Create Initial Prospect List of 50-100 companies for initial sales readiness interviews
Now that you’ve defined the ideal customer you are going after, you’ll need to start doing some research on these customers. First, create a list of businesses that fit your ICP, and then identify the people. After creating the list, you’ll want to start outreach requesting initial meetings, which will give you a sense of your sales readiness.
How you do it
When you start to research companies, it is going to be tempting to build your list based on what companies are easy to find rather than what companies best fit your ICP. Don’t get tempted. Ignore the voices. If you get a good mix of prospective customers it will help you run a clean initial sales experiment. One thing you can do to create your initial list is start by doing a LinkedIn search by skill. If you are not familiar with the skill endorsement on LinkedIn, just check out almost any profile, scroll to the bottom and look for “skills” or “endorsements.” What most people don’t realize is that you can use these same skills as a search tool as well. General skills, like “management”, won’t make your list research an easy task. However, really specific skills like “Hadoop” will yield a list of 500,000 professionals who have been endorsed for knowing about Hadoop. This is just the first step. However, you’ll not just be looking to email everyone in the world with this skill, this is a great way to get your email domain blacklisted for spam. Instead, start with these professionals and then look for which people are at companies that fit your ICP. This is a long process, but worth it.
Outside of LinkedIn, you can also do this process with a conference list or industry association/ trade association list, provide you are part of this association or know it so well that you can ensure that all of the companies you are adding fit the profile. If you had a list of attendees for an accounting conference, you wouldn’t add both Joe Smith, a one- person firm from down the street and Jane Smith who runs a 50 person team at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Common Mistakes Founders Make
If you don’t first create a target list that follows your ICP, you run the risk of actually slowing down your ability to identify the patterns that exist between your target customers. Often, when this has happened to founders, it has been because they are relying on introductions to meet their first customers, so then the patterns they recognize are patterns that exist in the founder’s network rather than with the industry segment they are selling to. If you start with a small list, let’s say 5-10 companies, you might miss a bigger pattern, such as the frequency of a particular title across companies in the industry.
Other issues that founders run into is targeting too many different geographies at once. This is especially true when your sales interviews need to be in person. And not being consistent about adding people at similar levels. On a 50 person list, you might want 20 director-level targets and 20 people who have the vice president title. This way you have enough data back from initial meetings to know if you are calling into people at the right level.
Four stage prospecting process using LinkedIn:
Here’s another example: Let’s say you’re targeting e-cCommerce companies with 50-1,000 employees and you discover there is a prospect with a “perfect title” that works at Levis. You don’t add her to this list, because Levis has more than 1,000 employees. Founders like to say “yeah but… the Levi’s e-commerce team is the right size for the ICP” but ICP and prospecting is about targeting companies that will have similar buying process so you can repeat it. Remember your goal is to get to a repeatable sales process as fast as possible. This isn’t going to happen by making exceptions outside of your initial sales experiment.
Prospect Research, Market Development, Sales Prospecting,
Sales Prospecting & Lead Qualification Ryan Williams EIR 500 Startups
Hubspot’s Guide to targeted sales prospecting
Predictable Prospecting (Book)