Probably for the greater part of my career as a web developer, I fancied myself a proficient enough digital marketer simply because I knew how to integrate Google Analytics to my websites and interpret what I considered relevant in the reports it produced. I also knew enough about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to create appropriate webpage titles, metatags and descriptions. As I transitioned from web developer to an inbound certified and inbound sales certified marketer, I started to use landing pages, content marketing and social media marketing to improve ranking but until I realized how integral prospecting is, I was like a blind man trying to make my way in the dark with a flash light.

Hubspot aptly defines prospecting as the process of searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers in order to develop new business. The end goal is to move prospects through a sales funnel until they eventually convert into revenue-generating customers.

As a web developer trying to interpret Google Analytics, the numbers meant everything and I took this ideology with me into the marketing realm. My goal was simply to increase web traffic for my clients believing that an increase in web traffic automatically meant greater success. My process was simply to get my message out to more people and hope that more traffic equaled more leads. With my blind strategy, I was able to improve a client’s traffic from 200 visits a month to over 700 but sales remained stagnant. Truth is you might have a great product, a great website and frequent and interesting blog posts and newsletters, but until you can actually tell who is visiting, you’re pretty much casting your net in the dead sea.

With this knowledge, I picked up a prospecting tool and evaluated my client’s traffic. My evaluation revealed to me that less than 1 percent of my traffic was my target audience and I was doing a bad job moving them through the sales funnel. How was I otherwise to know my audience when they were not subscribing to newsletters or downloading white papers and case studies? Fact is not everybody wants to receive from you on a constant while they’re still shopping and comparing you to your competitors. Not everyone who intends to use your service or buy your product is going to download a whitepaper on their first, second or even fifth visit to your site. If you can’t tell who is checking you out, then you can’t properly court them and you’ll probably lose them to the competition.

There are tons of tools out there that help you with prospecting and while I’m not going to recommend any particular tool, for B2B companies, a good prospecting tool should be able to tell you precisely what companies are checking you out. A smart thing to do after you’re aware a company is checking you out is not just to reach out with a generic message, but to research well and smart, use Google alerts to improve your conversation. With Google alerts, any time a piece of content or webpage is indexed in Google under that company name, you’ll receive a notification.

Prospecting used by a gigolo is a great illustration. He doesn’t just go after a woman because she’s beautiful or approachable or even filthy rich, instead once he identifies his prey, he does his research and some harmless stalking, understands exactly what his target likes, dislikes and how to catch her attention without being obvious or annoying. He waits for the right time, subtly throws out innuendos and most times doesn’t even have to make the first move, instead he gets her to approach with the assumption she noticed him first.