Why You Need a Sales Prospecting List and How to Build One

Most sales teams know that selling without a dedicated sales prospecting list rarely yields good results. While building a list of quality sales contacts can be time-consuming, it’s crucial for finding a steady stream of leads to add to your pipeline. 

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about building a prospecting list, starting with key definitions and a rundown of the benefits. We’ll also explain how to build your own lists more efficiently and provide you with templates you can tailor to fit your company’s needs.

What is sales prospecting?

Most of us associate prospecting with the American gold rush in the late 19th century. Miners known as “prospectors” would visually scan creek beds for flecks of gold and begin panning in those areas, gradually sifting away the dirt to reveal the most valuable nuggets. Modern-day sales prospecting is not so different — it involves sifting through lengthy sales lists of potential customers (also known as prospects) to find the ones most likely to convert. 

Sales prospecting is the first step in the overall sales process and comprises four key stages:

  1. Identifying potential customers (leads)
  2. Starting a conversation through outbound communication to generate interest
  3. Positioning your product or service as a solution to their problem
  4. Lead qualification to determine the progression path of each prospect as they move through the sales funnel 

It’s worth noting at this point, that although they are often used interchangeably, the terms “lead” and “prospect” have different meanings. 

  • Leads are unqualified sales contacts who may have already expressed interest in your company through actions like registering on your website, signing up for newsletters, interacting with your blogs or enrolling in a free trial. 
  • Prospects are qualified leads that have been deemed a good fit and moved into the sales funnel – regardless of any prior interactions with your company. 

What is a prospect list?

Also known as a sales contact list, a prospect list is a directory of potential customers that you think will benefit from your product or service. A good sales prospecting list is rarely just a database of contact names and email addresses. In order for your sales team to make the most of your list, it’s also beneficial to include additional prospect information so you can see if they match your ideal customer profile

Here are some details you should include in your list:

  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Company size
  • Industry or field
  • Company location
  • Other notable information your sales reps can use to build a connection, like upcoming company expansion plans or funding initiatives, the technology they use and any pain points they may be experiencing. 

Get started on your sales prospecting list today.

Streamline your business prospecting, perform in-depth research to ensure quality leads and more in Crunchbase.

The benefits of using a sales prospecting list 

Sales prospect lists are essential in generating qualified leads that land meetings and, ultimately, conversions. If you’re savvy, you’ll use your sales lists and prospect information to refine your strategy so your team can learn, grow and evolve. 

Here are the benefits of using a sales prospecting list:

More customers

A long list of qualified prospects means a better chance of making quota at the end of each month. The more potential clients you have in the pipeline, the less you need to worry if you lose a customer or contract unexpectedly because they can be quickly replaced. 

Improved targeting

A good prospecting list can provide insights about which sources and channels perform the best. This allows you to take more control over lead generation by selecting and collecting the leads that have the highest potential to convert to paying customers. 

Increased revenue and ROI

By improving the accuracy of your targeting, a robust prospecting list also helps increase your ROI. This is because you’ll spend more time on the prospects that matter instead of wasting time on poor-quality leads that don’t convert. Plus, a prospecting list that specifically includes high-growth, recently funded companies helps you target larger accounts with more money to spend.

Better conversions

With a consolidated list of high-quality prospects, your sales reps should be able to convert a higher percentage than those using a less strategic “spray and pray” approach — which often includes targeting massive lists of often unqualified prospects. Keeping a structured sales list allows you to focus your energy solely on what really matters — the prospects with the highest conversion potential.

More insight

As you start to reach out to people on your sales prospecting list, you’ll gain insights around what your target audience looks like and continue to refine the characteristics of companies you should go after. With this information, you can better nail down your ICP criteria, which can be a catalyst for rapid growth. 

Better channel management

In fast-paced sectors, change is the only constant, and both your ICP and the channels you use for initiating and maintaining contact with prospects may change over time. New marketing channels are constantly emerging, and the contacts on your prospecting list can help you stay in tune with the best ways to communicate with them. 

