As a business owner, before you can sell any of your goods or service, you will need to have customers. But in order for you to find those very much needed customers, you will need to go through the long and tedious process of prospecting. Prospecting for new customers is a must for every business, but it doesn’t mean that you will be stuck cold calling for hours on end.

As a matter of fact, cold calling is not a really good idea because only 2% of cold calls actually result in an appointment, according to Leap Job. In order to ensure the continued survival of your business, you will need to find prospects for your business, build a relationship with them to then turn them into leads. Prospects translate to leads and leads translate to sales.

What is a Prospect?

A prospect can be defined as a person, a department in a company or even a whole company who has an interest in purchasing the goods or services that your business offers. So how do you find these prospects?

There are a lot of ways that business owners can take advantage of in order to get new prospects for their businesses such as online (for instance, Social media), in the physical world (at a trade show for example) or they can approach you first (visit your website or fill in a web form). Here are some tips on how you find a prospect for your business.

40 Smart Ways to Find Prospects for your Business

  1. Social Media

Social networking platforms are a blessing to prospecting for new customers. These types of websites provide a great way to connect with new customers and to also grow your list of prospective customers. It is a very ingenious way to engage your customers by way of conversation, sharing relevant content and generally getting to know the people who are keen followers of your brand.

A lot of information about your prospects can also be gotten from their social media accounts. For instance, on LinkedIn, you can easily search for companies and identify the people who work there and what their positions are. You can also search on Twitter and Facebook to see what people are saying about your company. If you see potential interest, leave comments and reach out.

You can also learn information about specific communities on social media. Use industry keywords to see what people are talking about and who the major players are. Pay attention to the conversations going on, and see if you can add value to them.

Consider joining groups on LinkedIn to integrate yourself with the industry and online community. According to a Vorsight you are 70% more likely to get an unexpected sale if you join LinkedIn Groups. In addition, you need to know where to find customers online for instance,

  • Twitter: Use mainly Twitter Search and Advanced Search. With the two tools you narrow the audience you are pitching your products to
  • Linkedin: It is easily the best social network for business. You should gain experience in the Linkedin groups and use the Advanced Search for best results. Also, check out the paid advertising.
  • Facebook: although it is more and more user-friendly than business-friendly, Facebook could find you prospects through its many groups and paid ads.
  • Google: almost everyone should be aware of the importance of goggle. Knowing how to search for the right operators does miracles in finding new prospects.
  • Pinterest: Pinterest is similar to Facebook in the importance of businesses. However, it is one of the biggest social network in the world and sharing content as well as searching for tags is not to be ignored.

2. Influencers

You connect with influencers on the various social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ and get your idea across to them. Share some of their content and they will be more inclined to return the favor by also sharing some of yours. This way they will be showing your business and ultimately recommending your brand and your product to their entire audience.

As soon there are some expert influencers in the industry who give the “seal of approval” on your product or service, people will be a lot more confident to go ahead and follow you, share your content, subscribse to your newsletter and potentially purchase from you.

3. Social Proof

One of the things that can inspire confidence on your prospective customers is the fact that other people have made use of your product and that they are happy with it. You can go ahead to post case studies and success stories of people and companies who have experienced success thanks to you and your product.

Make use of positive feedback and learn from negative comments. This social proof will go a long way to give people the confidence to check out your blog or website, like you on Facebook, maybe sign up for a free trial and they will become leads in your sales pipeline.

4. Content

Not just content but good content. This is one of the hassle free ways of finding prospects for your business. If you are someone who regularly comes up with good content that is relevant that your target market, people who will a lot more likely to subscribe to communications from you, share your content with their friends, family members and on social media and ultimately help you to build a loyal audience. These loyal audience can turn into future customers if you play your cards right.

Look at something as simple as a blog post or an infographic; they get shared a ton! Why? Because sharing knowledge and information is something we all do and the business who gets their content shared becomes somewhat of an expert. And who doesn’t want to do business with an expert?

5. Networking Events and Trade Shows

Even though making use of various online methods to get new customer is good, adding the good old fashioned networking can go a long way to boost your sales. Networking should still be an essential part of your weekly routine. Meet with people on a face to face basis and tell them about yourself, your business, your products and also don’t forget top ask about them. Exchange contact details, add them to your database and keep in touch.

