Sales

Creating a Winning Sales Prospecting List

Expert Insights on Targeted Outreach Strategies for Pipeline expansion.

Rory Sadler
September 13, 2023
February 24, 2024
Expert Insights on Targeted Outreach Strategies for Pipeline expansion.
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Let's face it, in the world of sales, your game is only as good as your prospect list. You might be a rockstar salesperson, but if you're shooting arrows in the dark, your skills will be of little avail.

Modern sales pros swear by the mantra - the narrower, the better. They believe in crafting pinpointed prospect lists filled with the most qualified potential customers. But how do you arrive at this golden list? Well, sit tight as we take you through a step-by-step guide on how to craft a winning sales prospecting list.

Understanding Sales Prospecting: The Basics

Let's start at the very beginning. What is sales prospecting? If you're picturing gold miners from the 19th Century American gold rush, you're not entirely off the mark. Much like these miners, modern-day sales prospecting involves sifting through potential customers (also known as prospects) to find the ones most likely to convert.

Sales prospecting is the first step in the overall sales process and comprises four key stages:

  1. Spotting potential customers (leads)
  2. Kickstarting a conversation through outbound communication to generate interest
  3. Showcasing your product or service as the solution to their problem
  4. Lead qualification to determine the future trajectory of each prospect as they journey through the sales funnel

Now, it's important to clarify that "lead" and "prospect" are not synonyms.

  • Leads refer to potential sales contacts who may have already shown interest in your company through actions like registering on your website, signing up for newsletters, interacting with your blogs, or enrolling in a free trial.
  • Prospects are qualified leads that are considered a good fit and have been moved into the sales funnel - regardless of any prior interactions with your company.

Constructing a Sales Prospecting List: What is it?

A sales prospecting list, also known as a sales contact list, is a directory of potential customers who you believe will benefit from your product or service. A robust sales prospecting list is more than just a database of contact names and email addresses. It includes additional prospect information, allowing your sales team to see if they match your ideal customer profile.

Here are the details you should include in your list:

  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Company size
  • Industry or field
  • Company location
  • Other notable information your sales reps can use to build a connection, like upcoming company expansion plans or funding initiatives, the technology they use, and any pain points they may be experiencing.

The Advantages of Using a Sales Prospecting List

A well-crafted sales prospecting list is instrumental in generating qualified leads that land meetings and, ultimately, sales. If you play your cards right, you'll use your sales lists and prospect information to refine your strategy so your team can learn, grow, and evolve.

Here are the perks of using a sales prospecting list:

More Customers

A long list of qualified prospects translates to a better chance of hitting quota at the end of each month. The more potential clients in your pipeline, the less you need to worry if you lose a customer or contract unexpectedly because they can be quickly replaced.

Improved targeting

A solid prospecting list can provide insights about which sources and channels perform the best. This allows you to have more control over lead generation by selecting and collecting the leads with the highest potential to convert to paying customers.

Increased revenue and ROI

By improving the accuracy of your targeting, a robust prospecting list also helps increase your ROI. This is because you'll spend more time on the prospects that matter instead of wasting time on poor-quality leads that don't convert. Plus, a prospecting list that specifically includes high-growth, recently funded companies helps you target larger accounts with more money to spend.

Better conversions

With a consolidated list of high-quality prospects, your sales reps should be able to convert a higher percentage than those using a less strategic "spray and pray" approach -- which often includes targeting massive lists of often unqualified prospects. Keeping a structured sales list allows you to focus your energy solely on what really matters -- the prospects with the highest conversion potential.

More insight

As you start to reach out to people on your sales prospecting list, you'll gain insights into what your target audience looks like and continue to refine the characteristics of companies you should go after. With this information, you can better nail down your ICP criteria, which can be a catalyst for rapid growth.

Better channel management

In fast-paced sectors, change is the only constant, and both your ICP and the channels you use for initiating and maintaining contact with prospects may change over time. New marketing channels are constantly emerging, and the contacts on your prospecting list can help you stay in tune with the best ways to communicate with them.

Constructing a Prospect List: The How-To

It's tempting to buy leads rather than creating prospecting lists of your own. While it might save time and effort in the short term, paid email lists are unlikely to provide perfect matches for your ICP, so your outreach will be treated as spam and achieve very little engagement. Plus, there's significant potential for paid email lists to be out of date or non-GDPR compliant - which could cause you big headaches and hefty financial penalties.

