Prospecting is the crucial first step in the sales process that lays the foundation for pipeline growth and revenue generation. But building targeted prospect lists and running effective outreach campaigns is both science and art.
This comprehensive guide explores the ins and outs of qualifying and engaging prospects to master what many consider a “necessary evil” of sales. From leveraging intent data and referrals to crafting compelling cold emails, we’ll outline tactics and strategies to turn prospecting into a scalable engine fueling predictable business growth.
Understanding Prospect Qualification and Ideal Customer Profiles
Successful sales teams know that not all prospects are created equal. While casting a wide net and contacting as many potential leads as possible might seem tempting, this shotgun approach is unlikely to generate results. The key is to focus your prospecting efforts on contacts that are more likely to become customers – but how do you identify these high-quality prospects? This process starts with prospect qualification and developing an ideal customer profile.
Defining Prospect Qualification
Prospect qualification is the process of evaluating leads to determine which ones are worth pursuing based on fit, need, and intent. It involves assessing prospects against criteria to identify those that align with your ideal customer profile (more on this shortly). Qualified prospects are contacts that match your target demographic, have a stated or apparent need for your product, and demonstrate interest in learning more.
Spending time upfront qualifying prospects is essential for sales teams for several reasons:
- Maximizes productivity: Sales reps waste countless hours contacting prospects that will never convert. Qualifying prospects properly means less time wasted on fruitless outreach.
- Improves conversions: Qualified prospects that match your ideal customer profile are much more likely to convert to sales.
- Enhances personalization: Understanding a prospect’s needs allows for tailored messaging that resonates.
- Prioritizes leads: Qualification provides a means of assigning priority, so reps can focus on hot leads first.
- Informs strategy: Data gathered during qualification can uncover gaps in your prospecting processes.
According to research by HubSpot, prospects that go through a qualification process convert to sales at a 34% higher rate than non-qualified leads. Clearly, spending time qualifying prospects upfront pays major dividends later in the sales process.
Crafting an Ideal Customer Profile
An ideal customer profile (ICP) outlines the key characteristics of your best-fit prospects and customers. This profile acts as a template sales teams can use to qualify inbound leads and identify lookalike targets for outbound prospecting campaigns. An ICP helps keep your sales funnel filled with contacts that perfectly match your solution.
Some key details to include when building an ICP:
- Industry – What field or industry is the company in?
- Company size – Small, mid-market, enterprise? Number of employees?
- Location – Where are they located? Certain regions?
- Title – What roles at the company are involved in the purchase process?
- Department – Sales? Marketing? IT? Operations?
- Revenue range – What’s the company’s approximate annual revenue?
- Growth – Are they growing rapidly or mature?
- Technologies used – What software, tools, or systems does the company use? Integrations or dependencies?
- Infrastructure – Cloud-based or on-prem infrastructure?
- Pain points – What business challenges is the company facing?
- Goals – What objectives are they trying to achieve?
Buyer Persona Traits
- Decision-making habits – Who influences or makes final purchase decisions?
- Communication preferences – How do they prefer to engage? Email, phone, etc.
Let’s look at some examples of ideal customer profiles:
ERP Software Company
- Mid-market manufacturing and distribution businesses
- 100-1000 employees
- $50-500 million in revenue
- Based in the Midwest region
- Use legacy on-prem ERP and accounting systems
- Goal to modernize technology stack for efficiency
HR Consulting Firm
- Enterprise organizations in the technology sector
- 5000+ employees
- $1 billion+ in annual revenue
- Located in Silicon Valley
- Rely on Applicant Tracking Systems and HRIS software
- Seeking to improve talent retention and recruitment
Notice how these ICPs outline all the key details, like industry, size, tools used, pain points, and goals, that make these companies ideal prospects.
Data points like these should be informed by analyzing your current customers and determining what traits they have in common that make them a great fit for your offering.
Qualifying Prospects Based on ICP Fit
Once you’ve documented your ideal customer profile, it acts as a template for qualifying inbound leads and new contacts generated through outbound prospecting.
When looking at new prospects, here are some questions sales teams should ask to determine fit:
- Does their company industry match our ICP target sectors?
- Is their estimated revenue within our ICP range?
- Are they facing the pain points our solution addresses?
- Do they use or need the technologies our product integrates with?
- Does their desired outcome align with the goals our offering helps accomplish?
If a prospect matches your ICP across enough criteria, they should be considered a qualified lead worth pursuing.
For prospects that are not quite right matches, you may consider keeping and nurturing them in a separate bucket. They can be periodically reevaluated in case something about their needs changes in the future.
Assessing Prospect Needs and Buying Intent
Beyond basic ICP fit, looking at a prospect’s specific needs and their intent to buy is crucial during qualification.
While a prospect might match your ICP, they may not yet have a pressing problem that necessitates your solution.
During initial outreach, ask questions to assess pain points like:
- What business objectives are you looking to accomplish this quarter?
- How satisfied are you with your current solution/process?
- What inefficiencies or issues are you running into?
Get prospects talking about their specific needs and challenges to determine if what you offer is a potential fit.
Intent relates to signals that indicate a prospect is actively in-market for a solution. Signs could include:
- Recent funding events
- New leadership or expansion
- Increased search activity related to your product
- Page visits to pricing or competitor pages
- Subscribed to relevant content
- Social media mentions of your product type
Prospects demonstrating active buying intent should be fast-tracked as hot leads.
Qualification Enables More Targeted Prospecting
Taking the time to understand what makes an ideal customer for your offering is foundational for qualifying better-fit prospects to pursue. While outbound prospecting casts a wide net, qualification narrows it down to promising contacts based on ICP match, needs alignment, and demonstrated intent.
This targeted approach makes sales reps far more efficient by focusing their efforts on prospects with a high likelihood of converting. Qualification and ideal customer profiles guide teams toward the right types of contacts to nurture through the pipeline.
Prospect List Building Methods and Prospecting Strategies
Once you’ve defined your ideal customer profile, the next step is identifying specific prospects that match it. This process of filling your pipeline with potential buyers is known as prospecting. There are myriad strategies and approaches sales teams can use to source, collect, and capture prospect contact information. Let’s explore some of the most effective prospect list building and lead generation methods.
