The Ultimate Guide to Qualifying Prospects

Mark shares 44% of the letters that make up the word "marketing", so his future was set from an early age. After a short but financially lucrative gig as a Macaulay Culkin celebrity impersonator, Mark fulfilled his prophecy and joined the Mailshake team as a marketing strategist.
  • January 27, 2024

Cold email is a great way to find sales leads and grow your network. When done right, it can also help you connect with influencers, build your brand, and close the sale.

The hardest part of cold email is that – well, it’s cold. The person receiving your message doesn’t necessarily know you or that your message relates to them. There’s a good chance they’ve never heard of your business, and it gives them an easy out to ignore your message.

This is why building a list of targeted prospects is so important. Finding leads that you know have an interest in your product, service, or even your area of expertise is a great way to build that initial connection.

Read on to learn about what to look for in a lead generation service, and browse our top 8 favorite tools for building a list of targeted prospects.

— Find emails with Mailshake’s Prospect Finder – Get 50 leeds for FREE —

Sales Prospecting: A View from the Experts

We sat down with Liston Witherill, Chief of Sales Insights at Serve Don’t Sell, to get his expert insight on qualification.

According to Liston, Serve Don’t Sell is first and foremost a mindset about how to approach sales: “I tell my clients that if we can help someone, let’s focus on doing that, and if we do it in a methodical way we can also sell something – but we shouldn’t really be selling something to people we can’t actually help.”

What’s the Goal of Qualifying Prospects? [1:14]

Liston explains: “The goal of qualifying a prospect is to make sure we’re spending time with people we can actually help, and that people we can actually help are spending time with us.

“If I’m qualifying people properly, a prerequisite is that I understand who my perfect-fit client is – I call them PFCs. If I understand who my PFC is I can more quickly qualify a prospect, but if I don’t know who my PFC is I’ll start asking things around budget, which is sort of the lazy man’s way of qualifying a prospect.”

He underlines that if he can then match the person he’s talking to to his PFC, then he automatically knows they’ll likely have the budget anyway – so that doesn’t need to be covered.

“If my PFC is a $10 million company, then I don’t need to ask them if they can afford a $5-10k per month budget,” he says.

How Do You Determine What Looks Like a Qualification and What Doesn’t? [12:28]

“In order to determine if they’re qualified or not, we need to know what ‘qualified’ is. And then the question is, how far away from that definition are they?” Liston says.

He explains that the time to decide whether this lead is qualified is not on the phone call – it’s prior to that.

“I’m a big fan of saying ‘let’s put some brainpower and energy and effort into figuring out what are deal-breaker qualification steps, and what are nice-to-haves or preferences?’”

He says: “If I asked ‘what are you doing for lead gen or marketing right now?’ And they said ‘oh, we don’t have any leads’, I would say ‘well I have courses and products you can buy for that, but you’re not right for my coaching services. You don’t have the right problem for me.

“Being clear about the problems you can solve is the easiest way to do this.”

To make sure your sales emails make the cut, you need to get away from sending thousands and thousands of generic emails to targets identified by purchasing huge lists of contact details. In short, you need to get dynamic.

Mark Colgan, Chief Revenue Officer at TaskDrive, tells us how.

Affinity Groups: What Are They (& Why Should You Care)? [1:26]

If you’re going to build dynamic prospect lists, you first need to understand the importance of affinity groups. In other words, cohorts of people connected by a common interest or purpose. Because basic audience targeting – defining your ICP and persona, and finding people who match up to those criteria – just doesn’t cut it anymore.

But why?

Mark explains it this way: of your total addressable market, only 3% are actively looking to buy. Another 7% are open to buying. “That leaves 90% who aren’t interested in buying. If you’re just doing persona-based messaging or targeting…only 10% of them may actively be buying. The rest aren’t.”

That’s why you need to get smart and go after prospects based on more than just their location, job role, and company size. You need to understand the indicators that show someone is ready to buy from you right now. And you need to find affinity groups of people displaying those indicators.

How to Identify and Reach Your Affinity Groups [3:10]

Mark has put together 14 playbooks for targeting your affinity groups. But before we talk about those, you need to understand the four key steps to reaching those all-important prospects who are demonstrating buying signals:

  1. Understand the source where you can find people who belong to an affinity group
  2. Research them and enrich that data with contact information
  3. Create messaging that you can send to them
  4. Launch your campaign

What to Look for in a Lead Generation Service

The top three things to look for in a lead gen service are CRM integration, search criteria, and additional automation support.

