The first rule of selling is “people buy from people they trust.” That trust building starts with sales prospecting. With that in mind, here are some sales prospecting tips we use here at FRONTLINE Selling to improve our results when we are prospecting for both our own business, as well as our clients.

Sales Prospecting Tip #1: Successful Call Planning

Here’s another quote for you: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin said that, and it’s timely advice for most any job where you need to plan for success.

We recently wrote about call planning and the fact that it is an integral part of the sales prospecting process and you simply can’t go into a call ‘blind’. So many sources of intel exist, such as Company websites, LinkedIn (see below) and good ol’ Google. These sources can provide detailed information about both companies and the people who work there, so you have no excuse to be unprepared for that first dial.

The planning and research necessary to be prepared for a call should take you no longer than 5 minutes. If you’re spending more than that, you’re trying to learn too much. Get a few pieces of critical information and get on that phone.

When you have this quality intel, you’ll gain insight into your particular prospects. You can also form questions easier and position yourself as the subject-matter expert on what’s relevant to them.

Sales Prospecting Tip #2: Use LinkedIn

One source from which you have a wealth of available information is LinkedIn. While you shouldn’t go down that proverbial rabbit hole when using it for your initial research, a quick search to discover who is who in LinkedIn is as simple as conducting a few targeted searches for the key titles of people with whom you want to speak.

Using LinkedIn is also a great way to expand your reach into companies after you’ve completed that all-important first meeting. Remember, CEB found that, on average, 6.8 people are involved in the typical B2B buying decision. Why not utilize LinkedIn to reach out to those people by inviting them to connect with you?

If you don’t want to immediately reach out to connect, we wrote an excellent article on what we call “The Follow” strategy. It’s a softer way to use LinkedIn to ultimately connect with those other 5.8 people in the companies in which you’re prospecting.

Sales Prospecting Tip #3: Put the Pedal to the Metal

It’s all well and good to be prepared for those sales calls. It’s even better, though, to use some effective acceleration strategies when prospecting – especially when you work for a small- or middle-market company competing with well-known firms.

While many people view working at a lesser-known organization as a disadvantage, it can be an advantage… but only if you use the tips from this article in our blog. The key here is that you (or your sales team) must quickly identify and reach key decision makers at the companies into which you are prospecting. Our research shows that by having that swiftness, you will close more deals.

And if you do work for one of those large and well-known firms? You’ll want to read the article anyway, as tips #2-4 will definitely work to accelerate your sales as well.

A “Don’t Do This” Sales Prospecting Tip

Now that I’ve given you some “do’s,” here’s a big “don’t.” Don’t be hit and miss with your prospecting. I gave a great example of this from personal experience in a recent blog post, where the salesperson didn’t follow through with a promised call after they sent an initial cold email.

The failures in this prospecting effort were many, including not doing anything properly in the three tips above. All in all, her lack of follow-up, combined with some other failures I cite in my blog post eroded any credibility that her organization might have had with me. Once you’ve lost credibility, you’ve lost the battle.

I’ll wrap this by highlighting a third quote: “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” Winston Churchill said that, and it’s more relevant than ever in today’s business world. I hope you use these tips to learn from your past failures and to build new success. By integrating these tips into your sales prospecting cadence, you’ll be better equipped to bring more opportunities into your pipeline.

Mike Scher is Co-Founder and Chief Sales Architect at FRONTLINE Selling.