Prospecting for Contact Gold

An ancient Chinese saying goes that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. While it is unlikely that Lau Tzu was thinking of Lead Generation when he said that in the best traditions of timeless wisdom it leaves us free to draw from it what we will. I look at this to mean that in the long sales process a considered first step is of critical importance to ensure success. Especially in B2B sales that first step being the creation of a prospect list of-course. Whether you call it a contact list, a prospect base or a database its quality will ultimately determine how effective your contact efforts are. You want a database populated with names, contact and all other relevant information of decision makers and other influencers from your target organisations and here are a few rich seams that can be mined for these nuggets of information.
1. Company Website: Once you have identified the organisation you wish to target, the first port of call is its website – obvious I know but you would be surprised how many “contact discovery” efforts ignore this basic first step. The “Management” tab on the website offers up a complete list of the officers for you to pick those most likely to be receptive to your specific message.
2. LinkedIn: The inevitable next place to look in this age of social selling. There’s been enough and more written about the search capabilities within LinkedIn – I will just add that I have found LinkedIn most valuable in seeking information about middle-level contacts and perhaps not always so when looking for the “C” level contacts. These mid-level managers are the people not usually represented on the company website or other such sources. The well-known capabilities of LinkedIn to search for an extended network of connections allows an almost organic growth in the contact list once the first few contacts are unearthed.
3. I have personally found events a great source to mine for contacts and information. The list of “speakers” has double value – not only can you get information about the speaker (name, title, role in the organisation) but also their specific area of expertise.
4. Company Publications: This is a great place to look for people in your target companies with very specific areas of interest. Given the emphasis on Content Marketing, most companies have an abundance of publications in the public domain like Papers, articles, technical papers & filings, blogs and the like and these will almost always be credited to specific individuals. If their area of expertise coincides with yours then an obvious match-making opportunity exists with a ready-made opening line to go with it.
5.  Other social media channels: In building a contact list LinkedIn is no. 1 to no. 10 in the top 10 social networks to consider but there are other channels also that can be useful on occasion most notably Twitter. Looking down the list of people who follow your target company’s official Twitter handle or are listed as contributors to the Twitter feed could throw up some names worth researching and adding to the contact database.
6. Something I have found useful sometimes is “News” from your target companies especially about things like product releases. Such news is often accompanied by quotes from the officers directly connected to the product line – useful from the point of view of being able to pin down a name as well as a likely area of interest.
While these are great places to look for names of decision makers in your target companies that’s just the first step (there’s that first step again) – there is a lot of good practice associated with keeping the database accurate, fresh, updated and, well alive but let’s leave that for another day. For now, let me end by asking what do you think of this list? Are there any other sources not listed here that you have mined productively while building a prospect list?
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