Being able to prospect is a core ability for any sales rep. All sales reps start their career triaging and prospecting leads. In most organizations, a sales development representative (SDR) or business development representative  (BDR) ability to prospect is the single most relevant factor in their success as a sales person and being promoted upwards in the sales organization. 

There are three keys to being able to prospect properly. 

  1. Identifying an appropriate target organization

  2. Identifying appropriate individuals in an appropriate target organization

  3. Providing the correct messaging to the appropriate individuals in the target organization


Identifying an appropriate target organization

Typically there are several factors that a BDR or SDR used to identify an appropriate target. Those factors are based on either historical data or based on strategic direction where the company would like to sell into. As well, those factors should be searchable in databases such as ZoomInfo, DiscoverOrg, LinkedIn,, LeadIQ, or others. 

Those criteria are typically;

  • Employee count

  • Annual revenue

  • Geolocation

  • Industry

  • NAICS / SIC codes

  • % growth over time period

    • Growth could be determined by a number of factors such as revenue or employees


For niche industries there may be some unique identifiers that may be searchable such as number of sales reps, technology used, etc…


The best way for sales reps to use this type of data is to bin them in groups. In this case, sales reps can identify small and medium sized businesses (SMB) as companies with two to fifty employees with zero to five million dollars in revenue. Those criteria can be overlaid onto geolocation information, such as only within the Eastern United States, and industry, such as manufacturing. Once consolidated, a sales rep can then quickly search a database for companies that fit the profile then work on finding the right individuals within the target company.


Identifying appropriate individuals in an appropriate target organization

The right target, or more than likely, targets in an organization may often carry different titles but fulfill the same role. The best way to align roles with title is researching professional profiles, such as LinkedIn, as well as reviewing job advertisements. Both are great sources of information and when normalized across dozens of more individuals that fulfil the same role at similar companies, a sales rep can begin to identify the core responsibilities that the individual provides for their employer. 


Once a sales rep has identified a target organization and the individuals inside that organization they can then tune in on their message.


Providing the correct messaging to the appropriate individuals in the target organization

People respond to messages that are pertinent to them. Often sales training includes training sales reps to think about their prospect, put themselves in their prospects shoes, and see if their message can answer, “why me, why now?” or “what's in it for me?”. Sales reps that can do this effective are typically top performing sales reps. 


As well, other key tactics for building compelling messaging is to not present your solution, but investigate to see if issues that your solution can solve are present. For example, thinking of a large software solution such as an ERP, it can solve many problems at a company; it can help the CFO provide invoices, it can help sales rep keep their contacts in order, it can help the warehouse be on top of their inventory. A message to the CFO regarding inventory will likely resonate as poorly as messaging about business analytics to the sales manager. 


Having the correct message message to the correct person will both create credibility for the sales rep while helping the potential deal move more efficiently to the finish line.


Messaging the prospect

When presenting the message to a prospect it is important to be cognizant of the modality in which it is presented. Typically when prospecting, the first interaction with the prospect is by advertisement, phone call, text email, or a video email.


Advertisements, typically handled by marketing, need to be short and tailored to the prospects need. If it is not it will be quickly ignored.

Phone calls need to be opened crisply so the prospect takes notice. Typically there are three persona types that answer cold calls those being; 

  • expecting someone else, 

  • genuinely curious, and 

  • distracted. 


Knowing who is responding and how to deal with them will position a sales rep for success. More on these personas can be found here;, 

The script for a cold call follows one of two formats. 

Format one is open with a funny statement to differentiate the prospector from all other prospectors (eg see consultant Jon Selig). The humor can either be general such as, “this call is as cold as the winters in Michigan” or specific to the pain the prospect may be facing that may only be humorous to a small subset of individuals. 

Format two is to state the reason for the call, stating up front the reason and the research done why the prospector should devote some time to the call. More on this has been written up here;

Once the call has been opened a prospector will typically drop a credibility bomb of a relevant logo they work with then ask for permission to carry on for a very finite period of time such as ten to thirty seconds.

Text emails, like phone calls, must be short and to the point. Often prospects open emails while on the move using their mobile devices. Having a brief and directed message that requires a single word or short response will have a greater chance of being responded to.

Video emails, should have white board with the prospects name or very specific targeted message that will get the prospect to click the video. A best practice with video emails is to also include a brief text message around the video so prospects that don’t play the video, can also read the email. While the text should mirror the content in the video, it does not need to be exact. In some instances the text relates what information will be gained by watching the video, thus incentivizing the view.