Are you ready to take your sales prospecting to the next level?

We're talking about setting up efficient processes, research tactics, best ways to qualify prospects, cold email templates and cold calling techniques that have generated serious reply rates and actual revenue.

The idea is for this guide to become your go-to playbook as it's filled with fire advice that we learned on our journey.

Don't worry if you're a beginner either, because we've got your back and will cover the basics too.

Let's get rolling!

What is sales prospecting?

Sales prospecting is a process of identifying people that have shown interest in your product or service.

The objective is to build a database of likely customers or warm leads, move them down the funnel and convert them.

In reality, sales prospecting can be divided into two parts:

  • Identifying people who might be open to buy your stuff
  • Building meaningful relationships and providing value

To fully understand how two parts differ from one another, an important distinction has to be made between leads and prospects.

  • Leads are people who haven't show interest in your product YET. They might have heard about you, but they're still unqualified
  • Prospects are those who either meet specific criteria or have already expressed interest in your product

There's one more distinction you need to be aware of.

Inbound vs. outbound sales

The main difference between inbound and outbound sales is in the way lead originates.

With inbound, the game starts when a lead reaches out to your organization and actively shows interest in what you're selling.

In other words, your sales team already has context about their need. That's why these leads are also referred to as warm or MQLs (marketing qualified leads).

On the other hand, outbound sales requires an attacking strategy as it's up to sales reps to reach out first.

All the information about a prospect is based on internal research and qualification. These are your cold leads that later might become SQLs (sales qualified leads).

In case if you're wondering whether to focus on inbound or outbound, don't. Do both.

This approach helped our team reach $1M ARR in less than 2 years, with no funding whatsoever.

How to do sales prospecting like a pro?

To perform proper sales prospecting, you need to master three of its core components:

  • Research - identifying potentially interested leads
  • Qualification - prioritizing prospects that are right for your business
  • Outreach - connecting with leads and preparing to close them

The ultimate goal is to target the right buyer persona, qualify them and then start building relationships that will later help you convert prospects into happy clients.

How your sales prospecting process will look depends on your business and the market you're in.

For instance, the way you qualify leads may be different. Some salespeople prefer to qualify people before they make an outreach, whereas others like to cold call first.

But, let's start at the top... RESEARCH!

Using LinkedIn to find high-quality prospects

LinkedIn is a gold mine for finding high-quality prospects. For team lemlist, it's the first place we visit to do some audience research.

First, you want to take a closer look at your ideal buyer personas. Who are they? What do they do? What's their story?

Once completed, you're ready to perform some brilliant search hacks on LinkedIn that we'll show you right now.

  • Basic LinkedIn Search

LinkedIn's search algorithm is insanely powerful, even the free version that's available to everyone.

For example, let's imagine we're looking for Heads of Growth in SMB companies.

  • Step 1: Type their job title in search
sales prospecting strategies

Working with almost 1.5M leads is not going to work, so we need to narrow it down.

  • Step 2 - Use filters to specify your search

Look at the upper right corner and click on "All Filters". You'll see this window pop up.

sales prospecting strategies

In this particular example, I'm going to chase down those who are working in London and I'll pick "Computer Software" as the target industry. Plus, I'll check English as my language.

Boom!

As you can see, we're open for business as we now have a much more realistic number of prospects to work with.

sales prospecting strategies

There are also plenty of more search hacks to play with here:

  • OR (e.g. Growth OR Sales) - LinkedIn will list all the profiles that have either one of these two keywords
  • AND (e.g. Growth AND Content) - A more narrow search as LinkedIn will now look for profiles that must include both terms
  • NOT (e.g. Growth NOT Sales) - Will list profiles that include the word growth and not sales
  • Type under quote marks (e.g. "VP of Growth") to get all LinkedIn profiles with that exact match

But, if you want to have a more powerful research tool at your disposal, you should check out LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

The first month is free if you wanna test it out, but afterward, you'll be billed depending on the plan you chose.

Sales Navigator will provide a lot more filters, like the company headcount (our favorite), previous companies, seniority level, years of experience, specific keywords, etc.

And yes, it's worth the money.

  • Step 3 - Extracting emails from LinkedIn

It's not so often that people leave their emails publicly on LinkedIn, nor are they the most responsive when you send them a direct message.

Plus, you can also send a limited number of DMs with a free account.

How do you get their verified email then?

