner.

You might be thinking, “Hey. No one reads emails (especially cold ones) anymore.” We totally get where you’re coming from. But we respectfully disagree. Data shows that a significant percentage of people open emails.

Gazelle Prospecting Stats

Sure, it’s not a 100% success rate, but a substantial portion of people still open and read most of their emails.

We’ve also got a thing or two to say about the “Networking and referrals” option we’ve listed above. But we’ll get to that later in the article. Spoiler alert: We’re HUGE fans of referrals.

How do you build a prospect list?

We know your time is limited so we’ll just knock out the BEST way to build a prospect list first. Get!

Our sales intelligence platform helps you create lists of companies in hyper-growth mode who need what you’re selling yesterday, as well as those who are expanding and are in short supply of everything except for cash. It’s AI-driven and human-supported, powered by the latest research, and super easy to use. We know we’re biased but we’re pretty sure it’s the best way to build a prospect list you’ll ever find.

Okay. Obligatory plug concluded. Now onto some more general tips.

Use your best existing buyers as a template

One of our favorite tricks when trying to find new prospects is to build a profile of our favorite existing clients based on the commonalities between them. And then we try to find prospects that fit those characteristics.

This is a great strategy because you already know that prospects that fit the description are a good fit for your company and enjoy doing business with you. You also know that they’re likely to be profitable.

Know thyself and thy product

When it comes to prospects, quality always trumps quantity. 15 well-targeted prospects will beat 100 randomly chosen people any day of the week. And you’ll be in the best position to know if your prospects are well-targeted by carefully considering the nature of the product or service you offer.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and ask, “What problems does my product solve?” Try to empathize with the people you’ll be reaching out to and consider if they’ll see value in what you’re pitching in the first place.

Practical prospecting pointers

We’ll close out this article with a handful of hands-on tips you can use to make building – and using – a prospect list just a little bit easier. Here are our favorite pieces of advice we’ve come across in the many years we’ve spent prospecting.

Get referrals. Like, a lot of them…

Remember how we mentioned we’d be coming back to this topic? Well, we keep our promises. Our absolute favorite, best, outstanding way to approach prospects is through referrals. A case study conducted at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania found that referred customers delivered 25% more value to companies:

Stats Sales Prospecting Gazelle

Even though the context is a little different here, the case study shows the value of referral. It seems to work by way of transferring credibility. Say John and Jane are friends and trust each other. When Jane tells John that your product is great and you’re a salesperson to be trusted, you need to work that much less to build credibility with John because Jane has done much of the heavy lifting for you.

So, every chance you’ve got, ask for referrals from your existing clients and prospects. People who already pay for your product are the best ones to use because they’ve put their money where their mouth is.

Prospecting is just the beginning of the process

Remember that prospecting is simply the beginning of a long process of customer education and lead nurturing. With that in mind, consider at least two things. First, try to choose prospects that will be open to – and engaged with – content that educates them about your industry, your company, and your product. It won’t matter how many prospects you’ve got in the pipeline if none of them are engaging with your content marketing.

You can know how well someone might connect with your nurturing efforts by examining what sorts of people have shown high engagement in the past. If your content has been most successful with marketing professionals at American defence contractors then focus your efforts on that group going forward.

Second, make sure you don’t let your prospects go stale! Again, you can have a full pipeline of prospects but if they don’t hear from you for six months it won’t do you one bit of good. There’s a reason a large majority of people think that lead and prospect nurturing is the most important part of marketing automation:

That’s all folks! And that’s what we have for today. Hopefully we’ve clearly explained what prospecting means and given you some helpful pointers on how to find your next batch of prospects. Until next time!

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