Ask a brand-new sales rep what the most important skill is and you know what he’ll say? “Closing.” That’s what we always hear, right? But ask a 20-year vet who’s seen a thing or two and they’ll tell you it isn’t the closing. It’s the prospecting.
As Founder of Tenbound David Delany told me –
“If you’re able to do your own prospecting, you’ll never starve.”
But I’d even take it one step further—nail down how to prospect like a pro, and you’ll live like a king.
Now prospecting is one of the most valuable skills you can learn in your entire sales career. As Cardone Enterprises VP of Sales Jarrod Glandt shared –
“I would rather have a salesperson that could get in the door and create an opportunity in the first place, than somebody who sucks on the front side of it but is average at the end.”
Which is why we created the Sales Prospect List Building Framework. This framework is just four steps. And if you want to take a deeper dive into the strategies and techniques we’re talking about here, I suggest you head over to the link in the video notes below to read the full guide.
Alright with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump into the framework.
1. Refine Your ICP
Now step one is refining your ICP or ideal customer persona. These are essentially your perfect buyers. And they’re the prospects you want to be focusing on the most.
Here are some qualities to look for when trying to identify your ICP:
- Are easiest to close
- Have the pain point you’re solving
- Understand your product’s value
- Offer the fewest objections
- Are urgently ready to buy
All of these attributes up to 1) a shorter sales cycle, 2) higher profit margins, and 3) an easier, less stressful sales process for—that’s right—you.
Now, identifying your ICP takes a bit of work. But you can start by looking at past customers with the shortest contact-to-sale cycle. From there, you can bring in more data points by considering how large the sale is, whether they’ve become repeat buyers, and if they provided a glowing testimonial or referral.
For an even more in-depth dive into defining your ICP, be sure to check out our Value Proposition Design Framework. It’s got an entire step dedicated specifically to finding your perfect buyer.
Okay so once you’ve got about 20 to 40 past customers, it’s time to figure out what they have in common. To do that, you’re going to list out seven components for each:
- Job Title
- Company Size
- Current Goals
- Main Pain Points
- Previous Solution
A lot of this info you can get with a bit of online research. But some—like previous solutions, main pain points, and current goals—may require an actual phone call.
Once you have that info for everyone, you’ll need to cross reference and look for similarities between your perfect buyers. What criteria do they have in common? What are some general trends you see among the majority of them?
Details don’t have to align perfectly here. But the closer the match, the easier step two will be.
2. Create Your Test Audience
With your ICP outline detailed, now it’s time to create your test audience.
Essentially, you want to build a small list of prospects that match your ICP and then validate that list by entering them into your sales cadence. Depending on the success rate of your outreach, you can then scale up your audience or go back to the drawing board and refine your ICP to get better results.
So the question is, how do you build that list? And the answer is LinkedIn Sales Navigator. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a fantastic sales tool I can personally vouch for. I use it myself. This tool lets you plug in details on prospects and then it populates a whole list of potential customers based on that list.
It’s like a super advanced prospecting search tool. AND it’s on the biggest professional network in the world, so you’ll never run out of leads.
All you have to do is plug in the ICP outline you just created into the search parameters. And then hit ENTER. That’s all there is to it.
For new and unvalidated ICPs, start with building an audience of around 40 prospects. For validated ICPs, you can start off strong with 150.
ProTip: Start Off Small
But protip here—remember to start small with your audience. The entire goal of this exercise is to test quickly, document the results, and refine your ICP or cadence accordingly. The bigger the audience, the longer the whole process will take.
Don’t worry, once you hit a solid success rate you can take off. But not yet.
3. “Test” Your Test Audience
Alright now step three is all about “testing” your test audience.
Here’s where you run your list through your cadences and check out the results.
Nothing too special here, just start from the top and work your way down. But you do want to be sure you’re at least working off of a proven framework. Our Cold Outreach Sales Cadence Framework is a great foundation to start from if you don’t have a cadence built out already.
Best of all, it’s even got three templates you can basically copy and start using yourself.
You can take even more guesswork out of the equation by incorporating the messaging from our Cold Email, Cold Calling, and Social Selling Frameworks too.
After you’ve run through your list and recorded your success rate, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate.
What percent of your audience were you able to move on to the next step?
If the success rate (e.g., meetings booked divided by your audience size) was less than 5%, then there’s an issue with either your ICP or the cadence.
For example, if you run 40 people through your cadence, you need to book more than two meetings for it to count as a success.
Once you’ve run through your entire test list, it’s time to decide…
4. Scale or Change
If you’re below a 5% success rate, the answer’s simple—change. Your ICP or cadence isn’t performing as well as it should. So you need to head back to the drawing board. What other similarities did your ideal clients have that you didn’t test?
You should also bring those new prospects who did respond to your cadence into your evaluation. What kinds of job titles, industries, etc. describe them?
Once you come up with a new hypothesis, jump right back on that horse, test again, and keep iterating until you hit at least 5%.
Once you hit 5, you can start scaling your Sales Navigator audience up and build out a monster list in no time.
But just a word to the wise, you should keep testing and improving, even after hitting a 5% rate. With a bit of refining and tweaking, you can easily turn that into a 20% success rate. All it takes is finding new similarities between those who responded and adding those details to your ICP. And then, start the process over again!
So there you have it—four steps to building a sales prospecting list that’ll keep you bustling with business for the rest of your career.