How to build a prospect list

Some businesses fall into the trap of buying leads rather than creating prospecting lists of their own. This might feel like an easy option, but it’s a bad idea. 

While it might save time and effort in the short term, paid email lists are unlikely to provide perfect matches for your ICP, so your outreach will be treated as spam and achieve very little engagement. Plus, there’s significant potential for paid email lists to be out of date or non-GDPR compliant – which could cause you big headaches and hefty financial penalties. 

So whether you put in the hard work in-house or automate the process with Crunchbase, building your own prospect list will pay dividends in the long run. If you’re looking for tips on how to build a prospect list yourself, these are the steps to follow:

1. Nail down your product offering

You can’t begin targeting the right people unless you have a thorough understanding of what you’re selling and how your services can help resolve customer pain points. Develop a solid understanding of your unique selling propositions so you know the various factors that drive prospects through the sales funnel toward purchase. Once you’ve nailed this down, you can begin to add people to your prospecting list who can benefit from what you have to offer.

2. Develop an in-depth understanding of your buyers

To build sales contact lists effectively, you need to attract the right people and capture their interest. Start by examining your most valuable customers and assess who they are and why they love your products and services. This will give you insights you can use to build a list of prospects that resemble your closed deals. Generally speaking, there are three ways to carry out this type of market research:

Market segmentation

For B2B market segmentation, you’ll need to examine the following factors to determine the similarities and differences between prospects:

  • Firmographics
  • Customer needs
  • Customer behaviors
  • Customer profitability/sophistication

Ideal customer profiles

Defining ideal ICPs develops your understanding of the types of companies that would benefit most from using your products and services. For example, if you’re a SaaS company, one ICP may be businesses within the B2B tech industry that are currently experiencing a technological shift or experiencing rapid expansion. 

Buyer personas

Creating buyer personas helps you focus your efforts on the key decision-makers within your list of ICP client companies. You’ll need to consider factors like:

  • Where do they work?
  • What is their job role?
  • What motivates them?

3. Invest in a platform to organize & track prospect data

Before you jump straight into compiling lists, it’s a good idea to consider how you’ll store and use the data you collect. Investing in a platform or CRM that can help you keep track of interactions and store notes about customers (or potential customers) is the best way to make sure your data remains clean and up-to-date. 

Within Crunchbase, shared notes can help you and your team store information about previous interactions to inform future outreach and prioritize prospects. Additionally, you can use shared tags to prioritize prospects and easily understand which accounts are the most important.If you already use a CRM like Salesforce or HubSpot, you can sync the accounts you find in Crunchbase directly to that CRM to build and track your pipeline.

4. Find companies for your prospect lists

With all the background work done, it’s time to start list building! Follow this step-by-step approach to find the right companies to target:

Conduct granular searches 

Apply multiple filters within Crunchbase’s advanced search to get a granular view of companies that fit your ICP. Filters including location, number of employees, last funding round, recent hires and more can help you assemble specific prospect lists for your target audience, making it easier to identify companies you can sell to.

Follow industry news

By keeping up with industry news, you can gain a solid overview of everything that’s happening across each of your verticals. It can be a laborious process, but it’s essential to know what’s going on in terms of companies on the rise, takeovers and senior leadership role changes, etc. 

There are, however, a couple of ways to shortcut this process:

  1. Set up Google Alerts so you get a notification any time one of your search terms is mentioned. You can make up to 1,000 alerts per account, which provides lots of flexibility to track specific companies and people as well as general industry updates.  
  2. Invest in market research software from Crunchbase. Our live data feed helps you identify upcoming market trends as they happen so you can adapt your sales strategies ahead of your competitors. 

Track real-time company activity

Monitor the companies you’re interested in by setting up automated email alerts in Crunchbase. You can decide what type of news you want to receive (such as additions, funding rounds, news, etc) and how often you want to be updated.

