14 Sales Prospecting Techniques to Find and Engage Potential Customers

Sales prospecting can be a daunting task — with so many different methods and tools to use, it’s sometimes overwhelming to know where to start. 

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, you’ll learn how to maximize your sales pipeline with the most effective sales prospecting techniques, including tips on how to identify, engage with and convert sales prospects into paying customers.

What is sales prospecting? 

Sales prospecting is the process of identifying potential customers (known as prospects) and reaching out to them in order to convert them into paying customers. A good sales prospecting strategy will allow you to fill your sales pipeline and close more deals.

Sales leads vs. sales prospects

Sales leads and sales prospects may sound like the same thing, but there are some important distinctions.

A sales lead is a contact at the top of your sales funnel who has interacted with your company in some way, but it is not yet clear how viable they are as a customer. Examples of leads include:

  • People on your email list
  • New connections on Linkedin
  • People who engage with you on social media
  • People who’ve engaged with your website
  • MQLs (leads qualified by your marketing team and passed on to the sales team)

Meanwhile, a sales prospect has already been qualified and has started their journey down the sales funnel, which means that a sale might eventually take place. A prospect is a lead that has either engaged with you and indicated that they are good candidates for outreach, or they have been qualified by your sales team as matching your ideal customer profile. Examples of prospects include:

  • A lead you spoke to on the phone
  • Someone who replied to an email
  • Someone who clicked a link in a message and visited your website
  • A person you spoke to at a trade show

In this guide, we’ll focus on how to convert sales prospects into paying customers.

Inbound vs. outbound prospecting methods

In order to understand different prospecting techniques, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the two main prospecting methods: outbound and inbound

Inbound prospecting relies heavily on marketing efforts to drive prospect action or engagement before sales reps reach out. Instead of sales teams researching new leads, marketing will instead track the people who engaged with your business online and pass this list on to the sales team.

Outbound prospecting is the process in which sales professionals search for, identify and reach out to prospects. The ultimate goal is to introduce prospects into the sales cycle and convert them into customers. This kind of outreach is sometimes referred to as “cold outreach.”

Sales prospecting techniques

When you’re executing an outbound prospecting strategy, there are a number of methods that can significantly increase your chances of closing a deal. Here are 14 sales prospecting techniques that you can use to identify, engage and convert prospects into paying customers.

1) Do your research before cold calling or emailing

When cold calling or emailing is done poorly, it’s often to blame for the bad reputation that sales reps can have. Thanks to sales tools and prospecting solutions like Crunchbase, sales reps can find and research new prospects and tailor their messaging before contacting a potential customer to ensure a warmer reception.

2) Use social media and video to your advantage

You shouldn’t feel limited to sticking with traditional outbound prospecting tactics like emails and cold calls. Sending your prospect a personalized video can help you stand out from the crowd and might be a welcome change from the numerous text-heavy emails in their inbox. 

Another social prospecting method is to leverage Twitter and LinkedIn to contact your target accounts, answer questions and share relevant content until they’re ready to engage on other channels and make a buying decision.

3) Network at sales events

Sales reps can use this method to build relationships with prospects at industry events or through professional associations. Identify conferences that have agenda topics relevant to your ideal customer and map out which sessions and networking events to attend, and then decide whether your company will have a booth or speaker there.

4) Conduct granular searches

Searching by location, number of employees, last funding round and more can help you identify your target audience and make it easier to find companies you can sell to. You can apply these filters within Crunchbase’s advanced search to get a granular view of companies that fit your ICP.

5) Take note of hiring activity

Companies in good financial standing are likely hiring new employees and not conducting layoffs. You can track both of these factors in Crunchbase by selecting the “hiring” filter in advanced search and by checking out the Crunchbase News layoffs tracker

6) Look at new leadership hires

New leadership hires indicate that a company is expanding and may have the capacity and resources to buy a product. In addition, the hiring of a new CTO is a sign that the company may be looking to revamp their tech stack. Crunchbase’s leadership hire filter makes it easy to identify when companies have added a new executive (VP level and above) to the team.

7) Target recently funded companies

Identifying companies that have recently raised money is strategic because they are growing and could be in a position to buy. You can filter companies within Crunchbase based on the date of their most recent funding round to easily identify prospects that fit your ICP.

8) Leverage investor referrals

Research by Nielsen found that 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know — which suggests that your team needs to leverage referrals now more than ever. While referrals often come from a friend or a former colleague, another source you can tap is your company’s investors. And it’s not uncommon to share an investor or two — especially in the tech industry.

With Crunchbase, you can look up companies that have the same investor as your own, and then leverage this connection to get a referral from the investor. Investors want their portfolio companies to succeed, so they won’t hesitate to make introductions if it drives growth.

9) Prospect faster with automated tools

Companies that resemble some of your recently closed deals can be great targets for outreach. Crunchbase’s similar companies feature uses machine-learning powered software to auto-generate recommendations about which prospects to target based on your activity within the platform. You can use this feature to discover accounts that share key attributes to your target prospect persona, including industry and growth signals.

10) Consider an account-based approach

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy in which you select high-value accounts and target them with personalized messaging. ABM relies on taking a deep dive into all aspects of a prospective customer’s business so you understand their pain points and goals.

Sales prospecting software like Crunchbase makes ABM simple — it allows you to easily find the companies and accounts that align with your target persona and offers tools and insights to ensure your ABM strategy is the best it can be. 

11) Leverage outreach automation

Automating your outreach using tools like alerts and email templates allows you to focus on more high-value activities. By utilizing Crunchbase’s prospecting automation features, you can stay ultra-personalized while saving time. These include:

  • Recommendations: Crunchbase’s recommendations feature can help you prospect faster by automating account discovery and qualification. It allows you to quickly qualify accounts and understand why a company is recommended specifically for you.
  • Alerts: Monitor the companies you’re interested in by setting up email alerts in Crunchbase. You can decide which type of news you want to receive (such as additions, funding rounds, news, etc) and how often you want to be updated.
  • CRM integration: Focus more on selling and less on data entry by integrating your data with CRMs such as HubSpot and Salesforce. You can sync the accounts you find in Crunchbase directly to your CRM and see which accounts are already there.
  • Email templates: Send emails right from Crunchbase using pre-made email templates. These templates are automatically personalized with Crunchbase data to help you generate responses and stand out from the competition. 

Start building a strategic prospecting strategy

Ready to start implementing these prospecting techniques? Get started using these sample prospecting list templates created in Crunchbase:

You can easily customize these prospecting lists to fit your needs by adjusting the search filters on the left side of the page. Add filters including headquarters location, industry, number of employees, last funding date and more.

Try Crunchbase

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  • Originally published March 10, 2023, updated May 31, 2023