CRM integration can help you and your team use your new service with ease. It allows your lead gen service to merge with your existing database so that you avoid duplicating efforts, contacts, and data entry.

The search criteria that your lead gen service offers can be all the difference between mediocre leads and qualified leads. Outside of account and location, look for platforms that support your specific needs. For example, if you offer recruiting services, you might be interested in a lead gen platform that can find accounts that are hiring.

Finally, look for additional features that can support your prospecting. For example, some lead gen services can enrich your data with additional information that can add useful context to your database.

Our Top Eight Targeted Lead Generation Picks (and One Bonus)

1. LinkedIn Site Search

Pricing: free

This isn’t so much a tool, as it is a process for those who don’t have LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Sales Navigator is a really effective platform for building a list of targeted prospects. Because it’s such a powerful tool, there’s already a lot out there on how to use it. Check out Alex Berman’s quick video on how his team uses it, and why it’s so valuable.

However, for those of you who don’t have Sales Navigator (which can get pricey at $80/month), you may have found that finding prospects using LinkedIn search can be a pain.

Their search functionality is cumbersome, and you end up hitting their commercial limits quickly.

Thankfully, you can use Google search operators to find prospects, which allows you to find profiles more reliably, without touching your commercial limit.

To make this process extra fast, you can use a few simple formulas in Google Sheets, so you can paste in what you’re looking for (name, company, role, etc.), and have your Google searches generated for you.

To help you scale your LinkedIn outreach, Mailshake has recently added LinkedIn automation features that simplifies the process so you can connect with more prospects.

Check out the video below to see how it works, and click here to download your copy of the spreadsheet. it’s a view-only version of the doc, so you’ll need to click ‘file’ and ‘make a copy’ to get your own version.

2. Voila Norbert


Pricing: Starts at 1000 leads for $39/month

Voila Norbert is a powerhouse when it comes to finding targeted leads. It keeps an updated database that’s packed with B2B contacts and boasts an impressive 98% accuracy.

Best of all, it’s built to scale. It’s designed to handle bulk actions, native integrations, and has a great API. It seamlessly integrates into Chrome, Salesforce, Hubspot, Mailshake, and more – making it easy for you and your team to manage your leads on the go.

Prospecting packages start at 1000 leads a month, and go all the way up to 50,000+ leads a month.

If you already have your prospects but aren’t sure of the quality of your list, Voila Norbert can also verify existing email lists for $.003 per email up to 500K, and $.001 per email after 500K. It’s a small price to pay to keep your sender score safe.

Big companies like Facebook, Airbnb, and Oracle have used VoilaNorbert for email verification. But if you’re still on the fence, Voila Norbert offers 50 searches for free.

Voila Norbert is what we use internally, because you as long as you have a name and domain or company name, you can expect to find most of your target’s contact info.

3. LeadFuze


Pricing: Starts at 250 leads for $97/month

LeadFuze is another great option for automated list building. It claims to be the only lead generation service that can combine data from multiple sources while also offering unlimited access and complete list building automation.

Although many lead generation programs search based on criteria like account and location, LeadFuze can search by several interesting criteria. For example, it can search for contacts in specific roles and industries, that use certain services, that spend on Adwords, who are hiring, and more.

LeadFuze integrates with many CRMs, including Pipedrive, Salesforce, GSuite, Zapier, Mailshake, and more. Like other services on our list, LeadFuze can also export to a CSV file if you have data management or analysis you’d like to do.

As a trial, you can get 25 free leads to start.



Pricing: Starts with 25 leads free (forever); up to $125/month for unlimited leads

Seamless AI works to help professionals create new relationships and opportunities faster than ever by using artificial intelligence technology. Seamless boasts around twenty different features, with the top four being its ability to verify emails, phone numbers, and contacts, and compile lists of your most profitable accounts.

Seamless can arrange your data into several lists and categories that help with targeted messages. For example, it can create lists based on sales, contacts, business accounts, social media, websites, and more. It can also integrate into Chrome, Salesforce, Hubspot, Outlook, and Gmail, among others.

A unique aspect of Seamless is its ability to also work across social media platforms. For example, it can search LinkedIn, LinkedIn Premium, and Sales Navigator.

