Sales prospecting: definition and complete guide

definition commercial prospecting

Table of Contents

Commercial prospecting is a very important step for many companies. In France, a company makes around 52 calls per day and 45% of prospects contacted in B2B make a purchase.

Let’s find out together everything you need to know about sales prospecting!

Prospecting: What is it?

Commercial prospecting is simply identifying and acquiring new customers.

Commercial prospecting is a process that consists of proactively making your offer known to a prospect. Upstream, you also seek to precisely understand the need of the contact, to better adapt your offer.

What are the differences between a hot prospect and a cold prospect?

It is important to understand the differences between a hot lead and a cold lead:

  • A hot prospect already knows your offer and shows a willingness to buy.

  • A cold prospect is a lead who has never encountered your product/service and shows no willingness to buy.

Take for example a kitchen manufacturing company that participates in a home show. Visitors who declare that they have made the decision to equip themselves but who are looking for a service provider are hot prospects.

Conversely, other visitors may spend time on the stand without any real short-term plans. These are considered cold leads.

Which do you prioritize?

Those who have a concrete project of course! It’s the same thing online, it’s in your interest to invest more resources for your hot prospects, this budget will be more profitable.

Outbound vs inbound prospecting

What is the difference between inbound and outbound prospecting?

Inbound commercial prospecting aims to arouse the interest of prospects and lead them to take a first step towards you. It concretely consists in attracting the customer to your company thanks to quality content.

These contents can be:

  • A blog

  • A white paper

  • A webinar

  • A video

Outbound prospecting , on the other hand, consists of finding prospects yourself. You proactively reach out to them.

The pros and cons of inbound

The benefits of inbound

Inbound allows in particular:

  • Attract qualified prospects

  • To retain customers

  • To develop your network

The disadvantages of inbound

Setting up an inbound prospecting strategy is time-consuming. It takes time to find the right topics and to produce quality content. Let’s take the example of building a blog: depending on the case, it takes between 2 and 9 months for your strategy to produce its first results.

On the other hand, it is a long-term strategy, today’s efforts will still bear fruit in several years.

The pros and cons of outbound

The benefits of outbound

Outbound is very effective for:

  • Generate new leads

  • Test a new market or a new offer

  • Discover and test new customer personas (typical profiles)

Even if outbound prospecting is based on the use of digital tools, traditional methods are also effective. Field prospecting is an effective strategy in some cases.

For example, a craftsman has an interest in meeting the neighbors of his clients (if the client is satisfied, he will recommend the professional to his neighbour).

A freelancer must also meet companies in his coworking space.

The disadvantages of outbound

Here are the disadvantages of outbound:

  • Poorly controlled, a campaign can be too costly (salaries of salespeople).

  • It takes a lot of time and effort.

  • Converting leads to customers can be slow.

  • Leads are sometimes of lower quality (cooler), if you don’t have the necessary tools to properly target your contacts.

The 5 best prospecting techniques: how to find prospects?

According to a study by Rain Groups, an international sales consulting firm, here are the most effective sales prospecting methods according to 489 salespeople:

  • Calling existing customers – 51%.

  • Call past customers – 37%

  • Cold calling – 27%

  • Contact at events – 32%

  • Sending “warm” emails – 31%

According to 49% of the 488 buyers surveyed, the telephone is the second preferred means of contact after email.

Telephone prospecting: cold calling

Cold calling is a prospecting technique that involves soliciting the prospect directly via a phone call . The objective is to convince him to accept a second interview in order to offer him your products or services.

This strategy is considered obsolete, but it is still effective today. According to an infographic published by the agency Force Plus, 17% of prospects contacted by phone ask for an appointment and 47% ask for more information on offers.

To succeed in this exercise, you must prepare it well: you need a pitch and precise information on the prospects you are calling.

Trade fairs

Whatever the size of your company, there are always events related to your field of activity.

And if you want to promote your brand or find customers, these fairs are interesting.

Why ? Because all the players in your industry are gathered in the same place and for one reason: to take advantage of this unique opportunity to find new relationships.

By participating in these fairs, you will be able to weave a new network of partners and identify new avenues for prospecting.

Only (important) constraint: these shows are expensive , especially as an exhibitor. In the short term, they are rarely profitable.

Prospecting by email

Prospecting by email consists of sending emails, most often to a fairly large list of contacts.

For a good prospecting by email, you have to know how to engage in exchanges before trying to sell your solution : the easiest way is to ask for details on the problem of the contact, and to provide him with the beginning of a free solution.

