Sales Prospecting Tips and Advice

Sales prospecting is one key pieces to building a sales pipeline. During a National Association of Sales Professionals Facebook Live, we revealed some great prospecting tips.

What is Sales Prospecting?

If you can perfect your sales prospecting game, you have got the biggest advantage in sales today. What is sales prospecting anyway? A basic definition of sales prospecting is when inside sales representatives make outbound calls or send outbound emails to leads. The hopeful outcome is a bounty of fantastic sales opportunities. Some tactics include cold calling, and setting up email campaigns to any prospects that may have gone cold on you.

NASP Facebook Live Sales Series

The National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP) schedules a series of Facebook Live learning videos. I am a member of the NASP and so are my fellow Pipeline CRM sales team colleagues. So, our company was excited to sponsor their recent Live session which happened to be focused on the topic of sales prospecting.

We tackled some great questions including:

  • “What would you advise to be the first step in reaching out to a business to sell my product, instead of the individual consumer I usually communicate with?”
  • “What is your approach to a long sales cycle versus a short sales cycle?”
  • “What goes into your prospect prior to reaching out?”

Read on to find out more. I had the pleasure of joining this great sales prospecting conversation with these professionals from the NASP:

Brian Wright, Director of Sales, NASP
Rick Middlemass, VP of Sales and Marketing, NASP
Meshell Baker, Certified Sales Advisor, NASP

Sales Prospecting Tips and More Sales Tips

Brian Wright, Director of Sales, NASP: Welcome, everybody, to our Facebook Live, where we are taking a look at many of the top prospecting questions you’ve submitted! This Live is sponsored by our friends over at Pipeline CRM, and we have Amelia Burleson with us today. Amelia, welcome! Can you give us a little bit of information about Pipeline CRM?


Amelia Burleson, Pipeline CRM: Thanks, Brian, I appreciate it! Pipeline CRM was founded in 2006. We’re the most adopted CRM for small and mid sized businesses, and we’re empowering sales teams across a breadth of industries to build game-changing relationships. Pipeline CRM was built around an easy-to-use and customizable user experience, sales-focused features, and leading customer support and service. Today more than 18,000 users in 100 countries use Pipeline CRM to gain visibility into their sales pipeline, to accelerate opportunities, and to close more deals. We’re headquartered in Seattle, WA. We’ve made the annual INC 5000 lists since 2014. We’re recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. For more information about PLD, if you guys wanna try a 14-day free trial, visit us at, or you can engage with us on Twitter. All of our sales team are certified sales professionals, so we really look to the NASP for a lot of guidance. So we’re really excited to be sponsoring this prospecting video for you guys!


Brian: We are extremely grateful to have you here, and to have a partnership with Pipeline CRM.


Amelia: Likewise!


Brian: And with that, let’s get into the questions!

Rick Middlemass, VP of Sales and Marketing, NASP: Ok, I’ll read the first question here. “What would you advise to be the first step in reaching out to a business to sell my product, instead of the individual consumer I usually communicate with?” So this sounds like, how can I switch from a B to C focus to a B to B focus? Which is very interesting! What initial thoughts do we have, Master Advisors?


Meshell Baker, Certified Sales Advisor, NASP: I’ll jump in! I really don’t vary — I actually went, in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, I went from B-to-C to B-to-B. The only variation I had was focusing more on looking at the company overall, the health of the company, where they were, the department, if there was any information, and making certain that I always looked at the individuals that I communicated with. As I tell people — I call it “stalk to serve”. You can actually go on social media, on Facebook, and especially LinkedIn and find out almost all you need to know about many of the people you’re going to be interfacing and interacting with. Take the time to understand that, behind every transaction is an interaction with a human being. The only variation is that I would be more prepared for a longer length of time to close, so, taking the time to understand how my products impact that department and that company as a whole, versus just that individual and just that section I was working with. So that would be the one thing I would say.


Rick: That’s great. Love it. Great advice! Thank you, Meshell. Brian, what were you going to say?


