A Buyer’s Guide to Lead Lists: How to Budget, Filter, and Purchase High-Quality Lists for Your Sales Team


Generating leads is often the first goal for any marketing strategy, as you can’t get any conversions until you generate leads. A company must continuously market its products or services to build interest, cultivate relationships, and nudge potential customers through all stages of the buying process. So, what can a business do if it doesn’t generate enough or any leads at all?

One method of boosting your marketing strategy is to purchase lead lists, which can help you gain access to consumers who may be interested in your business’s products or services. However, when purchasing these lists, it’s crucial that you recognize which data is useful for your company rather than harmful. 

This article offers a guide on how to budget, filter, and purchase high-quality lists for your sales team so that you can improve your company’s marketing plan and expand the consumer base for your brand.

What are lead lists?

Leads are a business’s potential customers. They could be potential online visitors or local residents near the company’s physical location. Lead lists, then, include collected information on leads that are likely to convert into sales. Lead list details often include:

  • Names and descriptors (e.g., job titles, industry, general location)
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Company names

Other information may be collected based on the company’s marketing goals. While business-to-business (B2B) lead lists will focus on company and decision-maker details, business-to-consumer (B2C) lead lists may have more personal information in the lead profile, such as location, addresses, or character traits.

Companies can build or purchase lead lists

Companies can build lead lists in-house through lead generation techniques, then collect data on the leads that show interest, fill out forms, or take other actions online. For example, a retail company may collect email addresses or phone numbers from customers who put items into their online shopping cart and don’t purchase the items. 

The company would organize the lead information into a list, then send emails, SMS texts, or other campaigns based on the leads’ past interests in hopes of converting them. However, building lead lists can take time and persistent effort, as the purpose of these lists is to collect data on high-quality leads — as in, people or companies likely to convert and fulfill a transaction. 

An alternative option to building lead lists from scratch is to purchase them from third parties. This can be a great way to start marketing your business if you are new or small, or if your company would like to target a new audience.

Benefits of buying lead lists

Some of the benefits of purchasing lead lists include:

  • Lead lists can offer a good return on investment: Purchasing leads through a third party means a good amount of work is already done for you. You don’t have to develop and manage systems that capture lead contact information. By investing in high-quality lead lists, you can save costs on marketing to general audiences. You can then send catered marketing campaigns to your lead list and increase conversions.
  • Lead lists generally have high conversion rates: Lead lists are not simply a collection of contact information. They can be filtered to show you specific types of buyers or businesses, allowing you to send catered marketing campaigns to those audiences. Targeting niche audiences, and showcasing how your business may serve them, can effectively convert leads and encourage repeat consumers.
  • Lead lists can improve your marketing plan: You can filter leads to create targeted marketing campaigns. For example, if your business provides services in a specific city, you can filter your lead lists to target consumers who live in or near that city. Targeting audiences instead of marketing to the general masses increases your chances of reaching people who will actually be interested in your business.

Cons to buying leads

While there are benefits to purchasing lead lists, there are also factors you should be cautious about before purchasing a list through a third party. Some cons to buying leads include:

  • Lead lists might be out-of-date in the information they contain: With in-house lead lists, companies must continuously update their lead lists to have the most recent contact information on leads. However, third parties don’t always keep their lists current, which can result in broken links or outdated emails/phone numbers. They may add leads to an existing list without deleting old leads. Therefore, you should filter through the list to confirm which leads are still viable.
  • You can purchase a lead list through a third party — but so can your competitors: Third parties make their business by selling information to various companies that use their data to create marketing campaigns. As such, you shouldn’t expect to purchase a lead list that’s exclusive to you, as your competitors have likely seen it or will see it after purchasing. Purchasing a lead list ahead of your competitors may be crucial to reaching potential leads before they are exposed to competitor campaigns. 
  • You could be labeled as spam due to cold contacting leads: Generating leads naturally involves building relationships with consumers. Your marketing team may build entire funnel strategies to guide leads toward conversion. However, with lead lists, your company does not have any relationship with the leads, and the leads might not have even heard of your company. Cold approaching leads might trigger them to label you as spam, which could damage your company’s reputation.