There are a few ways to do this. We've linked a couple in this MONSTER of an article we wrote not so long ago.

In a minute, you'll get access to the ultimate strategy where you can automatically send cold emails to LinkedIn prospects without having to find those emails yourself.

Use online databases to find high-quality prospects

Databases are our second go-to method to find quality prospects.

You can either buy them (which we don't recommend unless you have a quality source) or manually search for them.

Manual process is a bit slower, but it gives you more qualified prospects to work with.

There are many online databases you can use:

  • Crunchbase
  • Angel list
  • GetLatka
  • SaaS1000
  • and others

I personally prefer Nathan Latkas' GetLatka database.

It's the one with most data available inside.

You can find their revenue, expenses, net burn, and many other things that will help you qualify prospects.

Make a free account on GetLatka and you will get access to hundreds of companies:

sales prospecting

Once you click on one specific company, you'll see a lot of specific data about it:

sales prospecting

Now you're ready to dive into the wonderland of SaaS data and start searching for your high-quality prospects.

How to qualify prospects?

You've probably stumbled upon this particular phrase a million times already. Quality is always better than quantity.

In most cases it is, but with qualifying prospects... it's the ultimate truth.

In this section, we're gonna take a dive into two lead qualifying techniques that will help you grow a profitable company.

Using a lead qualification method

Once you have a list of leads who contacted you or engaged with your brand, you can use the lead qualification method to identify the ones of highest quality.

The process is quite simple.

Everything you need to do is write down the criteria that will make your lead qualified to become a prospect.

Here's the data that will help you make that decision:

  • MRR/ARR
  • Size of the company
  • HQ location
  • Type/Industry of the business
  • Acquisition channels they're using
  • Markets they're operating on
  • Are they decision-makers in their company?
  • Is there any gatekeeper?
  • And other things that might be relevant for your business.

Once you've set your criteria, it's time to give scores. You can assign 1-5 scores to leads for each of these factors. Sum everything up to get their total score.

To understand who's qualified and who isn't, identify a "breakpoint". For example, everyone with a score above 60 is considered highly qualified.

Stefan Debois, CEO of Survey Anyplace, describes us their way of doing lead qualification:

We filter out high-quality leads (potential prospects and customers) by using a spreadsheet measuring how qualified a lead is using a specific scoring system, based on several criteria.

The ungraded leads come in via an online form they can fill out on our website when they are interested in our product. Then, our team manually fills in how they score in a range from 0 to 4 on a couple of variables. It looks like this: Β  Β 
sales prospecting strategies
We measure the variables like "company industry", "company size", "applicant type" and "volume". The better they score on each separate variable, the higher they score in total.

This total score is calculated with a simple formula combining all the variables, taking the separate scores into account.

We only work with those prospects that have a score of 50 or higher. Like this, our sales team can avoid spending valuable time on prospects that won't convert anyway, and focus all their energy on leads with great potential to convert.

Cold calling

The strategy used to qualify leads might differ from one salesperson to another.

Some prefer to qualify them before they make an outreach, whereas others like to cold call people and book discovery calls.

If you're interested to learn more about cold calling, we did a fire sales webinar with an expert in the matter. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you, Morgan J Ingram.


How to do sales prospecting outreach?

Now we've approached the final stage of a sales prospecting campaign.

The almighty outreach.

There's only one goal of outreach, and it's not to get money.

You want to receive a reply.

You want them to get back to you so that you can sell THE NEXT STEP.

That's how relationships are built, and ultimately, how you get money in the long-term.

There are plenty of ways you can do outreach today - cold emails, DMs, texts, calls, etc.

Let's start with...

How to do outreach on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn outreach is specific, competitive and it's not among those channels that receive a lot of love.

Why?

Because spammers ruined it for everybody.

It's easy and free for them to jump on a profile, click message, copy/paste some πŸ’© generic template they've been sending to everybody, and push the button.

Anybody can do that.

Over time, people have developed sharp sensors to defend against these attempts.

But, even though there are people who are okay with such mediocre approaches, you can still stand out by putting in both time and work.

First of all, LinkedIn is a social network. Professional, but still a network.

And networks are based on mutually beneficial relationships, providing value, and engaging with people you are following.

That means that your outreach on LinkedIn doesn't start by sending a DM and asking people whether or not they want to use your product/service.

There are smarter plans you can build your game around.

