The demand for prospects is so great that an entire industry arose in the last decade.
Find out what the pros and cons of a few most known B2B prospecting options are, as well as how the process with each of them looks.
Why Prospects Are Necessary in the First Place
The most important goal startups have is growing fast.
Effective growth means more closed deals, and for that to happen you need a good base to start with – prospects for your sales team.
The sales pipeline is a numbers game, we all know that, and if you play it smart it can be very rewarding.
High-quality prospect list building is hard and there are many ways of going about it, but in order to be effective, you really need to know where and how to dig.
Aside from inbound generated leads in the hands of marketing teams, sales teams are more focused on generating cold leads through desktop research.
These leads don’t know you and their conversion rates are lower, but if your targeting is right while you keep your cost per lead under control you can amplify the success rates.
Let’s go over your options.
Buying Prospect Lists from Web Scrapers
You can buy prospect lists from companies which scrape the web and produce large lists of prospects at very low prices.
However, these prospects are of low quality and are not verified. If you decide to buy one of these lists, you will likely end up scrubbing the data to get to the quality prospects.
You may pay a low price for a list of 5,000 prospects, but if you end up with only 500 quality contacts, it means you in fact paid 10 times more per prospect than you think.
Moreover, these lists are rarely ever updated. And check this out – 30% of sales prospects are completely unusable within a single year!
You will waste money by investing your time in cleaning up the data before using it, instead of concentrating your efforts on closing deals or other more strategic and profitable aspects of your business.
Many small sized businesses rely on this strategy as it seems less costly. That’s the biggest misconception.
If you are sending a large amount of emails and experiencing a big bounce rate, your email score will decrease and you can be marked as a spammer.
Then, there are the so-called “spam traps” – email addresses that contain the first and last name, and the company domain and seem just like regular business emails. BUT, they actually do not belong to anybody, and are created specifically for catching spam.
This can ruin your total success rate. One way to avoid this is using email sending services instead of a simple mail merge function in Outlook.
Still, if you are being marked as spam often, your email provider or email automation software might blacklist you. You don’t want to put your whole sales process in danger, do you?
Add to that the new privacy regulations such as the GDPR and the fines that come with it, and you can tell how problematic buying these types of lists can be.
The GDPR data collecting, data storing and cold emailing rules are quite complex. If you’re handling data of EU citizens, you should definitely read up on them. Still, many countries outside of the EU have their own regulations which you should also research before acting.
Just to make sure that you take this seriously, here are the GDPR fines – up to €20 million, or 4% of last year’s revenue.
Seeing as the people in the list you bought don’t know you, you don’t know them, what they originally opted-in for or if their data is still relevant, you are better off making your own list or buying from a trustworthy source.
Buying Lead Lists from Intelligence Platforms
You can actually buy clean data and quality leads in fairly large numbers from Intelligence Platforms such as LeadGenius, DueDil, Unomy or ZoomInfo.
The thing is – these platforms are not that cheap.
Intelligence platforms can be a good choice as they can provide company profiles which include details like the number of employees and revenue size.
The issue is, their leads are usually refreshed in less than 90 days and mostly sourced from larger US and UK companies, usually with a 1,000+ headcount.
If you, for instance, happen to be looking for leads from smaller EU companies and the rest of the world, these platforms won’t have what you need.
If you decide to pay for one of these platforms, it is highly recommended you re-verify the contacts you get using an email verification tool.
This is because lead quality decays 5% per month and as the leads within these platforms are a few months old, it’s the best if you re-verify them to avoid big email bounce rates.
Ultimately, you will achieve the best results using a combination of different verification tools.
One more thing you’ll note is that, in some platforms, the lead titles are very narrow, while others are specialized for a specific industry and/or territory.
If you’re paying good money for leads, you want them to be targeted and categorized the way you need them – focusing on a certain industry, on companies of a certain size with a certain number of employees, on leads with a certain title and position in the company.
So, depending on your budget, the types of companies you’re targeting and what a certain platform can offer, these can be a good idea.
You could establish a sales development team in house.
However, quality prospect list building requires a lot of time. That’s why it isn’t wise to task you sales reps with doing it. It’s ideal to train your own Sales Development Representative team.
But, in-house prospecting is expensive and time consuming.
First, there’s the hiring process and establishing the organizational structure on the fine line between sales and marketing where this team organizationally belongs.
Besides having to pay these people and pay overhead, you also have to educate them on the whole process, the tactics and strategies, the qualifying and contacting protocols.
Then, there’s the question of how many SDRs you would need. You have to decide on the ration of SDRs to sales reps on your own.
Topohq suggests 1 SDR to 3 sales reps as the optimal number with the lowers ration recommended being 1:2 and the highest 1:5 (although the latter usually fails because the sales reps don’t get a significant number of qualified leads).
Finally, you will also need an SDR Manager since having them report to the sales reps directly can end up counterproductive.
However, having an in-house SDR team obviously comes with a lot of benefits.
First of all, they free up time for sales reps to do what they do best – closing deals.
Moreover, this team bridges the gap between sales and marketing, and is the key to aligning these two departments.
And in contrast to outsourcing, they are in constant touch with you and your sales and marketing teams regarding any change in the types of prospects you’re looking for or similar.
Establishing an SDR team is basically segmenting your department which simply means that it’s more organized. Having it be more organized just means that your processes are standardized and everything should flow smoothly.
The more segmented your organization gets the better since you’ll have your employees focusing and improving their skills in one area only.
Still, depending on the stage your company is in and your budget, just the SDR team could be out of your reach. But don’t worry – there are many other options to get your prospect lists.
If, on the other hand, you do decide to build your SDR team, you should really know the whole process involved in prospect list building.