Types of leads you can buy

The type of lead list you might buy will depend on your company’s industry. You can purchase the following types of leads:

  • Sales leads: These leads have already shown interest in your company’s products or services. For example, if a lead is purchased from a competing brand, you may be able to target a sales lead by showcasing how you stand out from competitors or how your product/service is superior.
  • Industry-specific leads: Depending on what type of information your company handles, you can also choose to purchase leads specific to your industry. For example, if you run a real estate agency, you may purchase leads from market databases to keep up with the latest housing trends. Alternatively, if you own a personal injury firm, you might purchase leads based on recent auto accidents in your area.
  • Leads for financial products: Financial service providers may purchase leads to discover new borrowers in their area. For example, student loan service providers may purchase lead lists on upcoming or recent high school graduates who may require financial assistance for college. Other lead lists could include recently opened businesses, potential homebuyers, and people whose vehicles were totaled in an accident, among other types of borrowers.
  • SEO leads: Digital marketing agencies can help you use search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to generate leads. While this strategy doesn’t involve purchasing a list of contact details, you can hire a digital marketing agency to manage your SEO campaigns, develop landing pages and forms, and manage other methods of capturing customer data through SEO strategies. 

Where can you purchase lead lists?

Companies that sell lead lists include:

  • Leadgraph: Leadgraph helps you build lead lists made of your ideal customer profile (ICP) with over 250 million global companies. It uses both familiar and advanced enterprise-grade filters. Every lead is scored by how similar they are to prior closed won accounts, so you know you are getting the best quality leads that match your business’s target audience. Leadgraph’s AI technology explains why a contact might be a good fit and even tells you which customers are most similar.
  • Dun & Bradstreet: Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) collects information on over 420 million businesses around the world. D&B offers a free trial for its services, which gives you access to business records and 175 segmentation filters for lead lists. 
  • Experian: Experian offers consumer sales leads based on specific factors. For example, you may receive lead lists based on consumers’ gender, home ownership, lifestyle, marital status, and age, among other characteristic factors. 
  • Melissa Data: Melissa refers to itself as the “address experts,” as this lead list company provides location address information. Clients can also send in lists to have Melissa’s agents collect and report additional information on the leads provided. You can request a demo of their services.
  • OneMoreLead: OneMoreLead provides sales prospects derived from its database of over 55 million verified B2B prospects. OneMoreLead has separate plans for freelancers, start-up businesses, and major corporations. 
  • Salesfully: For $29 per month, you can subscribe to Salesfully for unlimited sales data. Salesfully provides small business lists, auto insurance leads, merchant account leads, accountant and CPA information, and other specific lead lists for various industries. Clients can create free accounts and sign up for a free trial to explore its services.
  • SalesGenie: SalesGenie offers unlimited sales leads when you subscribe to its Data Axle™ platform. Sales leads include data on business and consumer leads, which may contain information on email and physical addresses. SalesGenie offers a free 3-day trial and an instant demo.
  • Uplead: Uplead provides B2B sales lead information and software. You can get a free trial version for up to 5 credits per month or subscribe to a monthly or annual plan for additional credits.
  • ZoomInfo: ZoomInfo offers B2B data and software, which offers different features depending on a team’s needs. For example, sales teams can get data on decision-makers and insights from website visitor tracking. Marketing teams can utilize account-based marketing (ABM) and conversion tools. Free trials are available.

Other companies offer lead lists, so feel free to keep browsing the market if the above companies don’t produce the results you’re after.

How to budget the lead lists you purchase

Budgeting for lead lists will be based on your regular lead generation budget. You will first need to know how much your company is willing to spend to generate leads before designating a portion of that budget for purchasing lead lists. 

Some questions you should consider when planning a budget for lead generation and lead lists include:

What is your company’s gross target revenue (GTR) based on the industry? 

Some industries bring in tremendous revenue because of their global outreach (e.g., tech companies) while other industries might cater to niche audiences and earn limited profits (e.g., local businesses in suburban or rural towns). Your budget needs to be realistic with how much profits you can reasonably make within your industry and who you can market toward. 

What percentage of your GTR can generate a positive return on investment (ROI)? 

Many businesses in narrow-margin industries may spend around one to three percent of their GTR to get a decent return on investment, though some companies may be more aggressive with their budget if their profits can afford it or if it’s necessary to do so. It’s not unusual for software companies to spend 15% of their budgets on marketing.

For example, if you own a chiropractic office in Miami, Florida that has a GTR of $1 million, one percent of that GTR ($10,000) may not be enough if you are trying to generate leads from Miami-Dade County and the surrounding counties. 

Depending on the size of your audience, you may need to budget a larger investment percentage to be able to reach as many leads as possible.

Does your company already have brand recognition in its industry?

If your company is a leading brand in its industry, you might want to consider lowering your budget on lead generation and spending more on lead lists. Keep in mind that with lead lists, you will have to cold approach potential consumers. If your company is already a well-established brand in its area, industry, or network, consumers may be more receptive to your outreach as opposed to companies they do not recognize.

Businesses that are trying to build their reputation may use lead lists as a starting method to connect with qualified leads. However, businesses with little brand recognition may opt to purchase high-quality lists based on their target audience criteria and put more of their budgets toward organic lead generation.