  • Step 1 - Start connecting with your target audience

Go to Phantombuster to learn how to add people and send them an intro message on autopilot.

  • Step 2 - Expose people to your content and engage on theirs as well

Seriously, what's stopping you from posting relevant content for your audience?

sales prospecting on LinkedIn

Stick with topics you have experience and results in, and make sure to connect them with your business strategy.

For example, we sell a cold email tool. Therefore, we will provide you with action-packed cold email strategies and case studies.

Also...

What's the hold up in you leaving meaningful comments on your prospects' posts?

You want somebody to comment on your post? Set an example first.

  • Step 3 - Start DM-ing people and DELIVER VALUE

Here's what a friend of ours, Aazar from Userpilot (user onboarding software), does it.

I first filter accounts via the number of employees from the SaaS1000 list, then I put those 50-100 accounts in an excel sheet, and find product managers on LinkedIn.

After that, I connect with them regardless, saying "Hi XX name, since we both love product management, so I thought about connecting, and learning from each other's feeds."

Then, I look at their techstack with Builtwith, and signup for their process to check if they have good/bad onboarding. Right after, I tag them as good/bad onboarding inside the sheet.

Once I do that, I reach out by sharing a) video ) SaaS product onboarding research. So I use prospecting as a conversation starter, rather than deal closer.

Remember, value is something your prospect needs. It can mean various things:

  • a sales strategy that will bring them revenue
  • a perfect job opportunity for them
  • overview of their LinkedIn profile and personal brand
  • tips on XYZ

Once you provide value, you start introducing your product/service that connects the dots and adds even more value to the picture.

I know, most of these LinkedIn outreach tactics you can't fully automate.

But then again, nothing great should come easy. ;)

Cold email outreach - best strategies

Cold emailing is by far the most popular channel to do outreach and feel the prospect's pulse.

And our favorite... obviously.

In this chapter, we'll share 3 cold email templates that crushed it with you + a fire strategy we promised earlier.

But before that, let's quickly go through the most important points together.

Get your product and self-promo habits out of the way.

If you email me today saying you have a world-leading software in image design that has the ultimate AI algorithm, and that you work with XYZ companies, I'd send you a canned response stating I'm not interested.

But if you say that you saw me using personalized images in my cold emails and that you want to show me a super dope example to use next... well, I'm gonna check it out and probably reply.

Eyes on the prize, cold emails are about replies.

One of the biggest mistakes people make with cold emails is that they go for the sale too early.

You're selling the next step... brick by brick my friend. So, write your cold emails to get replies.

Mind your email deliverability.

There's no point in sending cold emails if they never reach the primary tab. It will all be in vain.

Here's how you maximize your email deliverability.

Put follow-ups in position.

Follow-up emails generate more replies, plain and simple. Just make them count and have your real goal in mind when writing them. If you need inspiration, check out these follow-up email templates.

Here are a few strategies you're going to love.

Ilya's cold email that helped him built a huge Facebook community

The following email helped Ilya bring 1000+ members in LinkedIn Growth Hackers community.

cold email resource hub

Here's why it worked:

  • Personalized image that grabs attention. It's authentic as people can see Ilya for real, and the image also contains cool things like the prospect's website and their company logo.
  • Focused on the next step. Ilya isn't selling lempod, a LinkedIn tool, straight away. He's chasing your click first.
  • Big picture. First he wants to bring you to the community, build a connection, and bring value through content... only to later make you realize how lempod adds up to everything.

Zoom cold email follow-up by Jeff

Jeff Wenzel, Co-Owner and CEO at Woodshed Agency, wanted to encourage prospects to book meetings. The first email didn't bring the desired result, so it was up to his follow-up to get it done.

cold email resource hub

23% reply rate, yessir!

Here are the pillars behind his success:

  • Using the intro to bring context. Explaining it properly excites your prospects and makes them want to read the rest of the email.
  • Too cool of a personalized image. It sets the tone for a meeting.
  • Simple call-to-action. Don't overwhelm your prospect with too many options.

Tiramisu cold email strategy by Vuk

The last campaign based on this strategy I've sent scored a 91% reply rate.

I'll write an in-depth case study soon, but here's a quick preview. All you need is one tag that looks like this...

{{Tiramisu}}

That's it.

