What we learned about prospecting at Lead Generation Agencies

4 min readJan 3, 2023


A hand holding a magnet emerging from a laptop, attracting profiles of people

Sales is hard. We’ve been doing it (across multiple pivots) since we launched out of Antler in 2021. Our philosophy has been to sell first, build later, so that we don’t waste time building something nobody will buy.

Over this time, there were a few things about sales that really bugged us, in particular the prospecting process (finding potential fit customers, and reaching out to them).

Our challenges with prospecting

  • 😡 There are too many competing best practices out there for running a sales process, as early stage founders we didn’t know what approach to prioritise
  • 😡 Existing tools to discover and scrape our target audience (Sales Navigator, Apollo) contain a lot of noise in their database, that requires lots of manual effor t to clean (precious time that scales with the size of the list)
  • 😡 New and advanced solutions on the market such as Ocean.io are out of reach for the majority of SMBs in the B2B space because of high costs and annualised pricing

These problems bugged us so much that we decided to build a start-up to fix them. But we knew our experiences would differ from the real world, and we really wanted to understand other people’s experiences in the prospecting space — do they align to ours? What challenges have they faced when they prospect? So we decided to talk to over 70 people across 3 core personas that we assumed would feel the pain of prospecting most acutely — Early stage founders at B2B Saas start-ups (people like ourselves), Lead generation agencies (who sell prospecting as a service), and sales people at B2B Saas start-ups (who need to execute on their servicable markets). Over the course of 3 weeks we built up a picture of a typical sales process and challenges faced for each of these personas.

What we learned about prospecting at growth-stage B2B saas companies


  • We spoke to 17 lead gen agencies across the UK, US, Australia and Europe
  • 90% were using email as their main channel of outreach for their clients
  • On average, lead gen agencies have between 3–6 clients
  • 50% were conducting “spray and pray” campaigns, 40% were conducting “targeted” campaigns, 10% were using a mixture of both
  • The average “targeted” list size is 150–200, the average “spray and pray” list size is 2000
  • 90% were using either Apollo or Sales Navigator as their main prospecting database
  • All of you mentioned that you use some kind of onboarding form to capture ICP information (amongst other data) from your clients


  • List building can be time intensive depending on the niche of the ICP, time spent on list building increases alongside level of filtering required, as a result some of you were focusing on generalised audiences rather than working with clients with specific or complex ICP needs
  • Personalisation is seen a “golden key” to outreach, and some of you were spending some time personalising emails or messages and researching data to feed into that. However, most of you mentioned that you would like to do more personalisation because it increases the chance of a positive replies, but you’re blocked by the time it takes to research at scale. As a result most of you are relying on commonly-used merge-tags to build a rapport with your prospects
  • In place of being able to personalise, most of you were relying on segmentation to increase your chances of positive reply, experimenting with variables such as job title, location, education or actions such as liking a post. The level of segmentation typically involves reducing “spray and pray” lists of on average 2000 prospects to batches of 100 or less
  • Outreach has become heavily-saturated, with the average buyer being reached out to 3.4 times a month, driven by the explosion of cheap tools like Apollo.io
  • Most of you are using multiple sequential methods of extracting leads from various places — using emerging services such as Goodfit or Ocean, or relying more on social media (mostly Twitter), online forums or community groups — with an aim of trying to find people who are less frequently hit with sales messages
  • Tools like ZoomInfo or Ocean.io are generally out of reach because of annualised pricing, but there is a perception that these tools offer better quality lists/data

What is Noki?

Noki is an AI sales qualification tool — we turn your newly prospected accounts into qualified opportunities, using machine learning to automatically filter for companies that match your qualification criteria

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