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Step 1 of the Outbound Sales Process (OSP): Build The Right Sales Contact Lists

The first step of any outbound sales process (OSP) is to create a sales contact list.  This is easier said than done.  You might take the quick route and buy a 10k contact list from one of the many lead list companies on the web.  This could be a good starting point and seems like the right path.  Get your paid list and start emailing folks.  You might take the longer route and start slowly searching for contacts on contact database sites – adding them to spreadsheets and CRM tools.  You might just let your sales team use their past contacts and tell them to keep adding more on a daily basis.  All of these methods are used across many types of organizations – depending on how the sales structure is set up.

One thing is for sure, you need sales contacts and you need a lot of them to make an impact on driving sales opportunities.  The reality is that whichever method you use, it will soon prove out as time goes on.  Is your system producing a sales opportunity per day per sales person?  The ideal scenario is that each of your salespeople acquires one new sales opportunity each day.  But this is the ideal and it is something to shoot for in the long run.  You need to reach critical mass on the contacts side before you can reach this ideal number.  A good start is 10-15 new sales opportunities per salesperson after 3 months of pipeline building.  But, before you get any sales opportunities, you need to know how to get the right sales contacts.

Build or Buy?

This is a long running debate in sales.  Should we buy a sales contact list or should we build one?  Most end up doing both along the way.  Every organization buys a list at some point and then realizes that the list is not perfect – usually far from perfect.  You might get a few hits, but long run results are less promising.  However, buying a list does get you into the game much faster than building the entire list.  But, if you want to succeed, you must start to build at some point.  Building the list gives you the advantage of hitting the right contacts and this is the key difference between buying and building.  If you only just buy lists, you will only get average or below average results.  If you take the time to build lists to fit your needs, then you will get above average results.

Why Build?

Building out your sales contact lists by hand is the ONLY WAY TO GO.  If you build the list, you will add the right contacts and this will make all the difference in the results.  It may take a little longer, but the end result is that you succeed rather than fail.  Building the right sales contact list is at the foundation of the entire outbound sales process.  When you build the right list with the right contacts, you will build the foundation for success.  When you reach the right contacts, you get better open and reply rates – which leads to increased sales opportunities.

How to Build?

Once you know why you should build rather than buy, you then need to know how to build these lists.  Of course, this is the hard part – manually building out the right sales contact list.  But it is not as bad as the old days (just a few years ago).  There are now many tools that can help you build these lists by hand much faster.

These are some of the basic tools that you need to build a list:

  1. Up-to-date contacts database
  2. Scraping tool to grab the contacts from the search results
  3. Email finder/verification tool
  4. Email cleaning tool to knock out the bad emails

There are platforms that provide a lot of this functionality in one place.  But there are also individual tools that cover each one of these areas and can produce better results than the all-in-one platform.  Based upon your needs, you can decide which approach is best to reach your goals.

When you start to build the list, you will quickly become a search expert.  You need to use all of the filters of your contacts database to find the right contacts.  You need to know which job titles to go after and which keywords to use.  You also need to know which seniority levels are best suited for your email message – CXO, VP, Director, Manager, etc.  You can learn by trial and error or you can get an expert to help you.  Either way, it will take some time to get a handle on the best way to search in the least amount of time.

You also want to cast a wide net when gathering the contacts.  You just don’t want 1 contact per target company, you want to have 5-10 contacts per company.  This will help with your sales opportunity conversion rates.  Many times if you don’t reach the right person initially, you can be referred to that person by one of your email contacts.

Finally, there is a magic number to reach the initial critical mass level of the sales contact list.  That number is 10k sales contacts.  If you have 10k sales contacts from a hand-built deliberate process, you then have a very important part to the outbound sales process.  You will be amazed at the results when you combine 10k custom contacts with the right email message format and an automated email system.

Bottomline: You need to spend time building out your sales contact lists.  This will ensure that you reach the right people with your sales message.  Don’t waste time buying too many lists – just build, build, build!

In the next article, we will move to step 2 of the OSP – the email message format.  Though this step doesn’t require as much time as step 1 – it is equally important to the overall success of the OSP.

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Tyler Toby, Founder, brings over 20 years of experience with 4 successful startup exits and repeated success building out sales systems.

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