Some information is so sensational that it gets passed around regardless of the truth: The amount of tryptophan in a Thanksgiving turkey is enough to make people sleepy. Humans only use 10% of their brains. Jimmy Hoffa is buried under Giants Stadium. Sadly, all of these dramatic statements are false, but people love to repeat them anyway.

When false assumptions are the basis for business decisions, the fallout can be sudden and steep. Premature investments, failure to understand customers’ needs, and overly optimistic revenue projections are all common business missteps with disastrous consequences. (Remember the Sony Betamax? Us either.)

Sales and marketing teams that buy into myths about data providers miss out on serious business value. Most of these myths lump all data providers together, failing to distinguish between bargain contact lists and verified data intelligence services: Think Netscape vs. Google Chrome. Or In ‘n’ Out Burger vs. … any other burger.

Myth 1: Contact lists = sales intelligence

Some folks think data providers are just list-building firms. They scrape data from the web or crowd-source it. Their information is only ever the bare minimum: contact names, phone numbers, maybe some email addresses. The only reason it beats collecting business cards in a fishbowl is because there’s a greater volume of names.

Fact: Sales intelligence is more than a list of names and numbers.

In the same way that “chocolate muffins” are really just cupcakes, contact lists might be “data,” but they’re not sales intelligence.


Sales intelligence includes a depth of information that is both accurate and predictive. It should reduce time spent prospecting; offer sales development reps (SDRs) an opportunity for smart expansion into new markets; let sales reps identify the 3% of any industry’s target accounts that are active buyers … and a whole lot more.

Simple contact lists don’t automagically bestow knowledge into the minds of SDRs … but sales intelligence does. Here are just a few magical attributes sales intelligence provides.

Department org charts

A prospect’s title is helpful, but because titles have different meanings from one company to the next, it’s not much for a sales magician to go on. Org charts decision-makers, identify influencers, and advocates who can champion your solutions or services. Org charts are a flagship DiscoverOrg product used to understand employees’ positions within an organization hierarchy and pull multiple stakeholders into a conversation, giving weight to a sales proposition.


Sales intelligence includes insights from scoops. Examples of scoops are funding events such as venture capital funding or planned mergers; product launches; and employee movement like promotions or when people leave or join the company. When a new CTO joins a company he or she is likely to make new technology purchases.

Scoops help sellers recognize these opportunities. To buyers, these types of interactions may seem serendipitous, but timing sales and marketing interactions requires foresight.


It’s not magic. It’s sales intelligence.

Technology stack

If your SaaS offering includes a Salesforce integration, wouldn’t it be handy to know which companies in your target market also use Salesforce? Foreknowledge of a company’s technology stack not only gives sales reps an intrinsic advantage over competitors. It also offers insight into a prospect’s capabilities … and potential frustrations (cough, legacy system compatibility, cough). Technographic intelligence promotes new sales, upselling, and cross-selling opportunities.

This type of information gives sales rep a vast advantage over competitors armed with a list of names and phone numbers. And it’s not just sales that benefits. Account-based marketing can use sales intelligence for a new level of personalization.

Strategic sales prospecting is also faster with intelligence than a traditional names-and-numbers list. Historically, salespeople spend just 33% of their day selling. The rest of the time, they’re hunting prospects LinkedIn; trying to get past gatekeepers on the phone, only to be transferred around phone trees … or dialing wrong numbers. When all’s said and done, quality lists lead to a 50% reduction in research time.

SDRs can’t often differentiate between list providers and sales intelligence provider without seeing a list of data points. Ask a few pointed questions of your prospective data provider to see what kind of magic might result:

  1. What types of data do you collect?
  2. How have existing clients historically used your sales intelligence to predict buyer intentions?
  3. Do you have any case studies?

Myth 2: All Purchased Data Is Old and Useless

Some people think buying data is like buying Cap’n Crunch when you don’t have kids. It’s like having to pay people for positive Amazon reviews on your self-published book, or Liking your own Facebook post: It’s a dirty little secret that you don’t mention in polite company. And if you do actually have to buy sales intelligence, it’s bound to be old and incorrect. You’d better plan on dialing a lot of wrong numbers, or looking out of touch and souring potential relationships. Either way, purchased data is a disaster waiting to happen.A salesperson dispels a myth about sales intelligence

Fact: Dynamically generated intelligence is fresh

First, everyone secretly loves Cap’n Crunch, so don’t feel bad. Second, it’s true that a lot of bargain data merchants sell contact data that’s as questionable as yesterday’s sushi.

Data that is crowdsourced or scraped from the web or email quickly becomes outdated, when it is not refreshed. Data decays at a rate of 30-70% per year, as people move between jobs, companies change location, and phone numbers and email addresses change. The assurances from providers about data quality mean little without a contractual service-level agreement.

Web-scraping and automated verification strategies are becoming more sophisticated. But human verification is necessary, as demonstrated by the amount of time salespeople spend researching prospects. When it comes to event intelligence such as investments and mergers, information isn’t published online until after it’s already happened and made public; so human verification comes in handy here, too.

Sales intelligence should be human verified; otherwise it’s no better than doing a search online and rolling the dice. Be sure to ask the following questions:

  1. How is data gathered and vetted?
  2. How often is sales intelligence refreshed for accuracy?
  3. What is the refresh process like?
  4. How is accuracy guaranteed?

Myth 3: Purchased data erodes marketing campaign results

Some think that purchasing data is a potential disaster for marketing and sales campaigns, that contact lists suffer from data decay and may not be opted in. For marketing teams, email deliverability is damaged. Click rates are low, bounce rates are high, and spam reports are far more frequent. For sales teams, efforts are wasted trying to salvage purchased data. Reps are forced to test which pieces of data are accurate and which are inaccurate, which takes time.

Fact: Sophisticated business intelligence is ABM gold

It’s true that bargain lead lists pose a threat to your domain and brand. High bounce rates or spam reports not only affect the reach and efficacy of email campaigns, but also compromise domain authority. Spam blacklisting ripples outward to damage the deliverability of all emails coming from a specific domain.

These problems are mitigated with a new suite of more sophisticated data intelligence offerings in account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns. Historically lists have been static and prone to decay; however, a new generation of sales data includes subscription services to dynamic information, rather than a static one-and-done list.

Sales intelligence is verified, while contact lists usually aren’t. Human verification and emerging tech tools greatly improve the accuracy of predictive intelligence.


When working with third-party data, consider:

  1. In past campaigns, in cases where bounce rates have been high or CRT low, where was the data sourced?
  2. Ask your data provider how sales intelligence complies with ISP agreements and email marketing tools.

Moving beyond the fiction

Stereotypes about third-party sales data exist because historically some of these assumptions have been true. Rather than dismissing third-party data as inaccurate – or accepting all third-party data as correct – ask your provider some targeted questions:

  1. How does the sales intelligence offering compare to competitor solutions?
  2. Does the provider have any client success stories in your industry?
  3. Is there any free data to sample?
  4. Is there any contractual guarantee of data quality?

As you evaluate data offerings, consider DiscoverOrg. We love to prove the stereotypes wrong, and have demonstrated tremendous ROI for our clients over and over again. (Check out our case study for Box!)

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Jake Shaffren
About the author

Jake Shaffren

Jake is the Director of Sales Development at DiscoverOrg, responsible for new pipeline generation and SDR team oversight. Prior to joining DiscoverOrg, he helped start an SDR program in Sydney, AU. Jake has a Bachelor's in Economics from Union College, NY.