Prospects. Pipeline. Predictable revenue.
Are these not the dream of every entrepreneur who turned their vision into a mission?
This journey from prospects to predictable revenue is best taken on an Outbound route, with email outreach at the wheel of your pipeline Porsche.
Therefore, if you’re into Outbound Sales, the real question is not ‘To prospect or not to prospect…’
It’s ‘How do you prospect?’
Without a well-defined prospecting process, you’ll be limited to sending cold emails to contacts who have no requirement for your product, and therefore no rhyme or reason to engage.
You’d be missing out on contacting people who have a high possibility of converting into buyers…simply because you didn’t recognize them and spark a conversation.
While wasting time and resources on people who don’t need your product.
By blasting emails to a bunch of contacts without relevance, you’re setting yourself up for low response rates, inadequate pipeline volume, and decreased Sales.
Is there a better way to build your pipeline?
What you need is a relentless focus on understanding who your prospects are- what they do, what problems they face, and how you can relieve that pain.
This will help you build a prospect list- a highly targeted, data-driven one that takes all perspectives into consideration before you can hit them up with a cold email.
- But how do you go about identifying your prospects?
- What factors do you keep in mind when identifying business opportunities and what data do you need to collect in order to zoom in on them?
- The initial contact is often not the ultimate buyer. How do you make sure the person behind the buying decision is likely to convert? What data can you dig up to ensure that you can identify decision-makers who have a high possibility of converting?
- Where do you go to find up-to-date and reliable data on these contacts, and what tools can you use?
- When dealing with high volume, prospecting manually can become a black hole of efficiency. What about automating the whole thing?
If you have questions like these about building a targeted prospect list, you’re going to love skimming on to the rest of the blog.
What we’ve done for you is to put all the information you’d ever need, in one Complete Guide to Building a Highly Targeted Prospect List.
Take 10 minutes out of your day and get one step closer towards a pipeline cascading with leads.
Table of contents
1. Who is a Prospect?
A prospect is a potential customer who is likely to buy your solution. These are qualified and interested individuals or companies that have a strong chance of buying your product or service.
Identify Your Best Customers to Target the Best Prospects
Before you get started with building your prospect list, you need to identify who your best customers are. These are customers that are best suited for your product and would rather buy your solution than your competitor’s solution.
If you don’t know who your ideal customers are, you can figure that out by defining an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Below, we’ve put together a simple cheat sheet to help you define your ICP.
But before we get to building your ICP, you need to have an existing customer base of at least 100 customers to get started. The framework is based on data and not on assumptions. It looks at your current best customers, the kind of companies that you’re currently winning with so you can double-down on that success.
2. Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) & Buyer Persona
Here’s a simple 2 step ICP cheat sheet to help you build an Ideal Customer Profile.
Step 1: Know What Makes a Customer Ideal or Best for a Business
You need to look at your current customers and put them through the grinder to come up with the ideal, best-fit ones. Ask the below questions to determine(or score) your most suited customers,
- Who has the highest success potential?
- Who closed the fastest?
- Who has the largest Average Deal Size(ADS) and Lifetime Customer Value(LCV)?
- Who has the most potential for referrals or advocacy?
- Who has the highest expansion potential?
Step 2: List Your Best Customers and Find Commonalities Between Them
Now that you know the factors that make a customer ideal or best for a business,
create a list of your 10 best existing customers and find similar attributes shared by them.
Come up with as many attributes on these customers as you could in order to get a better understanding of what they look like. The more you know about them, the more accurate you can be with your targeting.
Ask the following questions to figure out what your best customers look like:
What are the Common Firmographic Attributes of these 10 Customers?
- Company Size: Do they have similar number of employees?
- Industry/Niche: Are they in the same Industry/Sector?
- Company Location: What’s their geographic location?
- Age of Company: How long have they been in business?
- Annual Revenue: How much revenue do they generate annually?
- Focus Market: Are they focused on the ecommerce or SaaS market? What type of customers are they serving? Consumers or Businesses?
What Other Common Distinctive Features Do They Share?
- Do they use certain specialized technologies?
- Do they work in decentralized teams?
- Are they looking to expand rapidly?
Now that you have the ICP defined, the next thing to do is to define a Buyer Persona.
You create Buyer Persona(s) by narrowing down on commonalities between the decision-makers in your ICP companies.
A decision-maker is an individual in that company who actually makes the decision to buy your product or service. Based on the complexity of the sales process, there might be more than one decision-maker involved in the buying process, so you may need to create more than one buyer persona.
Ask the following questions to define your buyer persona(s),
Who Made the Purchasing Decision in Your ICP Companies?
- How senior are they?
- Do they have a common title?
