Skip to main content

6 sales prospecting tips for small business owners

6 sales prospecting tips for small business owners

Key takeaways

  • Build a prospect list to focus on the best sales opportunities and avoid wasting time
  • Collect as much information as possible about your leads so you can personalize your first contact with them
  • Use a customer relationship management (CRM) technology to improve your sales prospecting process with data over time

When it comes to sales, shortcuts don’t pay off. Making a sales pitch before getting to know potential customers is rarely successful. In fact, marketing expert Charlie Cook estimates that cold calls are successful just 2% of the time. Moving too fast can put off your leads, wasting both party’s time.

Sales prospecting—a process that focuses on high-quality leads—helps you slow down early in the sales cycle so you can sell more efficiently in the long run. Here’s what you need to know about implementing a sales prospecting strategy.

What is prospecting in sales?

Sales prospecting, also known as lead qualifying, is the process of identifying potential clients who are likely to make a purchase. After the sales prospecting process, you should have a list of contacts who fit your ideal customer profile (also known as a buyer persona), which is a list of characteristics that your target audience shares. For example, your sales prospect list could include people in the same geographic area with similar budgets and pain points.

Identifying new prospects helps you focus your sales efforts on people with high intent to buy. Typically, you begin prospecting after lead generation, which is when you have a list of potential customers that have shown some type of interest—for example, when a person has provided their contact information. Then you can review the list and start evaluating if they’re a good fit for your product or service by comparing your customer profile with their details. You can also build your prospect list by researching potential prospects before they express interest in your brand.

6 sales prospecting tips

Whether you’re the only salesperson for your business or you have a full sales team, prospecting can help you sell more with less effort. Use these sales prospecting methods and step-by-step tips to make the most of your time.

1. Identify the decision makers

Focus your effort on leads who have purchasing power. Early in your sales process, figure out who the influencers are in a business’s decision-making process for a purchase. For example, if you run a massage business and want to offer your services at an upcoming corporate event, pitch your massage company directly to the event manager rather than an administrative assistant.

If you’re selling directly to consumers, they’ll likely be making a purchase themselves. But when selling to other businesses, this is a crucial step. For business-to-business (B2B) brands, the easiest person to reach might not be the best person to pitch. To identify who the decision maker is in B2B sales, you can:

  • Use LinkedIn to learn about the hierarchy of your potential client’s organization
  • Ask leads if they’d like to include anyone else in the conversation
  • Ask leads which team members made similar purchase decisions in the past

2. Research new leads before reaching out

Sales prospecting: Woman at laptop researching new leads

Even if someone has expressed interest in your company, they might not be a great fit for your brand. Pushing those customers through the buying process may ultimately leave the client unsatisfied and unlikely to return. 

Before you reach out for the first time, take a moment to ensure you can offer value to those leads. Read through the details they’ve provided and use online searches and social media platforms to get to know them (and ultimately how they compare to your ideal customer). 

If you believe there’s a chance you can meet your potential prospect’s needs, you can confidently move forward with them in the sales prospecting process.

Of course, not every business can vet potential customers ahead of time. If you own a real estate business, your sales reps might receive phone calls or office visits from potential clients who weren’t on their radar. But if you have some buffer time after generating leads, do your research early on to avoid wasting time in the future.

3. Prioritize high-potential buyers

As you start reaching out to contacts, prioritize those who are most likely to purchase first to maximize your prospecting efforts.

One way to organize your contacts is by lead scoring, which is a way of prioritizing clients by calculating their intent in the form of a score: After researching each customer or client, give them a score of 0–100, 100 being a perfect fit for your brand. To make scoring easier, create a checklist of 10 desired characteristics, such as an interest in gardening or a company size of 20 or fewer employees. Then give potential prospects a score of 0-10 in each of those categories and total up their scores. Reach out to contacts who score closest to 100.

4. Personalize your first touchpoint

When you first contact a potential prospect, personalize your outreach. Instead of cold calling or cold emailing your contacts, use what you know about them to make the first touchpoint a little warmer. For example, if you know a lead received a referral from an existing client, build a connection by mentioning your mutual contact. If your lead makes YouTube videos, mention how much you liked a specific video and why. Give leads a way to connect with you before making a hard sell.

If possible, a face-to-face conversation is another great way to build rapport with potential clients. An in-person or video meeting allows sales professionals to make genuine connections and observe subtle body language cues—plus, they can demonstrate products in real time.

5. Listen more than you speak

Sales prospecting: Businesswoman shaking hands with someone

Effective sales prospecting means listening to your leads. Pay close attention to what they’re telling you about their needs, budget, and other important characteristics. Let your client tell you as much about themselves as they’re comfortable with, and ask questions to learn more or to organically steer the conversation in a way that can help you gain more impactful knowledge about them.

By the end of your conversation, you should know if your contact is a qualified lead who can move on to the next stage of your sales pipeline. If not, you can still reach out through email automations or social media posts and other aspects of your marketing strategy. You simply want to avoid dedicating extra time—for example, on one-on-one calls—to people who aren’t ideal customers.

6. Track progress with a sales CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a helpful sales prospecting tool for any business. Prospectors can use CRMs to track key client details, including names, contact information, company names, and their place in the sales funnel. Most CRMs also allow you to add notes for each potential client, so you can continue personalizing conversations as you move forward and follow up as needed.

Another great reason to use a sales CRM is to automate your key metrics tracking. CRMs can help you calculate metrics like your churn rate (how many leads drop off without purchasing) and the average value of your sales. You can keep an eye on your performance and make adjustments to your sales process if necessary.


Get a free Yelp Page

Promote your business to local customers.

Claim your free page

Grow your customer base with these sales prospecting techniques

Sales prospecting focuses your efforts and reduces time by evaluating your clients’ needs, budgets, interests—and how they compare to your ideal customer profile. Figure out who the decision makers are, then personalize the experience to increase the chances of setting up your first meeting. 

As you increase business volume through sales prospecting, you’ll want to also strategize how you’ll incentivize and pay your salespeople. Check out these four sales commission structure options for small businesses.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.