Although B2B data certainly isn’t the most exciting sales topic– it happens to be one of the most important. After all, account and contact data is the fuel that enables your revenue engine to run smoothly. Without it, your sales team wouldn’t be able to identify, target, and connect with their target prospects and companies.

But, anyone in sales will tell you that finding and maintaining high-quality data is a full-time job. Today, we hope to demystify the process of selecting a B2B data provider and help you answer your most pressing B2B data questions. Like, which provider should I work with? Do I need to work with a provider at all? And, is there really any difference between the companies offering sales intelligence solutions?

Lets, jump into it!

What is a B2B data provider?

The term data provider covers a wide array of business services. Think sales intelligence, pipeline prediction, data hygiene, CRM management, and so much more. In the early days, data providers started out as a way to sell contact information. But, the industry has rapidly transformed into so much more. Modern data providers are now end-to-end solutions equipped with functionality that allows entire sales teams to quickly identify, engage with, and sell to qualified buyers.

But data providers, like any business product or service, are not a one-size-fits-all solution. A data provider that fits the needs of one sales organization may be a terrible fit for another sales organization. Whether or not a data provider fits the needs of your company depends on the type of data you need, the industry you work in, each provider’s feature set, your price point, and so much more.

Before we get into the finer details, here’s a quick primer on the different types of data providers in today’s marketplace:

  • Owned: Owned data providers gather data through proprietary sources like crawlers, email opt-ins, and other types of in-house data-gathering technologies.
  • Brokers and Resellers: This next type of data provider is more of a middleman. Brokers and resellers typically procure their data from multiple sources and then turn around and resell it to other companies.
  • Aggregators: Data aggregators gather information from multiple sources– paid and organic. These sources include directories, websites, publicly available resources, and other private sources.

Most modern data providers don’t fall into one single category– nor is one type of provider better than any other. In order to maintain an accurate and diverse data set, companies must rely on many different types of data sources. Therefore, we recommend you consider and evaluate a range of data providers.

Why do I need to work with a data company?

Although data collection and management is a necessary function in nearly all modern businesses, in-house data maintenance is an outdated process. Let’s look at a few reasons why a business might decide to work with an outside vendor:

  • New contacts: It’s not uncommon for a sales rep to update CRM data or search a company database to understand a prospect’s purchase history. But, unless you work with a third-party data provider, your CRM is full of information regarding current customers and prospects– not future customers and prospects.
  • Automated maintenance: Contact and company data decays rapidly as phone numbers change, companies merge, and people take new jobs and titles. If you don’t have a plan to tackle data hygiene, the data in your CRM will quickly become outdated. Work with a reputable data provider to keep that information fresh and usable.
  • Industry standards and compliance: Because of new regulations surrounding contact data and security, working with a professional can help keep your company compliant and within the law.
  • Saves time: With a third-party data provider, the responsibility of data quality and maintenance no longer falls on your sales team. Instead, they have more time to do what they do best– sell.

Once your company reaches a certain size, it’s no longer feasible to manage and maintain your own contact data. And although a data provider is an additional expense, investing in your data pays off in the long run in terms of time, resources, and efficiency.

How do I choose a data company that will suit my company’s needs?

As with any major purchase, there are a few different factors to consider when evaluating data providers for your sales team. In this next section, we offer our tips for choosing the best B2B data provider for your needs. Let’s take a look:

1. Conduct your research.

Prior to speaking to a sales rep, be sure to research the different options available to you. That way, you’ll enter your sales conversations informed with questions at the ready. Proper research will also help you eliminate the data providers that don’t fit your needs, saving you time and effort.

When scoping out potential data providers, here are a few different factors to keep in mind:

  • Data source: Make sure the data providers you evaluate all have a reputable means of collecting data. Although the source itself isn’t critical, making sure each provider collects data legally and responsibly is critical.
  • Reputation: Check popular review websites, social media platforms, and industry message boards to understand what type of reputation each data provider has. Pay close attention to vendors who have proven success with companies similar to yours.
  • Industry coverage: Some data providers only offer data sets within specific industries or verticals.  Be sure to inquire about each provider’s industry coverage before signing a contract or invoice.
  • Cost:  If the data you’re purchasing is high-quality, then the price shouldn’t be a huge factor. However, it’s important to determine what your payment covers. Typically, there are three levels of data purchases: One-time use, multiple time use, and outright purchases. Determine which of the vendors offer the type of purchase your business needs.
  • Features: Inquire about features, add-ons, and integrations. Consider what’s included in your purchase and what’s not. Most importantly, make sure your data purchase integrates with the technologies you’re already using.

