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Building B2B Contact Lists — Best Practices

What are B2B contact lists?

B2B contact lists are just as the name suggests–compiled lists of contact information and details on individual target customers working in a B2B capacity, or contact information for B2B companies.

They’re basically lists of the contact info for every target B2B customer you want to get in touch with. However, list building is more than simply compiling a list of email addresses and phone numbers, especially in the B2B SaaS industry.

When you’re building B2B contact lists of companies, you’ll probably want to know more than their contact information, like their firmographic data.

Firmographic data for B2B companies might entail their funding info, company tax structure, technological stacks, and more.

What you need to know about B2B contact lists is that you want to be able to capture your total addressable market (TAM).

Why do you need B2B contact lists?

Successfully capturing your TAM helps you avoid revenue leakage. Revenue leakage is basically the revenue you miss out on due to inefficiencies in your sales pipeline.

Here’s a more formal definition of revenue leakage from BoostUp:

“Revenue leakage is the potential revenue that a company misses out on or fails to capture, despite having a reasonable chance to earn it. It happens when there are inefficiencies or blind spots in the processes of identifying, pursuing, and closing sales opportunities.”

If your B2B contact lists are:

  • incomplete
  • inaccurate
  • outdated

…You’re most likely only capturing a portion of your TAM, resulting in eventual revenue leakage. 

It’s like a domino effect: low-quality B2B contact lists lead to missed sales opportunities, which leads to missed revenue.

Simply having and compiling B2B contact data won’t help you prevent revenue leakage, but there are ways to streamline the process of sales prospecting and contact list building to do so.

How to build a B2B contact list at scale 

The truth about contact list building is that it takes a long time. Plus, it’s difficult to ensure your B2B contact data is complete, accurate and timely. 

Building a clean B2B contact data list at scale starts with choosing the right list building method and tools. With a strong tool and list building method in hand, you’re able to overcome the potential drawbacks of list building that most others run into.

Let’s explore some of the more traditional B2B contact list building methods and their drawbacks.

Traditional B2B contact list building methods

  1. Manually combing the web.

If you’re a small business just starting out with your contact list building, manually building your contact lists and working out of spreadsheets might be all you need.

However, if you’re a more mid-sized or enterprise-grade business, manual list building and working out of messy spreadsheets can be a nightmare.

While you can do your own research on Google for your ideal customer profile’s contact data, the traditional way of manually building your contact lists also entails:

  • Gathering email address contact information through email newsletter subscriber lists
  • Manually verifying each phone number for each contact you have on the list
  • Building gated content on your website or landing pages to gather email addresses and other contact information
  • Running ads on social media pages like Facebook to gather more contacts

…And the list goes on. 

Needless to say, building a B2B contact data list manually is time-consuming and requires a lot of upfront work. This traditional method of list building doesn’t cut it for businesses looking to scale their sales or marketing outreach efforts.

  1. Purchasing pre-built lists.

If you’re at a more mature company that needs a more efficient and timely way of contact list building, you’ve probably thought about buying pre-built, pre-verified contact data lists.

This includes purchasing access to B2B contact databases, which are structured collections of B2B contact data organized and verified by other organizations that own this data.

While this list building method is surely much easier and efficient than manually building your own lists, traditional B2B contact databases still come with their own drawbacks.

Traditional B2B contact databases:

  • Are typically old and outdated
  • Only update and verify their data based on a certain time periods
  • Get their data from limited sources
  • Don’t take timely events into consideration (i.e. contact job changes, changed contact details, etc.).
  • Are not always compliant with current data privacy laws and regulations
  • Typically focus their data coverage on enterprise businesses, not SMBs

Despite these drawbacks, a lot of sales professionals opt to use B2B contact databases for their ease-of-use and accessibility. But if everyone is using a traditional B2B contact database, that means most SaaS sales professionals are getting access to the same databases.

That’s where a “real-time search engine” for B2B contact list building comes in.

Using a real-time search engine for B2B contacts

If you’re looking for a sales list building tool that helps set you apart from other sales teams, you need a tool that can help you research and verify B2B contact data as efficiently and accurately as possible. 

The concept behind an AI-powered data tool is simple: It’s like doing a Google search for B2B contact data that’s already verified in real-time.

A few great sales prospecting tools that help you do just that are Seamless.AI, LinkedIn Navigator, and ZoomInfo–to name a few.

Imagine using a traditional B2B contact database to reach out to an ideal sales lead, only to find out that you have the wrong email address or phone number. 

Now imagine finding out that your B2B contact database only contains 50 contacts from your target leads out of the full 300+ sales lead contacts that actually make up your TAM (total addressable market). 

This means you’re missing out on opportunities to reach your full target audience. 

With a lead search engine like Seamless.AI, you can set filters to narrow down your search results to timely, verified, and accurate contact data in real-time. 

Whether you’re searching for small business or large enterprise data, this type of sales intelligence software helps verify your contact data in real-time with AI and machine learning.

Related: Learn more about Seamless.AI’s “Total AI” lead scoring system that rates how accurate, up-to-date, and complete a single lead’s contact information is.

