What Does A Great Prospecting “Touch” Look Like?

If someone were to walk up beside you and touch you without warning, what would your first reaction be? Even before COVID-19, you would probably recoil a little to an unexpected, unsolicited touch. Or you might ignore it and hope it doesn’t happen again. But then it happens again!

Prospecting new clients is not so different – you’re interrupting them with a “touch” they didn’t ask for. No wonder most prospects either recoil a little or pretend it didn’t happen. Then you touch them again.

How do you break the touch/recoil/repeat pattern?

One of the problems you face is that prospects have been conditioned to reject your touch. Much like you teach your children that being touched by strangers is wrong, your prospects’ past interactions with prospectors have soured them on the idea of talking with you.

Why? Because most people SUCK at prospecting.


Research shows that most of us would consider ourselves above average prospectors, just like the vast majority of people consider themselves to be above-average drivers. (This cannot by definition be true – some people are overestimating their skill!) So, we’ll discuss how “they” suck at prospecting, not you!

Poor prospectors make three mostly-fatal mistakes when they touch prospects. 

They’re strangers waving colorful things.

Poor prospectors rely on the product or the brand to get them in the door, so they lead with the logo, the brochure PDF, and their website. Even when the brand is a plus (it’s usually a double-edge sword!) and the product is unique (which may or may not be true in the prospect’s eyes), they’re still strangers missing the point:  Prospecting is about connecting with people.

It’s all about them.

From the subject line of the email to the bulk of the voicemail, “Here’s our value proposition!”

Here’s a classic example:  The prospector shares the message of “We can help you make/save money with our solution.” On the surface, it doesn’t look bad – they’re touting potential customer benefits, right?

But if you look at it closely, that touch is seller-centric.  The subject of the sentence? “We,” the seller. The focus of the rest of the sentence? “Our solution,” the thing they’re trying to sell you. What’s missing is the focus on the prospect being touched.

They’re selfish.

We’ve all been touched by prospectors, but that’s my JOB – to help people prospect better. So I’ve seen and diagnosed a lot of touches. And most of them are selfish.  How so?

Poor prospectors have their hand out from the start.  “Hi, I’m (name), and I’m your (job title) at (company)…let’s have a sales call!”  Or, “I’ve got a great idea some of your peers are using…let’s have a sales call!”  That’s called an “ask,” and poor prospectors have a habit of starting out the prospecting by asking for a gift from the prospect.

Those are three really common mistakes, but they don’t have to be yours.  You can differentiate yourself from the mass of poor prospectors with some straightforward, non-manipulative strategies that work.

The basis of good prospecting is purpose

Let’s start with, what are you trying to do as a prospector?

I suggest you have three purposes in prospecting:

  1. Make a personal connection
  2. Give something of value
  3. Get a response  

If you get a response without giving value or making a connection, you’re lucky.  If you want to get more than lucky, focus on the first two purposes.  You only need one of the two, but connection plus value equals more responses.

Make a personal connection

There are a lot of techniques for making a personal connection, but they all revolve around a single strategy:  Leveraging Affinity Bias.

Affinity Bias (also called Similarity bias) works like this:  The more people are like us, the more we instinctively tend to like them. We tend to prefer and trust people with similar backgrounds, points of view, values, and agendas.  So part of your prospecting touch should emphasize:

  • How are you connected?
  • What’s your purpose in reaching out?
  • Who can vouch for you?

It’s no surprise that the best touches aren’t you – they’re your friends and customers introducing you, referring you, and/or testifying to your worthiness.

Give something of value

The concept of giving first seems to be new to a lot of prospectors, but it’s based on an old principle: Reciprocity.

The law of Reciprocity goes like this:  People tend to give what they receive. Therefore, if you want a sales call with a prospect, the question is, how can you start the flow of reciprocity by giving value first?

Here are a few examples:

  • Share a useful, relevant data point on their business or customers…without immediately asking for a sales call.
  • Share a success story from a peer or colleague they might recognize…without making them meet with you.
  • Give them an idea or a strategy they can employ…without having to have a sales call with you.

Get a response

If your prospecting touch has resonated at all, either on a personal level or because they’ve previously gotten value from you, you’re more likely to get some sort of a response.  That’s reciprocity!

The best prospectors I work with see success when they make responding both normal and easy.

Think about how you would normally respond to a touch from a stranger.  Would your first move be to call them to set up a date? Neither would your prospects.  Instead, it’s way more normal for them to:

  • Open something you sent them
  • Check your reviews online
  • Check you out personally
  • Look at an example
  • Let you know if they’re interested

Respect this progression, make it the basis for your requests, and make it easy for prospects to do what they normally do.

In fact, this progression suggests that asking for a meeting right away is counterproductive – you’re asking customers to move out of sequence, and you feel like a salesperson with a quota.

Summary:  Great prospecting touches are simple…but not easy

If this were easy, no one would want my help and I wouldn’t have a 23-year-old business coaching prospectors.  It takes process, framework, and practice to hone your EDGE as a prospector.