6. Customer Referrals

It is a lot more cheaper to maintain your existing customers than to find new ones. And if you treat the customer you already have right, they can be your brand ambassadors. Treat them well and they will recommend your goods or services to their friends and family members. Word-of-mouth may be quite old but it is still a very powerful tool for getting new prospects so make sure that your clients have something good to say about your business.

7. Reach out through Email

These days cold calls are more or less a waste of time. According to MarketingSherpa, email has two times higher ROI than cold calling. You should make use of emails, follow ups and automated communications to keep in touch with your prospects and turn them into solid leads.

Expand your audience and get your message across to more and more people; nurture leads and navigate them through the sales funnel using targeted content distributed via email. One of the many great things about emails is that you can make use of them along with tools such as social media (add a sign up form to your Facebook page for example) or networking events (collect emails and add them to your database).

You should however note that just sending out thoughtless emails will get you anywhere. You will need to draft an email that will be effective and that means taking the time to understand who you’re sending it to and what they want. Make sure that your email is specific, clear and most importantly provides a value to the person you intend to send it to.

In addition, you should try your best to make sure that the email is not too long. Choose the right words and make sure that anything that can be cut off is cut off. If you’re looking to improve your cold email process, there are plenty of tools that can help. By ensuring your cold emails are targeted, organized and purposeful, you’ll be able to generate more leads for your business.

8. Optimize Your Website

Most a times, your website can the first point of contact between you and your prospective customers and as such, you have to make sure that every single page on your website is at its best. Make sure that your website is user friendly and works on multiple devices.

9. Focus on Long-term Relationships

When searching for prospects, you should not have a myopic mindset. If you are striving to get prospects that will eventually turn into leads and subsequently sales, you need to have in mind that during this period you are also building a relationship between you and a prospective customer, and ideally you would like them to stay with you for the long run, as opposed to a one off thing.

If you focus on that relationship and try to future it well, then you will find out that a lot of your prospects will turn into sales.

10. Make use of Google

At times, finding new prospects does not have to be difficult. It can be as easy as doing a simple Google search. A lot of what people do is recorded online and that information can be called up by sales professionals. If you need to find a person or specific information about a company, then Google may be the right place to start.

By searching, you can find a wealth of information on someone’s spending habits or about how a company is run. But for the information you gather to be meaningful, it has to be about the right people. Finding out who the key decision makers are is important in order to get them to buy what you are selling.

However, this can be difficult. A study that was carried out by the Gartner Group found out that in a normal firm with about 100-500 employees, the buying decision is usually made by just 7 people. These days, money is tight and as such, the decision on what to buy or not to buy have moved farther up the management chain.

In other to speak to people who are at the helm of affairs, you will have to first identify who they are and then try to build a connection with them in a bid to try to influence their decision. You should try your best to gather as much information about your target buyers as possible so as to increase your chances selling your products.

11. Stay up to date on industry news

Most at times, when you are prospecting, some people find out that they spend most of their time looking for the right person – not even trying to sell to them. Instead of always trying to find the right person to whom you should be selling to, you can devote some of your time to staying up to date on the latest news as this will give you a lot of insights into who the right people to sell to are.

There are a lot of blogs, websites and media outlets that report on the recent happenings of companies – the same companies that you’re aiming to sell to. That means by staying informed on their news, you’ll be in a better position to sell to them. In addition, forums can be a gold mine for industry news and information. Keep up with these and consider subscribing to newsletters for popular blogs and media organizations in your industry.

12. Build relationships

Even though a simple search on goggle or other social media websites can help you to find new leads, the best way to continuously find them is to build relationships with the people in your industry.

Go to networking events, join industry associations and be present where potential clients are. Find them on a social setting and engage instead of pitching right off the bat. The more you can build a relationship with a prospect, the more likely they will be to buy from you.

Even if you find thousands of new prospects for your product but they are not the right customer for your product, it won’t matter. You main focus should be on finding people who are the most likely to buy from you and not just fining names and email address.

