sales prospecting tips

August 19, 2021

5 Tips to Be the Best at Sales Prospecting

Written by The Apollo Team

If you’ve been in sales for a while, you know that the hardest part of your job is sales prospecting.

In a recent survey of sales professionals, almost 69% of respondents said that the most challenging part of the sales process was getting the first conversation (a.k.a. prospecting). 

HubSpot also found that 40% of sales people consider sales prospecting more difficult than qualifying (22%) and even closing (36%).

Why? Just consider the following: Your prospects are crazy busy, their inboxes full of unread messages, their calendars packed with Zoom meetings, and unless they are actively shopping for what you offer, your message will go to the trash folder. 

No wonder the average response rate for a cold email is 1% — especially when most sales pitches follow the same templates as everyone else and have little, if any, personalization.

But you know better than that, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article. We’ll go over some prospecting basics, then some tips to make you a prospecting rock star, and finally four ways you can use the best prospecting tool available to be more productive.

So let’s get started!

What is Sales Prospecting?

Before anything happens in sales, you must start with prospecting. Whenever you reach out to potential customers through email, text, video, social media, or the phone, to start a conversation, you are prospecting.

The secret is to identify the prospects that are the right fit for your business. In other words, people who actually need your solution, who might become paying customers once they understand how you can solve their problems.

Leads vs Prospects

Is it a prospect the same as a lead? Not really.

As a sales rep, you may have a bunch of leads that come from inbound marketing or from a database of contacts in your industry, but they may not be your ideal prospects.

You first need to qualify those leads for them to become prospects.

So, let’s take a look at how this process works.

Sales Prospecting Process: The Old Way vs. The Best Way

Print ads, in-person events, and door-to-door sales, may still happen, but they represent the old way of prospecting.

In today’s digital sales environment, most of your outbound prospecting efforts will happen online. And if you’re a B2B sales professional, you’ll probably use LinkedIn.

Of course, you can do everything manually, but it can be time consuming. For example, let’s say you work for a sales training company and you want Oracle as a client. You must find a way to get in front of their VP of Sales.

Here’s what you’d need to do:

  • Find out who that person is
  • Get their contact information (email and phone number)
  • Try to reach out to them

And although you can easily find who is the VP of Sales at Oracle through LinkedIn, it may be really hard to find her contact information without the right tools.

You can try guessing different combinations of the person’s first + last name and their company domain, such as [email protected]

You can also try doing Google searches until you find the contact info, but that is extremely time consuming.

As a last resort you may try cold emailing [email protected] or using the “Contact Us” form to send your pitch. Good luck getting through to the VP!

Now, if you wanted to find all the VPs of Sales at Fortune 500 Companies, the task would become far more challenging and would take tons of time.

There are “List Vendors” that can sell you a specific list of contacts, such as VP of Sales at Large Companies. The problem is that these lists are expensive and often go out of date.

So what’s the best way? Using sales prospecting tools.

What are sales prospecting tools?

Sales prospecting tools are software apps that help you automate repetitive tasks, so you can save time when finding and contacting your prospects.

Let’s look at the types of sales prospecting tools you can use to identify and qualify prospects.

How to identify sales prospects

There are several sales prospecting tools to find buyer personas and their contact details like Zoominfo, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and, of course, Apollo. 

With these tools you can:

  • Search for a prospects’ email, website, and phone numbers
  • Export the data into a CSV 
  • Add the contact information to the CRM
  • Send an email directly and more

Sales prospecting tools can either be a Chrome Extension or a Contact Database (or both). How do you use them?

1. Identify sales prospects with a LinkedIn Chrome Extension

You can use LinkedIn to search for the exact people or a profile of multiple types of people that you want to reach out to, and then use a LinkedIn Chrome Extension that will give you the email address or phone number while you are on their LinkedIn profile page.

That’s okay if you are looking for only one person. But if you are creating a list of all the VPs of Sales at small companies in your region to add them one by one or in some cases 10-25 at a time directly to the CRM or an Excel Spreadsheet, it can still take a long time (unless you are using the Apollo Chrome Extension).

