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10 sales prospecting mistakes - and how to avoid them

December 4, 2020

When it comes to your sales strategy, prospecting is one of your most important selling tools. Which is why your prospecting game needs to be top-notch.

But...mistakes do happen.

Even the most skilled B2B sales rep is likely to make a mistake or two. From targeting the wrong customer to badly constructed messaging, prospecting mistakes cost your company valuable resources and revenue.

Luckily, we're here to guide you through 10 of the most common prospecting mistakes and how to avoid them.

Let's get into it 👇

1 - Not defining your ICP 🤔

First things first - define your ideal customer!

It sounds so simple, yet many sales leaders forget to start their prospecting journey by creating a profile of the audience they most want to target.

ICPs exist for a reason:

They tell you who is most likely to buy your product and if they fit your total addressable market.

Once you know who you’re selling to, it will be easier to weed out the prospects who are only going to cost you money down the line.

So who is your perfect customer? There are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to get started:

  • Where are they located?
  • What is the company size?
  • What is their budget?

Remember: the more targeted your ICP, the better targeted your marketing can be, resulting in more quality leads that convert!

2 - Not researching your leads 🔎

You know what happens when you don’t research your leads?

You lose out on revenue.

How can this be?

Because your sales team is focused on nurturing the wrong leads, leads that aren’t interested in what you’re selling.

To avoid a big mess, you need to research your leads before you start engaging with them.

This will not only tell you who is worth pursuing, but it will also give you added knowledge of what your prospects' pain points are and how you can help solve them.

Also, how embarrassing would it be if you called a prospect and you had the wrong information?

Prospects respond to personalisation, and if you aren’t taking the initiative to do a quick LinkedIn search to familiarise yourself with their business and position there, then you only come across as unprepared.

A potential customer wants to be certain that the company they do business with is going to offer a great service, and if it starts out bad, what are the odds it will end any better?

3 - Not knowing your goals ✔️

There’s no point in setting up a B2B lead generation strategy if you aren't going to define your goals.

Do you want to book a meeting or schedule a demo?

Define your goals before you start prospecting. Focus on getting there by creating various steps for different leads.

Here’s an example:

A prospect approaches you by signing up to your mailing list. You know they’re interested in your brand, so you can send them down a funnel customised to that.

On the other hand, when you reach out to a prospect who has never heard of you before, you’ll need to build a relationship and familiarise them with your brand before pushing them toward a sale.

4 - Not knowing your product 🤷

What’s even more embarrassing than calling your prospect by the wrong name?

Not knowing your own product!

The best SaaS salespeople know their product inside and out -  it helps create banter, shows you’re someone your prospect can trust and helps you find a solution for your customers' biggest pain points.

One of our top tips for selling your product is to remember three to four key facts for each persona you outreach to; use them in your cold calls and sales cadences.

5 - Not focusing on pain points 🩹

After you’ve done your research you’ll be better able to gauge your customers’ pain points.

Which means you can offer them a great solution.

You’ll be their hero…

Well, not exactly, but you get what we’re saying - you need to focus on adding value to the lives of your prospects. By highlighting the benefits and results of your products, rather than its features, you’re selling without being obvious about it.

And this will likely result in better lead generation and more sales!

6 - Not crafting compelling emails 📧

While prospecting isn’t all about creating literary works of art, you do need to learn the art of copywriting in order to create catchy email cadences that convert into sales.

But remember:

There’s a big difference between copying someone else's template word for word and using it as a foundation for your own.

Every communication between you and your prospect should add value, so be original. Tailor your sequences to suit them and never, ever, mass send the same email to your contacts.

7 - Not knowing when to engage ☎️

Getting your timing right is probably the most important part of B2B prospecting.

To do this, take advantage of sales triggers:

Sales triggers (buying triggers, marketing triggers, or conversion triggers) can be defined as any event that could create an opening for contact with a prospect.

Once you’ve identified the perfect time to engage, you’ll find you have a higher conversion rate.

Keep an eye on events that happen in your target industries or accounts. Such as:

  • When a prospect is promoted or moves to a new company.
  • When a company secures a new round of funding.
  • When a company is acquired or merges with another.
  • When a prospect or their company wins a major industry award.

Now, you can track these events manually - but that will take up a lot of your time - or you can use tech to do it for you! Cognism’s flagship tool, Prospector, has many event-based triggers built into its platform.

8 - Not building your personal brand 🦸

If you’ve set up a great profile on LinkedIn and engaged with your connections, you may have noticed an influx of quality leads.

This is one of the greatest prospecting techniques.

By building a personal brand, engaging and sharing value with your connections, you’re not only creating brand awareness but you’re building up your reputation as someone who can be trusted in your field.

When prospects see that, they’re more eager to want to hear what you have to say and they’ll go on to recommend you to others too - even if they’ve never done business with you!

9 - Not being creative 🎨

Creativity isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of B2B sales, but the best salespeople are those who think out of the box and look for innovative ways to prospect.


Because prospects are tired of receiving the same old formula for emails and cold calls. When you get creative, you stand out.

At Cognism, our sales teams have found success through LinkedIn voice notes and online videos - these messages show personalisation and effort, and there is nothing a prospect appreciates more.

10 - Not analysing your results 🤓

Whenever you interact with a client you need to step back and ask yourself: what went right, and what went wrong?

This will help you shelve any tactics that aren't giving you results because, at the end of the day, they will only cause you to lose out on revenue. Plus, you’ll be able to see when a prospect converts and why - allowing you to determine which of your content holds the most value.

Even better: always do an A/B test on cold calling scripts and emails. Once you discover what certain clients like and don’t like, you’re one step closer to becoming a prospecting pro.

Bonus tip - not using the best prospecting tech 🚀

Which is Cognism Prospector!

Most sales reps head to one place to prospect - LinkedIn, and while LinkedIn is great for making B2B connections, you’re missing out on a huge market.

A market Cognism Prospector can provide you with. Our platform gives you access to a globally compliant database of 400 million B2B contacts.

Prospector also supplies sales triggers, automated email campaigns, integrated sales dialling tools and the ability to measure the effectiveness of your outbound sales efforts - all in one place.

But don’t take our word for it, try it for yourself today with a free demo. Click 👇

Request your demo now