How to Approach Prospects — CIENCE Survey

All of us are buyers of some kind in everyday life. We buy groceries, get TV subscriptions, and shop online. Therefore, all of us get prospected from time to time.

Imagine you are displeased by the quality of the internet you receive. You get an email from their competitor, and the offer is clear: the same price and higher-quality service. At the right place and right time, you switch the Internet providers.

It’s a stroke of B2C luck to land a customer this way, yet B2B reality demands more than just some luck.

An average B2B decision-maker or decision-influencer receives dozens of prospecting emails, social media messages, and calls a day. The question is: how to approach prospects to grasp their attention and stand out from your competitors?

We’ve asked thirty representatives from B2B companies worldwide to fill out our survey and open the curtain to which prospecting practices work best and which don’t, and what makes them buy or press “delete.”

Spoiler alert: CIENCE was on the right track all along!

Discover Our Prospecting Solutions

How to Approach Prospects - Survey 

The survey was conducted among B2B decision-makers and decision-influencers from various industries such as digital marketing, business development, advertising, software, and even entertainment. 

How to approach prospects survey: industry breakdown

It was essential to know whether our participants were familiar with lead generation and outbound prospecting, so we also asked whether the companies they represent send prospecting emails. 90% said yes. 

Does Your Company Send out Prospecting Emails? Survey

Though most survey participants were representatives of U.S.-based companies, we’ve had entries from Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, and Portugal. 

How to approach prospects survey: demographic breakdown

The age of our participants varied from 20 to 55. 


Question 1. What prospecting channels do you prefer to be contacted through?

63% of the prospects choose email as their primary communication channel, while 17% prefer calls, and 10% keep their prospectors on LinkedIn. However, some use the mix of all three channels to stay on top of things.

All three channels are about equal to me. The key is that the message isn’t automated, and I can tell the prospector actually did their research. Automated emails or mass-produced LinkedIn messaging are immediate turn-offs for me.

Devin Ahern, Head of Sales at Mid Florida Material Handling 


Question 2. Where do you usually check your emails/social connections?

The majority of the respondents chose a personal computer as their main tool for viewing prospecting messages.

Where do you you usually check your email and social media? Survey

Question 3. On average, how many prospecting emails do you receive a day?

More than half of the surveyed receive up to ten prospecting emails a day. Out of that amount, one to five emails are considered valuable. Out of that amount, only one or two emails are being answered.

Daily flow of emails. How many prospecting emails do you receive a day? Survey

I have custom spam filters that block bulk email, so if you’ve successfully contacted me via email, and the subject is good, I'm highly likely to read it and even answer it.

Michael Balle Hansen, Founder and CEO of Balle Media

Question 4. How many prospecting (incoming) emails are converted into a purchase?

Responders were asked to analyze their experience to see how many prospecting messages successfully landed them as a customer. According to 66% of them, one to five emails hit the right spot and reached this goal. 

How many incoming prospecting emails are converted into pruchase? Survey

I rarely respond to incoming prospecting emails, but in several cases, I have responded and even gone on to become a paying customer. So it’s rare, but it does happen! I try to keep an open mind and always scan the email to see if something new could be of value to me.

Jayson DeMers, CEO at EmailAnalytics

Question 5. What are the features of a good prospecting email?

Out of four suggested characteristics, “relevant” and “personalized” got 30% and 29% of answers accordingly.

Top features of a good prospecting email

A valuable prospecting email offers the right solution at the right time and shows me that the sender knows me (at least my name) and my situation well.

Carsten Schaefer, Founder and CEO of Trust

Question 6. What are the features of a bad prospecting email?

Out of eight suggested characteristics, “irrelevant to my company” and “too salesy”’ claim first place with 26% each.

Top features of a bad prospecting email

Prospecting emails need to be personalized and relevant to my business. I don’t take the time to read automated, sales pitch-style emails. If you've done your research and can show the value your product has to my company, that's when I might respond.

Devin Ahern, Head of Sales at Mid Florida Material Handling

It’s a combination of all of those things. Usually, the biggest problem is that no one researches our company well enough to know what kind of offer is relevant to us. Besides, clichéd phrases like I’m a big fan of your blog/company/product (you name it) along with the vast plain text below without any signs of personalization, make me delete an email without even reading it.

Carsten Schaefer, Founder and CEO of Trust

Question 7. Can you describe a time when a prospecting email hit just the right spot?