Tapping Your Existing Customers
They say that the easiest customer to sell to is an existing happy customer. This principle also applies when building new prospect lists – your current customers can be a goldmine for referrals and introductions.
One of the best ways to get prospects from existing customers is to simply ask! Many businesses have formal referral programs that provide incentives to customers that refer new leads.
Studies show referred leads convert at higher rates. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of marketing.
To tap into this, develop a system where customers can easily refer people in their network. Make it as frictionless as possible by asking just for prospect contact info rather than requiring lengthy forms. Consider offering enticing rewards, like discounts, gifts, or cash bonuses when referrals become customers.
Proactively asking your happiest customers for introductions is another easy way to get referrals. People are usually flattered to make an introduction that can benefit both parties.
Analyze the characteristics of your current customers to identify lookalike companies that match their profile. This is an ideal starting point, because you know they share common traits with existing customers who already find value in your product.
Use data points from their firmographic info, role titles, technologies used, and more to find similar organizations. Tools like Clearbit and Growlabs can help you uncover corporate similarities and build targeted prospect lists based on your customer archetype.
Leverage Social Platforms
Business-oriented social media platforms offer a multitude of options for identifying and engaging prospects.
With over 722 million members and over 55 million registered companies, LinkedIn is a primary channel for B2B prospecting today. Nearly all professionals maintain a presence on LinkedIn, making it possible to identify relevant prospects and make connections.
Features like advanced searching and lead gen forms help sourcing. Paid tools like Sales Navigator or LinkedIn Recruiter provide further targeting capabilities. You can also join industry groups to build connections and community status.
Some top practices for prospecting on LinkedIn:
- Use advanced filters like company, title, industry, location, skills, etc. to find ICP matches
- Identify prospects through shares, posts, and comments in industry groups
- Connect with prospects through personalized outreach and InMail messages
- Leverage lead gen forms and apply CTAs to your profile to capture prospects
According to LinkedIn, 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn. Make sure your sales teams are tapping into its potential.
Facebook and Forums
While consumer-oriented, Facebook also presents B2B prospecting options, especially for local organizations. Look for relevant local or industry groups and engage community members by answering questions or sharing advice.
Industry forums and communities like Quora can also provide platforms to build connections and credibility. Establish yourself as an expert by providing thoughtful answers to questions potential prospects are asking.
Twitter Lead Gen
Twitter now offers lead gen cards, which allow you to collect prospect contact info right from tweets in exchange for content.
Create specialized Twitter campaigns with compelling content offers. Drive prospects to tweets with lead gen forms enabled to capture their details.
Intent Data Prospecting
Leveraging buyer intent data is an extremely powerful modern prospecting tactic. Intent data identifies companies demonstrating research behavior related to products like yours, signaling they may be in-market.
Monitoring digital signals like website traffic, search behavior, and content downloads allows you see which companies show intent. Vendors like Bombora and Demandbase track and monetize this intent data, which you can leverage to find more qualified prospects closer to purchasing decisions.
Contacts derived from intent data should be prioritized, as their real-time research activity suggests readiness to buy. According to Forrester, contacts derived from intent data convert to sales at a 10x higher rate.
Email and Cold Calling Outreach
While growing in popularity, outbound prospecting tactics like emailing and cold calling remain effective ways to engage new potential customers.
Cold Email Campaigns
Cold email involves sending introductory emails to prospects that have not interacted with your brand before. This disruptive tactic allows you to proactively reach out to and educate potential leads.
With email addresses available for nearly every company, building targeted prospect lists and executing email outreach campaigns can generate quality leads.
Best practices for effective cold emailing include:
- Researching prospects beforehand to personalize content
- Crafting compelling subject lines they’ll want to open
- Establishing value quickly and focusing on their needs
- Keeping initial emails concise yet complete
- Developing customized email cadences for follow-ups
According to Salesforce, cold email campaigns have around a 40% open rate and 4-5% click rate on average.
Cold calling involves calling prospects unprompted to deliver an elevator pitch, capture interest, and initiate a sales conversation. While becoming less common, it remains an important outbound technique.
To succeed, reps must grab attention quickly and transition into a consultative discussion focused on the prospect’s needs. Leveraging call intelligence like buyer insights from your CRM can help personalize cold calls.
Groove reports that around 90% of cold call attempts fail. However, refining scripts and targeted prospect lists can improve results. On average, successful cold calls convert to sales opportunities around 20% of the time.
Events, Partnerships & Content Offers
Beyond direct outreach, businesses can generate inbound prospect interest through partnerships, events, and gated content offers.
Events and Speaking
Industry events like conferences and tradeshows present networking opportunities to connect with prospects. Consider hosting or speaking at relevant events. You gain credibility while mingling with potential buyers.
Follow up with quality leads after events while conversations are fresh. Ask for a business card or further contact details so you can continue nurturing the relationship.
Partner with other companies that offer complementary solutions to access their prospect base. Explore co-marketing or lead sharing partnerships.
Joint webinars, guest blog posts, and sponsored content campaigns are easy ways to tap into partners’ audiences and generate new prospects. Display partner logos prominently to build credibility.
Producing quality content like eBooks, kits, and whitepapers related to prospects’ interests is an inbound tactic to capture lead information.
Gate premium content behind forms that require submitting contact details like name and email address. Use alluring titles and descriptions that compel prospects to exchange their details for the download.
According to HubSpot, gated content offers convert prospects around 10-20% of the time on average.
Continual Testing and Optimization
Prospecting is not a “set it and forget it” process. To build the most effective prospect lists, you need to continually test new approaches and refine based on results.
Track metrics for each prospecting channel – conversion rates, cost per lead, sales velocity, etc. Double down on what works while phasing out lower performing strategies.
Conduct A/B testing on emails, calls, and landing pages to optimize copy, offers, and page elements. Survey prospects that convert to better understand their journey.
Apply these insights to constantly evolve and enhance how you source and capture new contacts. Review ICP criteria regularly to ensure it reflects your best-fit prospects based on the latest data.