Going back to the VP of Sales at Oracle, here’s a preview of how the Apollo Chrome Extension works. Note that it gives you her email address, a chance to request her phone number, and the option to add the contact to your CRM.

2. Identify sales prospects with a Contact Database

You can also use databases to either search for specific contacts or profiles of multiple contacts that fit a certain theme, and then just click a button to retrieve an email address and phone number.

For instance, with a database of 220 million business contacts and more than 30 million companies, Apollo is unrivaled in the amount of data it can make available to its users. And it’s free.

How to qualify sales prospects

Our goal here is to be the best at sales prospecting. That means you need to be productive and make sure you reach out only to qualified prospects, people who match your ideal customer profile. 

For instance, you have to make sure that the potential customer:

  • Is located in the territory you serve
  • Is part of a company the size you’re after (number of employees or annual revenue)
  • Is working in the role or department you want
  • Is using the type of technology you sell
  • Is in the right industry or vertical

When using a contact database tool you can apply search filters to narrow down your search to the criteria above. Most tools out there allow you to search by Title, Company, Industry, Company Size, Location, and a few other basic things. However, Apollo has more depth and detail, giving you access to:

  • Hiring Data
  • Department Sizes
  • Technologies Used
  • Alexa Rankings
  • Languages Used on their Website
  • Number of Retail Locations
  • Company Lookalikes

Additionally, we tend to have more accurate email addresses and mobile numbers, as well as a larger database (more contacts) than other tools. Sign up for free and start using Apollo to find and qualify your ideal sales prospect.

Now, here’s what you were waiting for…

5 Amazing Sales Prospecting Tips

Ready to hit it out of the ballpark in your sales process? Try these five sales prospecting techniques in your daily activities and start building your sales pipeline.

1. Begin with Social Selling

Yes, social selling is about using social media to connect with buyers, but most sellers do it wrong. 

The average salesperson sends out dozens of connection requests on LinkedIn that include a sales pitch right off the bat. Don’t do that.

Instead, bring value to your LinkedIn connections, sharing thought leadership and relevant content for your prospects, interacting with their posts through comments and likes, and building top-of-mind awareness. 

The best thing about social selling is that you can “warm up” your sales prospects, so when you reach out to them through email or a phone call, they will already know who you are because of your interactions in social media.

For instance, once you find a potential buyer on LinkedIn, instead of sending a connection request right away, click the “Follow” button and engage with one of their posts in a meaningful way (like an insightful comment or a question, or even a link to a great resource). Then wait a few days and send a LinkedIn connection request (no sales pitch, though). 

Here’s a template you can use: 

“Hi FIRSTNAME! I thoroughly enjoyed your post about INSERT-TOPIC. Loved your point about INSERT-POINT. I noticed we weren’t connected here on LinkedIn and I’d love to connect. YOURNAME”

After connecting, keep engaging with them, sharing their posts and tagging them. At this stage you can add them to your sales sequence of videos and calls. In other words, make social selling part of your sales prospecting methods.

My recommendation is that before you begin prospecting on LinkedIn, you update and optimize your LinkedIn profile so it reads like a resource with a buyer-centric message and not just a resume. One quick tip is to change your headline to the benefit you offer instead of your job title.

Why? Because if your potential prospect looks at your connection request or your profile and the first thing they see is your name followed by “Account Executive” or “Business Development Representative”, their first thought is, “Oh no, another seller trying to make me buy something.”

And, yes, your objective is to sell them your product or service, but remember that people don’t want to be sold to, they want to find a solution for their most pressing needs. A couple of real life examples of great headlines I’ve seen on LinkedIn are:

“Empowering B2B sales teams to have better conversations”

“We Produce B2B Podcasts that Drive Revenue”

“We help companies increase revenue with our data-first sales engagement platform”

What do you do for your clients? What is your company’s value proposition? Try that as your new LinkedIn headline and you’ll see better results. Remember that it’s all about them, not about you.

