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B2B lead lists: Should you buy them and how to build your own

Joshua Pratt
Joshua Pratt
Reading time:12 m

If you’re tired of chasing dead-end leads and struggling to meet targets, a lead list is just what you need to rev up your sales engine. But the million-dollar question is should you buy or build lead lists?

We know buying leads is risky and unreliable, while compiling your own list of prospects can drain your bandwidth. So, what’s the better option?

This guide will give you the pros and cons of buying vs. building lists along with expert insights. We’ll also share an actionable framework for building such a list yourself. 

But first, let’s find out what a lead list is and outline the characteristics of a high-quality one. 

What is a B2B lead list?

A B2B lead list is a compilation of prospects you can reach out to as part of your sales outreach. These lists include companies aligned with your ideal customer profiles and contain several data points, such as:

  • Company name and size
  • Key decision-makers
  • Contact details (email, phone, etc.)

While these are some essential data points, good-quality lead lists cover more information for every prospect. On that note, let’s look at the factors that make a high-quality B2B lead list.

What makes a quality B2B lead list?

Collecting sales intel is one of the most critical steps of the prospecting process. It can directly impact your top-of-funnel sales and your bottom line.

So, whether you’re building or buying lead lists, you should have a benchmark for a high-quality list. Here are the main features that make one:

Number of leads

A larger pool of prospects gives you better odds of getting responses and setting appointments. A bigger list also creates more opportunities to find high-quality prospects. Additionally, it offers a buffer against data decay and inaccuracy. 

Trevor Sookraj, the founder and CEO of Divisional, proactively experiments with lead lists and considers the number of leads an important parameter to assess the quality. He says:

"This is especially important for companies that require multiple touchpoints before a prospect will engage, i.e., for enterprise targets. It’s likely that the same prospect will need to be reached out to via email, LinkedIn, and awareness ads on multiple platforms — Google Ads, Meta Ads, LinkedIn Ads — which all require multiple data points to have an accurate match to a profile."


The usability and effectiveness of a lead list also depend on how well it’s structured and formatted. A poor structure creates more room for error, while consistent structuring and formatting give you an upper hand with ease of navigation, efficiency, and overall use. 

Data sources: A high-quality lead list always aligns with ethical standards and complies with regulations like GDPR and CCPA. Put simply, the list should include only those leads that gave clear consent to be included. Bad data sources can directly affect your brand reputation and create legal and financial concerns as well.

Type of data

A high-quality B2B lead list goes beyond the basic information to include advanced data points, like the company’s structure, tech stack, annual revenue, and more. Rocco Del Greco, the chief marketing officer at The New York Group, believes that intent data is more important than ever. It essentially indicates a prospect’s likelihood to purchase. Rocco mentions: 

“Beyond the basics, the hot topic in B2B right now is intent data. Intent data is harvested via online behavior (web searches, social networks, online events, job postings, technology installs) and added to B2B contact data to refine searches for prospects in the market.”


The quality of a lead list correlates with its accuracy. If a list contains double-verified and up-to-date details for every prospect, it’ll likely produce a higher ROI because of its accurate and relevant information. 

Targeted lead data

Another factor that makes a good B2B lead list is the relevance of the target audience — whether the prospects align with your buyer personas and fit your ICP. A good match means you’re hitting all the right targets instead of shooting in the dark. 

Now that we’ve established what makes a quality list, we’ll see how buying business leads fares against building your own lead base.

Buying a lead list vs. building your own: What’s the better move?

Compiling your own lead database and buying a ready one have their share of pros and cons. We’ll break down when it’s ideal for B2B companies to buy vs. build lead lists.

Buying a lead list: pros and cons

This is ideal for companies working with a lean sales team and limited resources. A pre-built list is more affordable to work with tight budgets and doesn’t take up too much of your bandwidth. Plus, buying a lead list is suited for meeting short-term needs to add a quick boost to a dried-up pipeline.

Will Yang, the head of growth at Instrumentl, explains how buying lead lists is not a shortcut for getting leads quickly. He mentions:

"In my experience, buying lead lists is the better option. Buying a lead list sounds like it’s less work than building one from scratch, but that’s not necessarily true. You have to do some research to find a good company and make sure they’ll deliver what you need. But the bottom line is this: When you buy a lead list, they’ve already done all the hard work for you so all you have to do is pick up the phone and call people who are likely to be interested in what you’re offering them!"

But while buying marketing lead lists can save time and money, it also takes away the control over this data. You’re unsure of how the data was sourced and refreshed, leading to quality concerns. The worst-case scenario is a damaged brand reputation.

