How To Build a Complete Prospect List in 2021

The first thing we do for our clients is build a COMPLETE list of companies that they want to work with.

No problem! How hard could it be to find prospects, right?

Actually, it’s not hard at all. But it can be time consuming.

In this article I’m going to show you some of the ways we use to build the most complete list of prospects possible.

By the end you’ll never have to wonder if you found ALL your best buyers ever again.

b2b prospect list

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Even the newest carpenter knows it’s better to measure twice and cut once. If you make a mistake in the measurements you lose time and materials.

The same principle applies when building a prospect list. 

It’s tempting to just jump into your research. But before you do, take some time to reflect on your best prospects. Try and really understand where your solution intersects with the problems they want to solve. Do this, and your prospect list will be stronger for it. 

We like to say, success is 80% sales targeting. You won’t get very far if you say the right things to the wrong people.

Slow Down!

Now I know what you’re thinking – I’ll just go to Linkedin.

And that’s a good starting spot, but Linkedin has limitations. Relying only on Linkedin will almost certainly result in an incomplete prospect list.

List building is all about uncovering high value opportunities. So you can’t afford to create a partially complete prospect list. The cost of leaving some companies off the list is too high.

It’s important to note that no one way of building a prospect list is 100% perfect. Most prospecting methods produce too much data, or not enough. Only by combing B2B prospecting methods can you be confident that your prospect list is 100% complete.

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Start Your Prospect List With Sales Navigator

Find Prospects Linkedin Accounts

OK, I know I said don’t rely on Linkedin. But Sales Navigator (Linkedin premium) is an obvious place to start prospect research. You can pay on a month over month basis so it’s a low-commitment way to start building your data base. There are two ways to use this tool:

Search Accounts (Companies)

Sales Navigator makes it easy to filter by industry, location, and company size to find the obvious targets in your industry.

Find Prospects Linkedin Accounts

As good as Sales Navigator is, it still has limitations. First, many companies don’t have a Linkedin page. This means that they don’t show up in the Accounts search results.

Second, the Linkedin industry categories are very broad. Many companies potentially fit into multiple categories, and are frequently miss-categorized. Bad data in, means bad data for your prospect list.

Search Leads (People)

You can use the ‘Search Leads’ function to also find companies that fit your target profile. Just like with an accounts search you can filter people by location, industry, and company size. You can then see where each person works and add that company to your prospect list.

It’s a more complete way of finding sales opportunities, but it’s not practical, except for smaller data sets.

Here’s why.

Imagine you search for an large industry, in a large geographic area, with more than 50 staff. The volume of leads would be larger than you can manually review. And if you add filters to eliminate people then you potentially remove their company from your prospect list, too.

Skynet (AI) Can Build Your B2B Prospect List

AI prospect hunting

We’re still a few years away from Skynet taking over so for now AI is still friendly. And it helps us with B2B lead generation services.

AI prospect huntingThe most basic type of AI doesn’t actually “think.” An algorithm is exposed to a pattern and then taught to seek out and recognize that pattern. This is largely why AI is so good at tasks like tumor recognition. But still struggles to write a comprehensible magazine article.

Deep pattern recognition can help you find prospects by making associative connections on scale. Research that takes you a week to complete might take an AI tool mere seconds.

Say you wanted to market to accounting firms in your area. You can give the AI lead generation tool a few sample websites to establish a pattern. The AI might discover that words like “audit, incorporation, and insolvency” are common to both sites. It can then search for other websites that share similar words on the site.

This is an amazing (and instant!) way to find prospects that you NEVER would have found on your own using Google or Linkedin.

But there’s a catch… AI is too good at spotting patterns. And that means many of these tools suffer from data-overload. You’ll find some results you wouldn’t otherwise have found. But might get a ton of garbage to sort through

For ‘average’ companies that just want to know make as complete a prospect list as possible, AI can help. But you’d better be prepared to wade through a lot of data.

Use Regulators To Find Prospects

For once in your life, the government is your friend!

Many industries have government oversight and require licencing to operate.

And depending on where you live, the government may make this database open to the public. After all, they want people able to verify a company is qualified to perform the task they are promoting.

These public databases are a gold mine. By law companies need to register, so you automatically get a full and complete B2B prospect list. There is simply no easier way to find prospects!

Some industries have different levels of qualification. That means companies are allowed to conduct some activities in their field, but not others. For example, Company A is allowed to conduct minor building repairs. But they can’t inspect the building for safety issues.

The ability to apply deep niche filters makes government data the easiest way to prospect for B2B sales opportunities.

Use Job Titles to Find Prospects

Most job titles are pretty generic and don’t vary much by company, industry or occupation.