What Common Demographic Attributes Do They Share?
- Do they have the same age, gender?
- Do they have the same personality type, educational level?
What Are These Individuals Trying to Achieve?
- How are they measured at work?
- What goals do they have?(both current and future)
What Are Their Current Obstacles?
- Why are they not reaching their goals?
- What do they need in order to reach them?
What Does the Purchasing Process Look Like for Them?
- Is the decision maker the user of the product himself?
- Can your buyer persona make a simple purchase? or
- Are there multiple decision-makers who need to buy-in?
To get a more comprehensive view on building your ideal customer profile and fine-tuning your entire lead generation process, see our article that provides you with a Framework to Build a Focused B2B Lead Generation Process
3. How to Build a Targeted Prospect List?
With the target audience figured out, it’s time to build your prospect list.
There are two ways you could go about building a prospect list:
- Build it yourself
- Outsource it to a lead gen company
If you want to outsource it to a lead gen agency, then you could simply give them your Ideal Customer Profile and they will find the prospects that match your ICP.
Not just that, they take care of your whole email prospecting campaign from finding leads, sending personalized cold emails to following up on non-responsive prospects and tracking the results.
This post, however, focuses on helping people build the list all by themselves.
If you want to build the list yourself, you can either do it:
- Manually or
- Automate the process using a prospect finding tool.
We’ll explore how you could build the list using both ways in this article.
3.1 Building a Prospect List Manually
How do you do it?
Here are four simple steps to building a prospect list manually:
- Find companies that fit your ICP
- Find the decision makers associated with these companies
- Find the email addresses of these decision makers
- Validate your email data
a) Find Companies that Fit Your ICP
The first step to finding the companies that fit your Ideal Customer Profile is to find the data source that contains the information on your target companies.
You need to find sites that would let you find companies based on certain firmographic attributes like the size of the company, the industry they operate in etc.
Your data source will depend on the type of company you sell to. What kind of companies do you sell to? If you happen to sell to startup companies, sites like Angelist, Gust or Crunchbase would be an ideal choice.
The aforementioned sites provide you with some basic, yet essential filters to find your ideal companies.
As you can see below, Angelist provides you with enough essential attributes on the listed companies to validate their fit.
In addition to these information, a site like Angelist provides you with some advanced attributes on the companies, like, whether they received funding or not, which funding stage etc.
Also, Angelist allows you to further refine the search by letting you sort companies based on their type, say, for instance, a SaaS or a Mobile App company, and based on the ‘joined’ date, making it easy to find newly added leads.
If you sell to a service-based business rather than a software product company, an example of a data source would be Clutch.co. Clutch aggregates agencies in several categories like software development, digital marketing and web design. It currently lists 7000+ agencies in 500+ categories.
If you’re looking for software and saas companies, then online review sites like GetApp, Capterra that aggregate software products and saas apps is one way to find them. You can filter companies based on product category, geographic location and other useful filter options.
One unique advantage of software review sites is that they offer companies’ customer reviews.
One way to use these customer reviews is to leverage your competition by looking for competitors’ customers on these platforms(which might make them your ideal prospects) and target them with a more desirable offer.
Instead of targeting them directly, you could also research on your competitors’ customers and sell to similar companies that are yet to use a service similar to yours.
G2Crowd is a review site that lets you segment reviews based on different filters like Company Size, User Role, Industry etc.
Another way is to find people who use products that complement your solution. For instance, if you offer an email outreach tool, then a prospect finding tool complements your offering.
Heck, you could even identify your customers’ competitors and target them.
If your prospects are brick and mortar companies with a physical location, then you could leverage your most used tool to find your ideal companies: Google.
Let’s say you’re selling to bakeries in Indianapolis, then simply type in “indianapolis bakery” into the google search bar and begin building your list.
One attribute of the prospect that isn’t easily available on the internet is the technology they use. For instance, lets say a company that uses Hubspot marketing automation tool is your potential customer.
How can you tell whether a company is a Hubspot user or not?
You can get this information by installing a simple chrome extension called WhatRuns. Whatruns lets you find technologies used on any website you visit with a simple click.
Simply visit the website of the company you want to get this information on and click on the extension icon in the menu bar.
One major benefit to finding prospects manually is the ability to personalize your cold emails. You’d be able to gather relevant reference points on these customers to include in your cold email copy to improve conversions.
b) Find The Decision Makers Associated With These Companies
After validating the fit of these companies based on the attributes you found about them on different data sources, you should have a list of ideal companies to target.
Now it’s time to find the key contact(s) behind these companies who are in charge of making the relevant purchase.
Below are some ways you could go about building a contact list:
- Find contacts on LinkedIn
- Find contacts on About Us page
- Find contacts on Google
Find Contacts on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is by far the most powerful source to find accurate and up-to-date information on business contacts.
