How to build a powerful B2B sales prospect list

by
Mona Csada
Published:
October 5, 2021

All B2B sales organizations need a steady stream of high quality leads, and that starts with a high quality prospect list. Getting laser-sharp with your targeting keeps your sales team focused on the most valuable and appropriate prospects, and ultimately increases conversion rates.

“The last thing you want is to have your sales team wasting time on prospects that aren’t likely to buy,” says Jonathan Berube, Director of Sales at Virtual Gurus. “I’ve always found that investing the time upfront to create a well-researched prospect list pays for itself many times over.‘’

With that in mind, here’s our best advice for creating a powerful prospect list:

1. Know what you’re selling

It may sound obvious, but your sales team needs to know the ‘what’ in order to identify the best ‘who.’ This means going beyond the basics and diving into specific use cases, feature sets, and success stories. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What problem is your product solving? If it solves more than one problem, which seems to be the most important?
  • Is there something about your product that typically helps you close difficult deals?
  • What would a valuable customer say is the most helpful part of your product or service? 


2. Define your ideal customer

Paint a picture of your best-fit customer, often called the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Use your current customer list as a starting point. Analyze your best customers and identify traits they have in common to create an inventory of target criteria that you can apply to your prospect list.

Your target criteria should include basic firmographics such as:

  • Company size (revenue and number of employees)
  • Location
  • Industry / vertical
  • Buyer roles / job titles

On top of those basic attributes, add any key behavioural characteristics of your best customers. These might include:

  • How do they measure success? What goals are they trying to achieve with your product? 
  • What do your customers like the most about your product? What are their must-haves when it comes to new purchases?
  • Communication preferences – Do your best buyers prefer to engage with companies by phone, email, social media, in person? Is there a particular time your customers are most often available? How many times does it typically take your customers to engage with sales outreach?
  • Key motivations and buying triggers – What makes this person or company purchase new products? Is there an event or set of events that typically signals their readiness to purchase?  
  • Brand or mission identification – Are your best customers drawn to specific attributes of your brand, or your company values?  

All of this information will serve as a starting point for your next step.


3. Find and refine your audience

Your next task is to find and learn more about companies that meet the target criteria you’ve developed. Use a combination of resources to actively look up companies that fit the criteria you’ve identified. 

Examples of helpful company research tools:

As you research, consider questions like:

  • Does this company need my product or service? Why? 
  • Does this company share the same challenges as my current customers? 

Your goal should be to narrow down the list to companies that most likely have a need for your solution. This can be a labour-intensive exercise, so consider securing the help of additional team members or a virtual assistant.


4. Use growth signals to filter further 

Research the growth and financial performance of the companies on your list. If an organization has been shrinking or losing money recently, they probably aren’t interested in spending money--they’re busy tightening margins. 

Conversely, if a company has been in a state of consistent or booming growth, they have money to invest and they may also have some growing pains that your product or service can help address. Move these organizations to the top of your list.

There are a number of tools and resources  you can use for your research, including:

Again, it’s worth enlisting an assistant or coordinator to help you with the heavy lifting here, whether that’s an internal resource or a virtual sales assistant. Look for someone with research or sales development experience.


5. Consider industry life cycles

It’s worth taking a step back to consider the industry growth rate of each organization on your list. Although there may be exceptions, company fortunes most often follow those of their sector. 

Some of the fastest-growing and most promising industries of today and tomorrow include:

  • Biotechnology and genomics
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Software services
  • Technology, including artificial intelligence,  machine learning, virtual reality, robotics, drones and nano-technology
  • Renewable energy
  • E-learning

Organizations in these verticals will likely be more willing to invest in new products or services.

Some of the most unstable industries include:

  • Legal
  • Oil & Gas
  • Transportation

Companies that exist in these sectors may be operating under tighter budgets. They might still be worth targeting, but the deals will probably be shorter and smaller.


6. Don’t forget cross-sell opportunities 

It takes less time, money and effort to sell more to your current customers than to bring in entirely new ones. Cross-reference your prospect list with your current client list. If you’ve done business before, chances are they already trust your brand. Are there any additional products or services  they haven’t bought yet but might need? 


7. Resource appropriately

As you can see, the process of building a powerful prospect list does take an upfront investment of time. That’s often where a virtual assistant can help if you don’t have the capacity internally. However you decide to tackle it, your ROI will most certainly be strong.

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Mona Csada

Mona is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Virtual Gurus. She has over 20 years of experience bring brand stories to life and driving sales and marketing results for organizations large and small.

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