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Three additional tips in deciding on your best prospecting list

There are three additional steps that many of us miss when considering a list for our outbound prospecting efforts –

  1. ask for counts
  2. request query parameters from the list vendor, and
  3. ask for test records so you can validate the list against your ideal customer assumptions.

Tip #1: Ask for counts

Ask the vendor for counts by your most relevant selection criteria. Some examples include:

  • company
  • title
  • title within company
  • state
  • region
  • SIC
  • industry

By asking for counts you’ll get a general feel for the size and breath of the number of prospects you can reach out to. Prospects who are in your sweet spot.

Use your ideal customer profile to determine the criteria for your count request.

Tip #2: Ask for the vendor’s query parameters

The success of your outbound lead generation relies on working with a list of prospects who match your ideal customer profile. This is one of the reasons why outbound can be more effective (and predictable) than an inbound or attraction model: you decide and control who you are marketing to.

A few of the benefits of asking for the query parameters include:

  • comparing the data elements from the query against data elements from your ideal customer profile
  • fine-tuning so you purchase only those records that bring you more sales
  • spot-checking whether this list vendor stores the data elements crucial for your campaign

As an example, if one of your crucial criteria is to market to a list of companies who use iPads, and the list vendor doesn’t have a query parameter for “computer hardware”, then you know you have additional decisions to make:

  • add additional human resource time to further cleanse the list by weeding out the companies who don’t use iPads
  • continue your search for list vendors that may have this data element

You may ultimately discover that you’ll need to off-shore or outsource your list development efforts because the vendors don’t have good data for you to use.

Wasting your time on a sub-par list is the best way to sabotage your outbound campaign before it even gets off the ground.

Tip #3: Ask for test records

How many people overlook this tip. You’ve spent a great deal of time fine-tuning your ideal customer profile and prospect personas (the people who will make or influence the decision for your product/service). Ask the vendor to send you at least 250 random records or obtain a 30-day free trial so you can validate your assumptions before you make the list purchase.

Receiving test records accomplishes 3 things:

  1. You’ll get a high level of confidence whether the list will work – confidence levels in the 80-90% statistically
  2. You can test out your e-mail templates and phone scripts to see how/if customers respond
  3. You can spot-check the bounce & undeliverable rates (although this may not show up until later on…)
  4. You’ll get a feel for how pleasant (or not) it is in working with the list vendor

If the list vendor balks at sending you test records, they are not a good partner for you.


Outbound prospecting can make up 30% of your overall marketing efforts (inbound and referral/word-of-mouth are also important to build as part of your prospecting tool-kit).

Start off on the right foot by doing your homework and sticking to your guns. Outbound campaigns will fail if you are working off a list that is not high quality for you. Use the best tool for the job.

For those of us who love reaching out to people we don’t know, our best tool is a good list.

In Category: Lead Generation

Marylou Tyler

Process expert, speaker, co-author of top-10 business e-book - Predictable Revenue - Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine. Create predictability in your sales pipeline by systematizing the steps from initial conversation through qualified opportunity

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