What you should know before you buy lead lists

How can a company determine whether a lead list is “high quality”? Ultimately, these standards are subjective and vary by what each company considers a qualified lead. So, before you purchase any lead list, you must determine what your company’s standards are for a “good” lead. 

This involves defining the following for your business:

  • Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): Your company’s Ideal Customer Profile will be based on who is your highest-valued customer: the customer that brings in the most revenue for your business because they are most likely to purchase your product or services. ICPs can be better for defining which businesses to target. For example, if you offer marketing services, you may focus on smaller companies that may not be able to compete with larger brands.
  • Buyer persona: Buyer personas vary from ICPs in that they involve creating fictional profiles on the kind of customer you’re trying to target. This may involve factoring in the customer’s common behaviors, concerns, and trends based on market research. For example, a car dealership may have separate buyer personas for different models they sell. The dealer might market family vans to stay-at-home mothers with small children, emphasizing different features that can help them multitask errands and after-school activities. That same dealer may also market their sports car models to young men in their 20s looking to impress dates or people of retirement age ready to spend part of their 401(k) on pleasure purchases. 
  • Target audience: Target audiences involve broader characteristics compared to buyer personas. Whereas a buyer persona may be defined as a “stay-at-home mother with small children,” a company’s target audience may be “women aged 40 and older.” Target audiences serve to reach a wide net of people that might be interested in your business, even if they didn’t fit your initial customer profile. This helps businesses understand the range of appeal their products or services have to consumers, which can shed light on their potential marketing strategies.

Once you determine these profiles, you will be able to determine whether a lead list meets your marketing goals. You can screen lists to determine if leads are in desired geographic areas, fall into particular age ranges, and any other key factors.

You should always choose quality over quantity

Some businesses make the mistake of believing larger lead lists give a better bang for their buck. However, this is only true if a majority of the leads qualify for your business’s needs and lead to conversions. A 10,000-lead list won’t have high value if it includes clients outside of your target profiles, has outdated information, or consists mostly of spam leads. 

You should always choose quality over quantity

Search, filter, and collect the data on sales lists before buying full lead lists

Companies can review samples of sales lists before purchasing full lists. This allows businesses to determine whether a list of leads is right for them, legitimate, or worth the cost.

Consider these tips to review potential lead lists before you make your purchase. 

Search through lead lists to see if results or accounts match your target profiles

Many sales list companies allow businesses to filter through lead lists by:

  • Keywords: Keywords are specific terms you are looking for in results. For example, if you want to make sure your lead list contains people who live in California, you may type in “California” or the specific city in the state as your keyword.
  • Categories: Some leads may provide filter categories you can apply to your results. This includes phone numbers and email addresses, for example. You can browse through categories to see which are relevant to your lead profile, then press “Filter” to update the results of your list.
  • Account activity: As you contact leads on your list, you can filter out leads you last contacted, viewed, or saved through the filters. This will help you avoid contacting the same leads multiple times, which might lead them to designate your communication as spam. 

Research the type of data you can collect from lead lists

Lead lists can help improve your marketing plan, as the more you contact leads, the better you’ll be able to define your ICPs, buyer personas, and target audience. Lead lists allow marketing teams to use data to build specific campaigns and reach consumers.

For example, you may be able to gather the following data from a sales list you purchase:

  • Psychographic data: This data focuses on information that deals with a consumer’s personality, morals and values, interests, lifestyle, and other personal factors that shape their attitude when purchasing products or services.
  • Firmographic data: This data focuses on industry size, location, or company size. 
  • Technographic data: This data focuses on technologies or software and can be used to shape the success or functions of a company.

Lead lists can also help shape which demographics your marketing should be directed toward based on which groups respond well to your marketing messages.

Some legal concerns about buying lead lists

While lead lists can be an efficient way to collect leads, you must also be careful to not accidentally damage your company’s internet profile and get labeled as spam. How you interact with information from lead lists can jeopardize your business if you do not follow legal guidelines or take precautions to screen your lists thoroughly.

The following are two major ways companies can be labeled as spam if they use lead lists inappropriately or recklessly:


The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act was established to hold companies accountable for spam marketing to consumers. This act sets rules and guidelines on how companies can engage with digital marketing communications. Companies that violate these mandates may be penalized with fines as high as $46,517 per email violation. 

Some of these guidelines include:

  • Companies must offer opt-out options to consumers who do not wish to receive marketing materials.
  • Companies must provide postal addresses when sending out emails or other forms of commercial communications.
  • Companies cannot use false email headers, subject lines, or conversation records when sending out marketing materials.
  • Companies must disclose that their emails are marketing materials or advertisements.

