How to Prospect Smarter and Bring in More Sales Leads


The key to smart sales prospecting can be summed up in two easy steps.

1. Do it.

2. Follow up.

And get both down to a science.

But don’t worry — we won’t leave you to figure out the details on your own. With these three techniques for how to prospect smarter, you’ll see just how many people you need to reach to hit your goals and what to do once you’ve made contact.

1. Work Backwards

You’ve got dinner plans across town at 7:00 tonight — when should you leave your house? Well, you think about how long it’ll take to get there considering distance, traffic, and roadworks, right? You work backwards. The same is true in sales. If you want to know how to prospect for sales smarter, the answer is simple: work backwards.

Backing through your numbers to figure out how many people to see is the best place to start learning how to prospect. See, it’s all a numbers game. Anyone you contact enters your sales process. Here’s how it works.

Start with your sales goals. If you want to make x dollars, how much product will you need to sell? Then look at past averages — how many quotes and proposals does it take on average to close that many deals? Next, how many appointments does it take to give a quote? And finally, how many cold calls or pop-ins does it take to get that many appointments?

That’s how many people you need to contact during your sales term — so just divide it out to see how many people you should be contacting each day.

Then, as you talk to them, divide the prospects into three categories: active, latent, and not interested. Now you know how to follow up. My active buyers, I pursue. My latent buyers, I follow up with periodically. And my prospects who aren’t interested, I only contact annually.

2. Plan Your Pitch

Once you know how much to prospect, work on your pitch. You need to make contacts with new people every day. So the more you focus on your goal for the conversation and polish your approach, the better those cold calls will go.

The Goal: Gather Information

When you talk with a new prospect, you’re collecting information. You’re looking for info that gives insight into their needs, potential solutions, and their level of interest in solving those problems. You want anything that tells you what category they fall into. Every prospect falls into one of those three categories by the end of this first contact: active, latent, or not interested.

Script Next Steps

Why do you need to know what category they belong to? Because then you know potential outcomes for each type of prospect. Based on their interest, you can start the next action. If they respond in a way that makes them active, you’ll offer them an appointment. If you see that they’re latent, you’ll send them your contact information and keep in touch. And if they seem to be uninterested, you’ll call them next year. Whatever it is, you need to know the call-to-action based on their broad situation and follow your system after that.

Related: A Sales Lead Management Process You Can Count On

3. Approach Phone and Face-to-Face Prospecting Differently

Cold Call Prospecting

If you’re prospecting with cold calls, use a script. Write out what you’ll say to collect the information you need to gauge their interest. Then script out how you’ll respond if they’re active, latent, or uninterested. It’s more difficult to move people to the next step when you’re not staring them in the face. That makes a script invaluable!

Also, you get more rejections when you’re prospecting over the phone. There’s often a lot of volume and distraction, and people say no quickly. Yet, phone calls make it easier to get around the gatekeeper. So don’t get discouraged with rejection and keep calling new people.

Face-to-Face Prospecting

Face-to-face conversations make it much easier to gauge people. Plus, people tend to be less terse in person. On the other hand, it means you have to take the time to visit these businesses. And if they tell you no, you’ve wasted more time than you do on a phone call.

However, it’s productive if you plan to hit a lot of business in one area, especially if you can tie visits with existing sales-ready appointments. Planning to make two pop-in visits near every new appointment can be a great strategy.

The best tip for face-to-face prospecting is to do something with the information you get. Once they gather a name, most people forget about it or log it in their CRM. That’s when prospecting puts you at a disadvantage. It’s happened with us before — we were good at face-to-face prospecting, so we spent time doing it. But we didn’t make the most of the information we gathered, so we still wasted our time. Our competitors weren’t prospecting at all, but they had extra time for things that were more productive.

So, if you take the time for face-to-face prospecting, make sure you follow up. Put them in your process. Send them a card, email them, go back to visit, call them — whatever you need to do to make contact again. Don’t just log them in the CRM or put their details in your binder. Make your time count.

Download this Sales Call Report template to track your activities in face-to-face meetings. You can even customize it to your needs. Taking the time to log your visits and plan your follow-up will take your prospecting from good to great!

5 Ways Salespeople Ruin a First Impression


A good first impression is timeless. And in a highly competitive industry, it’s invaluable.

In just the first 7 seconds of interaction, people start to form their opinion of you. They evaluate your status, authority, approachability, competence, confidence, and likeability faster than you can make a proper introduction. From a study that proves a connection between personality and appearance, we learn that even something as superficial as the way you look says a lot about who you are.

So, if you want to improve the way you interact with clients (and become a more likeable person altogether), look out for these 5 ways you might be undermining your first impression.

Mistake #1: Treating Others Poorly

Every contact you make holds opportunity — whether it’s for a sale or for a referral. Too often, salespeople become dismissive if they realize they aren’t speaking to a decision maker or the product isn’t a good fit. But never underestimate the power of a referral.

If you discover you’re not talking to a good prospect, your next question should be, “Who else in your circle would be a good fit?” If you’ve made a good impression, even a “no” can lead to a great opportunity. So stay respectful, even when there’s not a sale.

Mistake #2: Not Dressing the Part

Face it, looks matter. One of the easiest ways to improve your first impression is to dress well. Most of us live behind our computer screens, which makes our clothing choice less significant in daily life. But when you’re meeting new people, you should spend the extra energy on your appearance.

I’ve actually sat down with salespeople simply because they were well dressed. Why? We associate well-dressed people with respect and attention. So when you dress the part, you’re more likely to get the respect (and listening ear) you’re looking for.

