Should You Buy or Build A Sales Prospecting List?

notimeforthatOutbound sales prospecting often feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle, and it’s not fun to be stuck in those trenches. But how do you decide where to get your next list? Here are some things to consider…

How Much Time is Your Sales Development Team Spending on Prospecting?

Probably way too much.

We’ve talked to a lot of RevBoss prospects who have told us that their sales team can spend upwards of 20% of their week just searching for the right people. One whole day of the week!

That’s probably not why that person was hired (ideally, you want your team to be selling 8+ hours per day, 5 days a week), which means that you’ve got a problem to solve.

We’ve mentioned the idea of “voluntary” sales meetings before — where you invite the sales team over for free pizza in exchange for a few extra hours of prospecting. And that is certainly one way to do it…

There’s no question that the prospecting hurdle is one that every sales team has to jump, but there are a handful of other ways to go about it that don’t involve bribing enticing your team with after-hours free food.

We view the solution to the prospecting problem as twofold — you can either buy data, or you can source it yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, and since we’ve done our fair share of both, we thought it might be helpful to share some of our insights and learnings…

Should you buy a list of prospects?

If you’re in sales, you’ve probably purchased a list before and you know that it can be a bit of a mixed bag — it’s fast and easy on the front end, but you’re going to spend a good amount of time cleaning up the data and then turning it into something useful…not to mention that it can get expensive.

Buying data is most valuable if you sell into small niche markets (like companies that use X type of software) or if you sell to difficult industries (like healthcare) that are challenging to prospect online.

If your target prospect has to meet some level of software criteria, there are a handful of websites that you can use to easily narrow the field — BuiltWith, NerdyData, ZoomInfo,, etc. Most of these are subscription-based, but if you have a tight budget, you can download what you need and then cancel.

In the latter case, when you prospect into an industry where companies often operate under the umbrella of a larger organization, buying a list is just worth it — trust us here. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to figure out which company the prospect actually works for (and in which location), as well as the email pattern that the company uses. Keller Williams, for example, allows agents to pick whatever username they would like…including You’re just not going to guess that one.

Should you source your own prospect data?

We source our data organically through the software that we’ve been building for the past year, but we obviously didn’t have the luxury of starting out with a fully-baked process…so we spent a good chunk of time figuring things out with a manual data-sourcing process powered by oDesk.

The starting point for us was to farm out the work. Outsourcing is a great way to augment your prospecting efforts, but it’s probably not something that you should absolutely depend on. It takes a lot of the nitty gritty work off of your plate, but it also creates additional management work — you’re now responsible for a remote worker or workforce that’s probably located in another country and on another time zone, and they’re facing problems with shotty internet and bad transportation.

You can augment your outsourcing process using a few internal tricks like LinkedIn searches, Wikipedia lists, and the YellowPages. But if you don’t want to augment this data manually in-house (or with the aforementioned workforce), you’re probably going to need some level of software — locally hosted scrapers, email matchers, etc. — to turn the raw data into something workable.

Or…you can always buy yourself some time without software and get hacky with spreadsheets to solve some data sourcing and cleaning problems.  It’s a pain, but it’s effective if you don’t have the resources to build anything. With a few formulas (like =ImportHTML and =ImportXML), you’ll be able to get a good start…but you’ll have a hard time scaling.

What should your volume look like?

One thing that’s important to keep in mind, regardless of the route that you decide to take, is the volume that you put into the top of the funnel.

Your ultimate goal should be to have qualified conversations (remember, outbound has a longer sales cycle than inbound, so you aren’t going to close someone on your first convo). With this in mind — and a huge helping of “your mileage may vary” — a 1.5% to 5% prospect-to-convo conversion rate is a good place to start.

So, think backwards — if you want to have 15 qualified conversations a month, you should feed 300 to 1k prospects through the top of the funnel — probably err on the high side to give yourself some wiggle room.

Hopefully this is helpful, but if you’re still not sure that you want to manage this process in-house, give us a shout. We’d love to chat.