With continual optimization, you can perfect your prospecting processes over time and accelerate pipeline growth.
Diversify Channels and Follow a Cadence
The most successful prospecting combines multiple channels – social outreach, intent data, events, cold calling, email campaigns, and partnerships. This diversification taps into prospects across touchpoints and stages of the buyer’s journey.
It also allows you to nurture prospects based on their engagement preferences. Some may be more responsive to cold calls, while others prefer impersonal email drip campaigns. Testing reveals what works on different personas.
Once leads enter your database, follow organized email and call cadences for effective nurturing. Segment your prospect list based on interest level and send targeted content over time to convert them into sales opportunities.
The Importance of the Right Prospects
At the end of the day, if your prospect list contains the wrong kinds of contacts, your sales efforts will struggle. That’s why employing the right mix of outbound and inbound prospecting strategies based on your ICP pays dividends.
Continuous prospect list optimization and evolution is critical for growth. As your offering and market change, how and where you source great prospects will need to as well. Adopting this adaptable mindset will enable your business to scale.
Essential Data Points to Include in Your Prospect List
When building out profiles for your prospect list, what information should you be sure to capture? While every business and use case may call for specialized data, some data points are considered universally essential for sales prospecting.
Let’s explore what core details you need on your prospect list and best practices for organizing the data.
Must-Have Contact Information
At the bare minimum, your prospect list should contain:
Name – Full name of the prospect. This ensures personalization in outreach.
Job Title – Their role like Founder, CMO, Vice President, etc. Allows you to understand their position and influence.
Company – The name of the organization they work for. Critical for account-based approaches.
Email – Direct work email address for contacting them. Personal emails often go to spam or get ignored.
Phone – Direct dial phone number you can use to call them if needed.
These core contact details for names, companies, roles, and contact information form the foundation of usable prospect records.
Enrich with Firmographic Data
Expanding beyond just contact info, your prospect list should contain helpful firmographic details about each company represented.
Industry – What is their operating industry or primary field? Software? Manufacturing?
Location – Where are they located? Having at least city and country helps tailor communication.
Company Size – Some indication of their company’s size, typically by number of employees or revenue.
Funding Details – Details on funding rounds they have participated in. Indicates growth stage.
Parent Company – For subsidiaries, which parent firm owns them?
Key Technologies – Major software, systems, or tools they rely on for business processes.
Firmographic data gives helpful context around the company itself. Your outreach can speak directly to details like their industry, location, size, and tech stack.
According to TechTarget, 66% of B2B marketers find firmographic data highly valuable for segmenting and targeting prospects.
Enrich with Demographic Data
For key decision maker contacts, enrich by compiling helpful demographic details:
Age – The prospect’s approximate age range. Allows personalized communication.
Gender – Are they male, female, or non-binary? Again, useful for personalization.
Education – Degrees or certifications they have obtained that are public. Demonstrates your research.
Location – Details like city, state, country. Especially if different than the company HQ.
Team – Department, business unit, or team they belong to. Provides context on role.
Tenure – How long they have worked for the company. Gives perspective on experience.
Languages – Languages they speak, if known. Facilitates tailored outreach.
While less critical than contact and company data, demographic information enables more contextual prospect engagement.
Include Technographic Criteria
Technographic data outlines the technologies and tools used by prospects. This can reveal how suitable they may be for your offering based on whether it integrates or enhances existing systems.
CRM Platform – What system manages their sales pipeline and business data?
Marketing Stack – What martech tools are they using? Email, social media, advertising, etc.
ERP/Accounting – Which backend systems record their finances and operations?
Business Intelligence – What BI, analytics, or data visualization tools, if any?
eCommerce – For B2C firms, what is their online store and shop tech stack?
CRM Integration – Does your product offer integration with their CRM or martech?
Understanding the tech in place offers talking points and demonstrates your understanding of their stack. It also clues you into integration opportunities.
Track Engagement and Interest
As you nurture prospects, evolve their records to include useful tracking data:
Contact History – Date, method, and content summaries of all prior interactions.
Lead Status – Where they are in your pipeline. Marketing qualified? Sales qualified?
Contact Score – Level of engagement, interest, and readiness determined through interactions.
Email Metrics – Open, click, and reply rates for email outreach sent to this prospect.
Social Activity – Details on their interactions with your brand across social platforms.
Web Activity – Pages visited, content downloads, form fills, and other actions taken on your website.
Lead Rating – A 1-10 score your sales team assigns based on opportunity potential and value.
Updating contacts with metrics around engagement, pipeline status, and lead scores allows for proper lead prioritization and nurturing.
Best Practices for Organizing Prospect Data
To get the most value from your prospect data, you need to properly structure, update, and maintain it over time. Here are some tips:
Use a CRM or Database – The best place to manage prospect information is in a centralized CRM or database, not scattered across Excel sheets.
Add Tags and Notes – Use tags and custom fields to categorize prospects. Add free-form notes to capture context from interactions.
Update Records – Set reminders to verify and update details like titles, contact info, and company size. Data decays quickly.
Segment Strategically – Group prospects into lists and campaigns based on attributes like lead score, product interest, etc.
Restrict Access – Be careful who can view and export the entirety of your prospect data based on privacy and compliance rules.
Clean Out Stale Leads – Remove unresponsive prospects from active lists after an appropriate nurture period to maintain quality.
Thoughtful organization, updating, segmentation, and governance ensures your prospect data remains a valuable asset.
In summary, critical prospect list data falls into five main categories:
- Contact details – Names, titles, emails, phone numbers
- Firmographic data – Company, industry, employees, funding
- Demographic info – Age, gender, education, location
- Techno graphics – Technologies and tools used
- Engagement tracking – Contact history, scores, metrics
The more comprehensive your prospect records, the better experience you can provide during outreach. CRMs and external research help enrich data. Organize it carefully to ensure you capture the right information.
Targeted, high-quality prospect lists are invaluable for sales teams. They guide outreach and funnel nurturing efforts towards contacts with the greatest likelihood of becoming customers.