Brian: Actually, almost the exact same thing. The B-to-C is one-to-one, and the B-to-B is one-to-many, but you’re still dealing with an individual who’s making a decision for many, versus the singular decision. It’s really the same process, and like Meshell mentioned, typically be prepared for a bit of a longer sales cycle. Outside of that, it’s pretty much the same game in my world.


Rick: One idea did just pop into my head a second ago. I’m assuming the individual who asked this question is generally reaching out to people within a company, and is now looking at, “How do I now reach out to this company as a whole?” What came to my mind was “centers of influence”. That means, “Is it possible for me to reach out to the business and get a message on some type of distributed form of media?” And what that could do is get a message in front of everyone, that you could then follow up individually with the end users within that company, and reference that message. So, just an idea — what are the centers of influence within that company? Is it a postboard up above the water cooler? Is it a newsletter? Is it a monthly meeting? Something like that.


Rick: Question number two! “What is your approach to a long sales cycle versus a short sales cycle?” I’ll go first with this one. When I think of what I’m expecting to be a potentially long sale cycle, versus a short sale cycle, I like to think ahead and think, “What valuable information can I drip onto this individual or this business over the next six months?” Versus, in a shorter sale cycle, I’m thinking, “How can I get all the information and value that I might have for this person in front of them as soon as possible, to help them make a quicker decision?” So I guess what comes to mind for me would be the pacing of the conversation and the value-adding component of the sales process. What do you guys think?


Meshell: I completely agree. The thing that I heard you were saying was that the sales cycle might vary, but the relationship you want to extend always. So, again, going back to that interaction, as you said, how can I give them that information to assist them with their decision-making at the company? And then still stay in the forefront of their mind, and establish a lengthy relationship.



Brian: I think you guys pretty much nailed that one. I don’t have anything else to add. Good stuff!



Rick: Question number three: “Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why?”


Meshell: Intriguing! I will say, I partner with the National Association of Sales Professionals, and I also have my own business. In my experience, based on the product, my goal always is to lead with value. How can I respond to your need as the prospect and give you the best possible outcome? And that doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be me, unfortunately. Like, in my head, it would be me 100% of the time. I would be hitting a slam dunk, or hitting it out of the park, every single time! But the reality is that sometimes, I can refer to my colleagues, or I can refer to our sister companies, that the process for where that person is is better served by someone else. And I am always willing to do that because I come from a place that, the better I serve anyone I work with, the more opportunity I create for both of us, instead of creating friction by working with someone who wasn’t really ready for my process, and I wasn’t really ready for them.


Rick: I like that. So, in a way, turn it into a referral for maybe a sister company.


Brian: Yeah, I love that. And it makes me think about, we enter into the marketplace with the mindset of providing a solution for something that our prospective customer or customer base is looking for. And sometimes we have that solution to deliver, and sometimes it’s someone else. Just knowing that there’s abundance of abundance, there’s opportunity — if we do come to that point where it’s like, “Hey, this is maybe not the right fit for us, but there’s an opportunity here!” And like Meshell said, create that referral opportunity.

Rick: Love it. We are most effective as a business when we are finding the clients that we can best serve. There may be another company out there that can better serve this prospect. What first my popped into my mind, regarding “have you ever turned a prospect away” — one of the things we talk about a lot is the preframe, the deframe, and the reframe. If we’re getting a lot of objections and things, and it’s maybe not the best sales conversation, not going to be the best fit, the “deframe” is saying, “Listen, you’ve shared with us some different objections. I’m not sure if we can overcome those objections or if we’re going to be the best fit. This could be an opportunity to cut this conversation short and go our separate ways, and not take up any more of either of our time so we can get back to some other things that we’re doing.” So that’s what comes to my mind when I think about turning a prospect away, the “deframe”. Which can sometimes lead to more conversation, so it’s not like you’re always turning them away.


Rick: Question number four: “What goes into your prospect prior to reaching out?”


