Freddie Marryat, Marketing Manager, EngageIQ

Creating an accurate and high-quality B2B prospecting list is essential if you want to get the most from your inside sales team. It’s not just a case of giving them people to call; a good list will make sure they are contacting the right people at relevant companies. 

You don’t want your inside sales team to waste time calling into companies that aren’t interested in your product. Nor do you want them chasing decision-makers who left the company a year ago. Targeted prospecting leads to the highest returns on investment. 

If you’ve just established a new inside sales team, here’s the only method we recommend for building a B2B prospect list from scratch. 

Why you Shouldn’t Buy Databases

We get it, buying a database is a quick and easy way to find prospects for your inside sales team. You don’t have to do anything but pay a fee, and you instantly get access to thousands of potential leads. 

It sounds like a great investment, right? Think again. In our experience, these databases are typically low-quality and have been assembled without devoting the time and effort necessary to create something of real value. A good portion of the data will be incorrect as a result.

Most database providers openly admit that you should expect data to be 60%-70% accurate. It’s reasonable given the volume of contacts you are buying and the frequency with which people change jobs. But it’s far from brilliant. 

It gets worse. Some providers — often the ones who demand an ongoing — seed their data with false contact information. You can stop paying the fee and still use the data. But you risk contacting one of the hundreds of fake contacts in the list, triggering an alert that could end you up in court. 

Another problem with buying databases is that everyone else is using the same data, writes OptinMonster founder Syed Balkhi. That means you’re all competing for the same leads. It also means you’re pretty much guaranteed to be calling or emailing people who already receive hundreds of cold pitches every day. 

The long and short of it is most databases aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Build your Own Database Instead

If you agree that buying a database isn’t the best strategy — and we really hope you do — then you’re going to have to build your own. Sound scary? It needn’t be. Here’s how your team can create a high-quality database filled with over 2,000 contacts in just a couple of months.

The most sensible way to start a prospect list is by looking at your existing clients. Analyze what your best customers have in common: their size, industry, how they use your product, etc. Then find the 100 companies most like them. If they are anything like your current customers (and the whole point of this task is that they should be), the chances are they’ll also be interested in your product. 

Next, have your SDRs spend two days working the list of 100 companies to find three decision-makers at each of them. This should take a couple of days max. Your reps will then have three days to start calling into these prospects. Next week, give your reps another 100 companies and repeat the process. Eight weeks later, you’ll have a database of 800 companies and 2500 people. Stop at that point, and only focus on targeted calling within that database. If you want an even bigger list, you can repeat this process at the start of every quarter. By the end of the year, you’ll have a database of 10,000 contacts. 

When the time comes to build your database, don’t let your initial list blinker you. Just because your first 100 clients are all in finance doesn’t mean your product won’t resonate with other industries. 

There is a common misconception that just because one company is a customer of yours, its competitors will want to be customers. But a lot of the time, businesses don’t want to work with their competitor’s clients. 

Instead, look at the supply chain of your customers. Who does their recruitment? Who is their law firm? These businesses will likely be of a similar size and culture — and have a similar need for your product. What’s more, you’ll be able to get a warm referral from your current client.

“Using a spreadsheet to manage your company means inputting or importing data manually, figuring out what’s important, and then creating a graphical way to present this data”

A Good CRM is Essential

Before you start building your list of prospects, you’ll need to find somewhere to store them. A spreadsheet might be your first thought, especially if you’re starting with 100 companies. But think twice before committing to that strategy. 

A spreadsheet is fine for a few hundred contacts. But any more and it quickly becomes unmanageable. That’s where a good CRM comes in. 

A CRM does the heavy lifting for you, says writer Amanda DiSilvestro. “Using a spreadsheet to manage your company means inputting or importing data manually, figuring out what’s important, and then creating a graphical way to present this data,” she writes. But a good CRM will do all of this automatically. 

We use Salesforce, but there are plenty of other, more cost-effective alternatives out there. Choose one that’s easy to use and integrates with other prospecting tools like your VoIP system or Lusha. 

Cleansing Data is an Ongoing Issue

Creating a B2B prospect list is not a one-off task. It should be something your SDRs add to and curate every single day. Expect your SDRs to add five to ten contacts each day at a minimum. Your database will keep growing without spending the first week of every month prospecting into 100 new companies. 

Reps should also be keeping the existing data in your CRM up to date. Cleansing data — updating job titles, company details, direct dials and mobile numbers — is an integral part of any sales rep’s job and they should be doing this every time they look at a LinkedIn profile or speak to a prospect. 

Keeping your CRM clean is one of the most important parts of a scalable sales process, says Catalyst Software COO Kevin Chiu. “When you have a full team of sales development reps bringing in some 300 prospects a week each, you’re looking at thousands of leads created weekly (not including the inbound lead flow that marketing might be generating),” he writes. “So if you’re not defining a set process to ensure data quality and accuracy, you’re going to build a large database with a ton of bad data.”


Updating basic contact information is a start, but your SDRs should also be adding any purchase intent data they glean from prospect calls into your CRM. The more information your reps have about prospects when making calls, the more successful they’ll be. It’s creating these kinds of notes on the 20,000 calls we’ve made every week for ten years that enable our outsourced SDR teams to prospect so effectively.

Build a Better Database with EngageIQ

There’s one more alternative when it comes to building high-quality B2B databases that we haven’t discussed yet — and that’s using a purchase intent data platform. Self-built databases are great in that they only include highly relevant and vetted contacts. But they are still an inefficient way to prospect. Even the organizations that have most in common with your current clients aren’t guaranteed to be suitable prospects. Nor can you be sure that you are contacting the most relevant businesses first.

That’s where EngageIQ comes in. By combining AI and machine learning algorithms with the purchase intent data we generate from over 20,000 calls each week, EngageIQ can highlight the companies most likely to buy your product. That means you contact the most relevant prospects first, rather than working your way through your list in alphabetical order or wasting time with irrelevant prospects. 


Sound like a smarter way to prospect? We think so, too. Find out more or request a demo today

Images by: JESHOOTS.COM, Campaign Creators, Tim van der Kuip