When and How to Reach Out to Prospects
You’ve built a robust prospect list packed with ideal potential customers. But now comes the real challenge – figuring out how and when to engage them effectively.
Reaching out to prospects requires personalization, tactical timing, and compelling content. Let’s explore proven strategies and best practices for making initial contact with qualified leads and moving them through your funnel.
Warm Personalized Outreach
Cold, impersonal outreach should always be a last resort. Where possible, use personalized warm channels as an introduction. This helps build trust and rapport early.
Seek a Warm Introduction
A warm introduction from a mutual connection is an ideal foot in the door. Ask your network for referrals to qualified prospects. People are usually happy to provide a bridge between contacts.
Phrase your referral request carefully:
“Hey John, I noticed you’re connected with Sarah at ACME Corp. We offer custom analytics dashboards that help companies like ACME monitor core metrics and KPIs. Would you be open to introducing me to discuss a potential need?”
With the referee’s endorsement, the prospect will be much more receptive to your initial outreach and next steps.
Leverage Existing Relationships
Check your network for any contacts at target companies on your prospect list. Even a loose past connection is better than nothing.
Message them referencing your relationship, and transition into a value-focused business discussion.
“James, I hope you’ve been well! I saw that you’re now at XYZ Retail – congratulations on the new role. We work with retailers like XYZ to provide inventory optimization solutions driven by machine learning algorithms…”
Look for former colleagues, classmates, group members – anyone to provide a warm link.
Connect Through LinkedIn
Sending InMail messages and connection requests via LinkedIn establishes a relationship through a familiar platform.
Reference shared groups, experiences, or contacts whenever possible to start relatable conversations. Share or praise their content before pitching your offering.
According to Salesforce, social sellers that leverage tools like LinkedIn outsell peers who don’t by 26%.
Automated Drip Campaigns
For cold outreach at scale, automated email drip campaigns allow you to continually nurture prospects with valuable content over time.
What is a Drip Campaign?
A drip campaign automatically sends a pre-defined sequence of emails to prospects and leads. The “dripping” effect allows you to educate them on your offering through a series of regular touchpoints versus just a single blast.
Drip emails typically move prospects through the following phases:
- Introduction – Initial email presenting your product or service as a solution to their needs
- Education – Follow-ups providing valuable content explaining your offering’s value proposition
- Consideration – Messages with customer stories, product demos, free trials, etc to drive engagement
- Decision – Emails focused on discounts, scarcity tactics, and closing the sale
Drag-and-drop campaign builders in tools like Mystrika make creating automated sequences easy.
Benefits of Drips
The regular harmless pings of drip campaigns have proven effective for sales prospecting:
- Keeps you top of mind through ongoing lightweight touches
- Allows you to nurture prospects with relevant content matched to their stage
- Gives you multiple opportunities to grab attention in inboxes
- Drives prospects closer towards a buying decision with each email
- Cost-effective and scalable compared to manual one-off emails
According to Omnisend, segmented drip campaigns generate 208% more revenue than basic email blasts.
Follow these tips to maximize the impact of your prospect drip campaigns:
- Personalize each email with custom details like name, company, role, location etc.
- Segment your prospect list and set up targeted drips based on criteria like industry, lead score, etc.
- Match content to prospect needs and interests based on their stage in the buyer’s journey.
- Start with a compelling subject line to boost open rates for email one. Subject lines can then build sequence and intrigue.
- Automate hand-offs to sales reps for hot leads that engage so they can continue more urgent 1:1 nudging.
- Review open, click, and reply rates to optimize your drips and improve future campaign performance.
Re-Engage with Inbound Leads
Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) that previously engaged with your brand make for promising targets as they’ve already shown initial interest.
Nurture Website Leads
Add form-fill leads from offers on your website directly into drip campaigns matched to their intent data. Use sequencing that mirrors their journey:
- Requested demo → Send demo overview content
- Downloaded case study → Share related customer success content
- Read pricing page → Send discount or limited-time offer
According to Act-On, 70% of MQLs that sales accepts turn into closed deals.
Follow-Up on Converted Ads
Import leads from recent converted social media or PPC ads into targeted drips. Retargeting warms up known interested prospects.
Create sequences highlighting the offerings or content they already responded to. Then evolve the messaging to help drive conversions.
Mine Past Attendee Lists
Upload lists of past webinar or event attendees into new drips. Connecting off previous in-person engagements makes prospect follow-up more meaningful.
Share recap content and personalized thank you notes. Transition into pitches for the next logical offering based on their initial interest.
Time Calls When More Likely to Connect
Cold calling can be annoying for prospects if done without tact. To increase pick up rates and effectiveness, call at strategic times when they are more receptive.
When Decision Makers Are in Office
For executives and higher-level roles, call earlier in the standard workday before meetings pile up. Calls at 8-10 AM or right after lunch tend to perform better.
Decision makers become harder to reach as days fill up, so prioritize them early on.
Assistants Screen Calls
Schedule calls later in the day (3-5 PM) when targeting assistants. In the morning, they are busy supporting managers and filtering communication.
In the late afternoon, call volumes typically die down. You have a better chance of connecting and being transferred if needed.
Alternate Days and Times
Don’t call the same prospect at the same time every day. Switch up your days and times of calls to increase probability of catching them available.
Just don’t make every attempt late at night or excessively early when they are unlikely to pick up either. Find the right mix of in-office hours.
Leave Effective Voicemails
Only around 1 in 10 cold calls get answered. But surprisingly 35% of cold call voicemails get returned, so make them count!
- Keep messages under 60 seconds. State your value quickly.
- Speak clearly and confidently. Avoid rambling with too many ums and uhs.
- Leave your direct callback number twice. Make it easy to get back to you.
Craft Compelling Cold Emails
Though messaging tools like LinkedIn and Mixmax exist, good old email still dominates professional B2B communication.
Well-crafted cold emails allow you to make personalized initial contact with prospects in an asynchronous, trackable medium.
Structure Effective Cold Emails
Every cold email needs key components tailored to prospects to generate responses:
- Subject – Clear, enticing subjects drive opens. Communicate relevance.