This is crucial information if you intend to cold approach consumers from a lead list you purchased. Be careful to disclose appropriate information to prospective leads, or people may file complaints or reports against your business, resulting in legal trouble.

Spam traps

When reviewing a lead list, make sure to determine whether any email addresses listed are “spam traps.” According to HubSpot, these are email addresses used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that work to identify those violating email best practices. 

You can detect spam traps based on their email engagement rates. Emails that have hard bounce rates (automatic responses that indicate an email is invalid) may indicate the domain name is no longer in service or that the recipient cannot be found. 

If a lead list has several spam trap email addresses, you will need to filter out these emails before reaching out to leads. Otherwise, engaging with too many invalid email addresses could damage your company’s online reputation, as ISPs may label your company as spam.

Smith.ai can filter and transfer high-quality leads to your team

Smith.ai offers 24/7 virtual receptionist services to our clients. Our mission is to handle initial intake services, such as answering phone calls or responding to website chat messages, so that your team can focus on improving your business and generating more revenue. 

We cater our lead response to your company’s needs

By hiring our virtual receptionists to do your sales outreach, you can make your customer intake more efficient. We train our team on how to respond to potential clients based on your company’s guidelines, then filter good leads to your business. This way, your team only has to respond to consumers who are likely to purchase your product or services. With Smith.ai, you can leave the dead-end conversations behind. 

Should you decide to work with Smith.ai, we offer to:

  • Complete client intake forms: You know what qualifies as a good lead for your business. If you have a client intake form that includes which questions you need to ask prospective clients to determine whether they’re right for your business, our virtual receptionists can go through this form with each new lead to screen them. We vet the clients so you don’t have to.
  • Keep qualified clients on a VIP list to contact you directly: Are there specific clients you want to grant instant communication access to your company? No problem. We can create a VIP list based on the numbers you specify, then forward these clients to your team whenever they reach out for inquiries, questions, or concerns.
  • Block spam calls or unwanted messages from reaching your business: Part of our lead screening services also includes blocking spam calls, be it AI-generated calls, telemarketers, or fraudulent callers. We save you time on taking false leads, which lets your team focus on their job duties.
  • Gather data on leads you generate: As we screen clients, our virtual receptionists can ask questions on how certain leads learned about your business, what kind of services they’re interested in from your company, and other criteria you’d like to gather data on to improve your marketing techniques.
  • Pre-qualify leads before booking appointments or consultations: Company time is important. Our virtual receptionists pre-qualify leads so that your business doesn’t risk giving time slots to clients who don’t intend to appear for them. Alternatively, pre-qualifying leads can also involve making sure you provide the services the lead is inquiring about.
  • Provide email summaries of calls: With each call or message we take, we provide clients with email summaries of our communications. This can include call transcripts, copies of Facebook and email messages, and website chat transcripts.

Should you have other criteria on how our virtual receptionists should respond to potential leads, our team can include those details in our training instructions to our reception staff.

Other services we offer

At Smith.ai, we also respect that each business may require a separate tone when screening leads and intaking qualified clients. For example, a personal injury law firm may require our virtual receptionists to be mindful of clients’ injuries and personal setbacks, which may involve using language that is sensitive to their situations. A hotel, on the other hand, may focus on having receptionists who can speak other languages on a fluent level to attract foreign travelers.

Some of our other services that might appeal to your business include:

  • Payment collection: We can integrate your payment software into our services to fulfill transactions as we book appointments/consultations for your business.
  • Outbound call-backs: If your website allows prospective clients to fill out an online form about their interest in your business, our receptionists can reach out to these leads as a response.

Our virtual receptionists greet all leads with warm greetings and are trained to answer questions relative to your business. Let us handle your lead follow-up and communications so that you can focus on other important matters in your business.

Cut costs on filtering through leads by hiring our virtual receptionists

At Smith.ai, we provide professional virtual receptionist services to businesses, whether you operate a start-up business or a major company. As more consumers become aware of your business, our team can screen through their messages and forward qualified leads to your CRM. 

Some of our main services include:

If you would like to learn more about our services, you can book a free 30-minute sales consultation with one of our team members. Feel free to review our general pricing and chat services pricing charts before you sign up for our services. We also offer a 14-day, money-back guarantee on our virtual receptionist services.

Have more questions? We’re happy to answer them all. You can contact our team by emailing us at hello@smith.ai

Business Education
Sales Tips

Elizabeth Lockwood is the content marketing associate at Smith.ai. She focuses specifically on writing and editing engaging articles, blog posts, and other forms of publication.

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