Monitor social media

By this point, you should have a fair idea which channels are most relevant to your ICP. So it’s just a case of digging deep on the right channels by:

  • Conducting advanced searches
  • Monitoring hashtags
  • Joining groups

You can even try social prospecting, which is the process of finding and reaching out to your prospects on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and more.

Use Google search

Google algorithms are often effective in uncovering listed articles (also known as listicles). So, for example, a search for “top 20 [X vertical] companies” can be productive. Google also lets you search by location, which is helpful if you’re looking to uncover targets outside of your region. You can even filter using Google maps if brick-and-mortar location is relevant. 

5. Identify decision-makers and harness their contact details

Many of the prospecting tactics you’ll utilize here are simply more advanced versions of the steps listed above. Some great ways to unearth personal contact information include:

Crunchbase Pro

Identify qualified accounts and connect with the right contacts using Crunchbase’s contact data and engagement suite. You can access a list of contacts at each company in Crunchbase’s database and easily identify decision-makers most relevant to you by filtering for job title, level, department, name and more.

Company websites

This is a good place to start on a name search. However, most larger companies will only list C-suite team members on their “About Us” or “Meet the Team” pages. In many cases, this won’t be sufficient as your ideal contact will likely be someone further down the hierarchy. Plus, in the majority of cases, company websites won’t list individual employee email addresses or phone numbers anyway.


If you know the job titles of the contacts you’re hoping to connect with, a Google search can often unearth the names of people in those positions. For example, if you search “Head of investment,” “CMO” or “Procurement Manager” followed by the company name, chances are you’ll strike gold on a name. Contact details are harder to come by, but you can unlock this kind of contact data with Crunchbase.

6. Perfect your outreach strategy

With all the hard work behind you, you’re probably itching to jump in and start reaching out to prospects. Before you begin, it’s crucial to develop an effective outreach plan. How you structure your plan will depend on your business needs, your product or service and your ICP. But the most important thing is to make sure you come up with  a strategy for timelines, follow-ups and a range of approaches so your hard work doesn’t go to waste and your prospects see your products and services as a valuable asset rather than marketing spam. 

Once you’ve gotten your outreach strategy down and have begun collecting data through your prospecting activities, you can start to analyze, categorize and qualify leads much more efficiently, boosting your sales funnel and optimizing your revenue and ROI. 

Sales prospecting list templates

The easiest way to begin building sales lists is to follow a template so you know you’re consistently collecting the most valuable prospect information every time. We’re making it as easy as possible for you to get started with some sample sales prospecting list templates created in Crunchbase Pro:

You can easily customize these prospecting lists to fit your needs by adjusting the search filters on the left side of the page. Add filters including headquarters location, industry, number of employees, last funding date and more.

How to build a sales contact list in Crunchbase

Find the right people to target by leveraging features within Crunchbase Pro to build a sales contact list. You can search for contact information within Crunchbase’s database for everyone from executives to individual contributors at a given company. Once you identify the people you want to reach out to, you have the option to either save the contact to a sales list, or you can push the contact as a lead directly to Salesforce or HubSpot.

You can also use the “contacts search” feature to find prospects based on specific criteria. Here, you can apply filters to tailor your search that include job title, department, job level, organization and more.

Build targeted prospect lists with Crunchbase

Crunchbase’s intelligent prospecting software surfaces information about millions of companies to help you target the right prospects, at the right time, with the right message. Industry leaders already rely on our best-in-class private company data to gain powerful research insights that boost their sales pipeline

Our intuitive dashboard is easy to use. Simply import the list of companies you’re researching, and Crunchbase will find their information for you. Our machine-learning powered software can also auto-generate recommendations about which prospects to target based on your activity within the platform. Quickly scan facts about your recommendations and save companies to a custom list or push them to your CRM. The best part is, Crunchase’s recommendations engine gets smarter every time you use it as it learns the kinds of prospects you’re interested in.  

Contact us today to learn more, and check out these additional Crunchbase resources to help your sales teams make the most of your sales prospecting list and close more deals:

  • Originally published February 13, 2023, updated May 31, 2023