How to build a prospect list for sales

There was a time I thought that the sales would come easily but they didn’t.

I started a blog.

Got some traffic…

…and expected sales to start pouring in.

We did get a few paying customers — but it was not nearly enough.

Is it ever enough!!!

So I started reaching out via email.

I got into conversations.

Conversations led to sales.

In other words, I started doing outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is great but you need to support it with outbound.

Outbound marketing also helps with inbound and vice versa.

One of hardest parts to reaching out to people over email is identifying your target audience and building your list.

This article will help you build a targeted list of prospects to help ensure you start your sales process successfully.

What is a sales prospect?

A sales prospect is a potential customer, someone that is likely to buy what you’re offering. They have been qualified so you know there is a good chance they’ll buy your product or service.

  • Leads –  generate a list of potential customers for your business
  • Prospect –  qualify those leads
  • Sales –  convert prospects into sales

You need to build prospects to build sales!

What is the definition of prospecting?

Prospecting is the process of identifying potential prospects for your business. Its all about building a list of people who are potentially interested in your products and services and then reaching out to them.

When you reach out and get a response you qualify them.

Those who show interest to move toward the next stages of the sales pipeline are your prospects.

These are the people who will hopefully buy from you and become your customers!

After all, the end goal of prospecting is to turn as many prospects as possible into paying customers.

What type of prospecting can you do?

Sales prospecting is typically classified into:

  • Cold prospecting – This is someone you’ve probably never interacted with before so they are labeled as ‘cold’.  You don’t even know if they’ve heard of you, your product or service before.
  • Warm prospecting –  These are the people who are familiar with you, your products/services. They may be an existing customer. You build a list of existing customers and pitch them an upgrade to an existing product/service (upsell) or pitch them a new product or service (cross-sell).

How do you build prospect list for sales?

Your prospects list is one of the most valuable assets you’ll build as it is the foundation of successful sales outreach.

As we mentioned above, you can build both cold and warm prospect lists.

Let’s tackle the easy one first…

Warm prospects

You already have a list of customers and partners and you probably have their contact details.

You need a good marketing automation/CRM tool that tracks their profile, activities, purchases, and enables you to identify a relevant customer segment.

You run a search within the tool and identify a list of customers that you can upsell/cross-sell based on the following:

  • They have visited pages on your website related to your products
  • They may have bought similar products
  • They may have bought all your products!

So…you build a relevant list and then reach out to that list via email or maybe even phone.

The phone may work because you already have a relationship with the people on your list, but it’s really time-consuming.

Reaching out via email is typically a better option especially since you can use an email outreach tool to streamline the process and track your outreach efforts.

Using an email outreach tool, you can send highly personalized emails at scale. Personalization is extremely important because you want to engage in a conversation and you don’t want your customers to feel like you’re sending them a broadcast email.

When you start getting the responses, you’ll be able to filter out customers who may be interested and build a list of warm prospects.

Building a list of cold prospects

I really don’t like the term ‘cold’ but let’s use it because it’s a well-known term in the industry.

You want to build a prospect list of people that you may have never interacted with before.

You identify the contacts, perform the outreach, kick off the conversation, and get results!

 

Prospect list building and processing

Here are the steps involved in identifying the prospects.

Define your target audience

This is a crucial step in the outreach process.

If you’re reaching out to the wrong audience it won’t matter how good your emails are. You just won’t get the results you’re after.

So invest some time into figuring out who your ideal customers are.

a). Research your existing customers to work out the ideal profile

b). Identify their business type, business size, the role of the person that purchased your product, etc.

c.) Find out why they made a decision to buy

d). Build a sample list, do some outreach to see if you get results, and then ramp up.

Even if you spend a lot of time defining your target audience, you still may not get it right.  That’s why it’s important to do a ‘trial run’ first and reach out to a small group to check the results.

Find relevant prospects

Now that you have your target audience all figured out, it’s time to build a prospect list.  How you build your list will vary depending on your target audience.

Here are some ideas:

LinkedIn

With over 500 million people registered on LinkedIn, it’s a great place for finding relevant prospects.

If you are an advanced user, you can sign up for LinkedIn Sales Navigator which gives you more options for searching.