You prove your expertise to him and you make him want to learn more. To get to this stage, do not hesitate to send several emails: better is 4 short emails rather than an unreadable and uninteresting pad.

If we go back to the example of the security firm, the approach would be to ask for the difficulties on this subject and to prove that you are the best to answer these problems.

The 1st email would look like this:

Hello[nom] ,

I hope you’re doing well ?

My name is Pierre, and I am a cybersecurity consultant at CyberConnect.

I have browsed your website[nom du site] , and noticed that you weren’t properly protected against DDOS attacks.

This type of attack has experienced a real upsurge in recent years with 4 times more attacks in one year!

If you have 30 minutes free in your schedule, I can share (for free) some tips to easily improve your computer security.

I remain available for any questions on this subject: your safety is our priority!


Peter Martin

To work well, your content should be as personalized as possible . Here, a consultant actually spent a few minutes doing some basic analysis to raise this issue.

However, you can automate your emails with automation tools, while still personalizing the content.

Prospecting on LinkedIn

Among the professional social networks, LinkedIn is by far the most popular.

As with email marketing, the goal here is to communicate by message. The main difference being an important barrier: the prospect must accept your contact request to start your exchanges.

To maximize your chances of starting a conversation, you should follow these tips:

  • Create small interactions before sending your contact request (see profile, like and comment on a post, have contacts in common, etc.)

  • Filter and select the prospects that best match your persona (either with the filters present in LinkedIn, or with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, a professional tool for targeting very specific profiles)

  • Carry out an email campaign in parallel , on the same contacts

Obviously, performing all these tasks manually would take you a long time!

Fortunately, you can automate everything!

Leadin is a LinkedIn prospecting tool that lets you create automated sales funnels. For example: visit the profile on Monday, comment on a post on Tuesday, send a personalized contact request on Wednesday, and send messages automatically.

As soon as the prospect answers you, you take control: you only manage hot prospects!

Leadin is a multi-channel tool: you can also include automated sending of personalized emails in your sales funnels!

Our best advice for your prospecting

We’ve given you some tips for LinkedIn and emailing. But some tips apply to all methods:

Use the AIDA format in your sales pitch

In marketing and sales, the AIDA method is often used to create advertisements and sales pitches. This consists of presenting your products and services in the following format:

  • Be careful with)

  • Interest (I)

  • Desire (D)

  • Stock (A)

Start by grabbing the attention of your prospects. You then need to generate interest in them to convince them to keep listening to your pitch.

Finally, you need to work on their desire and elicit a reaction from them.

To create your prospecting messages, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Find your persona.

  • Step 2: Know your target.

  • Step 3: Establish the objectives for each call.

  • Step 4: Do your research and prepare your questions.

  • Step 5: Adjust everything based on the answers you get over the phone.

Example of email according to the AIDA method :

Hello[nom] ,

We notice on your Linkedin profile that you are also passionate about Marketing. ( Caution ).

We have a tool that focuses on the user experience and that will allow you to prospect in an original way. We automatically send personalized emails and messages on LinkedIn. ( Interest ).

If you want more information, I can call you next week for a video demonstration of our solution. I have 4 vacancies left this week. ( Desire )

Click here to see my schedule. ( Action )

Have a good day,

Peter Martin

To make your prospecting more effective, try the following techniques:

  • Make sure you have a sales funnel in place.

  • Tailor your messages to the person or company you’re communicating with (name, industry issues, age and company culture, etc.).

In short: prospecting techniques




door to door

Interesting for some small businesses

Takes time and is not very effective

Telephone prospecting: cold calling

Allows you to deal with customer objections directly.

Lets you know if your offer is attracting interest.

The prospect may feel attacked (especially if he receives it at the wrong time).

Participation in trade fairs

Raise awareness of your brand and recruit potential customers

You reach a limited audience in one place and usually over a short period of time.

The rates are high.

LinkedIn emailing and prospecting

Plays on human emotions and lets you stay in control of the conversation.

Easily automated

Need to build an important and quality email list (but solutions exist!).

An example of a prospecting campaign

Suppose you are a startup selling a logistics optimization tool. To find the right targets , you must first learn about them. Who are they ? What are they doing ? What problems do they encounter?

Then you can start looking for them. This is where prospecting comes in:

  • Define the objective of the campaign and the expected return on investment: how many prospects? of customers? income? What is the customer acquisition cost?

