B2B data: The 5 main types & how to use them in your sales process
Data drives business decisions. It tells directors of marketing and sales where the market is heading, which trends are driving purchase decisions, and where the majority of efforts should be spent. And as a sales rep, the better the data you have about a prospect, the more relevant (and effective) you can make your pitch.
But as much as everyone loves talking about data, almost half of B2B firms in one study said they weren’t confident in the quality of their sales and marketing data.
Worse still, a study by Forrester found that only 50% of B2B marketing and sales decisions are made using solid data.
So, what exactly does B2B data include? Why is it so important for your sales and marketing strategy? And how can you make sure you’re using data effectively?
Let’s dig into:
- What is B2B data?
- Where do you get B2B data?
- The 5 main types of B2B data & where to find them
- How high-performance sales & marketing teams use B2B data
- Best practices for your B2B data
What is B2B data?
As your company gathers better, more accurate B2B data about the companies and people in your target market, you’ll be able to make more effective decisions based solidly on real data.
Or at least, that’s the goal.
In reality, few companies achieve this idealistic result with their data. They’ll either spend too much time gathering data, or not enough time organizing and understanding the data they have (or, in many cases, both).
So, how can your sales and marketing teams collect and analyze data effectively?
Where do you get B2B data?
Sales and marketing teams who need high-quality data on B2B businesses in their target market have two options when it comes to data sources:
- Do in-house research with internal resources
- Use a B2B data provider
In-house research normally involves having a dedicated team (or some members of the sales or business development teams) working almost exclusively on researching companies and contacts online. This is time-consuming and costly, and not normally sustainable for SMBs and startups.
On the other hand, using a B2B data provider is the best option for busy sales teams. These platforms compile available data about companies, contacts, and more. Then, they give your team access to the type of data they need in the place and time when they need it most. For lean startup sales teams and SMBs, B2B data providers can be a lifesaver.
The 5 main types of B2B data & where to find them
Sales and marketing teams thrive on clear, accurate information about the companies and people they’re selling to.
But what kind of data does your team really need, and where can you find it?
1. B2B contact data
Names, emails, phone numbers, social media accounts, job titles… These are all aspects of B2B contact data.
Contact data–and especially demographic data–can also help you match new leads to your ideal customer profile, especially if you’re selling to a specific role inside a company.
Best sources of contact data:
2. Company or account data
Company data, or firmographic data, includes the key points that you use to determine whether a company fits your ideal customer profile. Depending on what you sell and who you sell it to, data points in this category might include:
- Company name
- Company size
- Number of employees in a certain department or team
- Buying process
- Website traffic
- Target market
- Org chart or account map to identify key decision-makers
For example, let’s say you sell a marketing platform for B2B marketing agencies. To match new leads to your target audience, you’d need to know whether a lead is a marketing agency, what kind of clients they serve, and how many people on their team would be using your platform. Sourcing quality business data is key to an effective sales strategy.
Account data is also essential when you’re building a Target Account Sales (TAS) or Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy.
Best sources of account data:
3. Technology data
Also known as technographic data, this is basically just the tech stack that your target market is using. Your sales team might use this data to match a lead to your ideal customer profile, or your marketing team might use technographic data to better target marketing campaigns.
For example, let’s say you’re selling a sales tool that connects to a CRM. If your tool only integrates with Close, Hubspot, or Salesforce, then you’ll need to make sure all new leads are already using one of these three CRMs.
Otherwise, you’d just be wasting your time trying to sell them a tool that won’t fit into their current stack.
Best sources of technographic data:
4. B2B intent data
How do you know if the leads coming into your sales pipeline are actually interested in buying your product? How do you know if the timing is right to reach out?
B2B intent data tells you when an individual performs actions that signal they’re in the mood to buy. That might include:
- Downloading a resource
- Requesting a demo
- Starting a free trial
- Repeated visits to the pricing page on your website
Some tools are using machine learning algorithms to identify patterns that will help you identify prospects which are more likely to buy.
Best sources of B2B intent data:
5. Event and change data
Your leads are going through myriad events and changes that could affect where they are in the buying process. When you can stay on top of that event and change data, you can jump into the conversation at the moment when it counts the most.
Here are some kinds of event data that benefit sales and marketing teams:
- An individual gets promoted within the company
- The company raises a new round of funding
- The company grows its employee count
- A new department is created or starts to grow
- A new role that fits your ICP is hired
- A new product or feature is released
- The company rebrands itself or pivots its target market
How high-performance sales & marketing teams use B2B data
With the 5 main types of B2B data firmly in mind, let’s see how sales reps and marketers use this kind of data in their day-to-day strategies and tactics, and where this can benefit your team.
Marketing teams use B2B data in their lead generation strategies to target new leads and add them to the pipeline.
For marketing, account data matched to the ideal customer profile will help them target the right companies, and demographic data can help them target the right individuals in social campaigns.
With technographic data, they can make their approach ultra-personalized, for example, targeting users of a competing product.
