Buying Sales Leads

In addition to using prequalified ad and Internet inquiries, there are other ways you can purchase sales leads. You can buy contact lists or sales lead services or hire prequalifiers. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The key to using them is determining which are investments and which are simply expenses. This requires trial and error, testing sales lead sources and comparing the outcome (sales) with the costs. If they are profitable, repeat the process until they are not. In most sales organizations, your manager will purchase and test sales leads, though your efforts and reporting can help in ensuring that results are accurately tracked.

Contact Lists

Contact lists are the simplest and least expensive of purchased sales leads. Actually, they really aren't sales leads. Depending on how much prequalifying is done, they either are lists of prospects or suspects. In most cases, the more you pay for the list, the greater the prequalifying level. However, you probably still will have do some qualifying to discover whether they are hot, warm, or cold prospects.

Contact lists typically include information such as: name, title, company, address, industry code, annual sales, and other data. For example, ZapData ( is a Dun & Bradstreet division that sells data about companies. Others include InfoUSA ( and Hoovers (

Direct marketing is a business function that can help salespeople qualify sales leads. Persons on contact lists can be mailed product collateral (see Chapter 9) and asked to indicate their needs and their authority in purchasing. Those who respond, often encouraged by a premium, are, to some extent, prequalified. As appropriate, they can be passed on to a sales rep for further contact and qualifying.

Depending on the list and from whom purchased, there can be some fact verification, but most are built from existing — and not always up-to-date — databases. Error levels can be just a few percent or up to 20 percent if the list is old. People change jobs or responsibilities and lists that are more than six months old can already be out of date in some industries. When purchasing contact lists, ask how recently all data has been verified and updated. Some may be very recent additions while others are years old and unverified.

Sales Lead Services

Sales lead services take contact lists one step further. They contact the suspect and ask qualifying questions, either generic or industry specific. It will save you time, as a seller, to know which of the contact list names is planning to purchase what you sell in the next six months rather than never. Sales lead services perform this function.

In some cases, the prequalifying is done via direct mail, telephone or fax, or the Internet. In each case, standardized qualifying questions are asked and the responses noted. Those questions typically answer:

  • What is their area of purchasing responsibility?

  • What are their current and future purchasing needs?

  • How and why do they buy?

  • Accurate answers to these questions can help salespeople more efficiently identify prospects within a pool of suspects. Of course, the cost of this value-added service is higher than that of contact lists. However, for high-ticket products and services, sales lead services can help salespeople work more efficiently and actually save money over doing their own qualifying.


    Some products and services are focused on a narrow market, and finding qualified prospects is difficult, but rewarding. In those situations, many sales organizations will use contact lists and have their own staff or a service contractor make the calls and pass the leads to their salespeople.

    The advantage to inside prequalifiers is that the qualifying questions can be tailored to the exact needs of the sales staff. The questions can be focused on the elements identified by sales managers as buying points. In addition, the questions can be modified as needed to better identify prospective buyers. Imagine receiving sales leads that indicate that specific individuals are planning to purchase your type of product or service within the next month and their budget is in place. That's a hot lead.

    Sales leads can be profitable or a waste of time. As your sales career grows, you will learn how better to turn suspects into prospects, then into customers who provide qualified referrals. The sales process will continue, and you will enjoy the rewards of being a Golden Rule Seller.

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