4 March, 2024
by Jean-Pierre Mercier

Prospecting and business development

Many salespeople are wondering how to prospect now. Sales prospecting is becoming increasingly difficult, with many now preferring digital marketing, yet it’s still the best way to develop sales. We’ll show you the different strategies, the mistakes to avoid, and the tricks of the trade. How to prospect by phone Telephone canvassing is the best […]

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Many salespeople are wondering how to prospect now. Sales prospecting is becoming increasingly difficult, with many now preferring digital marketing, yet it’s still the best way to develop sales. We’ll show you the different strategies, the mistakes to avoid, and the tricks of the trade.

How to prospect by phone

7- Parler au prospect

Telephone canvassing is the best known and most widely used, and also the most abused.

The limits

This type of commercial prospecting has become virtually impossible in the consumer market:

  • Legislation in many countries prohibits calls to private individuals, with the exception of consumers with whom we have a commercial relationship.
  • Many consumers no longer pick up the phone when they see a foreign number or don’t recognize the caller.
  • The few who take the call usually hang up as soon as they realize it’s a solicitation call.

It has to be said that today, the best way to develop sales to private customers has become a digital strategy on the web and social networks.

On the other hand, for the business market, the telephone is still the cheapest and most effective solution, although there are many difficulties:

  • The former switchboard operators and secretaries, who were the gateways to the company, have mostly disappeared.
  • Some companies refuse to give out job numbers
  • Landline numbers have often disappeared and cell phone numbers are not disclosed.
  • Increasingly, decision-makers only accept e-mail as a means of contact, and more often than not do not reply to their messages.

Mistakes to avoid when making prospecting calls in the business market

Prospecting for customers in the corporate market is always possible, but you need to be professional and avoid basic mistakes.

Classic mistakes:

  • Calling customers by their first name when you don’t know them is a North American technique that can be used in English, but not in French.
  • Some poorly-trained telemarketers use the “first name” system, but it’s very down-market.
  • Ask someone you don’t know “how you’re doing”. The aim is to break the ice, but it’s not serious because you don’t know the person you’re talking to. When I get this kind of call, I answer them, “Who are you?”.
  • Reading your text, that is
  • Calling from a call center from which you can hear the voices of all the callers behind you
  • Taking too long when calling to make an appointment. The called prospect has a few minutes to devote to you, no more. Keep it short and to the point.
  • Talking about your product without finding out what the other person needs.

How to call in to the business market

It’s now virtually impossible to sell a product over the phone when prospecting if the customer doesn’t know your company, so it’s best to aim for an appointment that will subsequently enable you to offer your products and services.

Key points in telephone prospecting:

  • Prepare call slots
  • Work on a call script that you improve as you go along
  • Find a motivational trick to call, such as the fact that selling is a statistic and that every NO is a step closer to YES.
  • Be short and to the point, aim for the appointment
  • Structure your calls as follows
    • Identify the person you’re talking to and act as if it’s your only call of the day.Avoid robotized calls and personalize your approachIdentify yourself quicklyDescribe your contact’s current market situation and the changes underway, to show him that you know his field.Present the benefit you can bring him in relation to what’s happening in the market. This could be informing him, showing him how to protect himself, or how to take advantage of it.Reassure him that the meeting will only last about 30 minutes, so if he’s interested you can stay longerRequest an appointment, giving him the choice between a real or virtual meetingConfirm the meeting.

Good telephone prospecting is still the simplest, most effective and least expensive way of developing business with companies. But be careful, you can’t improvise, so get trained in prospecting.

Prospecting through networking

Networking prospecting is based on meeting decision-makers among your contacts. Strategy involves taking part in events and assuming responsibilities in associations, clubs and chambers of commerce.

It’s often reserved for an elite wealthy enough to afford the membership fees for these select, privileged places.

This type of prospecting is not open to everyone, and requires the financial means to participate in costly activities not directly related to your business, and to live for the time necessary before it starts to pay off. It takes time to become known and, above all, to be recognized as part of this elite. Networking is therefore reserved for those who are already wealthy, or for large organizations that can afford to assign business developers to social relationships that pay off in the long term.

This was, for example, Bernard Maddoff’s business development model. It must be said that he frequented the Palm Beach clubs, among the richest on the planet.

Prospecting through networking and referrals is terribly effective, but it’s not open to everyone.

