Whether you’re a start-up venture searching for sales leads or an established business hoping to grow its base of business clients, prospecting is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face.  Your sales people are trained to sell to companies who are likely to have a need for your services. But, finding new companies to talk to is quite challenging when you don’t have a ready-made prospecting funnel.

That’s why so many companies have started B2B cold calling and appointment setting campaigns. The most important ingredient for a successful B2B cold calling campaign is a good list.  The list can make or break a B2B appointment setting or lead generation campaign and is typically about a 70% – 75% predictor of success.

So, without further ado, here are the top three tips for a successful prospect list:


•                    Know Your Target Market and Create a List to Match It

This one may seem obvious, but it’s the backbone of every successful B2B cold-calling campaign. The research you do BEFORE you purchase the list is vital. So, do your homework: What types of companies and businesses are a fit for your offering? Who are the decision makers and what are their titles? What are their buying trends? Knowing the answers to questions like these will build the framework and foundation for a great list.


To learn those answers is to review your current client base and determine the identifying criteria.


•                     Vet Your List Broker and the List Source

Then, set out to find a list that matches your target market, probably through a list broker.


List brokers come in all sizes. There are standard brokers, specialty brokers and even services that will custom-build lists for you. Standard brokers are fine for most projects, but, even with standard lists, there are nuances to consider.  You may need to eliminate branch locations or suppress duplicate companies who share the same phone number and address.


Specialty brokers work well when you need a list that combines data from different sources. For example, taking government data and combining it with revenue data from another source. Specialty sources are more expensive, and can deliver lists you cannot find “off-the-shelf.”


Then, there are custom list building options. These are for when there is simply no ready-made source data for your prospecting list. Say, for instance, your B2B cold calling campaign targets manufacturing companies who purchase goods abroad and import these products to the U.S. for further fabrication. A custom list building service can create this list based on the companies who click to download a white paper on the Internet.


Regardless of the direction you take, it is imperative that you vet your list source. Ask colleagues for referrals, read reviews, and get references. Try asking for samples, too.


•                     The Quality of the List is more important than the Quantity of Records

Two companies had identical target markets for their B2B appointment setting campaigns: school districts. Company A’s prospect list consisted of about five to six names per school district. Unfortunately, calling all the names on this list wound up being a time-sucking, pocket-draining rabbit hole because most of the names were no longer there, or were not the decision makers. Company B, on the other hand, had a shorter list of district phone numbers. Based on their research, they anticipated that the person to speak with was the superintendent, but they had no names or direct numbers. At face value, the second list sounded half-baked but, after brief Internet research and calling a few districts, Company B was able to connect with superintendents, and the campaign was a great success. Company A’s list was larger and filled with too many inaccurate names; Company B’s list was less robust but, asking simply for the Superintendent made it a more focused, cost-effective, and ultimately a more successful campaign.


Every company, every sales offering, and thus every B2B appointment setting campaign is unique and varied. There is no one-size-fits-all prospect list. What is universal, however, is that every B2B cold calling campaign is a big investment – in time, in resources, and in money. The payoff of a successful campaign can be huge, generating new customers, new growth opportunities, and larger profits. Get the list right, and you’re 75% of the way there. Get it wrong, and you’ve shot yourself in the foot before you even got out of the gate.

About the Author: 

After a successful corporate career in direct marketing and consulting, Valerie Schlitt created VSA from her family room in 2001. With a desire for connecting people and producing bottom line results, Schlitt launched the outsourced B2B Inside Sales firm that has helped close to 500 companies increase their sales. The VSA staff helps clients who don’t have the resources, capabilities or desire to perform their business development. Valerie has used her consulting and direct marketing background to create and optimize client programs. VSA becomes an extension of their clients’ sales and marketing teams. Valerie began her business career at American Express and also worked at Travelers, PricewaterhouseCoopers, CIGNA, and KPMG Consulting. She holds an MBA from The Wharton School. Learn more about VSA at http://www.vsaprospecting.com