Successful sales teams profit when they master the right prospecting methods.

A carpenter changed American history. James Wilson Marshall discovered gold while he was building a sawmill. The California Gold Rush of 1849 followed almost immediately. Prospecting methods for gold ranged from the simple pans and screens to more complex stamp mills and hydraulic mining.

Prospecting methods in sales are just as varied, and some of the most common weren’t considered so common a few decades ago. Joe Girard pioneered the idea of customer appointments to become one of the most successful car salesmen ever. W. Clement Stone found success in insurance sales by meeting clients in a location where they were primed to buy.

There are a lot of salespeople waiting for customers to come to them. That may be enough to get by if you’re happy leaving your success up to fate. Girard and Stone, on the other hand, tell us that you can control your own success.

The beauty here is that you don’t have to invent new sales techniques to be successful. You do, however, need to explore ways to find potential customers in the most efficient manner possible.

6 Prospecting methods: the do’s and don’ts

Prospecting doesn’t mean you should frantically make calls, plaster yourself across every classified ad section, and knock on every door you can touch. Those can be fruitful ventures, but unless you have unlimited time, your best bet is to find an approach or two that resonates with you and perfect that. Try these variations on classic techniques adapted by some of the best in the business.

1. Don’t make cold calls

Cold calling shouldn’t be your first strategy for prospecting, anymore. Instead, use social media and technology to your advantage. If your prospect is on LinkedIn, comment on something he shared. Start a conversation on Twitter, even if it is just “liking” a professional update.

When you do finally make that call, your name will be familiar. Your prospect will have a sense of who you are, and be more agreeable to hear your pitch.

2. Don’t try to sell right away

When you meet a new lead, what’s your immediate response? If your answer is sell, sell, sell, it’s time to slow down. People want to feel a connection to a salesperson. Few products and services can sell themselves. A relationship provides a sense of trust, and it also creates a more fertile selling environment.

3. Don’t do it by yourself

Working with complementary services is an easy way to meet more prospects who are inclined to want or need your services. If you run a cleaning company, form an alliance with a florist. What’s better than fresh flowers to go with a freshly cleaned home? Do you sell financial management software? Work together with a tax lawyer to add value to a prospect’s experience.

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4. Do get in touch with past customers

Contact your previous customers. This might be the single most effective prospecting method in use. Previous happy customers know the quality of your service, the quality of your product, and how well you take care of them before and after a sale.

Don’t forget about your lost customers who may have been less than pleased when the relationship ended. Reach out to them as well. Can you win back old customers? Have their needs changed? Have you changed?

5. Do be an active community member

It’s so much easier to gain name recognition, referrals, and tips when you are an active participant in your community. This looks different for everyone – coach your daughter’s baseball team, attend neighborhood association meetings, or sit on the board of a local nonprofit. The more you can associate your name with positive events, the more chances you have of being the go-to person when the time is right.

6. Do be specific

It isn’t difficult to find a real estate agent. You can even find a few real estate agents who specialize in historic properties. How about a real estate agent who specializes in historic properties and restoration? Yeah, you’re probably the only one in town, and anyone looking for a historic property will gravitate toward you, because you have additional expertise.

It doesn’t matter the industry you’re selling in, if you specialize and know your niche, you’ll attract prospects easily.

Discovering the best prospecting methods

Like so much in sales, the best prospecting methods will vary from person to person. How can you discover the best one? Try out these and other techniques and find out what gives you the best results. Mix and match several of your favorites.

In the words Mary Kay Ash, a famous salesperson who built a makeup empire:

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

Want to develop your sales skills with less work? Simplify your sales process now. Schedule a free demo of our lead management software and turn prospects into customers in no time!

What are your favorite prospecting methods? Have you had any major successes or flops? We’d love for you to share with us in the comments!