The Tiramisu rules:

  • Avoid fake flattery, generic compliments, and already seen intros
  • Make a unique intro for EVERY prospect (or any other sentence in the email)
  • If needed, use multiple {{Tiramisu}} tags in the rest of the copy (e.g. {{Tiramisu2}} and so on)

Here's something that will help you get started.

Not precisely sales, but consider this as an invitation to be inspired with different ways in which you can use personalized images.

For credibility purposes, this template got 70+ backlinks and ended up with a 45% reply rate.

cold email resource hub

Let's break this email down and understand why it worked.

  • Start with a joke. You can tell it's not generic and people appreciate that.
  • Cute images of dogs. Not only am I a dog lover, but I'm a proud owner of two. As you can see, puppies can be used in outreach too, considering that it's hard to resist them. They're the ultimate attention-grabber.
  • Making win-win deals. Okay, I want a backlink from them. But, I'm gonna reciprocate that favor back as well.

Guillaume's B2B outbound masterclass

As promised, it's time to give you the strategy we've been bragging about.

Remember how you have to check every lead on LinkedIn manually and spend hours using multiple extensions to extract emails.

Forget them all.

Today is the day you can do everything I just mentioned... AUTOMATICALLY! We're just gonna leave you with a video that gives you a DETAILED walkthrough on how to fire this up.


Wanna try out this amazing strategy and play with cold email templates mentioned above? Sign up for your lemlist free trial today and see how everything works first.

[Bonus strategy] Using Facebook communities for sales prospecting

Your community, and any other for that matter, can serve as a gold mine to find prospects. You can:

  • Find people who are most likely to buy from you
  • Learn and assess prospects' behavior
  • Ask people who already did it, how they did it

Obviously, there are two ways to do this.

You can join an existing community where your target audience spends time and become a credible contributor.

Or a careful observer.

Alternatively, you can create your own community. Agreed, it will take some time and skill, but hey, everybody starts somewhere.

For the former one you can, for example, realize that the SaaS Growth Hacks community has almost 20K members.

It smells like an ocean of potential leads if, say, you're selling software to growth marketers.

You go in there, tap the search option within the group and start digging.

sales prospecting

Then you might decide to check out only the recent posts.

Of course, you can play with filters any way you decide.

sales prospecting

Depending on the posts, you can:

  • Jump into the conversation and deliver nuggets
  • Drop a SMART link to your content
  • Drop a DM to a person
  • Or use it as feedback for future sales meetings

And you know what? That's only one community. 😎

Oh, please don't just join and start dropping your links... not cool!

For those guys and girls who are running their own communities, this opens up a whole set of new opportunities for sales prospecting.

Don't know if you know, but we run three kinds:

Here are a few tactics to leverage...

Give a shout out to the new members

Showcasing new members of the community is an excellent way of making the first touch and breaking the ice.

sales prospecting

But don't just tag them and let them drop their links in the comments.

Engage, learn, communicate.

You never know what you will learn. This might be...

  • How to further provide value
  • What content you need to create
  • How to pitch a member who's not using a software

Grow your business on top of these things.

Produce top-of-the-funnel content that will qualify leads on its own

Okay, we're now mixing inbound and outbound a bit, but bear with us.

You'll notice that a lot of people are organizing webinars, podcasts, and live interviews in their groups.

We've decided to do the same, but have created a whole process around it that does the following for us:

  • Generates new leads + new TSAC members
  • Gives people value and an opportunity to ask sales experts questions LIVE
  • Delivers exclusive, value-packed content
  • Allows us to retarget with lead nurturing sequences
  • Strengthens our relationships with members

The results have been great and we had some awesome guests Β like Aaron Ross.

sales prospecting

The same strategy can be applied to content distribution.

You can ask your audience which products are they using besides yours and learn what kind of integrations and guides you need to create.

sales prospecting

And then ping them when it's live.

sales prospecting

In these 112 comments, there are people who maybe aren't using lemlist.

If we notice that, we could potentially get into a conversation or hop on a call.

We might see that some users needed a specific type of content to use the product even more.

They win.

We win.

Create these situations whenever you can.

Bottom Line

To do proper sales prospecting, we've learned you need a few things:

  • Invest time in research to identify your ideal buyer persona
  • A lead qualification process so you spend time chasing the right opportunities
  • Focus your outreach on selling the next step and pushing people down the funnel
  • Do all these three by establishing the perfect combination between PERSONALIZATION and AUTOMATION

After that, all you gotta do is put in some work into it.

Good luck!