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Thanks to tools like social media platforms and e-commerce integrations, business owners no longer need to rely on cold calling for prospecting purposes. — Getty Images/nortonrsx

Prospecting, or identifying potential customers for a business, may seem like searching for gold among a sea of shells. Business owners need to learn how to identify and engage with prospects in order to succeed in turning them into customers. Here are some effective tools that can help you increase your prospecting odds.

Social networking

Using social platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, allows you to share relevant content with your audience, drawing attention to your business and inspiring interested individuals to connect with you.

"You need to understand your market, your customer, where they ‘hang out.’ This dictates which social network to put your efforts into,” explained Kurt Shaver, chief sales officer at Vengreso.

For example, companies selling to businesses will likely leverage LinkedIn, while consumer-focused companies may choose Facebook or Twitter. And, a primary difference with selling a product versus a service is that products can lend themselves to more visual platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest.

"For most businesses ,100% of their customer base is not all on one of those channels,” Shaver said. “We recommend the omni-channel approach – that is, be wherever your customers are."

[Read: A Guide to Growing Your Business with Social Media Marketing]

You need to understand your market, your customer, where they ‘hang out.’ This dictates which social network to put your efforts into.

Kurt Shaver, chief sales officer at Vengreso

LinkedIn for B2B sales

For businesses selling to other businesses, LinkedIn can be your best prospecting tool. The platform not only connects individuals with each other — it also allows individuals to see who else their contacts are connected with.

"Cold calling was an enormous amount of time with a very small return,” said Brynne Tillman, CEO of Social Sales Link. “Before LinkedIn was even an idea, I was sitting across from a client looking at his overflowing rolodex and I was thinking, ‘If I could get my hands on that and ask for introductions, I wouldn't have to do my cold calling this week.’ So, when I found LinkedIn in 2005, I recognized the value for sales because of the ability to search your connections' connections."

LinkedIn also offers Sales Navigator, a paid service with many features to optimize prospecting efforts. The most powerful, Tillman explained, are the search filters that allow you to effectively narrow your prospecting with specific criteria.

Shaver highlighted the social listening feature of Sales Navigator, which lets users monitor top prospects to assess when to engage with them.

Because Sales Navigator can be expensive, both Shaver and Tillman suggested that a company with a limited budget start with the free version of LinkedIn. "When you get your first deal from LinkedIn, invest in Sales Navigator," Tillman advised.

E-commerce tools

For an e-commerce business, social tools are essential. While there are many free platforms for engaging your audience, you may consider investing in ad words, advised Jordan Denny, founder and CEO of Momentary Ink. After a strong launch four years ago, which relied on press coverage to drive website traffic, Denny realized he’d missed opportunities for even more sales because he didn’t know what tools would deliver the best prospects.

When asked what advice he’d give to entrepreneurs launching an e-commerce business, Denny said, "Have your growth channels solidified. Ad words was sitting there, and people were looking for our product, but we weren't showing up because we lacked the knowledge about paid acquisition.” Today he works with an experienced coach and continues adding tools to his prospecting toolbox.

Taking time to review results, try different tools, and adjust as needed will help you learn what works best for your business.

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