13. Have a prospect list

You should not just fill your prospects list with a bunch of random people, instead, your focus should be on people who will likely buy from you. You can draw your list of prospects from the following sources in this order:

  • Referral: People whom your existing customers have contacted and suggested that they get in touch with you.
  • Networks: People whom you’ve connected with personally at industry events or online via social networking.
  • Website Visitors: People who’ve shown an interest in your offerings by accessing your website and leaving contact data.
  • Purchased Lists: People who have the job title that typically buy your offering inside industries into which you typically sell.

14. Create a qualifying script

Based upon your experience, define a conversational way to ask, during an initial conversation, whether or not the suspect has a budget, authority to spend the budget, and a need for your offering. In most cases, qualifying scripts are built around open-ended questions that you ask during the conversation.

15. Get into a positive mental state

Find a place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. Take a few minutes to focus yourself and your thoughts. Be positive, optimistic and visualize your success.

16. Make the calls

While doing so, remember to listen just as much as you talk to your prospects. You should listen for pointers that indicate that your prospects make be willing to buy right away. Listen for pointers like this:

  • We’ve been looking to buy something like this.
  • I was thinking of contacting your firm about this.
  • Yeah, we definitely need to talk.

If you hear something like this, you can skip the script and jump right to the close.

17. Be consistent

Salespersons are tasked with getting new clients. And in order to accomplish this task, they necessarily open relationships. Prospecting is the art of opening new relationships. The new business opportunities that later turn into sales are initially identified through prospecting, making prospecting a very important step in the whole sales process.

The first way to improve your prospecting results is to acknowledge its importance to your sales results and treat it accordingly. In order to improve your prospecting results, you will need be consistent with your prospecting by doing it on a daily basis.

You should never suggest that you could only close on Thursday afternoons, and it is ridiculous to suggest that there is only a single time at which you can be effective prospecting. It is equally ridiculous to suggest that your prospects are only open to taking your calls on Mondays and Fridays. Those are generalizations and all generalizations are lies.

Write a weekly plan making time to prospect every day. It is best to set aside the time first thing in the morning to ensure it gets done before the world makes other demands from you.

18. Avoid Distractions

It is not uncommon for certain factors such as the internet, mobile phone, emails or even colleagues to serve as a source of distraction when you are prospecting. You should try your best to limit you exposure to those factors and stay as focused as possible.

Tell your friends you have a new found discipline and that you need their support; promise to catch up with them later. Hang a sign on your door saying “Do Not Disturb! Prospecting!” If you don’t have a door, use string and hang the sign over your desk.

19. Write Scripts

The two main factors that usually result in poor prospecting are usually not spending enough time prospecting and ineffective prospecting. Usually, language choice is to be blamed for this. It comes down to what you are saying when you prospect. Irrespective of what you may think. Scripts are very important even for professionals.

First you have to recognize that you are already using a script. The words that you use when prospecting (and on sales calls, by the way), are choices that are comfortable to you because you have rehearsed them. They are comfortable to you because you have them memorized, not because you are reading them. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best language choices.

Your effectiveness is improved by choosing carefully the words you use. Take note of what is and what isn’t working for you. This takes an awareness, focus and discipline. It also allows you to experiment with language choices to see what is most effective.

Write scripts for each of the prospecting methods you use. Write answers for the common questions or reservations people may have. Rehearse them. If you are part of a sales team, do this together and rehearse them together. Commit the best language to memory and replace the unwritten and ineffective scripts you are already using.

20. Focus on the Outcome

The expected outcome of prospecting is to start a relationship with the prospect. This usually involves obtaining the commitment of the prospect in the form of an appointment. In order to improve your effectiveness in prospecting, it is best to focus on the outcome by not allowing your prospecting to turn into a needs analysis, a presentation, or a discussion about the merits of your product or service.

It means you apply a laser-like focus on scheduling the appointment. The reason why some people find it difficult to focus on the outcome of an appointment and the reason often they slip into the sales mode is because they feel that they have to prove that they can create value for the prospect during their prospecting activity.

But the truth still remains that prospecting has a very different goal, which is, the exploration of the possibility that you might be able to create value and do something together. Selling, at this point, is premature. There is no list to make, no plan to write here. Just know that a successful outcome here is almost always an appointment. It doesn’t matter how much you liked them or how much they liked you if you didn’t schedule an appointment.