- Personalization – Use research and data points to demonstrate you get who they are.
- Relevance – Quickly establish value by focusing on needs they have.
- Urgency – Create scarcity and urgency to elicit response. Limited-time offers work.
- Call to Action – Tell them clearly what you want them to do next like book a call.
- Signature – Include name, title, company details so they know who you are.
Tools to Improve Email Copy
Leverage sales tools to craft higher-performing cold emails:
- Email verification – Ensure addresses are valid before sending using tools like NeverBounce.
- Email tracking – Insert tracking pixels with services like Mixmax to see opens, clicks, and replies.
- Email analytics – Review historical email performance data to optimize new messages.
- A/B testing – Try different subject lines, content, designs, etc to improve results.
- Email templates – Use templatized frameworks that you can customize for each prospect.
Putting It All Together
Successful prospecting combines both targeted inbound nurturing of higher intent prospects along with occasional intelligent cold outreach to expand your pipeline.
Use the mediums prospects prefer for both personalized and automated touches. Monitor engagement levels and double down on what works while phasing out lower-performing strategies.
Set goals around the number of prospects to add and ultimately convert each month. Continually refine your processes until you hit your targets.
With tactical yet human outreach, you can turn cold prospects into high-potential customers.
Prospecting Tools and Software to Streamline the Process
Prospecting involves a myriad of moving parts – research, list building, data management, outreach, and analytics. Trying to manage it all manually is incredibly time consuming for sales teams. The good news is a stack of sales automation tools exists to streamline prospecting. Let’s explore some of the top software options to amplify pipeline growth efforts.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
LinkedIn Sales Navigator makes the LinkedIn platform vastly more powerful for sales prospecting. Key features like advanced search, alerts, and InMail integration transform LinkedIn’s data into a prospecting goldmine.
Advanced Search Filters
The advanced search tool allows filters on numerous attributes liked industry, location, job title, years experience, skills, company size, and more. This helps identify prospects that closely match ideal customer criteria.
You can parameterize searches then save them to rerun at any time. New prospects matching the parameters get added with each run. Alerts notify you of new matches.
Sales Navigator suggests new prospect leads based on your searches, content views, profile views, and interactions. These algorithm recommendations introduce you to relevant prospects you may have otherwise missed.
The Company Pages feature provides data on target accounts – employee breakdown by department and function, tech used, news events, key contacts, and organizational hierarchies.
This intel helps you identify all key decision makers and influencers within priority accounts.
You can collaborate and share prospects with CRM and sales engagement platforms through TeamLink integration. This allows seamlessly exporting LinkedIn prospect data into outreach campaigns.
Premium Sales Navigator plans cost $64.99-$99.99 per user per month depending on features, but can easily pay for themselves through new business generation.
Buyer Intent Data Platforms
Buyer intent data tracks research behavior of companies to identify accounts in-market for solutions like yours. This enables more relevant targeting of prospects already exploring your product category.
Bombora aggregates intent signals from a data cooperative of business websites. It monitors content consumption trends and search behaviors across 20 billion web interactions daily.
You specify your target keywords and topics. Bombora then reveals companies showing related research spikes, indicating where you should focus sales prospecting efforts.
Demandbase offers an AI-driven Account Based Experience platform. It analyzes and interprets signals like site traffic, observed keywords, and content engagement.
These insights guide you to the right accounts and contacts demonstrating interest in your offerings for timely outreach. Demandbase integrates the data into marketing and sales workflows.
G2 Track leverages review activity on the G2 software review platform to uncover accounts posting needs aligned to your solutions.
You can identify and target prospects mentioning competitor names or describing challenges your product solves right as they start exploring options.
Business Contact Data Providers
Manually researching and compiling accurate contact data for target companies is extremely tedious. B2B data providers do the heavy lifting of aggregation and verification, so you can focus on outreach.
ZoomInfo offers a database of over 220 million B2B contacts and 100 million company records. You can search by attributes or company to find validated direct dials and email addresses.
Integrations with CRMs, email tools, and other sales software ensure prospect data flows seamlessly into workflows.
Lusha serves up B2B contact data like names, titles, and verified email addresses for sales and recruiting teams. It installs as a Chrome extension for quick searches during prospect research.
Lusha also offers team workspace views to collaborate on contact records and track outreach activity. You can export data directly into CSVs and systems like Salesforce.
LeanData takes a more account-based approach. It uncovers all key contacts associated with target companies. Features like Referenced Discovery reveal networks between decision makers to inform outreach.
Custom tagging and native CRM syncing help sales teams coordinate prospecting campaigns across systems.
Data Enrichment Tools
Even when leveraging contact data platforms, your prospect records will have gaps. Enrichment tools fill in missing firmographic, technographic, and demographic details at scale.
Clearbit’s automated enrichments attach over 40 added data points like social handles, location, job seniority, funding, tech used, and more. Clearbit can even append contacts likely associated with each company based on related email patterns and names.
You get 250 enrichments free per month. Paid plans with more contacts and features start at $199 per month.
Datanyze focuses specifically on technographic enrichment. It looks at what SaaS applications and digital technologies each company has in place.
Understanding tools prospects already use allows you to tailor messaging around compatibility and integrations. Datanyze pricing starts at $33 per month.
Cognism enriches contacts and accounts with details spanning over 50 attributes. You can download verified prospect data then automatically enrich and append missing fields as needed.
Cognism also offers contact verification services and real-time intent data based on web activity monitoring.
Once you’ve compiled targeted prospect lists, specialized sales email tools streamline effective nurturing and outreach at scale.
Mystrika is an advanced cold email platform focused on maximizing deliverability and automating personalized outreach workflows.
- Only Cold Email tool that allow pre-header / teaser text for best Email Open rate. Demo Video.
- Personalized email sequence: Mystrika allows you to send add complete personalization to email sequences. You can personalize your email by adding First & Last names, Designation, City, and even have your own dynamic variables based on your need.
- Sender rotation (Beta): Mystrika lets you connect multiple (almost unlimited) email accounts to send your outreach, saving your reputation and increase your email deliverability.