Mistake #3: Discussing Controversial Topics

Political discussions ruin a first impression, especially today. People are so entrenched in one side that you’re likely to find yourself at odds if you even allude to being affiliated with the other party.

Also, keep discussions about how much you drink, who you’re seeing, or how late you party off limits. Those topics only hurt your reputation.

Tempted to make a derogatory comment about the opposite sex? Don’t. Talking about topics, jokes, and lifestyle choices that are deemed controversial quickly ruins a good first impression.

Mistake #4: Not Listening

Ever tempted to walk into a sales meeting and launch into your full sales pitch? If you spend more time talking than listening, that tells clients you’re out of tune with their needs. Clients want to know about you and what you have to offer. They don’t want to hear a 45-minute monologue about the history of your company.

Mistake #5: Poor Email Etiquette

Email gives you the chance to make another great impression. Before you meet, send them an email invite that includes the date, details, and location. To really set yourself apart, create an event that links to their calendar. It tells them you’re organized and won’t let their needs slip through the cracks.

Also, proofread. Use proper grammar and spelling. Most people will write you off if you don’t.

Bonus Tip: Be Punctual!

Don’t hurt your chances of a good first impression by arriving late. When you’re late, you waste people’s time. Efficient people will eliminate your business immediately — they don’t want to waste more time in the future.

Plus, latecomers often have plenty of excuses for their tardiness. Excuses drive people crazy. So plan accordingly, giving yourself plenty of travel time to arrive on time or early.

It’s tough to overcome a bad first impression — so don’t make one. Start on the right foot and leave an impression that makes people want to do business with you.

7 Rules for Getting Past the Gatekeeper

getting past the gatekeeper sales meetings

You’ve driven across town for a sales meeting, only to find the receptionist catching up on the latest issue of US Weekly while Dr. Jones is tied up. Now what? We’ve all been there – suddenly in a battle to get past the gatekeeper.

In many cases, gatekeepers are low-waged employees who don’t really understand the business. They don’t care about how awesome your product or service is. It could be the perfect solution to solve all their company’s woes, but it doesn’t matter.

Your purpose is never to sell the gatekeeper. Your purpose is for the gatekeeper to send you to the decision maker, and these strategies will help get you to the person in charge.

1. Dress the Part

We’ve all seen the caricatures of salesmen: baggy shirts with sweat stains, un-tailored pants, and the general look that they just climbed an uncountable number of stairs. This look doesn’t help your case. If you dress like a salesperson, you are the salesperson. But if you look like a hotshot, you’re going to get past the gatekeeper much faster.

In fact, the more you can blend into the office environment, the better. In pharmaceutical sales, some of the smarter reps wear scrubs. If you’re wearing scrubs and you ask to speak to Dr. So-and-so, no one even asks you why you’re there.

Don’t stand out, but if in doubt, err on the side of being overdressed, not underdressed.

2. Use Body Language

You’re trying to blend in with your clothes. Now, act casually. Don’t look like you’re about to pounce into a 5 minute monologue. You can even act confused: “Oh my! You’ve changed so much in here,” or, “It took me forever to find a parking spot. Are you guys always this busy?”

Body language works hand in hand with clothing choice: get in the door without being pegged as a salesperson.

3. Let Go of the Literature

People often make the mistake of holding literature in their hand when they walk in. This is an immediate turn-off. A gatekeeper’s first mission is to discover friend or foe. They have several roles: answering the phones, receiving packages, and trying to keep out the riff-raff (aka: you.)

If you come in holding a brochure, you’re sending a clear sign that you’re a salesperson. The sooner the receptionist discovers you’re in sales, the harder you’ll have to fight an uphill battle to get any information.


4. Learn to Talk to Strangers

You’ve been trained not to talk to strangers your entire life. Well, it’s time to start. Nobody likes talking to strangers, but it’s no reason to ruin your chances at sales.

Remember, it’s just another person. Practice talking to people in everyday situations without the pressure. The more comfortable you are, the more comfortable you’ll make the gatekeeper.

5. Capture Information

I love to walk in when a receptionist answers the phone because I have the chance to capture information. Listen to what she’s talking about, take note of names, look for clues about what she’s eating, drinking, or reading, and try to find some kind of commonality.

If she’s drinking a Red Bull I can later say, “I can’t stop drinking those things. How many of those do you drink a day?” Those little pieces of information pay off in the conversation to come.

6. Start a Conversation – But Not About the Sale

Gatekeepers’ jobs may be to keep out people like you, but they’re still human beings, right? Warm them up through casual conversation. Use the information you were able to observe to ask about their drink, talk about the parking situation, or note how busy they are.

For example, you may say, ”Hey, listen. How big is this office? I didn’t think you guys had this much space.” You want to have a conversation without giving the reason you’re there. The better you can connect with the gatekeeper, the better your chances are to move on to the person in charge.

7. Use First Names

First names are critical. Give them yours, use theirs, and speak about the person you want to see on a first name basis. Exchange names early on or casually use the gatekeeper’s name in conversation if you’ve read it from their desk.

If you’ve been able to find out the first name of the decision-maker via a phone call or LinkedIn, use it with the receptionist. If you say, “I’m here to see George,” it sounds like you know him and you’re more likely to get through. (The exception: doctors. They usually don’t want to be on a first name basis.)

There’s no need for the gatekeeper to stand in your way. Be proactive in your approach so one person won’t stop you from making your pitch and gaining a client.