Understanding The Difference Between Prospecting And Outreach In Sales

Prospecting and outreach…

Two of the most commonly used words by sales professionals when talking about sales strategy.

These two terms often leave you scratching your head trying to understand what they mean and how they differ. Who’s responsible for prospecting? Who does outreach? And how do these two processes relate to each other when it comes to sales?

In today’s guide:

You’ll learn the difference between prospecting and outreach as separate steps in the sales process. You’ll also discover the biggest challenges facing sales experts and the mistakes they must avoid with prospecting and outreach.

Let’s get to it.

What Is Prospecting in Sales?

Prospecting is the first stage in the sales process and one of the most important activities for the sales department. 

It’s the act of building a list of potential clients that match your ideal customer profile (ICP). It starts with the end goal in mind — which is increasing sales — and tries to find targeted leads that are most likely to convert.

There’s a variety of techniques, tools, and platforms salespeople can use to prospect for sales and generate leads. That includes cold calling, cold emailing, social media prospecting, paid ads, and more.

Once the prospects list is ready, sales development representatives (SDRs) can move on to the next step, which is outreach.

What Is Outreach in Sales?

Outreach is the act of initiating contact with leads from the prospecting phase to engage them with your message and eventually convert them to clients. 

The sales team uses different techniques to reach out, such as email, messaging, and social media. And it prioritizes targeting quality leads with a personalized message to maximize conversions.

What Is the Difference Between Prospecting and Outreach in Sales Leads?

The difference between prospecting and outreach is already clear from the definitions. So, there isn’t really so much of an overlap between the two when it comes to sales. 

These two sales activities complete each other and are both essential for accomplishing your business goals at the end of the sales cycle.

For instance:

Prospecting is the first step in any sales development strategy, and it aims at finding the best prospective clients to focus on. Sales outreach builds on those results and tries to find the best use for all targeted prospects to increase conversions.

Why Is Prospecting Vital for Your Business

Prospecting is by no means an easy task for your sales team. It takes long days of research and customer qualification to build a robust list of potential customers.

But it’s worth every minute…

It’s crucial to understand why prospecting is important in the first place and how it’s the only way to speed up your sales cycle.

Here are two major ways how prospecting can help:

Find More Customers Quickly 

If we bring this down to numbers, prospecting helps you find more quality leads that you can talk to. You’ll actively be looking for clients that meet your ideal buyer profile, which allows you to quickly attract tons of qualified prospects to your sales funnel. 

Here’s the truth: 

Most of the time, your target leads aren’t even aware of the problems they’re facing, but they can tell when things aren’t working. Most of your ideal prospects understand those challenges, yet they don’t even know where to start solving them. 

That lack of information makes it impossible for prospects to reach out to you for a solution. So, you’ll be doing them a huge favor if you actually do your research and then try to find them before they find you.

Find Profitable Business Opportunities

When the lead quality is bad from the start, there isn’t so much you can do later on to improve your sales results. You’ll still be interacting with unqualified leads that will never pay attention to your offers or purchase your products.


Your SDRs will have a difficult time cutting through the noise and finding real opportunities for your business. They’ll waste most of their time talking to the gatekeepers or trying to identify decision-makers based on gut feeling.

Sales prospecting guarantees that you’re not wasting time or resources on uninterested prospects. Reaching out with a personalized message to leads matching your ICP is your best bet to transform the sales cycle.

Why Is Outreach an Important Part of the Sales Process?

Without sales outreach, you’ll end up with a list of highly-targeted prospects that don’t even know that your company exists. 


As long as this magic touch is lacking, your sales funnel will always be empty. It’s like an email with no call-to-action at the end that leaves the reader wondering what they should do next. 

Outreaching allows you to guide your leads throughout the sales cycle by pushing them down the funnel and encouraging them to make decisions. It’s a super-effective way for increasing conversions and boosting the results of your sales cycle.

Here are three reasons why sales outreach is a must:

Get in Touch With Prospective Clients

This is what outreach is all about at its’ core.

Reaching out to prospects puts you in direct contact with them and paints the first impression they’ll have about your brand. It enables you to introduce your company and the awesome work you’re doing, but without pushing for a sale.

Sending a personalized message in your initial contact attempt is one of the best ways to stand out and edge out the competition. For example, a simple targeted email or phone call can hammer your brand into the mind of your future customers for a long time.

Build Rapport and Maintain Solid Relationship

Consistent outreach is the secret to maintaining strong relationships and maximizing the efficiency of your sales team. It’s especially crucial for reminding potential customers that you’re always there to help them.


Every prospective client will appreciate you not trying to sell them your products during the early stages. But the only way to keep leads interested in your offers is by being persistent and systematic in your outreach. 

Your outreach strategy should also extend beyond closing the sale to helping your prospects overcome their challenges. Following this approach proves that you’re actually a genuine business trying to help its clients.

Shorten Your Sales Cycle and Close More Deals

Reaching out repeatedly to your prospects enables you to understand their needs more deeply. You’ll have a better idea about their desires and how your products can help them achieve their goals.

Once you establish a sense of familiarity and trust with prospective customers, decision-making on their end will get a lot easier. Simply because your leads are no longer worrying about the quality of your services or the effectiveness of your solutions. 

All of that will help your sales team generate more business opportunities and close deals at a faster rate. 

The Biggest Challenges That Businesses Face With Prospecting and Outreach

The difficulty with sales lies in all the little problems your SDRs will face throughout the sales journey. It’s impossible for your sales department to be 100% ready to overcome every challenge that comes its’ way. 