Sales development teams will use B2B contact data to make sure they’re targeting the right person at a company, or account and tech data to personalize their cold emails.
If you’re building or improving your ABM strategy, you know how important it is to get clean, accurate data.
To effectively target accounts and the individuals within those accounts, you need to know key data about the company, its size, its share of the market, the people who work there, the business processes, and the organization of the company.
For this kind of strategy to work, data must be collected and organized in a place that both marketing and sales teams have access to since both teams are working simultaneously on this strategy.
Improve inbound lead scoring and routing
When you know which accounts and customers bring the highest value to your company, all you need to do is replicate those customers.
B2B data is essential to score your leads effectively and route them to the right individuals or teams within your sales org.
For example, if you target mainly enterprise-size companies, and a small business enters your funnel, you know right away that’s not an ideal customer. Inbound lead scoring based on B2B data tells you which leads you should prioritize for the best results, and lead enrichment tools can help you turn something as simple as an email address into a detailed profile to identify high-quality sales leads.
Pinpoint key moments for sales outreach
Using changes and event data, sales teams can choose the perfect time to reach out to a lead or prospect.
For example, imagine you had a conversation with a prospect that was very interested in your product but was blocked by a decision-maker. Then, you see your original contact has been promoted—why not reach out again now that they have the clout to make the deal happen?
Analyze the market
B2B data can also be industry-wide. This can tell you about trends in the industry, shifts in the market your customers sell to, or emerging news or tech that could work in your favor—very valuable when selling to B2B companies.
Best practices for your B2B data
Whether you’re searching for data in-house or purchasing it from a B2B database, you’re paying for every piece of information you get. So, how can you make sure that data is working for you and your team, and how can you keep it safe?
Use these best practices to get the most from your B2B data:
Always make sure your data is compliant and secure
When talking about data, it’s impossible to ignore the legal requirements of storing and using data about other people and companies.
First, check what compliance means where your company and your customers are based, whether that’s GDPR, CCPA, or any other legal requirements.
Second, make sure that your data provider is compliant.
Third, make sure the tools where you store your data are compliant. This includes your CRM and other data warehouse tools.
Data security is no joke. This should be a major factor when deciding on a third-party data platform, as well as when you’re buying a new CRM.
Create easy workflows for reps to use the data you collect
The money you spend on data might as well be thrown out the window if your team doesn’t know how to access it.
That’s why, when getting set up with a B2B data provider, it’s your job as a leader to make sure that data is part of your sales team’s workflow.
For example, integrating data as part of your lead scoring process, automating wherever possible, or populating insights directly into your CRM dataset are all ways to help your sell smarter.
Data integration with your CRM is one of the most important ways you can effectively use B2B data. 62% of sales pros in one survey said they were only at an intermediate or novice level of data integration with their CRM, and just 13% felt they were advanced enough to do this effectively.
Start by making sure your data provider plays well with your CRM. Stay informed about how data can be transferred between your CRM and data systems. Pull as much data as you can automatically, so your reps down have to waste more time on manual data entry.
Keep your B2B sales data clean and up-to-date
Over time, data decays. It’s normal, but it’s your job to make sure you keep your data clean.
The B2B Sales and Marketing Data Report by Dun & Bradstreet found that, of companies that increased their investment in data quality, 94% saw their sales and marketing performance improve.
On the other hand, when your data is old or inaccurate, reps will waste time sending emails to addresses that don’t exist anymore (resulting in low deliverability rates for your email marketing efforts), or calling numbers that no one will ever answer. Plus, customer experience will take a hit when your contact database is inaccurate—mixing up contacts, misspelled names, and other errors make prospects think twice about working with you.
Here’s how to fix it:
First, if you’re using a B2B data provider, spend some time on sites like G2 to see what other users are saying about the accuracy of the database.
Second, normalize your data. Make sure your data is structured and appears similarly across all records. Data normalization helps you avoid duplicate data and keeps everything structured correctly.
Third, keep updating the data you have. Don’t make your reps do the work of double-checking every phone number and email they have. Integrate your systems so that, when there’s an update to the database you’re paying for, that information is automatically added to your CRM.
Finally, regularly cleanse the data in your CRM. This includes removing old leads, merging contacts to the right opportunities, updating lead statuses in real-time, and generally making sure everything is correct and up-to-date. When you do this at regular intervals and recruit your team to help you, it won’t be so overwhelming and your data will stay cleaner over time.
Use B2B data to maximize your team’s efforts
Data is essential for your sales success—as long as you know how to use it right.
Keep your data clean and secure. Make sure your data provider gives you the nuggets of information that are truly valuable to your sales team. Then, use that data to make informed decisions about lead generation, lead scoring, and sales outreach.
When you do all this, you’ll get your money’s worth out of the sales data you’re already paying for.
Implementing a new CRM to house and manage data for your sales team? Check out our complete guide to CRM implementation, including a checklist and roadmap you can use to guide the process.