21. No does not necessarily have to be the end of a relationship

Even when you use all of the ideas above, you are still going to hear “no.” You are going to hear it a lot. But business relationships just like any other type of relationship needs time to take root. Your consistent and unrelenting pursuit of your dream clients is part of a longer-term plan for success and not a quick fix.

Make sure that you communicate with your prospects from time to time. Your calls, your thank you cards, your letters, your white papers, your surveys, your studies, your newspaper and web clippings, your constant attempts to find a way to create some value before claiming any all add up over time.

At times, the most fruitful relationships or the biggest deals take the longest time to win and as such, your constant nurturing of these relationships will open opportunities for you over time. This approach proves that you are not going to disappear like so many of your peers, that you are truly interested in working with them, that you are a professional who executes well, and that you are determined. These are some of the attributes that people look for in salespeople and partners.

22. Develop a plan for customer acquisition

One of the secret to creating a successful acquisition plan is to know who would make the ideal customer. If you sell to businesses, consider what department is most likely to buy your products or services, and what individual (what level of responsibility) would be the one to determine the specific purchase requirements. (Make some calls if you don’t know!)

Determine how long the buying cycle is. Is buying your product a decision that can be made quickly by a single person? Or are you selling something that has a long buying cycle, possibly involving multiple individuals? The next thing you have to consider is how the typical buyer normally finds products or services like yours.

What circles do they travel in? Are they active in social media? Who are they likely to listen to or where do they look when they want to buy your type of product or service. Write all this information down and look for patterns. Then, to get more customers, plan ways to put yourself and your information where the people in your target market can find it when they are ready to buy.

23. Look for and follow business prospects on social media

This is another social media prospecting tip. Don’t try to sell to them on their social media feeds. Instead, try to develop relationships with potential customers. Retweet or comment on their posts. Mention them if appropriate in your own social media posts. Your main aim for doing this should be to get known and seen as a friend. Prospecting and selling is a whole lot easier to do when you meet people who feel like they know you.

24. Work your local newspapers

Even though the internet has become a dominant force, newspapers are still an incredible source of contact information and leads to potential new customers. Be on the lookout for names of people who just got promoted, just won an award or just recently started a business, or who in any way may be potential customers.

You should then send those people personalized mailings congratulating them on their success or telling them how interesting the article about them was. Include your company name and slogan plus any appropriate product information with your signature.

25. Sponsor Events

Be on the lookout for events that may bring your potential target market together. Look for fliers about the event at local networking group meetings. Or, call and ask the organizers if there are sponsorship opportunities available. Local events can be quite inexpensive to sponsor. Alternately, if the sponsorship cost is high, they may have a “Friends” of the event option that will give you the right to have fliers at the event for a very small fee.

26. Attend meetings and seminars that your prospects might attend

Find out meeting, seminars and other such gatherings that you prospects will attend and try to be there. If you’ve been doing that and haven’t made contacts that could lead to sales, try new networking groups. You can look in the newspapers to see what other organizations hold events that might attract your target market and attend some of those meetings.

27. Follow up after meetings

Contact the people you’ve met to see if they may be prospects. Even if they say that they do not need your services now, ask when it would be a good time to call them back, or if they have business associates who could use what you sell now.

28. Free give away

Like it was mentioned previously, getting new customers involves building trust between you and them. A very good way to do this would be to give away free samples of your product and ask the recipients to tell their friends if they are pleased.

Or, if you are a consultant, give away some free advice. This could be in the form of a newsletter that contains news or tips and hints, or it could be a free consultation during which you provide just enough information to help the client scope out their project and know that you have the ability to handle it.

29. Put your personal network to good use

Ask your friends if they know of people who are in need of your services, or people who may know others who could use your services. If your pricing structure will allow it, offer friends and business associates a finders’ fee for referrals that turn into jobs.

30. Put your business name, phone number and website address on anything that you can

If you are in a service business that uses vehicles such as trucks, you have to make sure that your name is on all your vehicles so that people who see you carrying out your service in in their neighborhood can easily know how to contact you.

If your business produces products, it goes without saying that these information should be on them. Have magnets made up with your name and phone number and attach them to appliances you repair, or hand out to customers and prospects. The more people who have your name and contact, the more customers you can acquire.