How to network

  • Participate in associations and events that attract decision-makers
  • Take out your business cards, they still exist!
  • Don’t be shy, give priority to people you don’t know.
  • Don’t sit next to your friends, sit next to the people you’ve identified as having the most power and money in the group.
  • If you’re going to watch a field hockey game in a dressing room, remember that your priority isn’t to follow the game, it’s to talk to the decision-makers and make friends with them.
  • Don’t be aggressive in your approach, make it fun to meet your contact.
  • Focus on the benefits you can bring, not the other way around
  • Develop an “elevator pitch” to sell the idea of seeing you again in less than a minute – that’s when you’ll sell your services.
  • In short, always focus on fun, pleasure and relationships, but keep a record of everything and follow up on your contacts afterwards.

Door-to-door canvassing

We thought the method had disappeared, but the impossibility of talking to people on the phone has brought it back into fashion. It is used mainly in the consumer market, but also in the business market.

The difficulties

Canvassing is physically difficult in industrial zones, residential areas and suburbs, because the best solution is to park your car and systematically walk around the neighborhood, street by street.

In winter it’s freezing, we wear big boots, and we have to respect our customers’ interiors, which often means staying outside.

It’s worse in summer, in the middle of the afternoon, when it’s hot, sweaty and you’re dripping all over your customers, which doesn’t make it any easier to make contact. Here’s a trick: when you walk into an organization, ask the receptionist for the bathroom so you can run cold water over your face and dry off before meeting a decision-maker.

If you can, try to get into office towers, shopping malls and apartment buildings, if you can get in at all, as they often have a code or a guard. Here again, commercial towers are easier to access than residential towers.

What to do

Door-to-door sales are difficult, so you need to be even more organized and systematic:

  • Canvass street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood
  • Don’t be afraid to ring or knock, even if it’s not very inviting, you’ll sometimes get a good surprise. Your only risk is that you won’t get a response, or that you’ll be told no. The good news is that you’ll always be lucky enough to find a good customer. Generally speaking, people are polite and much nicer face-to-face than on the phone, especially in offices.
  • Smiles disarm
  • Be smiling, authentic, relaxed, in a good mood, joke around
  • Praise the business, show interest and curiosity
  • Quickly introduce yourself and what you can bring to the table
  • Try to meet a decision-maker, or even get his or her name. If he can’t see you, ask for his telephone number, mobile number or e-mail address. The idea is not to get it right the first time, but to build up a good file.
  • The hardest part: systematically take note of what you’ve been told at each passage, so you can build on it later. We tell ourselves we’ll remember, but that’s impossible if we do 10 to 20 visits a half-day. It’s hard to use your phone, it’s not practical for writing everything down, and neither is the laptop, which is too big. When you’re out and about, the easiest way is still to use a pad of paper on a shelf. It’s the old-fashioned way, but it works. You can still find a paper press or a clipboard for the building site in specialized stores. These are ideal, as they close up and protect the paper from the elements. Then, at mealtime or in the evening, you transfer it all to your CRM.
  • Petits trucs :
    • Write legibly even if it’s too hot or cold outside
    • Always take the following information: company name, person met, what was said, what was agreed.

Another solution is to use the dictaphone on your computer or telephone, which you then clean up.

Door-to-door canvassing can be difficult, but it’s also an extraordinary opportunity to discover interesting people and organizations. Give it a try! If you’ve managed to break into one or two organizations, you’ve earned your day.


Sending mass e-mails has become virtually impossible in many countries:

  • Local legislation prohibits this, with hefty fines for each piece of unwanted mail.
  • Messaging systems quickly detect suspicious mailings and direct them to spam.
  • Messages that do reach the recipient are rarely read.

And yet we continue to receive them, usually from countries that allow it, thanks to regular changes in the sender’s name to fool messaging systems.


LinkedIn can also be used for prospecting, with some professional subscriptions allowing you to invite customers who are not part of your network, and send them a personalized message when they accept the invitation.


What started out as an effective means of prospecting is now overused, and it becomes frustrating every time you accept an invitation to hear the beep that indicates you’ve already programmed a solicitation message.

There are also a lot of errors that undermine the credibility of the tool:

  • Messages too long
  • Total lack of customization
  • Long, detailed technical solution
  • Repetitive mailings that lead to the importuner being blocked

Key points

  • Personalize your message
  • Keep it short
  • Suggest a real or virtual meeting
  • Present the benefits of the meeting

Email from LinkedIn

We’re starting to see the emergence of this kind of personalized e-mail, which is much better, but requires more work in terms of personalization and follow-up.


Canvassing in the consumer market has become difficult, with door-to-door canvassing and telephone calls still available under certain conditions. It’s best to use digital marketing and social networks.

Prospecting in the business market, while difficult, is less expensive than digital marketing campaigns.

The telephone is still the best and cheapest way to meet your target business people, and it’s an art you can learn.

Jean-Pierre Mercier

Our telephone prospecting training