Positives and negatives of building your own lead list

This works well for B2B companies pursuing long-term goals with a custom lead generation strategy. Most businesses operating in niche markets and verticals can also find better results through self-made lists since prospecting requires granular data.

But the biggest benefit of building lead lists is the control of your data and quality. Thomas Philip, the head of sales at Mailmodo, establishes this argument in favor of building lead lists. He explains:

"Building lists may be a more time-consuming process, but it allows for greater control over data quality and accuracy. In fact, our experience has shown that lists we created resulted in 5 times better conversion rates compared to purchased lists, ultimately saving time and avoiding issues with high bounce rates and spam reports on email campaigns. This strategy allowed for more time focused on closing deals rather than firefighting such issues."

However, the downside of building your own lists is the number of resources you need to make it work. In addition to creating a tool stack, you need human resources for compiling, verifying, and enhancing the data.

📚 Related post: How to Generate Sales Leads: A Guide for Sales Managers 

The verdict

From the points we’ve covered, it’s clear that building lead lists is the way to go. Purchasing leads is a quick and easy tactic for lead generation. But it can seem like a gamble since you get to know the results only after you’ve staked your money.

On the other hand, building lists is an organic and sustainable way to create a high-quality database and drive outreach success. Whether you’re a startup with limited resources or a large-scale organization, you can build your own lists efficiently (more on that shortly) and see an uptick in responses, appointments, and sales.

Aman Ghataura, the head of growth at NUOPTIMA, compared the cost per meeting booked from his purchased and manually compiled lead lists. Here are the results:

"An A/B test showed that the purchased leads were of lower quality since they were missing criteria or nuance. What resulted was the cost per meeting booked from purchased leads equated to around $300, but manually built leads came out to around $200. It goes to show you need to run your numbers completely through the funnel to have a true understanding of costs."

So, here’s our breakdown of the debate between buying and building lead lists:


Buying a lead list

Building a lead list

Data privacy

Risk of purchasing noncompliant data

Full compliance and control over data privacy


Limited scalability beyond a purchased list

Scalable as a business grows

Time to market

Quick access to large volumes of data

Longer lead time to gather and analyze data

Data verification

Limited or no verification of data accuracy

Ability to verify data accuracy and update as needed

Data exclusivity

Nonexclusive data that may be sold to competitors

Exclusive access to data and reduced competition

Data segmentation

Limited segmentation options

Ability to segment data based on specific criteria

Data ownership

No ownership or control over data once purchased

Full ownership and control over data

Industry specificity

May offer industry-specific lists

Ability to tailor list to specific industries and business types

How to build a quality B2B lead list

Now, let’s give you a walk-through of the 5 core steps for organizing sales leads into a high-impact and ROI-driven lead list.

1. Get your ideal customer profile and buyer personas right 

Every lead generation campaign starts with identifying the target buyers. But when building your lead list, you have to go a step beyond. It’s important to define your ideal customer profile and create buyer personas to maximize effectiveness.

The ICP will clarify the best-fit clients for your business, and buyer personas will help your sales team understand the ICP better. Together, these 2 components will outline the key characteristics of your ideal prospects, like:

  • What industry do they operate in?
  • What size of companies do they work for?
  • What are their revenue numbers and targets?
  • What are their pain points, challenges, and goals?

Here’s how you can zero in on your ICP and buyer personas in the first step:

  • Create multiple ICPs and run A/B tests to determine the ones promising the highest potential for success. 
  • Analyze your existing customer data to see what kind of companies have already purchased from you.
  • Review the market to find who your competitors are serving and identify why these customers prefer your alternatives over you.

The preliminary research in this first step will supplement your efforts in all the next steps. 

2. Define the decision-maker profiles you want to target

Once you’ve narrowed down the type of companies you want to prospect, it’s time to establish the main decision-makers you’ll target through outreach.

Defining the right decision-maker early on is important to avoid wasting time chasing the wrong leads. It’ll also increase your chances of securing a response or an appointment because you can deliver a hyper-personalized pitch message.

Follow these best practices for identifying the ideal decision-makers based on your research:

  • Interview potential people at your ICP companies and existing clients to map out the decision-making process. 
  • Revisit your buyer personas and identify the decision-making unit for each persona — the job titles and responsibilities associated with it.
  • Understand the factors that can influence the buying process and review your ICP’s past purchasing decisions to find any relevant patterns.

At Belkins, our team always cross-references our research on decision-makers with our client’s existing customer base. This eliminates the possibility of running outreach for companies already a part of the clientele.

