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Building a prospect list

Red horseshoe magnet attracting some chrome balls from a crowd, white background

Red horseshoe magnet attracting some chrome balls from a crowd, white background

Whether you are building a new sales team or expanding an existing operation, finding and reaching new customers is one of the most difficult challenges that your company must address. Even the best of your salespeople will sometimes struggle to find quality leads that are actually interested in what they’re trying to sell. Cold calling yields some results, but it requires an inordinate amount of luck and good timing not only to make contact but also to land the customer.

Rather than wait until the sales pipeline is dry, your company can be proactive in generating leads. There are a few different approaches to this process:

• Building lead lists organically

• Purchasing lead lists

• Subscribing to lead services

No matter the direction you decide to approach in building your list, each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Nothing can beat leads that have been gathered by direct contact with your company and cultivated organically, but this approach requires an immense investment in creativity and time. Let’s look at some of the quicker options for buying from and subscribing to list services.

Purchasing lead lists

Over the past few years, lead generating services have modernized to allow you to segment on almost any demographic data you can think of–from industry to the types of technologies they use. Once you have determined the purpose of the list you are considering for purchase, the type of information needed may vary based on the kind of contact you need to make. Most lead providers offer a list creation tool that allows users to move through various filters and criteria, including contact information. The list offered for purchase is then priced according to the level of filter criteria and the number of individual leads provided.

Subscription services

Much like companies offering lists, subscription services can generate leads for use in sales and marketing campaigns. The difference is that you are signing on for a time period to use the services instead of a one-time list. Dollar for dollar, these types of services deliver the most value because finding and reaching specific people will always yield better results than casting a wide net.

Choosing an option

Your approach will depend on your need, budget, and level of urgency. Regardless of the direction you choose, however, there are some basic things to determine before diving in.

How quickly will your team be calling on the leads? Data can “spoil” quickly as people join and leave companies, so make sure you’re only purchasing leads that you have the capacity to contact.

How are you distributing these leads to your team? Ideally, you want a service that integrates with your CRM so that you can automatically push the leads to your CRM so that your sales reps are more likely to track their outreach. At the very least, search for a service that provides clean and complete leads that can easily be loaded.

How will you be contacting the leads? Make sure your list includes and prioritizes the data you’ll be using to contact each lead. If it’s a mailing list that you need, look for complete addresses and postal codes. If it’s email addresses, check that they don’t include Gmail or other generic email addresses.

Do they have a customer service channel? Any service you choose should offer a feedback option, through which you can ask for credits or refunds for any “bad” or incomplete leads that you receive.

Popular sources for purchasing leads

SalesGenie (www.salesgenie.com)

SalesGenie offers both list generation and subscription services geared toward sales organizations and larger companies with their pricing models following that formula, which may place them out of reach for many small to medium business owners. Because their subscription model is complex and can be difficult to understand, make sure you have contacted them by phone and have conducted enough research to understand what you are getting by signing on with them.

Melissa Data (melissa.com)

Melissa Data offers a variety of services that focus on data quality and list building. Their append services (you send them a list and they use their database to add extra information for each individual) are very popular among marketers and other organizations that want to gain a more complete view of their current or potential customers. In terms of lead and prospect lists, Melissa offers plenty of segmentation choices, from demographics/behavioral data (Nielsen P$ycle) to geographic and financial.

Experian (www.experian.com/small-business/sales-leads.jsp)

Experian, a well-known consumer credit company, offers leads and sales lists that can target consumers from almost any direction imaginable. Because they gather so much information about so many people in the United States, they are able to generate extremely accurate and up-to-date lists. For sales and marketing professionals this kind of quality and targeting ability is of great value.

Popular subscription services

ZoomInfo (www.zoominfo.com)

This company has been around for nearly two decades. Though it once offered its services for free by installing an Outlook email plugin, Zoominfo’s pricing has changed to tiered subscription levels. With Salesforce and LinkedIn connections, as well as a large and well-vetted contact database, ZoomInfo is easy to use, fast, and very accurate. While the pricing may place the service out of reach for some businesses, ZoomInfo is the benchmark for contact information search tools.

D&B Hoovers (www.hoovers.com)

Where ZoomInfo sets the bar for finding contact info, Hoovers (along with Dunn & Bradstreet) basically owns the market for business information. Powered by a database that contains information on millions of companies, Hoovers offers a powerful segmentation and list building tool that allows users to choose highly-targeted criteria and find their ideal prospect information within that group. This service is also offered with a CRM integration, which can make it a popular option for companies needing to push leads out to sales teams that could be spread across the country.

Concluding Thoughts

These lead generating services aren’t for everyone. Depending on the size of your team, what types of sales reps you have and your overall sales goals, it may make more sense for you to stick with traditional, organic lead generating efforts. If you do decide to purchase leads, make sure you do a post-mortem to evaluate how it went and how you can improve it for next time.

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