- IP rotation
- “Success %” : Mystrika is one of the only cold email tool that allows you to see how many emails are landing in Inbox (and not in spam) via metrics called Success %.
- Email Warmup
- A-Z testing
- Comprehensive email warmup capabilities including new domain, new email address and dormant domain reactivation.
- Full deliverability toolkit: spam testing, blacklist monitoring, bounce handling and more.
- Dynamic personalization using merge tags, snippets and conditional content.
- Campaign analytics plus contact history and activity timeline.
- Unified inbox to manage all incoming emails and prioritize replies.
- Integrates seamlessly with every major email platform and CRM via webhooks.
- Achieve inbox placement rates exceeding 95% with proactive deliverability.
- Hyper-personalize content to resonate with each individual prospect.
- Monitor campaign performance and pivot strategies to improve results.
- Streamline workflow with a centralized interface to manage campaigns and conversations.
- Quickly launch remarkably effective cold email campaigns with minimal setup.
Mystrika offers a free forever plan with basic features, a Growth plan at $19/month, a Dominate plan at $79/month and custom plans for enterprise customers. 20% annual discounts are also available.
Thousands of sales professionals trust Mystrika as their secret weapon to book more qualified meetings and close more deals through cold email outreach.
Outreach enables creating customized email and call cadences for prospects. AI guidance helps optimize timing and content for responses.
Outreach offers sophisticated automation with real-time alerts when prospects engage and tools to seamlessly convert hot leads. Plans start at $275 per month.
Mailshake makes it easy to manage cold email campaigns end-to-end. You can craft attractive email templates, set up automated flows, and track opens and replies.
Handy productivity features like send later, follow-up reminders, and Unsubscribe Guard optimize prospect communications. Pricing is $39+ per month.
PersistIQ equips sales teams with a visual email sequencing builder to create targeted drips. CRM syncing, A/B testing capabilities, and AI optimization help perfect outreach.
You can track interactions like meetings booked directly in the platform. PersistIQ starts at $25 per user monthly.
Sales Analytics Software
Analytics empower you to extract insights from prospect and outreach data that help refine strategies over time.
InsightSquared connects data sources like emails, calendar, and phone to uncover hidden sales patterns. Metrics on outreach sequences, buyer personas, and sales cycle stages inform prospecting.
Predictive forecasts based on pipeline trends enable smarter resource allocation for top prospects. Pricing is customized based on use case.
People.ai captures all sales activity and interactions automatically from email, calendars, and video calls. Powerful AI delivers digestible activity and productivity analytics.
Sales managers gain unprecedented visibility into performance levels, activity trends, and effectiveness engaging prospects. People.ai pricing starts at $599 per month.
Chorus analyzes conversations in sales calls, emails, and meetings to surface insights like buyer sentiment, competitive intel, and rep performance.
This empowers managers to coach reps on better content and approaches for prospect outreach based on data. Chorus costs a minimum of $100 per month per user.
Supercharge Prospecting Efforts
Leveraging a stack of complementary prospecting technologies maximizes the reach and effectiveness of sales teams.
Tools like Sales Navigator, intent data services, contact databases, data enrichment offerings, campaign automation software, and analytics work hand in hand to expand your pipeline with ideal prospects using optimized processes.
The right prospecting stack also accelerates sales cycles by automating previously manual elements to engage hot leads quickly. Prospecting tools are truly force multipliers when selected and implemented thoughtfully based on business needs.
Keys to Successful Prospecting and List Building
Prospecting is a multifaceted process with many moving parts. Doing it right requires diligence, organization, adaptation, and tools. What are the secrets to prospecting proficiency and constructing lists that deliver results? Let’s review the keys to prospecting success.
Start By Defining Your Ideal Customer
One of the biggest mistakes sales teams make is failing to clearly articulate who their best-fit customer actually is before launching prospecting efforts. Without an intimate understanding of your ideal buyer and their characteristics, you’ll struggle to build targeted lists and engage meaningfully.
Take time upfront to paint a detailed picture of your ideal prospect. Analyze current customers and look for patterns around:
- Firmographics – size, industry, location, department, technologies used
- Demographics – titles, seniority, age, gender
- Buyer psychographics – pain points, challenges, goals
- Purchase motivations – what spurs them to buy solutions like yours?
Document an ideal customer profile (ICP) outlining this composite prospect portrait you aim to pursue. This focuses prospecting on qualified, relevant lookalikes.
Without this buyer clarity, you risk wasting time pitching to prospects that will never realistically convert or derive value. Define your ideal customer first and foremost.
Adopt a Targeted Prospecting Approach
Armed with your ICP, you can be more strategic and deliberate building prospect lists vs taking a scattered, transactional approach. Prospecting tactics should center around uncovering companies and contacts resembling your best customers.
Conduct targeted outreach campaigns focused just on roles, industries, technologies, etc. matching your ICP criteria. Pursue centers of influence that can connect you to niche communities aligned to your solutions. Prioritize inbound leads that fit ICP demographic and firmographic data points.
Avoid indiscriminate, generic outreach and pay-per-lead databases with questionable relevance. The more tailored your prospecting, the better the results.
According to Outreach.io, businesses see 760% more leads and a 14.6% shorter sales cycle from targeted prospecting campaigns.
Maintain Your Prospect Data
Prospect data is a delicate, perishable asset requiring care. A database neglected quickly becomes outdated, inaccurate, and ineffective. Don’t undermine prospecting efforts with stale, incomplete data.
- Verify details – Periodically validate contact info and company attributes stay current. Expect decay of 5-10% monthly.
- Research and append – Enrich records with missing details like titles, location, technologies used etc.
- Remove unresponsive – Cull unengaged prospects after appropriate nurture periods to maintain quality.
- Cite sources – Note sources of prospect data for tracing bad records back to root databases.
- Restrict access – Limit team member permissions to Prospect data to prevent unauthorized use or exporting.
Well-governed prospect data paired with routine hygiene processes helps guarantee its integrity and utility.
Comply with Data Regulations
When managing prospect data, sales teams must be mindful of privacy regulations governing use of contacts’ personal information. Mishandling data usage can result in hefty fines.