So whether you put in the hard work in-house or automate the process, building your own prospect list will pay dividends in the long run. If you're looking for tips on how to build a prospect list yourself, these are the steps to follow:

1. Get a Grip on Your Product Offering

You can't begin targeting the right people unless you have a thorough understanding of what you're selling and how your services can help resolve customer pain points.

Develop a solid understanding of your unique selling propositions so you know the various factors that drive prospects through the sales funnel toward purchase. Once you've nailed this down, you can begin to add people to your prospecting list who can benefit from what you have to offer.

2. Develop a Deep Understanding of Your Buyers

To build sales contact lists effectively, you need to attract the right people and capture their interest. Start by examining your most valuable customers and assess who they are and why they love your products and services. This will give you insights you can use to build a list of prospects that resemble your closed deals. Generally speaking, there are three ways to carry out this type of market research:

Market segmentation

For B2B market segmentation, you'll need to examine the following factors to determine the similarities and differences between prospects:

  • Firmographics
  • Customer needs
  • Customer behaviors
  • Customer profitability/sophistication

Ideal customer profiles

Defining ideal ICPs develops your understanding of the types of companies that would benefit most from using your products and services. For example, if you're a SaaS company, one ICP may be businesses within the B2B tech industry that are currently experiencing a technological shift or experiencing rapid expansion.

Buyer personas

Creating buyer personas helps you focus your efforts on the key decision-makers within your list of ICP client companies. You'll need to consider factors like:

  • Where do they work?
  • What is their job role?
  • What motivates them?

3. Invest in a Platform to Organize & Track Prospect Data

Before you jump straight into compiling lists, it's a good idea to consider how you'll store and use the data you collect. Investing in a platform or CRM that can help you keep track of interactions and store notes about customers (or potential customers) is the best way to make sure your data remains clean and up-to-date.

4. Find Companies for Your Prospect Lists

With all the background work done, it's time to start list building! Follow this step-by-step approach to find the right companies to target:

Follow industry news

By keeping up with industry news, you can gain a solid overview of everything that's happening across each of your verticals. It can be a laborious process, but it's essential to know what's going on in terms of companies on the rise, takeovers and senior leadership role changes, etc.

There are, however, a couple of ways to shortcut this process:

  1. Set up Google Alerts so you get a notification any time one of your search terms is mentioned. You can make up to 1,000 alerts per account, which provides lots of flexibility to track specific companies and people as well as general industry updates.
  2. Invest in market research software that provides llive data to help you identify upcoming market trends as they happen so you can adapt your sales strategies ahead of your competitors.

Track real-time company activity

Monitor the companies you're interested in by setting up automated email alerts which help you decide what type of news you want to receive (such as additions, funding rounds, news, etc) and how often you want to be updated.

Monitor social media

By this point, you should have a fair idea which channels are most relevant to your ICP. So it's just a case of digging deep on the right channels by:

  • Conducting advanced searches
  • Monitoring hashtags
  • Joining groups

You can even try social prospecting, which is the process of finding and reaching out to your prospects on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and more.

Use Google search

Google algorithms are often effective in uncovering listed articles (also known as listicles). So, for example, a search for "top 20 [X vertical] companies" can be productive. Google also lets you search by location, which is helpful if you're looking to uncover targets outside of your region. You can even filter using Google maps if brick-and-mortar location is relevant.

5. Identify Decision-Makers and Harness Their Contact Details

Many of the prospecting tactics you'll utilize here are simply more advanced versions of the steps listed above. Some great ways to unearth personal contact information include:

Company websites

This is a good place to start on a name search. However, most larger companies will only list C-suite team members on their "About Us" or "Meet the Team" pages. In many cases, this won't be sufficient as your ideal contact will likely be someone further down the hierarchy. Plus, in the majority of cases, company websites won't list individual employee email addresses or phone numbers anyway.

Google

If you know the job titles of the contacts you're hoping to connect with, a Google search can often unearth the names of people in those positions. For example, if you search "Head of investment," "CMO" or "Procurement Manager" followed by the company name, chances are you'll strike gold on a name.

6. Perfect Your Outreach Strategy

With all the groundwork done, you're probably eager to jump in and start reaching out to prospects. But before you hit the ground running, it's crucial to develop an effective outreach plan. How you structure your plan will depend on your business needs, your product or service and your ICP. The most important thing, however, is to ensure you have a strategy for timelines, follow-ups and a range of approaches so your hard work doesn't go to waste and your prospects see your products and services as valuable rather than marketing spam.

Once you've got your outreach strategy in place and have begun collecting data through your prospecting activities, you can start analyzing, categorizing, and qualifying leads more efficiently, enriching your sales funnel and optimizing your revenue and ROI.