  • Evaluate the marketing tools you have : CRM, marketing automation tool, emailing tool, etc.

  • Define the stages of your conversion tunnel , and the content associated with it.

  • Set up an A/B testing process by launching different variations of campaigns (a different landing page from the other, an email with a different tone, etc.).

Prospecting mistakes not to make

Here are some mistakes not to make when prospecting.

The lack of organization of the prospecting plan

If you want to prospect effectively, you have to organize your time. For example, if you want to close 10 prospects per day, do not launch your email sales funnel on 10,000 contacts at the same time. Otherwise, there will surely be a hundred of them requesting a telephone meeting at the same time.

Instead, spread the shipments over multiple days.

Also automate everything that is time-consuming: to make an appointment, use a suitable tool. Don’t spend hours exchanging emails to find availability!

Twilead is a complete CRM which notably offers a calendar in which your prospects can book a call according to your availability!

No following

After each contact with the prospect, follow up by email or phone. If necessary, do not hesitate to ask for an appointment with him and to share your availability.

Prospecting best practices

Here are the best practices to adopt for successful commercial prospecting.

The segmentation

You can’t address all prospects the same way. Their needs are different, so they will look for different solutions. You need to segment them so you can target the right prospects with the right messages.

There are several ways to segment leads. For example, you can classify them according to:

  • Their industry

  • Their size

  • Their location

  • Their sub-need (for example, “managing their accounts” is a need and “managing their employees’ payroll” is a sub-need)


Forget about impersonal content or mass-sent messages. You need to analyze and use prospect data to create personalized messages.

This advice is valid and can be applied to almost all the channels you use for your prospecting. Whether on social networks or for your newsletters, remember to personalize your message.

For example, you should avoid generic formulas such as “Dear customer” or “Hello Sir”. Instead, use the first or last name, depending on the level of formality. The prospect will feel more valued.

To go to the next level of personalization, you can vary whole parts of your content, according to defined criteria: if in an email you quote the example of one of your customers, you can change it according to the sector of the prospect .

Choose the right timing

You need to choose the right timing to contact your prospects. A study published by Professor Oldroyd of MIT indicates, for example, the best times to carry out a prospecting campaign by telephone.

According to the study, a call between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. has a 164% greater chance of succeeding than a call between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.

There are also studies on the timing of emails, but they are contradictory and the results are not so clear cut.

Bet on smart calling

Cold calling has shown its limits in terms of effectiveness. This approach gives way to “smart calling”, which consists of contacting only prospects who have shown an interest in your company. Start by approaching your contacts on LinkedIn and by email.

The essential tools for your prospecting


A CRM is an essential tool for sales teams because it facilitates collaboration between Sales. Twilead allows you, for example, to centralize information relating to the profile of your prospects.

The all-in-one platform allows you to better target the ideal customer profile based on your product or service offering.

You are alone and you have less than 10 opportunities per month? A good Google Sheet may be enough for now

You will need to create two sheets .

The first sheet is your contact database. Each line must correspond to a contact. It includes the person’s first and last name, email address, and LinkedIn profile link. Each contact is linked to an opportunity.

The second sheet is the list of your opportunities (the contracts you can potentially sign). Each opportunity is linked to a contact on the first sheet.

A lead scrapping tool

A lead finder helps you find a company’s contact information, usually emails, but also phone numbers. The most popular is certainly Hunter .

An email automation tool

For example, consider the following case: a potential buyer visits your price page several times, but has not yet taken the plunge. You got his email address with a lead magnet. An automation tool will allow you to send them an email containing special discounts.

Sendinblue and Mailjet are examples of tools for email automation.

A LinkedIn automation solution

There are many LinkedIn automation solutions. Tools like Waalaxy or Dux-soup can fulfill this functionality.

And why not have an all-in-one prospecting tool?

Instead of having one tool for your emails and another for your LinkedIn messages, why not have one for both functions?

Leadin allows you to create a Linkedin outreach campaign AND email automations.

For people who are looking for a complete solution, this tool is most suitable. Leadin therefore makes it possible to set up a hyper-personalized multi-channel approach. With this strategy, the platform achieves a score of 72% acceptance of connection requests on Linkedin!

What to remember for successful prospecting

By following the methods and tips listed in this guide, you can find an effective prospecting strategy.

Keep in mind that segmentation, personalization, and timing are very important when it comes to prospecting.

If you are looking for a tool to generate leads automatically, do not hesitate to consult in detail the features offered by Leadin .

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