- Document consent – Record consent or opt-ins provided by prospects to be contacted.
- Enable opt-outs – Provide clearly visible unsubscribe options on all outreach.
- Restrict exports – Limit prospects’ ability to export contact lists depending on sensitivity.
- Scrub lists – Check prospect lists against global Do Not Call registries before calling campaigns.
- Review policies – Understand data laws like CCPA, GDPR, and CASL that dictate proper data handling.
- Mask data – Anonymize sensitive fields like name or email before broader analytics usage.
Consult your legal team on constructing compliant retention policies, access controls, and data processing agreements with vendors.
Automate Where Possible
Repetitive manual tasks slow down prospecting and introduce errors. The more you can rely on technologies to automate prospecting workflows, the better. Look for opportunities to leverage tools to accelerate finding and engaging prospects:
- List building – Quickly generate targeted prospect lists using contact data platforms.
- Enrichment – Append missing details to records automatically via research and intelligence tools.
- Outreach – Schedule and automate personalized email and calling cadences.
- Data entry – Sync prospect research and engagement data with CRMs automatically.
- Analytics – Let systems categorize, segment, and report on prospect metrics hands-off.
According to Salesforce, 67% of highest-growth sales teams have extensive sales automation capabilities.
Continually Test and Optimize
Don’t get complacent using the same stale prospecting approaches. Take cues from marketing by continually testing new strategies and refining based on performance.
Try new methods and channels for sourcing and capturing prospect contact information. Send A/B test email campaigns with different content and messaging. Analyze results and double down on what moves the needle most.
Look for trends around which titles, industries, and buyer lifecycle stages prove most fruitful. Cycle successful tactics in while phasing out those yielding diminishing returns.
This agile, data-driven approach allows you to perfect prospecting approaches over time.
Getting to prospecting proficiency involves:
- Defining your ideal customer clearly upfront
- Adopting a targeted vs scattershot prospecting approach
- Maintaining clean, complete, and compliant prospect data
- Automating manual prospecting tasks where possible
- Testing and optimizing strategy continuously based on data
With the right mix of focus, processes, and technologies, prospecting can transform from a necessary chore into a scalable engine fueling pipeline and revenue growth.
FAQs About Prospecting and Building Lead Lists
Let’s wrap up this comprehensive guide to prospecting and list building by tackling some frequently asked questions sales teams have around sourcing and qualifying prospects.
How Can I Quickly Build My Prospect List?
While prospecting takes dedication, there are tactics to accelerate list building:
Leverage Your Current Customers – Tap into your existing customer base by requesting referrals, testimonials, and introductions within their networks. Happy customers often make great advocates.
Purchase Contact Lists – Buying targeted, pre-compiled databases of contacts that match your ideal firmographic profile saves manual research time. Just ensure high quality.
Attend Industry Events – Get boots on the ground networking at relevant conferences and tradeshows. Collect business cards and contact details from engaged attendees.
Run Retargeting Ads – Remarket to contacts who previously visited your site to capture those demonstrating continued interest.
Manage Paid Social Campaigns – Run continuously optimized LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook ads aimed at your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Gate Premium Content – Entice contacts to share their details in exchange for accessing gated assets like ebooks, kits, and webinars.
Install Lead Capture Forms – Enable lead gen and contact forms on marketing platforms like YouTube, Quora, and Medium.
Prospect sources like referrals, ads, content offers, and purchased lists provide the most time-efficient way to build robust prospect lists and pipelines.
What Metrics Indicate a Prospect is Sales Ready?
Certain prospect behaviors and attributes reveal who your sales team should prioritize and nurture as hot leads:
- Visited Pricing or Features Pages – Shows interest in details like costs and platform capabilities.
- Downloaded Specific Content – Suggests they have a need related to the content topic like compliance, scalability, etc.
- Submitted Calendar Invites – Volunteering to meeting exhibits willingness to engage.
- Opened and Clicked Emails – Proves they are engaged by your outreach messaging and content.
- Took a Demo or Free Trial – Strong sign of intent to explore your solution first-hand.
- Follows Social Media Channels – Following your brand indicates interest in your point of view.
- Uses Competing Product – Validates they are exploring alternatives to current solutions.
- Made Complementary Purchases – Signals they are assembling a technology stack your offering would fit into.
- Underwent Recent Major Change – Milestones like new funding, leadership changes, and expansions often spur investment.
Prospects exhibiting multiple sales ready behaviors should be prioritized for urgent sales follow up to drive conversions.
When Should I Remove Old or Unresponsive Prospects?
It’s important to cull stagnant prospects after reasonable periods to focus on active opportunities:
- No Response to Initial Outreach – Remove after the full first sequence goes unanswered.
- Repeatedly Rejects Meeting Requests – Take off list after declining an invite 2-3 times.
- Ignores Nurture Content – Discard if email open and click rates are near zero after 5+ touches.
- No Progress Post-Demo – Delete if repeatedly claims interest but takes no action after seeing the platform.
- Misaligned with ICP – Remove if discovery reveals they differ significantly from your ideal customer profile.
Maintaining unmoving prospects wastes crucial sales time and hurts list hygiene. Institute SDR processes to routinely purge contacts per defined nurturing timelines.
What Tools Help Organize Prospect Data?
Platforms like CRMs centralize prospect data and outreach:
- HubSpot – CRM tiers include contact database functionality starting at $45/month.
- Salesforce – Sales Cloud helps manage prospects alongside pipeline and CRM data.
- Zoho – Low cost CRM plans starting at $12/month provide prospect management capabilities.
- Insightly – Contact-focused CRM with plans starting at $29/month.
- Pipedrive – Visual pipeline views to track prospect process and status. Plans from $14.50/month.
- Copper – Gmail-based CRM for capturing interactions and activity with prospects. Starts at $12/month.
- Keap – CRM tailored to small business sales teams. Pricing starts at $99/month.
Choose a CRM that aligns to your stack, budget, and features to enable organized prospect data hygiene at scale.
How Frequently Should Prospect Data Be Verified?