But some industries have job titles or functions that are unique to that industry or occupation. If you know what positions are unique to an industry then you can use job boards to find companies doing work in that field.

Linkedin and Google may get you most of the way towards a complete B2B prospect list. But a job board can help you find smaller firms with less online presence. Just use the job board filters to choose you area, then look for titles related to your target field.

Say you wanted to make a list of video production companies. On the job listings search for past and current job titles like “Gaffer, Lighting Technician, Key Grip” and so on. These titles will show you what companies are hiring in these areas. And you can add them to your list of sales prospects.

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Find Prospects at Events & Conventions (without attending)

Find prospects with Events

Need a list of established and upcoming companies in any industry? Just search for events, expositions, conferences and conventions.

Want to find toy companies? Check out the New York Toy Fair!

Need to meet construction & utility companies? Just visit the International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition.

Events are a great source of company information. Some of them are HUGE, and take place in large convention centers. These events mark an important time of the year and anybody who is somebody makes an effort to attend.

And many conventions will have hundreds of companies participate in the event.

A nice thing about expos is companies that are brand new to an industry will make an effort to exhibit. It’s the easiest way for them to go from unknown to well-known in just 2 days. This makes it easy for you to identify and contact new entries to your target industry.

Best of all, the speakers, promoters, sponsors, exhibitors, and other attendees are all listed on the event website. It’s a one stop shop for data mining an entire industry.

Check out the above list from the ICUEE – it’s a 17 page list of super-niche companies. The Exposition organizers have done all your work for you already!

Use Grants & Legislation To Build Your Prospect List

Combined, your local, state, and federal governments enact a MASSIVE amount of new legislation in any given year. They decide on new laws, standards, bi-laws, grants, incentives, and so on.

This means the world is always changing. And change is good.

Change is opportunity.

When new rules take effect someone usually wins. And someone usually loses.

Your job is to help the winners take advantage of their new opportunities. Or help the losers deal with the impact of the new rules. Either way, you’ve identified new prospects.

Imagine you are in the software industry and your state government announces new productivity grants. You could find 1000’s of prospects who could benefit from the State’s offering. But they don’t know much about the grant, eligibility requirements, or what’s covered. Just teaching them how to take advantage of the opportunity available to them could land you a ton of new business.

Share A List

The nice thing about prospect lists is, strictly speaking, they don’t have to be yours.

Find companies who aren’t competitors, but have a similar prospect profile as your own.

Then ask them to promote your solution to their opt-in email list.

It’s fair to say there will be some costs involved. But a high quality opt-in list is very valuable and hard to replicate. If the targeting is exact then it drive huge results for your business.

Creative Ways to Expand Your Prospect List

The list of companies you want to contact is out there somewhere. But you may need to be creative to find it. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Linkedin Groups

Linkedin has an almost unlimited number of professional groups on the platform. A group is a place for professionals in the same industry to share ideas, information, and make connections. The odds are, if you are looking for a certain type of company, there is a Linkedin group that supports them. You can join and look at the member list and meet new contacts at the same time.

Facebook Groups

Like Linkedin, Facebook has groups for pretty much every interest imaginable. And there’s a good chance one or more Facebook groups already exists to support your target industry. Worst case scenario, you get to mess around on Facebook for an hour as part of finding prospects.

Associations

When an industry has shared interests eventually an association is formed to support those interests. And often they publish a members list to show how influential they are in the industry. That said, sometimes you’ll need to join the association if you want to access the members list.

Say you want to find Japanese companies with operations in the UK. That’s not an easy list of prospects to find. But a great place to start is the Japanese Society. The member list there shows some of the largest companies from Japan that have operations in the UK.

Embassies, Consulates, & Government Programs

You wouldn’t think of public or semi-public institutions as being a great place to find company data. But you’d be amazed how much information they have about companies that relate to their purview.

In the example above, the Japanese Society lists fewer than 200 companies. But there are probably more Japanese companies than that operating in the UK. You can build a more complete prospect list by connecting with the Japanese Embassy in London or through the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Both will have detailed knowledge of Japanese companies who have offices all across the UK.

Build the Ultimate Prospect List

It’s not enough to build a ‘pretty good’ prospect list. You’ve got to find ALL your prospects. If you don’t you’re throwing away some potentially amazing deals – simply because you didn’t do enough research.

The prospect list building methods above will give you a fantastic place to start finding hard to find companies that are under represented in the more obvious places like Linkedin and Google.

Remember, be creative. Your list is out there. You’ve just got to think of ways to find it.

Happy hunting!

Need More Qualified B2B Leads?

Meet decision makers interested in your solutions

Matthew Murray
Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. He knows any company can THRIVE with enough qualified sales leads. So he’s spent the last decade helping companies meet engaged prospects and win new deals.

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