Technology journalist (VentureBeat, Fast Company Mashable), publisher www.prtipsforstartups.com, digital marketer. Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism'09
I've worked in sales and business development for more than a decade. In college I sold security alarm systems door-to-door, and worked as a telemarketer. Journalism is a lot like sales, you have to find answers, and there is more than one person who can give you the information you need--as long as you're willing to look. Fear of rejection is natural, but it's a matter of getting started, and being resilient enough to bounce back.
The best way to get in front of your prospects is to frame the discussion in ways that emphasize how they benefit from talking to you. Your goal is to help them solve a problem. A painful problem. When you demonstrate that you already understand some of the problems facing businesses in their industry, you enhance your credibility, and show that you've already done some homework.
Often industry associations or trade groups have a membership directory on the website. It's fairly easy to find websites and pertinent details even if the companies listed don't have have contact info. Some industries have major trade shows and conferences. The conference exhibitors are often listed in a program. This is a quick way to find out who is spending money to be featured in front of their fellow industry players, and who is already a leading voice. Finding exhibitor info is often as simple as a Google search.
I hope you've found this helpful. I'm happy to discuss some strategies with you on a call, if you have further questions.