Use LinkedIn’s advanced filters to identify a relevant audience based on industry, location, company or job title. And if you’re using Sales Navigator you can also save people to a list.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

We use a tool called getprospect.io to export the potential leads to that tool.  This tool will save a profile of the person and also try to find the email address. The only cost for the tool is the number of emails it successfully finds.

Twitter

Twitter can also be a great place to identify relevant prospects. You can run searches on Twitter and get notified on relevant tweets on a daily basis.

For example, you could do an advanced search on Twitter to find people asking questions about a product or service. Finding people interested in what you’re selling doesn’t get easier than this!

I was at an SEO webinar recently from SEMRush and Gareth Hoyle (Marketing Signals) said he runs a search on Twitter around a hashtag and uses IFTTT to copy all those tweets into a spreadsheet.  This is a great tactic for building a list.  Find a relevant conference and track conversations.

Influencer tools

If you’re planning to reach out to influencers in a specific industry or niche, tools like BuzzSumo can help you identify them.

Here’s how:

BuzzSumo is a great tool for content research – it helps you find the most popular content on any topic! Not to mention it’s incredibly easy to use.

You just enter the niche keyword in BuzzSumo and the tool will show you the list of the most shared content related to that topic. You’ll also see the name of the author i.e. your influencer!

This is a very fast and easy way of identifying relevant influencers for your list.

Similarly, you can use GroupHigh to find influencers in your niche. This tool will let you search through 15 million blogs and retrieve details of influencers’ blog posts, domain authority, social following, and much more.

Of course, the key to finding the most relevant people is identifying the right keywords to use for search.

Review directories for SaaS startups 

If you’re targeting SaaS startups, then review sites like Capterra, Getapp, or G2Crowd are a good place to start.

These sites are easy to search through because the companies listed are grouped based on software categories, helping you find your ideal prospects more easily.

All three platforms also provide user reviews, which may also be useful to you for deciding which startups should be on your list.

Startup databases

Platforms like Angel List or CrunchBase are great for finding prospects because they offer more complete startup profiles that typically include a detailed description of the business/product, as well as the profiles of founders/CEOs.

For example, if you have a CrunchBase pro, you can use advanced filters to search for specific companies, save your searches, and also get notified when new companies meet your search criteria. This is really useful for discovering new prospects!

Build out the profile details

If you are using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can just export the data and you’ll have a good profile for the person.

If you’re finding your prospects outside of LinkedIn, there are other tools you can use to get their profile details.

Clearbit is a great ‘contact enrichment’ tool that you can use to automatically enrich your prospect list – the only thing you need to start is your prospects’ URL or email address.

The tool will search for the data about your prospect in real time in more than 200 public and private sources to find info such as company sector, job title, number of employees, and more.

Find & verify emails

When you have the list of prospects ready you need to find their emails.

However, there is no perfect place for finding emails and you want to avoid a lot of email bounces, so I use two tools:

Tool 1 – Find emails with Email Hunter – simply enter the company domain into the search field and the tool will return all publicly available email addresses for that domain.

Tool 2-  Double check the emails with ZeroBounce – check if the emails you found are valid by uploading your list. The tool will remove all known email complainers and spam traps from your email address lists.

Note: I’m currently testing Find that Lead to find email addresses and it looks promising.

Import the list into an outreach tool

Now that you have your list complete with the email addresses, it’s time to perform the outreach.

This is where tools like OutreachPlus come in!

Once you import your prospect list into OutreachPlus you’ll be able to send personalized emails to your prospects at scale, create follow up sequences for non-responsive prospects, track the relationships you build and the success of your campaigns and individual emails, all without leaving the tool!

Should you outsource this work?

Building a list is probably the hardest part of the outreach process.

However, once you create a process for building the list it’s easy to outsource this work.

For example, my friend David Henzel runs Task Drive which provides this type of service and it’s well worth checking out.

So I’d definitely recommend hiring someone to build the lists or outsource the work.

Summary

If you spend the time identifying the right audience you can get great results from your sales outreach.

But remember, the money is in the list!!!

Because if you don’t have a relevant list of prospects and an efficient process to get this data, even the best outreach emails will fail to deliver results.