10 Best practices for building B2B contact lists

There’s no right or wrong answer to building a B2B contact list, but there are a few best practices to help you do it efficiently at scale.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by messy spreadsheets or inefficient list building, use these tips for B2B contact list building to help you overcome bottlenecks.

Related: Watch this webinar on the “10 Pitfalls to Avoid with B2B Contact Lists” on-demand to learn advice from real-life sales experts about list building. 

1. Don’t solely rely on B2B contact databases.

Traditional B2B contact databases can be outdated and unreliable. Instead, take a smarter approach to B2B contact list building with real-time search engine tools for lead data.

Most typical contact databases don’t automatically track job changes for you. The second you reach out to a prospect addressing them with the wrong title or company email address, you’ve already spent time crafting a message designed for a job that they’re not at anymore.

Make sure to look for lead contact data tools that have a system that notifies you of job changes, or at least automatically updates these contact changes to save you both time and face.

2. Understand the type of B2B contact data you’re looking for.

Are you looking for SMB data? Or are you looking for enterprise-level data?

Are you looking for funding data for B2B companies?

Knowing the type of B2B contact data that you need is part of knowing what information will help you not only get in contact with prospects, but also the information that will help you personalize and tailor your offers to highly qualified prospects.

Start with defining your ideal customer profile (ICP). What are their job titles? What kind of technology or software do they already use? How mature are their companies?

If you’re selling a small business project management tool and looking for small business owners, this helps dictate your contact data tool shopping. 

Browse around for B2B contact data tools that focus on offering data on small businesses rather than contact databases built around enterprise data. 

Case in point: A prospecting search engine tool like Seamless.AI provides much more data coverage on SMB contact data as opposed to using a B2B contact database provider like Lusha. 

If you’re struggling to find SMB contact data with other providers, narrow down your tool search to sales intelligence tools that offer more data coverage on SMBs.’

The bottom line of this tip is to have a goal in mind for the type of data you need to ultimately close sales deals.

3. Don’t skimp on data privacy regulations.

In a world where data-based sales approaches are applauded, data privacy should be top-of-mind.

You’re bound to run into the common sales objection or response, “How did you even get my information?” 

The last thing you want to run into is get hit with an unexpected, hefty fine for not complying with data privacy regulations. It’s also a situation that would automatically dissolve any foundation of trust that you want to build with prospects.

💡 Our suggestion? Either get familiar with data privacy regulations yourself, or use a tool that has earned their data privacy badges (for GDPR compliance, CCPA, web privacy practices, device safety, etc.).

4. Know what features to look out for in B2B contact data list building tools.

Not all list building tools are the same. Some offer features to build email lists, some offer chrome extensions, and some even offer AI-powered sales scripts.

Regardless, you need to be a smart SaaS shopper and understand what features will help you the most in building a powerful sales pipeline.

Here are some must-have features to look out for in list building tools:

  • Bulk search and saving emails: Find hundreds or thousands of contacts at scale,
  • Coverage of data: Does this tool mostly cover enterprise-level B2B contact data, or does this tool offer more niche coverage of small to mid-sized businesses?
  • Data refresh rates: How often does this tool refresh or verify their collection of data? Do you need contact data that’s refreshed and verified within a certain time frame?
  • Intent data: Buyer intent signal data that helps you identify accounts that are ready-to-buy. 
  • Data quality: You want to make sure your data is accurate, up-to-date, complete, and relevant.
  • The number of B2B contacts you can access: How much data do you get access to with different list building tools? Compare the data coverage of your ICP between each tool. 
  • Filtering and lead management: Most list building tools should enable you to filter your contacts based on specific criteria like industry, company size, job title, or more.
  • Data security and compliance: B2B contact databases should always comply with current data compliance laws, like GDPR or CCPA.
  • Integrations with other tools: You want a contact database that provides automations with pre existing tools in your tech stack.
  • Customer support: If it’s your first time using a list building tool, a responsive and resourceful customer support team makes a big difference.
  • Ease of use: You should find a tool that’s easy-to-navigate so your team can quickly learn to use it as well.

5. Focus on personalization beyond B2B contact data.

While this tip sounds very simple and obvious, it comes with some more not-so-obvious advice.

Building your B2B contact data lists is only one part of building a powerful sales pipeline; it’s the first step you need to start reaching out to your dream customers.

Think beyond simply building a contact list. Once you have a list of great potential prospects or leads, how are you going to reel them in?

You might have the most accurate, up-to-date, and complete list of B2B contacts, but there’s no use if you have no strategy to reach out to them.

Use your B2B contact data to your advantage. Lead contact data tools usually provide insights into a prospect’s preferences and organizational needs, especially through intent data, buying signals, and more. 

💡 Use the information from your B2B contact data lists to generate actionable insights–insights about how to craft tailored messages to prospects that will pique their interest and make offers that align with their unique needs.

🔎Case in point: With a sales data intelligence tool like Seamless.AI, you get visibility into a prospect or a company’s technological stack. 

Take some time to understand the type of tools that they currently have in their toolstack. Figure out how your offering or product can fit into their toolstack, or even better, bend and evolve with their current tech stack. 