3. Establish key parameters to add to your lead lists

Lead segmentation is the key to unlocking the true potential of your lead list. Segmenting leads can streamline your B2B outreach strategy, fast-track your efforts, and bring better results.

Let’s consider a few parameters for segmenting your lead list:

  • Demographic: These factors are less prone to change. So, you can easily personalize your pitch based on demographic details. It includes data points related to age, education, profession, location, language, and more. Consider these as the first layer of your lead segmentation process.
  • Sales triggers: You can build another layer for your list with sales triggers, which are events or actions giving you a chance to interact with a prospect — like when leads download e-books, switch their jobs, or request demos. Segmenting leads based on sales triggers is a great way to categorize people with the same interests or behavior and personalize your pitch. 
  • Technographic: Tech stack is a crucial parameter for lead segmentation in the B2B space. Here are a few factors to consider when segmenting your prospects based on technographic data:
    • Hosting provider
    • Monthly tech spend
    • Automation tools used
    • Sales and marketing stack
    • Choice of CRM, ESP, and other essential tools

“Besides these key parameters, you should always consider the features that make a good lead for your company,” explains Joe Kevens, the director of PartnerStack and founder of B2B SaaS Reviews. He mentions:

"At PartnerStack, we take an account-level approach to building lead lists. We’ve backtested our customer account data to know what characteristics of a company are good and bad for us. With the help of a third-party solution, Keyplay.io, we leverage a dozen or so account characteristics or ‘signals’ that we use to score all our accounts. Our SDR team then prioritizes their outreach using our Keyplay scored lead lists."

Our team at Belkins works with a hyper-focused approach to lead generation research and list building. We top it off with thorough data enrichment to ensure our lead lists are as detailed as possible. 

4. Build a robust tech stack to search, filter, and collect data 

Once you’ve done all the legwork, how do you actually start sourcing, storing, and analyzing leads for your list? With a solid tech stack.

Without the right sales tools, building lead lists can be challenging. This might naturally slow down your outreach efforts as well.

Equip your sales team with the best tech stack and accelerate the list-building process. Here are our favorite tools at Belkins:

  • Apollo and LinkedIn Sales Navigator: for finding prospect information and identifying key decision-makers
  • Crunchbase: for collecting relevant details about leads
  • ZeroBounce: for validating contact information
  • GMass: for scheduling mass email campaigns
  • Google Sheets: for accumulating and organizing all the data

Your tech stack can make or break your list-building efforts. Invest extra time in research and testing to pick the best tools. 

5. Create workflows to analyze, validate, and refresh your list

The final pit stop in creating B2B lead lists is fine-tuning it for final use. This is a critical step because the quality of your leads depends directly on your analysis-validation-refresh workflow. 

Let’s look at the best practices to implement this workflow:

  • Analyze: Clean up your data with a thorough check for duplicates, incorrect information, outdated contacts, and other errors that can hamper performance.
  • Validate: Identify the decisive factors for validating your list, such as job title, company size, etc. Use automated tools or create a manual workflow for validating the data based on these factors. 
  • Refresh: Schedule a regular campaign for refreshing your lists and removing outdated information. You can also add new leads and update existing data to boost accuracy.

At Belkins, we offer our clients the unique advantage of working with a dedicated lead researcher. This professional manually conducts prospect research and validates all the data using the best-in-class tools. 

Build a high-performing lead list with these best practices

Building lead lists can seem tedious and daunting to many sales folks. But all your effort will pay dividends through a soaring lead conversion rate and rising revenue.

Bookmark this start-to-finish guide and create an airtight process for manually curating a list of leads. Don’t be afraid to experiment and iterate as you go, and remember to always prioritize quality over quantity.

If you need more hands on deck to drive up the revenue numbers, Belkins can act as an extension of your in-house sales staff and offer our expertise. Contact us today to learn more.


Is selling lead lists illegal?

No, it is not illegal. However, lead selling companies have to comply with certain regulations like GDPR and take consent from prospects they add to the leads.

Where do lead-selling companies get their leads?

Every lead generation company has multiple sources of finding lead data. They use scraping tools to collect information from search engines and social media. Then they organize this raw, unstructured data into targeted lead lists.

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Joshua Pratt
Joshua Pratt
Outreach Expert at Belkins
For almost a year Josh Pratt was an Account Manager at Belkins, but his overall experience in sales, marketing, and team management reaches 10+ years. Now, Joshua hosts Belkins Growth Podcast and contributes to Belkins content strategy.