How to Build a Prospect List in Steps
Building a prospect list is a process that takes time – especially if you want to do it right. As startups rarely have a lot of time or resources, finding a trustworthy source of prospects might be money better spent.
However, if you want to do it yourself here is how you do it.
1) Identify your ICP
The first step to prospecting is identifying your Ideal Customer Profile.
In B2B cases, this is to define the type of companies that are most likely to convert to customers. The more specifics you can find the better.
The place to start is your existing customers. Check out the list, arrange the data and see what they have in common. You’re looking at firmographics. Here are a few questions that can start you off.
- What’s the industry of these companies?
- Where are the companies located?
- What’s their size?
- How many decision makers are there?
- How many employees do they have?
- What’s their yearly revenue?
In case you don’t yet have any customers, the place to look is your competitors’ customers.
2) Identify your BP
The next step is to identify the Buying Persona, i.e. the person within the company that is a decision maker or involved in the buying process.
There can be multiple, but they are important so that you know whom within a certain company you should collect the data for and contact.
Again, the more specifics the better, but these will usually consist of pain points, age, job title, salary, etc.
3) Research & verify – Google, LinkedIn, various scrapers
When you know the type of companies and the people within them that you are targeting, it’s time to start your research.
According to the way your CRM is set up, identify the information that you will need. The most basic information fields that you will most likely have are first and last name, job title and email address.
As for a research source, the internet is your oyster.
You will be able to find some information on the company website, some by simply searching Google, various databases, publicly available data on government websites or LinkedIn (especially if you pay for premium membership), or by using one of the plethora of different web scrapers available today.
That’s only half of the job, though. Now, you need to verify all this information that you collected.
The more points of verification you have, the higher the chances of your data actually being accurate.
Market Republic has 4 and can guarantee that our prospect lists are 98% accurate.
There are different automated tools available for verifying email addresses, but it would be the best to combine it with the human eye for maximal accuracy.
4) Import into CRM
Not that your information is verified, all that’s left is to import it into your CRM.
Make sure that when you make your list you standardize what data you have found and in what order it was put in.
By doing this, you will have your CRM organized neatly, instead of making a huge mess that will complicate the nurturing process for your sales reps.
However, if you don’t have time to do your prospect list building in-house and if you want highly-targeted and accurate data, your best bet is to outsource.
What About Outsourced Prospecting?
Depending on the stage your company is in, you can greatly benefit from outsourcing your prospecting efforts by saving time and re-focusing your existing SDR’s or salespeople on qualifying prospects and actually closing deals.
The question is whether your should outsource to freelancers or agencies.
Outsourcing with Freelancers
You can hire overseas freelancers to execute your prospect list building for you.
However, the bothersome part of this is that you need to invest a significant amount of time in order to recruit freelancers by posting ads on Upwork or Freelancer, and weed out potentially good collaborators from the sea of “I can do anything” profiles and applications.
Another negative aspect is that you need to go through the whole recruiting process a great number of times while your prospecting operation is flowing, because, as we all know, freelancer turnover is very common.
Independent workers get busy with other projects and might neglect yours, which is why you need to keep recruiting all the time.
This takes up a lot of valuable time, which could be invested so much more productively into closing deals!
Moreover, if you decide to hire multiple freelancers, you have to be prepared that their prospects will differ in quality depending on the effort they put it and their experience.
This means that you could end up with bad data in your CRM that will have to be updated sooner than later.
And what when you suddenly need a large number of prospects that your current freelancer roster can’t provide? Yep, you will have to keep recruiting and educating them time and time again.
The bottom line is, while hiring freelancers to do your prospect list building saves you some time, it also requires a lot of time invested on your part, it comes down to the same thing as if you were doing prospecting in-house, only possibly having to adjust your time to the different time zones your freelancers could be in.
Outsourcing with a List Building Agency
One of the best approaches is to partner with prospect list building specialists who can do this for you.
You want a partner that is able to streamline the entire process, optimize it and scale up and down to meet your needs.
By outsourcing this process you can cut its costs by up to 60% and increase your sales team productivity by up to 40%.
Alongside this, you do not need to worry about the quality of your leads as bounce rates for prospects gathered by a prospecting partner are lower than 2%.
This is because people who are experienced in prospecting and work in a company specializing in it can do this quicker and better than freelancers. They are full-time employees whose expertise is to find qualified prospects.
Our research team’s productivity has gone up by almost 50% in the past year after developing our own tools for gathering account and contact data.
Additionally, they can create a more tailored approach than any online platform can, as well as provide you with account management.
Perhaps most importantly, if you hire a prospecting company, you can request exclusive prospects – contacts found for you and only you, not to be sold to anyone else.
Cooperation with an established prospecting company can help you reach your targets quicker and maximize your prospect quality, as well as provide you with tailored optimization and measurable results.
How to Onboard a Prospect List Building Agency in Steps
It depends on the agency, but shouldn’t be too long.
Market Republic can start working within a matter of hours – as soon as the contract is signed.
Our clients provide us with the list of their current clients, past clients or the ones still in the buying process.
Based on that list we create a bounty list with similar companies and decision makers in each company, and deliver it to our client in a few days or weeks.
All of collected data is fresh with 98% accuracy.
No pre-packaged lists, no outdated information, no waste of money.
You only deliver your ICP and messaging framework, and the rest is up to us.
You have one point of contact, a dedicated team and Account Manager that does all the work for you. After a while, you’ll see how you process is streamlined and easy to scale across industries and markets.
Although we also offer initial contact and follow up emails, we strongly believe that companies from then on should take matters into their own hands and create their own messaging and hold scheduled calls.
Contact us for a free consultation.