Prospect data decays very quickly. To maximize accuracy and relevance, validate details at these frequencies:
- Emails – Verify monthly. Around 5% of emails churn monthly.
- Phone Numbers – Validate quarterly. About 15% of business numbers change quarterly.
- Job Titles & Departments – Confirm every 6 months. Organizational shifts prompt role changes.
- Company Details – Update annually. Mergers, leadership changes, etc affect firmographic.
- Technologies Used – Check every 6-12 months. Stacks evolve constantly.
- Contact Preferences – Validate quarterly. Channel preferences can change often.
Follow best practices for regularly scheduled prospect data hygiene and maintenance. Letting records decay undermines outreach.
What Signs Indicate a Prospect is Ready for a Demo?
Before investing time in demos and meetings, ensure the prospect is properly qualified. Readiness indicators include:
- Asking detailed questions about features, use cases, or integrations
- Describing pain points your product solves without prompting
- Scheduling repeated follow-ups to discuss needs
- Expressing dissatisfaction with their current solution
- Sharing requirements, budgets, or timelines
- Consuming your thought leadership content
- Attending your webinars or events
- Following executives and reps on social media
- Receiving targeted warm introductions from colleagues
- Visiting key pages like pricing and leadership team
Once prospects volunteer multiple buying signals, they become hot leads warranting immediate sales follow up.
How Do I Segment Prospects into Priority Tiers?
Group prospects using a methodology based on deal criteria and activity:
- Tier 1 – Strong ICP fit, demonstrated intent and engagement. Fast track.
- Tier 2 – Partial ICP match, early interest signs, limited nurture. Pursue closely.
- Tier 3 – Weak ICP fit, minimal interest or activity. Mass nurture.
Score prospects on factors like:
- ICP Fit – 5 points
- Engagement Level – 0-25 points
- Recency of Activity – 0-15 points
- Buying Signals – 0-10 points
Set thresholds, such as:
Tier 1 – Score above 50
Tier 2 – Between 30-50
Tier 3 – Below 30
Update scoring regularly and adjust sales intensity accordingly.
How Many Prospects Should Each Rep Have?
Ideal pipeline size varies based on sales cycle, deal sizes, quotas, and ramp time. But generally target:
- Short Sales Cycle – 100-200 prospects
- Medium Sales Cycle – 75-150 prospects
- Long Sales Cycle – 50-100 prospects
Also factor in:
- Historical Sales Acceptance Rate – Percent that typically convert.
- Average Deal Size – Volume needed to hit quotas.
- Monthly Deal Capacity – How many deals can a rep handle?
Test pipeline volumes and refine based on attainment levels. Ramp new hires gradually. The right pipeline size balances yield without overwhelming reps.
Other Relevant Questions :
What are some effective ways to build my prospect list quickly?
Some top tactics include leveraging referrals from existing customers, purchasing targeted contact lists, running paid social media campaigns, capturing inbound leads through content offers, and installing lead capture forms on your website. Casting a wide net across multiple channels will help you ramp up list building.
How can I differentiate between hot, warm, and cold prospects?
Hot prospects match your ideal customer profile and exhibit multiple signs of high sales readiness through their engagement, interest, and intent. Warm prospects partially fit your ICP and have expressed some initial interest. Cold prospects are those that fit your ICP but show minimal sales readiness or engagement. Prioritize follow-up accordingly.
When should I remove unresponsive prospects from my list?
Discard consistently unengaged prospects after putting them through an appropriate, predefined nurturing sequence. For example, remove prospects with no response after an initial 3-touch email sequence or those repeatedly declining meeting requests. Keeping unresponsive contacts on your active lists hurts data hygiene.
What tools can help manage my prospect data?
CRM platforms help organize prospect records, interactions, pipeline stages, and activity. Popular options like HubSpot, Salesforce, Pipedrive, and Zoho all provide databases to store prospect profiles and sales workflows to track them.
How often should I enrich and verify my prospect data?
Best practice is to verify emails monthly, phone numbers quarterly, job titles biannually, company details annually, and technologies used every 6-12 months. Build schedules and processes for systematic prospect data hygiene. Letting data decay leads to wasted sales efforts.
What signs indicate a prospect is ready for a demo or initial call?
Signals like asking detailed questions, highlighting pain points, scheduling follow-ups, expressing dissatisfaction with current tools, sharing timelines and budgets, and consuming educational content all suggest a prospect is appropriately qualified and engaged for intro calls.
How should I segment and prioritize prospects?
A lead scoring methodology can classify prospects based on criteria like ICP fit, buying signals, and engagement. Use this intelligence to group prospects into tiers that align follow-up intensity and effort to opportunity potential.
How many prospects should each rep have in their pipeline?
There are no fixed rules, but a general guideline is 100-200 prospects for shorter sales cycles, 75-150 prospects for medium cycles, and 50-100 prospects for long enterprise sales cycles. Refine based on historical conversion rates, average deal sizes, and sales capacity.
Prospecting is a crucial sales activity that involves sourcing, qualifying, and nurturing leads to generate new business opportunities. Done right, it can become a scalable engine fueling predictable revenue growth.
To recap, here are the core ingredients for prospecting success:
- Clearly define your ideal customer profile based on existing buyers. Identify the key demographics, psychographics, and attributes of your best-fit prospects.
- Adopt a targeted, focused approach to prospecting. Concentrate efforts on finding lookalike matches to proven profitable customer archetypes.
- Maintain meticulous data hygiene. Continuously verify and enrich prospect contact records and company profiles to preserve accuracy.
- Prioritize prospect follow-up based on ICP fit, demonstrated needs and intent, and potential lifetime value. Not all prospects are created equal.
- Automate repetitive tasks like list building, outreach campaigns, and data management. Leverage technologies to accelerate prospecting velocity.
- Test and refine strategies continuously based on prospect engagement and sales data. Adapt prospect sources and campaigns in a data-driven manner.
- Comply with data regulations and privacy laws. Implement appropriate governance policies and controls around prospect data usage.
With the right prospecting framework fueled by meaningful data and enabling tools, sales teams can fill their pipeline with high-quality leads primed to convert.