Bonus points if you already offer integrations with the tools they already use. Use this knowledge to tailor your outreach messages to them and show them the value of adding your tool to their current stack.

6. Focus on lead qualification.

Not all of your leads in your B2B contact lists are equal. Some may be more likely to convert while others are simply interested in your product.

That’s where lead qualification comes in. Lead qualification is about focusing on selling to prospects who have both interest and intent. 

The process of qualifying your leads is like a sauce reduction. 

You’re reducing your piles of data down to the most qualified sales leads to start prioritizing your outreach efforts there. It’s like boiling down your sauce reduction down to flavors that you want to bring out most.

Here’s the simplified way to qualify your sales leads:

  1. Define your ideal customer profile.
  2. Create a lead scoring system.
  3. Engage in active listening and ask qualifying questions.
  4. Review past interactions to identify patterns of interest.
  5. Assess budget, alignment with your product, and identify purchasing decision-makers\

The key thing to remember here is to prioritize high-quality leads that are more likely to convert.

Learn more about qualifying sales leads in this step-by-step guide to lead qualification.

7. Avoid buying email lists!

While there are many ways to find email addresses for your prospects, buying email lists shouldn’t be your main option.

Buying email lists can be considered:

  • Invasive
  • Illegal (violates the CAN-SPAM ACT)
  • Detrimental for your email deliverability

Rather than taking the shortcut to buy email lists, focus on building your own email list through opt-in methods. 

Here are a few proven techniques to help you grow your email list organically:

  • Gated or high-quality content marketing
  • Optimize your website for email opt-ins
  • Host webinars or virtual events
  • Personalized email campaigns

Learn more ways to organically grow your email lists and why buying email lists can do more harm than good.

8. Automate data enrichment and data cleansing.

Not all data is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. According to Leadspace, B2B data decays at a rate of 2.1% per month.

By the time you’re finished building your B2B contact data lists, there’s a chance a small portion of your data might fall victim to data decay.

That’s why it’s important to enrich your data and cleanse your contact data lists regularly. 

In other words, you should supplement your raw data with more layers of data for more accuracy and reliability (data enrichment), and practice removing inaccurate, outdated, or irrelevant data (data cleansing).

You can either bake data enrichment and cleansing strategies into your list building process, or you can use a smart sales intelligence tool to help you automate this tedious task.

 If you decide to go the data enrichment tool route, keep an eye out for these techniques:

    • Data appending: Adding missing data to your existing data set
    • Data cleansing: Removing or correcting inaccurate, incomplete, or irrelevant data
    • Data normalization: Organizing data into a standardized format
    • Data duplication: Removing duplicate data
    • Data validation: Verifying data’s accuracy, completeness, and timeliness
    • Integrations with other sales platforms
    • Multiple export options for B2B contact data
    • Fast data refresh and verification rates

9. Focus on sales channels that are relevant to your business.

Not every product or service does well on every sales channel. While we recommend using a combination of various sales channels, it’s important to learn which channels work the best for your business or industry.

For example, if you’re an SDR for a commercial plumbing company, you might not do so well doing sales prospecting on LinkedIn. Instead, you might have a higher chance of building a strong contact data list through targeted ads on Google. 

Prioritizing certain sales channels over others doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the less successful ones. 

Once you figure out which sales channels provide more list building opportunities for your business, focus on those first and then figure out ways to optimize the other low-performing channels. 

10. Be genuine.

This tip for list building sounds cliche, but it’ll take you far.

Forget about being “salesy” and focus on bringing a human element to your list building efforts. 

SaaS sales can come off cold and inhuman, and most sales prospects immediately roll their eyes at the thought of getting another cold email.

Your job while list building and planning for sales outreach is to find ways to deliver genuine and authentic value that directly benefits your prospects on your list. 

While you’re building a massive list of B2B contacts, do your research and gather important details to provide more context about each prospect.

Understanding your sales prospects in terms of their unique industry, challenges, needs, and organizational structure will help you craft genuine sales outreach messages that actually resonate with your prospects.

In a nutshell…

Use this list of best practices to start B2B contact data list building smarter and more efficiently.

Here’s a brief overview of each list building tactic for your review:

  • Don’t be over-reliant on B2B contact databases. Find smarter sales intelligence tools to help you prospect smarter.
  • Know the type of B2B contact data you’re looking for to build a strong sales pipeline. 
  • Don’t skimp on data privacy regulations.
  • When shopping around for B2B contact list building tools, know what features are “must-have” and “nice-to-have”.
  • Leverage buyer intent data or signals to help you personalize your sales prospecting efforts beyond simply knowing a prospect’s basic contact information.
  • Always qualify your leads to prioritize ones that are most likely to convert.
  • Avoid buying email lists and focus on growing your email lists organically.
  • Always enrich and clean your data sets, and find ways to automate these tasks.
  • Use multiple sales channels to build your lists, but prioritize the ones that are most successful and optimize the low-performing channels later on.
  • Research your contact data to find ways to deliver genuine value for sales prospects.

Related: What is a Business Directory