2. Smile and Use Video for Sales

Next to being face-to-face with your client, video is the most effective way to communicate. Neuroscience has shown that being on camera has the same effect as being in person, because the mirror neurons in the brain allow you to create an emotional connection and a sense of trust with the prospect.

And this is not only true for a live call. Just recording video messages with Loom or similar platforms and sending them by email or LinkedIn InMail, can work wonders. 

Prospecting with video allows you to stand out from the hundreds of text-based messages people receive every day. Additionally, you can convey emotion, urgency, passion, and conviction in your message, which are essential in sales.

Make video part of your prospecting process. Next time you are getting ready to send out an email, record a video introducing yourself, identify some of the pain points of your prospect and provide some tips or resources that can help. 

Finally, you can close the video with an invitation to book a meeting (make sure you add a link to your calendar within the email).

You can also use video for welcoming a new LinkedIn connection, for answering questions from your prospects, for explaining a sales proposal, and whatever you can think of. 

3. Don’t Forget about Personalization

Personalizing a message is more than adding the person’s name and the company name or industry. It’s about adding specific information that shows you have done your homework about the potential client.

What information?

  • Recent company news like a merger or funding series
  • A job change
  • A new award or publication
  • Common experiences such as non-profit work or interests

Find two or three things in their LinkedIn profile and Company page that you can use to personalize your messages. 

Or, you can use Apollo to find targeted information about your prospects.

For example, instead of just finding contact information for every VP of Sales at a Small Company in the US, and targeting them with messaging that is generally relevant to VP’s of Sales at Small Companies in the US, you can tell Apollo to find you every:

  • VP of Sales
  • At a Small Company
  • That Just Raised Funding in the last 3 months
  • That is using Marketo or HubSpot
  • And has at least 3 sales reps on their team
  • And is in the Software Industry
  • And is hiring for Sales Development Representatives

This sales prospecting method can take time, of course, but it’s more effective than generic templates with no personalization. 

The good news is that with Apollo you can either automate a basic level of personalization, or semi-automate your personalized emails by creating templated tasks that are pre-filled so you can just focus on the personalized pieces. 

For example, you can create a template in your sales sequence for the specific buyer persona you are targeting, but add a reminder to personalize the first sentence with information from your research. This is what we call semi-automated sequences, which give you the best of both worlds: automation and personalization.

Now, for large deals or for an account-based prospecting strategy, you may want to do some hyper-personalization and send a manual email. In that case, you can also use Apollo to send out the message and track the engagement and results.

4. Call in Some Favors and Get a Referral

Did you know that 84% of B2B decision makers kick off their buying processes with referrals?

That means that before cold calling or sending a cold email, you should find out if you have a common connection that can make an introduction or referral.

How do you find a shared connection? Two steps:

  1. Ask your sales leaders and colleagues. Perhaps they have worked with them in the past and can not only make an introduction but give you some insights on what their business pain might be.
  2. Use LinkedIn or Sales Navigator to identify shared connections. When you visit the person’s profile, LinkedIn will show you a list of mutual connections. Browse through the list and pick three people to ask them if they have a strong enough relationship with that person and if they are willing to make an introduction.

You can even make it easier for them by writing the introductory email and asking them to just edit and send it, CC’ing you. 

5. Follow Up as If Your Life Depended On It

Data shows that it takes 8 touch points on average to reach a prospect, so if you want to set up a meeting, you must follow up after your first message. 

Before you become the best at sales prospecting, you need a solid follow-up strategy. 

This sales prospecting tip sounds obvious, but the fact is that many sales opportunities are lost because sellers do not follow up with their B2B buyers.

Here’s what the data says about sales professionals and their follow-up habits:

  • 48% of salespeople never even make a single follow up attempt, but 60% of customers say no four times before saying yes.
  • 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up call but 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls.
  • 70% of salespeople stop at one email but if you send more emails, you’ve got a 25% chance to hear back.

With tools like Apollo, you can automate your follow-up emails and set tasks that automatically remind you to make follow-up calls. That way you will ensure that you are making enough attempts to get a hold of a contact and increasing your chances of actually setting up a meeting with a qualified prospect.

