List Building Best Practices for Sales Development Teams

Troy Buckholdt
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sales development list building best practices

Sales Development Reps are usually in charge of three main functions. They have to do research to build out lists, perform outreach to these companies using a cadence, and have a discovery call with potential prospects to see if they’re qualified.

For a sales development rep to be able to do their job successfully they must be reaching out to the right people with the right message through the right channel.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on reaching out to the right people with the right message.

The right people = Building company lists based on your ideal customer profile and contact lists based on your various buyer personas.

The right message = Creating a relevant and personalized message for that contact by showing you did your homework and aren’t part of some marketing automation.

This research step can take up to 50% of a sales development rep’s time depending on a few factors such as how hard it is to identify their ideal companies, and how many variables they are using for personalization. This is why it’s very important to focus on making this process as efficient and effective as possible.

Research Steps

There are four main steps a sales development rep will need to follow when executing the research part of their job. Every single one of these steps needs to be done correctly or none of them will matter.

Step 1: Build company lists based on your ICP

Step 2: Build contact lists based on your buyer personas

Step 3: Find the correct contact info for your prospects

Step 4: Find relevant information to personalize your outreach

Step 1: Build Company Lists Based on Your ICP

The first step in the research phase is to build company lists based on your ideal customer profile. If you don’t know what an ideal customer profile is, then you can read about it here.

I believe starting with the company is the best move for the vast majority of sales development teams. This is because your product usually solves a problem for the company as a whole, not that specific contact.

The best way sales development reps actually go about developing their company lists varies by industry. For example, CourseCareers helps companies get connected with trained sales development interns.

This means the companies we reach out to need to be in the market to hire sales development reps and grow their team. Working backgrounds from that it’s easy to realize that the best way to build these lists is to use job boards to find which companies are hiring sales development reps or interns.

Some companies can only sell their services based on which technologies they’re using and integrate with. Some companies need a specific trigger if it’s a one-time capital expenditure purchase. It really just depends on your business and the type of companies you’ve identified in your ideal customer profile.

Here are a few ways you can go about building company lists:

  • Sales Data Providers
  • LinkedIn Search
  • Owler & Crunchbase Search 
  • Google Directories 
  • Yelp
  • LinkedIn Groups 
  • Job Boards
  • Conference Lists 
  • Award Directories

Step 2: Build Contact Lists Based on Your Buyer Personas

Once you’ve identified the correct companies to target, the next step is to find the correct contacts at this company who care about the problem your product or service is solving. These people are your buyer personas.

These contacts usually change depending on the company size. For example, if you’re targeting companies with less than 20 employees and selling something that costs over $10,000/year then you’re almost always going to be selling to the founder.

As you target larger and larger companies you will usually begin to target people with lower titles. For Example:

50-500 person company: Founder or C-Suite or VP

500-1,000: C-Suite or VP or Director

1,000+: VP or Director or Senior Manager

Here are a few ways you can go about finding the correct contacts:

  • LinkedIn 
  • Sales Data Provider 
  • Company Website 
  • Google 
  • Call/Email

Step 3: Find the Correct Contact Info for Your Prospects

Now that you have your list of contacts, the next step is to get their contact info. This step is very straightforward. You can either guess their email address and use a verifier or use a sales data provider to get their email address and hopefully direct/mobile phone number.

Many sales data platforms such as Zoominfo or Apollo allow you to add the contact directly into your CRM along with their contact info. This saves you the time of having to manually perform this step or enter the data into your CRM.

If you’re using a sales data platform then you should also strive to get mobile phones numbers for your contact as they are often better than direct dials for answer rates. You can also text mobile phone numbers too.

Step 4: Find Relevant Information to Personalize Your Outreach

The final step in the research process is to find relevant information about the company/contact to personalize your outreach. The more you can personalize your outreach with relevant information, then the more likely your prospect is to respond positively.

The information you’re looking for should:

  1. Be relevant for them having a need for your product or service.
  2. Prove you’re a real person and that you did your homework.

The best way to go about figuring out what information you should look for is by creating a list of every personalization variable you could use in your outreach. I like to split these variables up based on the company or contact. These variables are different for every company, but here’s an example of the variables we use at CourseCareers.

Company name
Number of SDRs on team
They’re hiring an SDR
They have a sales intern or hired in the past
SDRs do their own research/list building
They just raised venture capital and need to scale
What they teach in their sales training

Contact title
A recent promotion or recently hired
They talk about growing their SDR team
They talk about the difficulty of screening or hiring SDRs
They talk about improving sales efficiency

Here are a few ways you can go about finding these personalization variables:

  • Sales Data Software Alerts
  • Google Alerts
  • LinkedIn 
  • Company Blog
  • Personal Blog or Social Media Posts 
  • Google – Press Release, News Mention, Award Won, 
  • Public Company – 10K, Earnings Calls

Using SDR Interns

The bad part about this research function is that it’s very time-consuming, boring, and lower-skilled. It’s also extremely necessary if you want to perform good outreach and schedule meetings.

This is why it makes sense to let a specialist handle this research function so they can get very good at it and allow the SDR to focus on what they enjoy most, outreach & discovery.

Also, you don’t want your SDRs doing it because they will likely skimp on the research since they have a quota of outreach activities they need to reach. This means poorer quality lists, contacts, and personalization.

This is where you can use SDR interns to find all these data points and make them easily accessible for your SDRs to see in your CRM. This allows the SDR to have the best possible relevant and personalized messaging while spending nearly none of their valuable time doing the research allowing them to focus completely on having more conversations.

This means much more outreach with a much better message = Many more meetings!

The best practice for using SDR interns to do your research is to have them continuously adding new companies into a bucket in your CRM that SDRs can pull from whenever they need to add more people to their outreach cadence.

On each account & contact, they should have all of the personalization variables filled out with as much information as they could find. This will allow the SDR to quickly craft a high-quality message based on the best personalization variables they choose to use. For Example:

Company name: XYZ Corp
Number of SDRs on team: 14
They’re hiring an SDR: Yes hiring multiple
They have a sales intern or hired in the past: Hired 1 sales intern a year ago named Jeff
SDRs do their own research/list building: Yes they said so in their job posting
They just raised venture capital and need to scale: Raised a Series B $25M in July
What they teach in their sales training: Can’t find

Contact Title: Director of Sales Development
A recent promotion or recently hired: Recently started working there 4 months ago.
They talk about growing their SDR team: Talk about growing their SDR team and hiring on LinkedIn “We are growing our SDR team like crazy. To the moon!”
They talk about the difficulty of screening or hiring SDRs: Can’t Find
They talk about improving sales efficiency: They say they are always looking to improve sales process efficiency and have experience doing so in their LinkedIn Bio.

You can then set a quota for your SDR interns giving them a baseline of what they need to accomplish every day. Some metrics you can track are # of new accounts added, # of new contacts added, # of old accounts updated, etc.

If using SDR interns sounds like something you’re interested in then check out how you can hire our highly trained students as SDR interns all year-round and funnel the best ones into permanent reps without delay. This is similar to how you would funnel the best SDRs into AEs.

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