Where Do I Buy Lists for Cold-Calling?

A client writes:

“We’re considering buying a few lists for our sales team to use for cold calling (versus marketing) — what are the best sources and approach to doing this? For example, I’m interested in lists of ISPs and also, general CISO lists. Do people usually use a broker or are the subscription services “good enough”? We have IdExec in house.

Any thoughts, suggestions? All I know is I must get 10 incoming emails a day from various people trying to sell me lists and I delete them all. Seems like 99% are just junk!”

My response:

“List brokers typically aren’t a good resource for buying lists. Most deal exclusively in list rentals, subscriber files and compiled lists such as InfoUSA.

If you’re not familiar with them already, I would definitely recommend Jigsaw. You can search by job function (even using character string), geography, industry, company size, etc. and the data quality is extremely good. I’m a subscriber, and find the service invaluable, especially for identifying prospects with very specific job titles that are too granular for traditional list sources. Two other options would be:

* Harte Hanks Market Intelligence (the old Computer Intelligence) – can be expensive, but a good source if you have very specific technical criteria (such as software installed, operating environment, etc.) We have two clients who use them and report good results, even for e-mail and direct mail purposes.

* Demandbase – a new company on the map; roughly speaking, they’re an online, self-service list broker. The data comes from multiple sources (including Hoovers & D&B) and the company claims to use algorithms that automatically select the best names for the client based on the quality of the data source, the likelihood of the person responding, etc. We don’t have any direct experience as yet and their select criteria is probably too generic for your purposes, but they might be worth checking out.

One note of caution about buying lists – many of these sources (ex: Jigsaw) include e-mail addresses, but in no way should those individuals be regarded as “opted-in”. As such, it may be fine if your reps are e-mailing those prospects individually, but we’d strongly recommend against using them for any kind of mass e-mail broadcast. If you’re looking for opt-in e-mail lists, traditional subscriber files are your best bet.”

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12 thoughts on “Where Do I Buy Lists for Cold-Calling?

  1. Matt Heinz

    We’ve also had success with Jigsaw, and our sales team loves it. Have been trying OneSource with varying degrees of success as well.

    Bottom line on buying lists, though, is that getting a list doesn’t at all imply acceleration of a relationship or sales cycle. You still have to earn the respect and business of those on the list, which requires a lot of hard work – even if you’re doing the “list generation” part of the process up front, fast and easy.

  2. Tim

    I’ve been developing my own lists mostly towards manufacturing and distributions for Materials handling professionals. The majority of companies doing list generation seem to be geared towards the high end tech companies. Is there anyone doing the smaller manufacturing type SMB’s?

  3. Jill Miller

    I read your article then looked at a couple of the sites you recommended….

    After poking around the Demandbase website for several minutes I can’t find where to go to start pulling a list. Tons of great information on their site, but what’s the goal of the site if you can’t initiate a transaction? (I was going to try the “chat now” option but didn’t want to submit all my contact info unless I knew I was interested)

    Going to the Jigsaw site I was able to right off the bat do a general search and view a prelim list. (Easier than the infoUSA site I’ve been using).

  4. Howard Sewell Post author

    Jill, thanks for your comment. You’re completely correct – however, in fairness to Demandbase, in the time since this article first appeared (2007) they’ve moved away from the list business and are more focused on other forms of account targeting (for example, demographically targeted banner ads – see this more recent post: http://bit.ly/1cNLFJI.) Based on your needs (i.e. immediate list download), Jigsaw (now Data.com) is a good choice.

  5. Matt Cheeseman

    Hi Howard,

    I know this article is a little old now, but thought I’d give you a third option to include on this list. In fact, it’s more of a replacement to Demandbase.

    CrowdVu is a recent technology startup that is a self-service UK data platform which incorporates social information. This enables users to search for highly targeted contacts not only on traditional fields such as job title, seniority and company size, but also based on information across the social web. For instance, you can find full contact data based on individuals LinkedIn Interests, Groups and Twitter Hashtags etc, information you wouldn’t be able to segment on with any other data supplier.

  6. Howard Sewell Post author

    Matt, thanks for the information – good to know about CrowdVu. Another similar offering would be Leadspace (www.leadspace.com), who also source leads based on social insights and then prioritize those leads based on a client’s “ideal customer profile.”

  7. M

    One of our sales managers uses the practice of mass uploading leads from Data.com or Jigsaw and then mass emailing. 2 questions about this:

    1. I have provided the same advice that is in the article – that it is likely ok for one to one prospecting but, since they are not opt-in, we should NOT be doing mass email campaigns to these lists. Her response was ,”what is the difference if the mass email campaign looks to the user like it was a personal email?” Not sure how to answer that – thoughts?

    2. Are one to one prospecting emails generally considered the same as as mass email in terms of can-spam laws? If so, do sales people need to include opt-outs for their personal prospecting messages?

  8. Howard Sewell Post author

    Michael, thanks for your question. Since I first published this post more than 7 years ago (!) I confess my stance has changed somewhat on the wisdom of mass emailing purchased lists. Firstly, where once, purchased lists were more often of dubious quality and origin, now there are any number of reputable data sources available to the B2B marketer.

    Secondly, if your email content is topical and compelling, if you’re not overly aggressive with frequency, and if you’ve selected your list in a way to ensure a degree of relevancy to those you’re emailing, the risks are fairly minimal. If you include your company’s contact information and a simple opt-out option in all emails, you’ll generally stay on the right side of US anti-spam laws. (Note: I am not a lawyer. Please consult your in-house counsel for a second opinion.) Of course, foreign laws are a different matter altogether – see this recent post for a good summary on that topic: http://t.co/Z3ZxlmuYL3.

    To your second question, I don’t believe salespeople are bound by can-spam laws in their personal prospecting (after all, a single email isn’t that much different from a cold call.) If you’re sending any kind of emails en masse, however, no matter how personalized, it’s wise to take the precautions I mention above. Again, your attorney may take a different view.

  9. Derek Javier

    What source now, can I just buy a simple cold call list without having to purchase a monthly database or CRM system?

    Is there anything out there where there is just a list and I can just buy it and not have to contract monthly or yearly…?

  10. Howard Sewell Post author

    Derek, as you’re discovering, many list vendors are pursuing a recurring revenue model vs. the more traditional “buy once” list business. You might want to take a look at ReachMail (referenced in comment above) – I believe they offer a one-time purchase option.

  11. Victoria Huntington

    We use a scraper called Places Scout. It is an amazing piece of software. I have no affiliation other than I use it every day. It can pull a list, with owner name, of about 200 leads in 20 minutes.


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