4 Ways to Achieve Productive Sales Prospecting

Dead ends, time-consuming outreach, unreliable contact information – it’s no wonder why sales prospecting is one of the most burdensome stages of the sales process for sales and marketing teams. 

Without a reliable method of finding, initiating and developing relationships with leads, businesses lose countless amounts of time, money, and opportunity.

But, as mentioned before, with the right tools, the customer acquisition process can be easily manageable. Apollo’s variety of powerful features can help you funnel potential clients into targeted campaigns with personalized, outbound messaging and best practice sales flow. 

Here are four ways you can use Apollo to be more productive when sales prospecting:

1. Use an Automated Workflow

Nothing de-energizes sales quicker than hours a day scanning LinkedIn and sending out cold emails. Without a tool to intelligently recommend best-fit accounts and automate outreach, sales reps are prospecting by shooting in the dark. 

What Apollo has done is develop automation technology to manage critical parts of the prospecting process.

  • Seamlessly integrate sequences into your prospecting workflow that automate any and all emails, calls, and tasks. 
  • Use Rules Engine to automatically perform any action based on customer triggers or a specific schedule for tightly integrated and efficient sales processes.
  • Enable Apollo’s Dialer to instantly click-to-call prospects. Dialer includes automatic recordings, transcriptions, CRM logging, and keyword search.

Apollo’s automation features will ensure that your sales vision is being carried out. When you automate sales prospecting, your sales reps can focus on building relationships and connecting with people on a human-to-human level.

2. Install LinkedIn Prospector

If your sales practice utilizes LinkedIn as a prospecting tool, your workflow can be improved with Apollo’s Chrome Extension. With this tool, sales teams can instantly find verified emails and up-to-date contact information on LinkedIn profiles and directly dial phone numbers at the click of a button. 

You can also make updates to records, log activities, add prospects to an outreach sequence, or add them to Apollo lists, without ever leaving your LinkedIn browser tab. 

Our LinkedIn Prospector can also seamlessly sync with your CRM. Any lists generated within the tool can be pushed directly into Salesforce or Hubspot or downloaded into a CSV for easy data integration.

3. Set Up Job Change Alerts

Productive sales prospecting can’t be achievable with out-of-date information. Whether a contact is an existing customer or a potential buyer, it is critical for sales reps to know when prospects change job positions, titles, or companies. Apollo’s Job Change alerts will instantly notify sales reps of position changes on key accounts so they can quickly take advantage of new business opportunities.

Additionally, when you sync with Salesforce, Apollo Refresh keeps contacts clean and current with real-time updates to a contact’s job title, eliminating another tedious step that usually requires manual input. 

4. Apply Granular Filters and Data Variety

At the end of the day, one of Apollo’s most used features is our Prospect Searcher. Apollo’s database of over 220M contacts in 30M companies makes it the perfect hub for accurate and productive sales prospecting.

The users who find the most success with the Prospect Searcher take advantage of the 200+ data attributes and granular filters Apollo offers. When searching for prospects, target your ideal prospect with laser precision using filters such as:

  • Title
  • Company
  • # of Employees
  • Size by Department
  • Recent Hires
  • Revenue
  • Location
  • Other Keywords

By syncing your CRM, you can filter out current clients, existing leads, and previously contacted accounts, limiting email spam and helping you establish a high-quality brand.

One cool feature of Apollo is the ability to create “personas” within the app to later add them to your sequences. Check out this 90-second tutorial on how to create a “persona” in Apollo:

Prospecting can be daunting. With millions of unfamiliar and untapped contacts circulating the web, many businesses struggle in achieving efficient and productive sales prospecting.

Apollo’s prospecting tools can change all that. By using Apollo to automate your workflow, scan LinkedIn, alert you of job changes, and filter your leads, your sales teams will have the time and the means to connect with the right people at the right time. 

Regardless of your current sales strategy or lead generation process, Apollo will help you become the best at sales prospecting. 

Get started with Apollo

The Apollo Team