With a powerful ‘People Search’ feature, you can accurately find almost anyone associated with a business and create an ultra targeted list of business contacts.
You can simply lookup the ICP companies on LinkedIn to get all the employees associated with each of these companies but you can save time and keep it more targeted by using the people filters it offers.
Find Contacts on Google
Yes, you can find the key people behind a company using the Google search engine.
For this, you need to know the name of the company and the job role associated with the employee you’re trying to sell to. For instance, you could search for “Company name, Title”.
In the below example, I searched for “Marketo CEO”
Find Contacts on the Company’s About Us page
Almost every website on the internet has an ‘About Us’ page. An About Us page acts as a directory of employees at the company. It typically gives you the job role associated with the employees and a short bio about them.
Here’s an example of an About Us page.
c) Find the Email Addresses of these Decision Makers
You should now have a list of ideal companies and decision maker(s) at these ICP companies you want to reach out to. It’s time to find their email addresses.
Most data sources on the internet don’t provide email addresses. And there are no perfect places for finding work emails on the internet.
Luckily, there are several email finder tools you can use to find email addresses of key people behind a company in seconds for free.
If you want the email addresses of multiple individuals at a company, you could use a tool like Hunter that offers ‘domain search’ feature to find emails.
Simply input the company domain and the tool will list all the email addresses of employees at that company along with their names and job positions.
If you can’t nail the email address of your decision maker this way or you want the email address of a specific person in that company, you could use their email finder feature to find a specific email. Give the contact’s full name and company domain to get the email address.
A prospect finding tool like Adapt will give you the ability to get the email addresses and phone numbers of contacts right from their company websites and LinkedIn profiles.
d) Validate Your Email Data
Once you have the email addresses of the decision makers, the next step is to verify if the email addresses associated with them are valid or not.
The more your emails bounce, the less the replies you get and the worse your server reputation gets.
You should simply remove a contact from your list if you can’t find a valid email address for that contact. The success of your email outreach campaign totally depends on the quality of your prospect list.
Use a tool like Zerobounce or Hunter to verify all your email data. In this example, I verified that firstname.lastname@example.org is in fact a valid email address.
3.2 Building a Prospect List Using Automated Tools
This is probably the fastest and easiest way to build your prospect list. The process of finding the companies, contacts and validated contact details is reduced to a single step with this method.
You get look-alike prospects by simply running your ICP through these prospect finding tools. In other words, by giving the attributes of your ideal customers, you get a list of prospects that share the same attributes as them.
For instance, if you want to get the contact information(emails and phone numbers) on the CEOs of companies that are 25-100 employees in size, are in the healthcare space, and are located in the United States, you could use a prospect finding tool like Adapt to do this.
Simply input these company and contact attributes into their lead finder tool and click on the ‘Search’ button.
The tool will output a list of contacts at companies that share the same attributes, along with the contact information on them.
When it comes to prospect finding tools, the tool you should go for depends on the level of information you need on your prospective customers.
Typically, you’ll only need the basic attributes about the contacts and companies you’re looking to reach out to; but you could need some advanced attributes on your prospects. For instance, if they use a specific piece of technology or not, or whether they received Series A funding.
You may want to accurately predict if a prospect is your ideal customer or not before spending time and effort on converting that prospect into a customer. Especially large companies that spend huge amount of their time on just a few accounts.
In that case, you need a tool that provides you with some advanced data points on your prospects.
One tool that goes far beyond any other tool in the market when it comes to offering a large amount of data points on contacts and companies is the Clearbit Prospector.
Clearbit Prospector provides you with over 100 person and company filters to help you create a highly targeted list of prospects.
As a final note, even though this method saves you a ton of time, using this method also means that you’ll have to separately conduct a research on each of these prospects to find data points on them to personalize your cold emails.
4. Using a Cold Email Tool to Run Outreach Campaigns
At this point, you should have your prospect list fully built with companies, contacts, and email addresses.
Of course, reaching out to these decision-makers to sell your products and services.
This is where a Sales Email Automation tool like Klenty comes into the picture.
Once you have your prospect list imported into Klenty, you’ll be able to send personalized one-on-one emails, schedule a series of emails and follow-ups, and track the success of your outreach campaigns.
Yes, building a prospect list could be the hardest part of your outreach process.
But you know how crucial it is to get this part right.
Because if you don’t have an accurate list of prospects, even the best cold emails will fail to deliver the results.
In order to get great results from your outreach campaigns, the key is to spend your time identifying the right prospects.
With the information presented in this blog, you should be well on your way towards targeting prospects who have a high possibility of converting.