The beginner’s guide to B2B sales prospecting


Fortunately, there are many different ways to drum up interest in your business.

Unfortunately, you need to decide which of these different methods is best for you, then have the expertise and resource to carry them out, and it has to be reliable enough to deliver a return on your investment, all while ensuring a constant source of leads for your sales teams.

Sales prospecting can be daunting. And while some outdated outbound marketers target as many people as possible, good prospecting is all about targeting the right people. And then finding the most effective way to do it.

Since 50% of buyers admit to choosing the vendor that reaches out to them first, a great prospecting process can transform your business.

In this guide, we’ll run you through the basics, cover the essential steps, and outline how you can build your very own outreach machine. 

What is B2B sales prospecting?

Sales prospecting is the process of identifying and engaging with potential buyers. By understanding your target market, you can focus on the channels most likely to connect with decision-makers and begin sales conversations with them.

In time, you can develop increasingly advanced prospecting techniques. To get you started, here is a simple framework for the prospecting process:

  • Build a customer profile to pin down exactly who you are targeting
  • Use your profile to pinpoint potential customers (prospects)
  • Decide the best way to approach them
  • Engage them systematically to nurture your relationship

In a nutshell, sales prospecting covers all the activities focused on connecting with a potential customer. Once you’ve received a positive response, that lead can be passed on to the sales team.

Types of B2B sales prospecting

There are many prospecting channels, so you’ll need to identify which methods are best for reaching your potential customers. 

The different prospecting methods can be divided into two categories: inbound and outbound.

Inbound prospecting

Driven by the marketing team, this method focuses on generating interest in your product through great content. If you build it, they will come (assuming it is good quality, useful, targeted, and so on!)

Inbound prospecting channels include:

  • Content marketing
  • PR campaigns
  • Advertising
  • Social media
  • Webinars

Outbound prospecting

Outbound prospecting is often the responsibility of sales development representatives or the sales team themselves. After identifying your target audience, you’ll need B2B data with up to date contact information.

These prospects are contacted directly – an email, phone call, or direct mail – to introduce your company and product/service.

Outbound prospecting channels include:

  • Prospecting platforms
  • Email outreach
  • Cold calling
  • Networking
  • LinkedIn messaging

Why email?

So there are a lot of potential avenues for outbound sales outreach, but we always pick email over the others. Is it because we’re an email based prospecting platform? Well obviously, but the reason we settled on email can be summed up by the following two stats:

80% of B2B buyers say they prefer to be contacted via email.

Repeated studies have shown email to drive the highest ROI.

The advantages of outbound prospecting

In years gone by, outbound methods were king. One-size-fits-all messages were sent out over radio, on TV, and in magazines and newspapers. 

As new technologies developed, the same tactics were simply transferred to the new media. Low-quality, high-volume lead generation was born. Mass email blasts, invasive pop ups, creepy retargeting ads.

As a consequence, the last ten years have seen the marketing world focus on inbound methods. Producing relevant content and publishing it to the appropriate platform means the right people find you organically. This means your message is only put in front of your target audience. 

Modern outbound marketing has merged these two worlds. With accurate data and specific targeting, the outbound message is only shown to your target audience. But you still have the best of outbound too: directly, actively reaching out to these people rather than hoping they stumble upon your message.

Let’s take a look at the advantages of modern B2B prospecting strategies.

More high-quality leads

You don’t want to waste resources on the wrong people. Outbound allows you to focus only on those who have a need for your business. This means the contacts who respond are already qualified prospects.

Speak directly to decision makers

Sales prospecting allows you to speak directly with the people that matter. You may imagine that’s people in finance, but targeting the most relevant job titles – generally, users of your product – will see better results. These are the people that will see the value and have some authority to sanction or influence a purchase.

Streamlined sales cycle

Prospecting can help optimize sales processes by tracking the different stages of the sales funnel. Your sales reps will know exactly where prospects are in their journey and the communications so far, which means they know how to move them further along the funnel.

Data gathering

Not all prospects are going to become customers. But knowing who’s engaging with your content gives you valuable insights on how to nurture your leads. It enables you to evolve your campaign to grow with your customers and help you improve future prospecting methods.

The nine steps of successful email prospecting

Now that we’ve covered the basics of prospecting and highlighted some of the key benefits, you’re probably keen to implement the perfect prospecting process for your business. 

With five years of experience, we’ve developed the perfect sales prospecting techniques.

Step 1: Planning and set up

We can’t stress the importance of planning enough. Assemble your team, brief them on their roles, establish your campaign strategy, and decide on your KPIs.

Step 2: Full market assessment

Market research is essential. Begin by creating your ideal customer profile – an agreed set of characteristics that your target businesses have in common. You can also create buyer personas, to better picture the individuals within those businesses you are speaking to.

Carry out a full market assessment – map your market and build an audience using industries, company sizes, and keywords along with prospect job titles and locations.

Step 3: Prospect identification

With the market map you’ve produced, the next step is to scrutinise it. Sift through your sample prospects and filter out any contacts that don’t feel like a good fit. 

Have a think about who you want to exclude too, like current customers or competitors. You’ll be left with a list of high-qulaity, genuine prospects.

Step 4: Technical setup

Having the perfect prospects is all well and good, but if you haven’t fine-tuned the technical details then you’re going to have a tough time actually reaching their inbox. 

Have your tech-wizards get to work on the technical setup. High volume email campaigns need experts to advise on things like new domains, DNS, SPF, DKIM and DMARC settings and blacklists.

Step 5: Exceptional content

Here is where a lot of prospecting can fall down. We’ve written a whole post outlining how to write great prospecting emails.

You may be surprised what works. Beyond a great subject line, your writers need to create the perfect introductory message, personalise the tone, and above all keep it simple.

Don’t go into the sales pitch, don’t write paragraphs about pain points and product features and more. Simply outline how you can help and ask for a call to discuss it further.

Step 6: Daily outreach

You don’t want to reach out to too many or too few contacts. In our experience, the maximum number of prospects to engage with daily is 50.

This keeps a steady flow of leads coming into the sales team, that you don’t burn through your entire list of prospects too quickly, and it will keep your domain healthy.

Step 7: Tracking and chasing

Make sure you stay on top of who you’ve contacted and who has responded. Then you can go ahead and send out follow up emails.

You might think that people who haven’t responded aren’t interested, but in our years of experience, we’ve learned that isn’t necessarily the case. They may be busy or need time to think, so don’t give up after the first message.

We recommend three follow up emails – over half of our campaign responses come from these emails! 

Step 8: CRM integration

Sales technology is essential if you want to stay ahead of the curve. Make sure you’ve got a CRM system that fully integrates with all your technology. That way you can track, analyse and manage all your prospecting data and leads with an automated CRM. 

Step 9: Obsess and optimise

Even the most perfect prospecting process has to be updated and altered regularly. Your business will evolve, and so should your prospecting. 

Never be afraid to tweak your targeting or explore new markets. You can test new email templates or alter the sequence of emails. Anything and everything should be monitored, analysed and amended in the chase for an extra per cent wherever it can be found.

So that’s our step-by-step beginner’s guide to B2B prospecting. Here at Outbase, we’ve channelled all of our years of experience to create the perfect platform that can drive your prospecting and help skyrocket your sales.

Try Outbase free for a month today.

Written by:
Kit Smith SEO and Content Manager