We’ve asked our respondents to recollect when they received an excellent prospecting email and why it stood out from all other messages they got. Most of the answers included characteristics like personalized, relevant, on-time, human, or even humorous.

Here are a few of the examples: 

We were looking for new outreach methods, and a perfectly timed customized email hit my inbox. I jumped on a call with them the following day.

Michael Balle Hansen, Founder and CEO of Balle Media

I received a short email pitch asking me to check out a new cloud screenshot markup tool. I was offered a year-long free account just for trying it out, which I did. I loved the app and still use it today! It replaced my previous app, which had fewer features and was less user-friendly.

Jayson DeMers, CEO at EmailAnalytics

The best prospecting email that I’ve received came early in the morning; it was short and to the point with just the right amount of content. It was personalized too. It mentioned some of our work and told us about a platform that could help us achieve better results. With a free trial offer, it was hard to say no. We're always looking for new, innovative ways to better our processes. 

Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive at Imaginaire

I was in the process of implementing a CRM for my sales team. I wrapped up a conversation with a sales rep, and that afternoon got a short email that I will never forget. He said he could tell I hated CRMs in general (kinda true), and he did too. Then he reiterated how his solution checked all of my boxes, including price. I was sold. The winning combination, in this case, was timing and a little humor.

Max Whiteside, Community Engagement Leader at BarBend

We just relaunched our website and one sales agent reached out to us to offer a new user session recording/heat map tool to better engage with our website visitors. It was not only the ideal timing for us, but he also made a sweet discount immediately that was very hard to ignore.

Carsten Schaefer, Founder and CEO at Trust

I think I had an email a couple of weeks back that was both perfect for my company and related to the issues I was facing. Being relatable in these types of emails is half the battle, and with thanks in mind, I always decide to hear them out in case there is a nugget of truth in there. Personalization is what you need in these situations, and if you cannot afford to do that, you should not be sending emails at all.

Brett Downes, Creative Director/Founder at HARO Helpers

How to approach prospects - survey

Question 8. Can you describe a time when a prospecting email made you annoyed or frustrated?

This time we’ve asked the respondents to recollect a time when a prospecting email was bad and what made it so. The majority of answers included such characteristics as too pushy, mass-produced, or irrelevant. Also, most decision-makers pointed out that emails coming too often are a complete turn-off for them. 

I get annoyed when people follow up too often in an email thread to ask again if I have considered their offer. One or two follow-ups is fine, but anything more than that just gets irritating.

Jayson DeMers, CEO at EmailAnalytics

This email had an automated personalization; the sender has poorly formatted the email, and it was badly written. It was clear that they were using a bulk email sending service. What’s more, they were trying to sell us a service that we actually offer. While it doesn’t have a huge effect on us, it can be annoying and will taint the sender’s reputation in our eyes.

Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive at Imaginaire

Sometimes, the reply to my query doesn’t have the same tone as the first message. It’s like I’m talking to two different writers.

Stefanie Siclot, Lead Outreach Specialist at Growth Rocket

One time a particularly pushy sales rep kept pushing us for weeks to buy their cart abandonment solution, and they didn’t take five minutes to research that we’re not an eCommerce company.

Carsten Schaefer, Founder and CEO at Trust

To be honest, I have become desensitized to most prospecting emails, so I don’t get annoyed or frustrated that much by them. But when I do, it’s because the prospector keeps reaching out too often. There have even been times when I’ve had to block certain prospectors because they were cluttering up my inbox even when I have politely declined their offer for the time being.

Christian Bolz, CEO of Coara

Question 9. What is the best day and time to reach you with a prospecting email?

Although the best day and time to approach prospects is always debatable due to the different schedules and workflows, Monday before 9 a.m. got the majority of votes.

Best day and time for email prospecting

Any day, a good email is a good email. If your copy is tight, you always have a shot at winning.

Max Whiteside, Community Engagement Leader at BarBend

Question 10. What is your opinion about follow-ups? 

35% consider follow-ups a great reminder because of their busy schedules, and 52% don’t mind the follow-ups yet wish they came less often.

Survey: What's your opinion about follow-ups?

A follow-up is a great way to get the email to the top of my inbox. However, if you’re sending more than three follow-ups, you look spammy, and it can become annoying to deal with. Similarly, waiting a few days between follow-ups is much better than sending one every day.

Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive at Imaginaire

It depends on how you do it. Sometimes, it’s authentic, and other times, it feels fake and forced. I prefer to get a follow-up in a week in case I totally forgot about the offer or need time to think about it.