Brian: There’s so many resources out there today. Just to be mindful of all of those resources, and not to leave anyone off a list — there’s so much out there. And I think that some people will resonate with the data that they receive from one platform versus another, and it comes down to what you are most comfortable with, and where you’re finding the information that serves both you and your prospective customer the best. So I think that there are lots of opportunities and there’s a wealth of information we have access to, more information than we can probably consume on the supercomputer that we keep in our pocket. We really have a beautiful opportunity to know a lot about the people that we’re connecting with. It’s interesting to have been in the sales profession for as long as this collective has, and to see so many advances in that regard. I mean, I remember thumbing through magazines to look for information back in the day, so it’s certainly nice to be able to quickly access some stuff.

Rick: That’s a great point. There is so much information out there that it’s like, when do I stop going through this information and just make the call? I know I’ve gone through a few phases of doing heavy, heavy prospecting for a couple different businesses, and I knew that I could easily get caught in the trap. Like, half an hour later, I was still researching and making notes, and I was like, “Ah, I need to make the call. How am I gonna make it to 100 calls today if I’m not making calls?” So my target for one particular company that I’m thinking about was to average two minutes of research — which I know is not very much — and cap it off at five minutes. But again, that’s in high call volume type of prospecting, which may be a little bit different depending on the type of prospecting that you’re doing. So those are my thoughts. Meshell, anything to add?


Meshell: Well, I know that I actually offer that complementary call, and so I ask questions that people fill in in order to book the call. So it gives me a little background on what they’re needing, as well as, I think about “what are the outcomes that I love to deliver?” I’m a person that believes that that relationship was attracted in some way based off of how I deliver and serve my clients, and based off of what their attraction was, or their need was. If it’s like the certified professional sales training we have? Well, they’re looking to step up into being a top-performing sales person! So I just think about how I can impart and give them something of value no matter how that call turns out, and most often, that turns into an opportunity for them to step into that professional training so that they can then perform.


Rick: Love it, love it. We did have a question come in live here. “How would you deal with the commoditized automotive market, selling parts to the OEMs, and that they often want open book calculations?” So essentially, selling a commoditized product when there’s a lot of other competitors trying to sell a similar product with similar margins. I definitely went through this situation in selling Cisco switches and routers which, yes, you can get on Amazon, lots of times less expensive. So, two components, two ideas. One is getting someone’s attention in the first place. We’ll go into some of the psychology that we go with in some of our trainings, but everyone is essentially, in a lot of ways, “hypnotized” into their daily routine, especially as a buyer in a lot of more salaried positions. And it’s our job as sales professionals and influencers to break people out of that hypnosis, and interrupt patterns of behavior and thought. There’s lots of cool ways that we share in our training on how to do that. Secondly, from my experience, it was building the whole solution, and really emphasizing what value we’re adding from a consultative side, referencing the awards, recognition, and experience of previous clients that we’d had to set ourselves apart from the competition, even though we’re selling the same commodity, which is how it is in a lot of industries. What would you guys add to that?


Amelia: I’m gonna add in there, just because we, too — I deal with this a lot. I mean, there’s a lot of CRMs out there. I think it’s just about focusing on that value. Not just bashing on the competitor at hand, but instead retaining focus back to, “What problem are you solving?” And if you’ve solved that problem, why do they need to look anywhere else?


Meshell: Well said.


Brian: I love that. A little bit to Rick’s point, too, the psychology around how people make their decisions — we know that people make a decision, and in this case obviously a buying decision, out of emotion, and then justify it with logic. And so often, especially in a commodity environment like that, we will tend to go to the logic. The features, the benefits, why my part — but let’s figure out what the actual need is. What emotional need is looking to be met? And then tailor the value proposition to support the need. And then that connection that’s made goes so far beyond the transaction that people are going to feel so much more comfortable doing business with you, because you’ve connected with them in a way that others have not.


Meshell: Absolutely.

Amelia: And covering their pain, if you will.


Meshell: I’m a fan of, when I’m doing the NASP coaching calls, I remind all the people who call in that you’re the secret sauce to every sale. Our marketplace is flooded. In most cases, there’s not a big differentiator between products that are being offered out there, so how do you show up as a valuable proposition, or be a person that’s so valuable that they just want to do business with you? That is the lead-in — I always say, if you lead with value, you will lead with the sale in most cases. So everyone has just said that same thing. Be valuable in how you approach them, and how you are solutions-oriented, and that’s your differentiator. And that margin — we’ve seen time and time again a buyer justify a slight uptake in a price point if they believe they’re getting a better service from an individual.