You need to get a closer look at what similar companies are struggling with when it comes to sales to know that you’re not alone. More importantly, anticipating your prospecting and outreach challenges can help you overcome them more easily when they pop up.

Here are some of the sales challenges you’ll face with prospecting and outreach:

Researching and Finding Quality Leads

The biggest difficulty SDRs face when prospecting is actually finding quality leads. It’s hard for your sales team to tell from the start whether they’re chasing the right prospects and if those prospects will become paying clients.

Lack of insights and prior expertise are some of the biggest reasons for these prospecting challenges. A sales team that doesn’t rely on data and past experiences to make decisions will struggle to build a good lead list for your business. 

To overcome this, you need to get your vision straight from the go to know which metrics matter the most. Having clear prospecting objectives with a winning ICP is a sure way to boost your sales results.

Having Enough Quality Content

The only way to engage quality prospects is by offering them educational content that gets them closer to solving their problems. In fact, coming off as obnoxious and self-centered by not providing value is the surest way to get ignored as a salesperson.

An effective sales team has enough content under its’ arsenal to target prospects in all stages of the sales cycle. So that’s when collaboration and alignment between your marketing and sales team becomes more than necessary.

Blog articles, webinars, case studies, whitepapers, and videos are the most popular types of content needed for your sales team to succeed. So be sure to focus on these formats to create informational content that answers the most important questions inside your prospects’ minds. 

Personalizing Outreach

Here’s the thing:

Your prospects all come from different backgrounds and have different stories. So it’s impossible to target them with cookie-cutter content and expect positive results with your outreach.

A more effective sales approach would be to offer your leads content based on their interests and expressed needs. This will show that you’ve done your homework about them, which is an excellent way to build a stronger connection with each prospect. 

The result?

You’ll significantly improve your sales while cultivating long-lasting relationships with your prospective clients. And that’s going to keep them loyal to your brand and services for a long time.

Common Mistakes Companies Make When Prospecting

Many companies waste valuable opportunities when targeting leads due to the mistakes they make in the prospecting phase. 

The truth is:

Identifying your ideal clients and attracting them to your brand may require some sales experience, but it is by no means rocket science. Your sales team can learn to find qualified prospects by first understanding which mistakes they should avoid.

Here’s what you should watch out for when prospecting:

Targeting the Wrong Leads

The biggest mistake you can make when prospecting is not identifying your ideal customers from the beginning. Your salespeople will end up targeting the wrong individuals or company profiles, which are never going to convert no matter the effort.  


You’ll waste countless hours on irrelevant leads while leaving all the good ones to your competition.

Not Improving Based On Data

There are endless ways to generate new prospects and qualify them to guarantee your success in closing more deals. But the truth is, it’s never obvious which tools or strategies will work best for your company — especially when you’re just getting started.

How do you develop the perfect prospecting approach?

It’s easy… Look at what the data tells you!

You have to try out a lot of techniques depending on your industry, company offers, as well as your ideal clients. Based on your tracked performance, start implementing changes to get closer to an ideal prospecting strategy that maximizes your results.

Common Mistakes Companies Make With Outreach

Whether you reach out via LinkedIn, cold emailing, cold calling, or even paid ads, your sales success is always determined by the quality of the interactions you offer your prospects.

What often keeps your business from reaching the next level are the mistakes your salespeople make in their outreach.

Here are four common mistakes to avoid in your sales outreach:

Using Generic Outreach Messages

Reaching out with a generic message will kill all the progress your sales team has made so far. Simply because a non-personalized message suggests that you’ve just purchased a lead list from a third party, and you’re sending everyone the same email or call.

The rule with sales outreach is simple:

Quality over quantity…

Even if it takes time and effort to personalize each message, you have to do it to maximize your sales results. Sending 10 personalized emails will always yield better conversions and closed sales than sending 100 generic emails.

Pushing For a Sale Early

An efficient prospecting strategy will open the door to conversation with a lot of highly-targeted leads. But getting that initial positive response rarely reflects the prospect’s level of interest. In fact, it’s only the beginning of the long sales journey ahead.

Many SDRs will try to push for a sale as soon as they get the chance — but that always backfires. It’s often the reason why salespeople lose quality leads and never hear back from them.

Not Being Persistent With Follow-Ups

One thing an SDR should never do is give up after a few attempts, especially if they already got a response from the prospect.

You never know what’s happening on the other end and how busy your prospective clients are. So it’s important to keep following up as long as your outreach attempts are spaced out and insightful to the prospect. 

Keep your messages short and concise to increase engagements and show your leads that you respect their time. Also, be sure to end each interaction with a CTA or a question to encourage prospects to respond. 

Following Up Aggressively

Persisting pleasantly in your sales outreach is an art that can send your business through the roof. But it’s also critical to have the self-awareness that tells you when to stop following up.

The most obvious reason to stop is when a prospect tells you “no.” As soon as you hear the word, delete them from your list and focus your energy on finding better sales opportunities.


It takes SDRs five outreach attempts, on average, to get the first response from their leads. So if you find yourself sending up to eight follow-up emails with no response, it’s time to stop.

Wrapping It Up

Prospecting and outreach are two different stages in the sales journey, and they’re both crucial for your company’s success.

Your sales department can only succeed by perfecting your prospecting strategy to attract the most qualified leads to the sales funnel. Once your pipeline is brimming with prospective clients, your SDRs should start implementing various outreach techniques to encourage decision-making and increase conversions.

It’s important to understand the prospecting and outreach challenges that might be holding your business back. And you also need to watch out for the mistakes that your salespeople are making every day.

Vito Vishnepolsky
Vito Vishnepolsky
CEO and Founder at Martal Group