Conducting this research will give you insight into the options available and will prime you to have more informed conversations prior to making a purchase.

2. Define and communicate your business goals.

Every company will have a unique set of goals and requirements when it comes to business data. And, unfortunately, not every B2B data provider will be able to meet your particular needs. Because of this, it’s important to outline your must-haves ahead of time.

First, consider why you’re evaluating data providers in the first place. Are you looking for prospecting data? Have you noticed inconsistencies and inaccuracies in your database? Or, do you have a particular project in mind that you need the help of a data provider to tackle? No matter what your reason is, be sure to clearly articulate the different tasks you’re hoping to accomplish.

Here are a few other important factors to consider during this process:

  • Types of data: Think about the different types of data you and your team need access to. Some data providers only supply contact information or firmographic data regarding companies and accounts. Others provide technographic data and demographic data. Get a clear understanding of the types of data each provider offers and determine whether or not they have what you need.
  • Data accuracy: B2B data decays quickly. Therefore, it’s important to ask vendors how often their data is updated, how they ensure accuracy, and whether or not they have a policy about handling inaccuracies.
  • Specific data points: If there are particular data points you’ll need, be sure to ask about them prior to signing a contract. For example, if you determine a person’s sales-readiness based on job title, it wouldn’t make sense to work with a data provider who doesn’t offer that particular data point.
  • Net new contacts: There’s no use purchasing data you already have, so it’s important to ask about contact suppression and net new contacts instead of speaking in general terms. That way, you can avoid purchasing data you don’t need. And, you can test a data provider’s ability to offer customized solutions.

Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive. You’ll likely have your own questions once you start evaluating data providers but, the points above provide a good starting point.

3. Understand each provider’s features and add-ons.

Just as you took the time to assess your own requirements, it’s important to take the same amount of time to understand what each vendor offers. Although you won’t necessarily need access to each and every feature, it’s nice to know what you’re getting for any given price.

This is an important step to remember. Because, even if a company’s main platform or service doesn’t offer a specific feature, they may have an integration or add-on that does what you’re looking for.

4. Consider customer service.

As we mentioned, some data providers have a customer service policy that accounts for out-of-date or inaccurate data. And, some data providers don’t offer anything when it comes to bad data. It’s important to know exactly what to expect in terms of customer service before signing a contract with a vendor.

For this reason, we recommend that you inquire about the dataset you’re buying. Ask if it’s covered by any type of guarantee. And, ask how the company expects you to prove a record is a duplicate, undeliverable, or inaccurate. Agree in advance on how you’ll be compensated.

5. Request and compare data samples.

Most B2B data providers offer some sort of free trial or data sample. If your sales rep doesn’t offer one of these two options up front, ask for a sample dataset. Without any sort of real-life trial or sample, it’s nearly impossible to judge the quantity and quality of each dataset.

If you are able to procure a sample dataset, here are a few characteristics to investigate:

  • Size: In general, the size of your sample should be one percent of the total size of the list you intend to buy. But, ideally, you should see at least 100 records per sample. That should be enough to give you a good idea of the data’s consistency.
  • Criteria: Confirm that the data sample includes only the criteria you requested. For example marketing managers within a certain zip code that work for medium to large organizations.
  • Test: Put the data to the test. Call a few phone numbers or do a small email send to gauge the accuracy of the data you’ve purchased. Be sure to select the records you test yourself rather than allowing the vendor to select them for you. That way, you can be confident that the results of your test aren’t swayed by the company’s input.

Be wary of companies who do not offer some sort of free trial or data sample. This isn’t always an indication of low-quality data, but it can be difficult to truly understand what you’re purchasing without it.

Final Thoughts about Selecting a B2B Data Provider

Selecting a B2B data provider is a huge decision for any sales manager– after all, contact and account data fuels nearly all day-to-day sales techniques. Because data providers are such a huge investment, it’s important to do your research and take the process one step at a time.

Before money exchanges hands, be sure you’re confident with your choice data provider. Once the investment is made, your sales team will thank you!

Contact ZoomInfo today to learn why our B2B contact database is superior to the rest!

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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