5. Wiza


Pricing: Pay as you go (0.15/lead) up to $100/month

Wiza is a workhorse that’s designed specifically for lead generation on LinkedIn. Wiza can generate searches and put the results into a user-friendly CSV file that your team can then use on its own or upload into your preferred CRM.

With the lowest package, you can get LinkedIn scraping, email validation, and CSV downloads for just $0.15 cents per email. It works as a Chrome extension, making it easy to integrate into your current practices.

Although it has slightly fewer capabilities than its counterparts on this list, it can be a great cost-effective option if you believe that most of your potential clients are on LinkedIn.

6. Dux Soup


Pricing: Ranges from free–$55/month

Dux-Soup is like Wiza in that it specializes in LinkedIn lead generation. In 2019, Dux-Soup was awarded the best marketing service award winner by Ignite 100.

Dux-Soup works by automatically reviewing your LinkedIn prospect profiles, endorsing their skills, and following their LinkedIn activity. It can also send personalized messages for you. You can also use Dux-Soup to conduct drip campaigns on LinkedIn. Once you get a response, you can call off the sequence so you can respond more personally.

Once you start your sales efforts on LinkedIn, Dux-Soup also lets you leave private notes on LinkedIn profiles so you can remember any special details or next steps. Best of all, these notes and tags are searchable, so you’ll never scratch your head wondering what your last conversation was.

If you have international teams, Dux-Soup offers customer support during both U.S. and EU business hours, so no one will be left in the dark.

7. UpLead


Pricing: Starts at 200 leads for $79/month

UpLead concentrates on finding and providing quality leads. Its large database includes more than 46 million contacts from 200+ countries. You can use the tool to easily build very targeted contact lists while applying more than 50 different filters (such as job title, industry or job function). Hereby, building lists of leads becomes very simple (and a matter of seconds).

Another interesting option UpLead is offering is building lists based on technologies used. That way, you can find prospects that have implemented specific technologies (such as CRM or Analytics). You can pick from a list of more than 16k technologies. Hence, you should be able to find the targets you’re looking for.

Furthermore, UpLead lets you easily export your leads to the CRM of your choice and provides a decent list of integrations (Salesforce, Pipedrive, HubSpot, Mailshake, Outreach, Reply, Lemlist, Copper and more).

If you’re still unsure: People from companies like Dropbox, Salesforce, and HubSpot are already using UpLead to build targeted lead lists. They have a 100% free 7-day trial with no credit card required.

8. Albacross


Pricing: Prices start from $144/month

Albacross is a great tool for lead generation as it specializes in identifying and tracking website visitors. It provides you with all the behind the scenes information about your anonymous visitors such as the company name, size, revenue, industry, demographics, and contact information of their chief decision-makers.

Additionally, you will gain insights into the behavior of your website visitors, such as time spent on your website and buyer consideration stage. This functionality goes a long way toward optimizing your prospecting time.

The seamless integration with Zapier provides Albacross users with access to a wide range of applications such as different CRM systems, email marketing tools, etc. Thus, you’ll be able to effortlessly export your targeted leads to your CRM system, email outreach tool, etc.

The best part? Once you set up your Albacross account, it’ll work like clockwork. You’ll have fresh leads delivered to your inbox every single day, without any action on your part!

Bonus Pick: Upwork (for Manual Scraping)


Pricing: Free to register

Upwork isn’t your traditional lead generation platform. In fact, it’s not designed for lead generation at all. Upwork is a platform that works to connect freelancers and contract workers with companies who need short- or medium-term support.

You can use it to find targeted leads by making an account and looking at people who are looking to hire within your niche or industry. For example, if you sell social media services, you might look at who’s hiring in the social media category. Using the contact info you find, you can reach out to them and offer to fulfill their needs or enhance their processes.

An interesting aspect of searching for leads on Upwork is that you can see how much money they’ve spent on the platform. This can help you get a sense of their budget and if they’re a good fit for you.

Just 8% of salespeople state that the leads generated for them by their marketing teams are of high quality. So finding the right lead gen platform for you and your team can save hours of time and produce a higher volume of qualified leads.

With these services, you can get back to doing what you do best – building personal connections and professional relationships.

Mark shares 44% of the letters that make up the word "marketing", so his future was set from an early age. After a short but financially lucrative gig as a Macaulay Culkin celebrity impersonator, Mark fulfilled his prophecy and joined the Mailshake team as a marketing strategist.

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