Carsten Schaefer, Founder and CEO Trust

Question 11. If you had an option to get rid of prospecting emails, would you?

Besides puzzling on how to approach prospects better, every marketer wonders: “Do they even want to be prospected?” We’ve asked this very question to our respondents, and only 3% said no.

If you had an option to get rid of prospecting emails, would you? Survey

I wouldn’t get rid of all prospecting emails; I have to be on the lookout for things of value. However, I would prefer more relevant prospecting emails from companies specializing in areas I lack in, not companies that offer similar services and want me to outsource work to them.

Drew Minor, Creative Director at DM Digital

Question 12. What prospecting practices do you find the most annoying?

Calls after rejection seem to be the most annoying prospecting practice out there, with 38% of respondents choosing this option and leaving many comments to back up this statement. 

Oh my god, please don’t call me after the rejection. Never, ever do that. Unless you want to miss any future opportunity to convert me into a customer.

Felipe Moredo, Head of Marketing at GBSN Research

Most Annoying Prospecting Practices (Survey)

One of the most annoying parts of prospecting emails is that they often have a misleading subject line. The point of a subject line is to summarize the content of the email, and if the subject line is misleading, it’ll only annoy the recipient.

Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive at Imaginaire

Question 13. What prospecting techniques have a chance of winning you over as a potential customer?

Personalization appears to be key. 46% of the survey participants confirm it’s the most effective way to land them as customers. 

Top prospecting techniques - statistics

The best chance of reaching me and converting me is when someone builds a connection with me first: They like a few posts of mine on LinkedIn, leave comments, send an email or two, so I remember who they are and what they do before reaching out.

Carsten Schaefer, Founder and CEO at Trust

Usually, it’s about being at the right time, at the right place. It’s either in the phase of us having an issue and the email hitting the nail on the head by offering just the right solution. Or when we are already looking for a solution and them showing up at the right time. 

Christian Bolz, CEO of Coara

Key Takeaways

We’ve conducted research on how to approach sales prospects between thirty representatives of various B2B industries and found out that: 

  • Email is the most preferred channel for prospecting communication. 
  • PC is a primary tool for viewing prospecting communications. 
  • On average, most prospects receive up to ten prospecting emails, consider one to five emails valuable, and answer one or two emails a day. 
  • One to five prospecting emails were ever converted into purchases based on the experience of our respondents. 
  • The majority of good prospecting emails are relevant and personalized; the majority of bad emails are irrelevant or too salesy. 
  • Monday before 9 a.m. is the best time to contact a prospect via email. 
  • Follow-ups are valuable reminders, yet some prospects prefer them to come less often. 
  • Only 3% of prospects would like to get rid of any prospecting emails. 
  • Calling prospects after a rejection is considered to be the most annoying prospecting technique.
  • Personalization is vital to winning over a prospect.

How to Approach Prospects: 7 Tips from CIENCE

The data we received from this survey only confirmed that there is a way to do sales prospecting right. CIENCE has been doing it and here are a few tips for you:

  1. Use high-quality data. A sales race that pushes quality over quality is not the one you should compete in. You should start with carefully selected, fresh data that will lead you toward qualified prospects. 
  2. Focus on value. Do not forget that besides terms like profits and pipelines, you want to make your clients' businesses run smoother and easier. Show them what is the true value of your service, instead of just trying to sell.
  3. Personalize. This applies to cold emails, cold calls, and landing pages. People you’re about to contact are busy; make sure you put in an effort every time in order to succeed.
  4. Ask the right questions. First of alllisten. You should have your script by your side, but the last thing you want to do is sound generic. Analyze your lead, listen to what they say, and ask the right questions to define their challenges and pain points.
  5. Be brief. In the age when everything moves so fast, prospects don’t have the time to listen to your monologue. Less is more. Bring in the value with the least amount of wording, and your chances of being chosen over your competitors will rise dramatically.
  6. Be chill. Overly eager salespeople that are "super excited to meet you and show how we can help your business" is so last century. Listen to your voice on recordings: Does your voice go up an octave, do you sound on the edge of your seat, and most importantly, do you sound like you?
  7. Know when to back off. It’s valuable to understand how to overcome objections, but what’s more important is to recognize a rejection when you see one. Barking up the wrong tree wastes your time and angers your prospects. 

Get Sales Prospecting Just Right

Of course, it takes more than just a few tips and statistics to get lead generation and sales prospecting right. But it’s a great start to stop making common mistakes. And if you want to get more prospecting questions answered, you know where to find us!

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