31. Study your competitors

Focus on your competitors that have been successful in the business and try to find out where they advertise, where they network, what tactics they use, what works for them may work just as well for you.

32. Use multiple small ads instead of one big one

In order to get your name out there and get more prospects, you will have to advertise. If most of your competitors make use of print media to advertise, you should do the same to. But instead of making a big splash with one large ad, you can go for smaller ads that will run for a long period of time in the same publications that other people in the industry advertise in.

33. Try out pay-per-click (PPC) and other online advertising

If you do not have a lot of money to spend on advertisement, you can try out this option. Target your ads so they reach people who are similar to your most likely prospects, and target them so they only show up in the geographic region you service. (Example: women between the age of 35 and 50 who live in Sacramento, in California.) Set daily budgets and monthly budgets, and check your account frequently the first few days you set it up.

34. Claim your place in Google My Business

Make sure that your business is listed in any directories that you qualify for including Google. Chambers of commerce, and other local business groups often have member directories in which you can list contact information and website address.

35. Ask for feedback when prospects don’t buy

When a prospect fails to convert to a sale, you should ask them for their feedback. Why did the deal not fall through? Did they find a better product elsewhere? Did the run into some cash troubles? Did they decide that they didn’t need your product after all? Do they still want to buy but at a later date? Did they find it difficult to place an order on your web site? The feedback that they give you will help you to improve your business or product even more.

36. Have a clear definition of your Target Market

It’s quite obvious that in order to get prospects for your business, you should be marketing to people who not only want what you have but are willing to pay in order to get it. It is however not uncommon to see business owners who don’t take their time to identify and clearly define their target market before they start prospecting.

This usually results in their marketing message being sent to a wide variety of people who may not be in need of the product or service. It makes more sense to first know the likely buyers of what you have. You can ask yourself questions like, How old are they? What gender? What is their socio-economic background?

Knowing who your market is, makes it easier to find them and deliver messages that entice them to check out your product or service. Take the time to understand who your target market is so you don’t waste your time finding and selling to the wrong customers and clients.

37. Traditional Mail

This is yet another great way to increase awareness of your business. Create the piece you plan to send, be it a postcard, brochure, letter etc. You can either address and stamp them yourself, or, you can get the service of a fulfilment house to help you do it.

If you are mailing many pieces, there are both time and cost benefits to using a fulfillment house to address, stuff, and stamp. A fulfillment house is able to get a bulk stamp rate, which can save up to 40% off the postage price. However, you should bear in mind that a hand placed stamp looks less like a junk mail.

38. Purchase a Lead List

This method can be relatively expensive and does not perform too well in the result department when compared to other methods, but if you’re in a bind, you can purchase mailing or contact lists of prospects that fit your target market (demographics, location et al). A simple Google search of the term “mailing list” will turn up a lot of companies In most cases, businesses use this list for direct mail marketing, but you can also call or email if those form of contact information is provided.

39. Use Every Method Available

Prospecting involves creating new relationships where the previously did not exist, but that not the only area that you should be focused on. We are focused on the outcome that is better described as opening new business relationships to identify potential new business opportunities. There are a lot of ways to do this, and all of them have varying degrees of effectiveness in the hand of various salespersons.

As much as you need to focus your time and energy on what works best for you, you should also try to look outside of your comfort zone. If you are good with email marketing but you are not very skilled with inbound marketing that does not mean that should totally ignore it.

Try to make us of a combination of methods to get the more prospects. Try your hands also on networking, trade shows and conferences, direct mail, social networking, or referrals. You should include all of these tools in your arsenal.

Make a list of all of the methods that you can and will use to prospect. Plan the time that you will set aside for each method and how many prospects you will gain from your effort. For example, you might commit to attending one networking event per month with the result that you acquire two new prospects from each networking event.

Measure these results and focus on what generates the greatest return on your investment of time, but remember that your prospects may have their own opinion on how they best like to be approached, and you shouldn’t exclude any method.

In conclusion, when you are sourcing for new prospects for your business, you should set a reasonable target for yourself. Make a goal of how many prospects you will need to have in order to get the number of sales you will want to have. For instance, if you must generate five sales a week and on average close one out of fifty prospects, you will need to make 250 calls a week.