Rick: Love it. And I just want to reiterate one of the things that Amelia said — she said to ask questions to get to the actual challenge that people are having. Now, in a commoditized problems, sometimes there’s not a deep challenge at first. It’s like, my old switch is dying and I need a new switch. What are you talking about? But sometimes it is possible, like Brian said, to get to a deeper challenge. “Well, which business unit is that switch affecting? If it was to die today, how much would it cost you per hour for the next five hours if that switch did die?” And then the other thing Amelia said is that, “Well, if this can solve your need right now, then why wouldn’t you buy it from us right now?” And that’s a beautiful closing question. If this solves your problem right now, then why wouldn’t you buy it right now? Why would you take any other calls, why would you talk to anyone else selling this commodity? So, Amelia with the closing question there! I like it.


Meshell: Bravo, bravo!


Rick: “Why is storytelling important?” In sales, obviously. I’ll do a little intro. Storytelling is so important in sales because who is the hero of every sales process and journey? Our clients and prospects. And the more that we understand what the storytelling or the story process is, the more we can build in all the components of the story around the hero, who is our prospect and client. And the other cool way that we can stack stories is using some great stories that we have from our past clients where they were the hero of that sale and that story, and it’s almost like foreshadowing the success of this story by telling a mini-story within the story of this sale. I was seeing how many times I could say “story” there…


Meshell: I’m glad we’re not taking shots!


Brian: I was gonna say, if this was a drinking game, we’d all be done.


Rick: One other quick plug: we do go into quite a bit of depth in what the storytelling process is in our training set on [?]. What would you guys add to that?

Brian: I was just gonna kind of tie that piece into… Part of the challenge that gets created in a sales conversation is maintaining both our own focus on what’s happening in the moment, and maintaining the focus of our prospect, right? Because we know the mind is in one of three places at any given moment. It’s memory, imagination, or focus. And so if you start to see that there’s something — maybe you can tell through body language, checking the watch — telling a story or using a metaphor is a great way of drawing in that focus, and of course, as we know, asking great questions. So it’s a great way to support the effectiveness of that interaction.


Meshell: You guys have both said it so beautifully. The metaphors, and the storytelling, and engaging. We remember things like movies, right? So when you’re really wanting to impart, and like Brian said earlier, invoking that emotional component of that relationship with that client or that prospect you’re speaking with, when you start telling a story, you are bringing them on board. They are in for the ride. They’re completely focused. And it’s so much better than just speaking to features and benefits. They will really be able to walk away with a clear understanding, both logically and emotionally, about why the product will benefit them when you take the time and do the effort to tell a story.


Rick: Love it. Building more and more stories into your presentation engages the focus, and breaks the patterns and the hypnosis that a lot of people are in. It’s amazing how — I’ve experienced it myself. I’ll be at a presentation. Maybe it’s the end of the day — I’m making myself an excuse here, but I will have zoned out. I’ve zoned out. Let’s be honest.


All: [laughing]


Brian: He’ll call it what it is. Call a spade a spade, my friend.


Meshell: I love how he was dancing around it there.


Amelia: He got called out.


Rick: I’ll take it. But the point is, I’ve found myself paying attention again and found myself drawn back in, too, when someone started telling a story. When someone said something like, “I did this, this, this, and this, and then this challenge came up, and I felt this!” And going through the stages of the story, I found myself getting re-engaged, and seeing a lot of what we teach in our trainings on how to engage focus happen to myself. It was a beautiful thing.


Amelia: I think, just to go off of that, buyers can feed off your energy. So if you’re having that emotion, and you’re excited about this, they can feel that, and that will just make them that much more inclined to buy your service.


Rick: Couldn’t agree more with that.

To watch this Facebook Live recording just click here! Be sure to follow the NASP and Pipeline CRM pages while you are at it.

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