Sales meeting between two colleagues.
When done correctly, sales prospecting leads to solid customers and flourishing sales. — kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

The sales process is ever-changing and requires ongoing effort and adaptability. However, the one task that remains the same is sales prospecting, which is the first step of the sales process that involves identifying and vetting potential customers or prospects. It is also often the most time-consuming step in the sales funnel.

When done correctly, sales prospecting leads to solid customers and flourishing sales. But if done incorrectly, you’ll have weak prospects and waste your time chasing down leads that won’t net you the results you need to succeed. Below, we’ve outlined the basics of sales prospecting and some strategies for you to find the best customers for your brand, products or services.

[Read: How 5 Small Business Owners Are Rethinking Their Sales Strategies]

What is sales prospecting?

Sales prospecting is the process of growing and developing your business by searching for potential customers, clients or buyers for your product and services. By finding these potential buyers, your sales team can then work with them through the sales funnel to turn them into revenue generating customers.

There is a difference between a business lead and a sales prospect. A lead is a potential customer whose expressed interest in your company through visiting your website, subscribing to your emails or following your business on social media. A prospect, on the other hand, is someone who is further along the sales funnel because they have inquired about your business with a sales representative. While the definition of leads and sales prospects differ, the goal for salespeople is the same: to convert leads into prospects and prospects into future customers.

[Read: Rethinking Your Strategy: How to Shift Your Sales From In-Person to Online]

With the right strategy and commitment, salespeople can refine their sales skills and identify promising prospects quickly.

Strategies for sales prospecting

Despite being the first stage of the sales funnel, prospecting is one of the most challenging tasks for sales representatives. Generating prospects is often time-consuming and it certainly isn’t as rewarding as closing a deal, which means it’s not uncommon to postpone this task until it absolutely has to be done. However, with the right strategy and commitment, salespeople can refine their sales skills and learn how to identify promising prospects quickly.

These five strategies will help you find potential clients quickly and consistently:

Utilize social networking

With most people currently working remotely and business events on hold, you can still meet and reach out to potential clients through social network sites. Use your social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to post content that is relevant to your current and potential audience. One way to let potential clients know about you is to write blogs sharing your expertise and insight on LinkedIn.

In addition to posting content, engage with your audience as well on these sites. Start a discussion on Twitter or comment on a user's post on Instagram. Potential buyers want to know there is a human aspect behind the companies and products they support.

Invest in marketing automation

There are many free and paid marketing automation services out there for you to keep track of those who interact with you. When someone signs up for your email list or downloads an informational PDF form you, the marketing automation tool collects their data and can tell you when the person interacts with your email. They can even send a follow up email, asking if they’d like to set up a call with a member of your sales to learn more.

Host a webinar

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people do business across many sectors, but it has also introduced new ways of reaching prospects. Since it’s unsafe to host in-person events, have your company host a webinar sharing your expertise and offering information about your products and services. You know the attendees are already interested in your product, after the event you can poll your audience to see if they’d like to learn more about your services. If they say yes, follow up and reach out to them in person. If they don’t, hold on to their information and follow up at a later date.

Keep in touch

Sometimes the best potential client is a former one. After you’ve completed a sale or service, follow up with your clients to see how your product is doing and ask them for their advice and what could make their experience better. By making former clients feel heard and valued, you’ll build a trust that will either have past clients return or recommend you to other people in their life.

Dedicate time for prospecting

Many businesses don’t allocate the proper time or resources towards sales prospecting because it’s time consuming and can often lead to no results. Make sure your company sets aside a proper amount to sales prospects, even if sales are currently strong. More conversations lead to more sales that can help your business grow.

[Read: B2B Sales Tools for the Post-COVID-19 World]

Sales prospecting is one of the most challenging elements of the sales process but, when done consistently and with effort, it will lead to a healthy sales pipeline full of leads. From there, you can find the right customers or clients who are the perfect fit for your organization.

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