How to Build a Quality Prospect Base for Outbound: 5-Step Tutorial

In 2016, I wrote around 20 posts about prospecting tools and tactics. I decided to prepare a little synthesis of the prospecting know-how I’ve shared with you so far. Here’s the outbound prospecting process divided into 5 steps.

Step 1 – Define your ICP

Before you start looking for prospects, you need to define what type of businesses you want to contact, and why. That’s the main assumption of creating your Ideal Customer Profile.

Think of the companies who would most definitely benefit from your solution. Think of companies you would really want to become your customers. Only then, establish which people at those companies would be the right people to talk to.

Choosing the target account type and the target persona are two conjoined processes. The worst mistake you can make is to underestimate them. This is an obligatory step if you want your outreach to work.

See how to take about defining your ICP here:

What’s the First Step to Building a Good Prospect Base? >>

See how our team approached persona development:

Who Are Really My Prospects? – Our Way for Persona Development >>

Step 2 – Find and research the right places

Once you know who you’re looking for, you can start actually looking. First, you need to find the places where your prospects gather to exchange ideas or share information about their businesses. You can go to LinkedIn, but believe me, everyone else goes there  and this is not the only place you can research. Get creative! Think of your target group.

Find just a few ideas here:

15 Places Where You Can Find Prospects, Other than LinkedIn >>

Step 3 – Plan your email copy (yes, already!)

If you want to receive many replies, your cold email campaign needs to be personalized and well-adjusted to your target group. You want your message to be set up in the right context. This context can be built of information found during the list building process. That’s why it’s a good idea to draft your first version of email copy before you collect your prospects’ data. This will allow you to collect exactly the data you need, and collect them in the right form.

Learn the process of contextual prospect list building step by step here:

What Should Go First: Cold Email Copy or Prospect Base? (free PDF included) >>

Step 4 – Collect prospects’ data

This is when the planning ends, and the real building process begins. Prepare a spreadsheet and collect data, having in mind the custom fields that you’re going to put in your emails. That’s a time-consuming process which takes time, but if you do it yourself, it allows you to learn a lot about your target group. If you can’t spend the time to do it yourself, there are some outsourcing options available.

Discover the best ways for prospect list building:

3 Ways to Get a Quality Outbound Prospect List >>

Step 5 – Find emails

With the tools available these days, this is the easiest part. It’s important to collect your prospects’ names, surnames, their company names and domains, because many tools need those pieces of data to find the emails.

Check the list of tools that will help you find email addresses:

24 Tools & Services for Outbound Prospect List Building >>

Final step – test

As you have built your prospect base and created the email copy, it’s all ready for testing. This is the most exciting part, especially at the moment when you see some first answers. A prospect base in a .csv format can be imported to Woodpecker, from where you can automatically send your emails and follow-ups.

Only sending the emails will allow you to verify, if the hypotheses you made about your prospect group were correct or not. So don’t be afraid to upload the first batch of prospects and hit ‘Send’.

A few crucial tips to keep in mind

Don’t try to build a huge base including thousands of prospects.

Collect 40-50 prospects, prepare good custom fields well set up in the context, and send away to test. Observe reactions and adjust your prospecting process with regard to your conclusions. This approach allows you to quickly test several groups of prospects and various email versions.

Don’t ever skip the first step.

Don’t just get a random list from LinkedIn. Stop and think, who your ideal prospects really are. In outbound, you get the comfort of deciding which companies you want to work with. Appreciate that.

Don’t try to hack your way out.

Prospecting for outbound is difficult. And takes time. Lots of time. During the process, you’ll feel the temptation to take a shortcut, for instance: buy a ready-made list and send out whatever in hopes that some of it will stick; or go to LinkedIn, filter “VP of Sales in tech companies” and send them a generic email sequence including a pitch without any context whatsoever.

Resist the temptation. Sit down, grit your teeth, do your homework. The process can be a drag, but the reward is worth the struggle.