Sales and Sales Management Blog

May 23, 2011

Hoovers and LinkedIn Team Up to Make Prospect Research Easier


 I suspect that you are like most sellers in that you have to find and connect with high quality prospects. 

I also suspect like more sellers you find that difficult and very time consuming.

I have yet to see a purchased leads list—no matter the price or the promises–that didn’t require a good deal of additional research of the names provided.  The list, no matter how good, needs additional substance and correction. 

And certainly if you create your own lists you have to have a quality, affordable place to begin.

Hoovers is seeking to give an answer to both of the above situations—a research tool to help fill out the names and phone numbers on a leads list and the search ability to construct a list from scratch.

Hoovers has integrated LinkedIn profiles with their search and lead generation service.  In the past when searching a particular company on Hoovers you had access to the names and titles of all of the employees of that company that were in the Hoovers database.  Depending upon the company you were dealing with, that could range from one or two employees to hundreds.  The information available was that which Hoovers could discover.

 Now, with the integration of LinkedIn, you can get more information in one spot about the decision makers and influencers than you ever could in the past—and in many cases that’s a ton of information such as (obviously there is a great deal more information available for the executives of public companies than for non-executive employees of the company or for executives and employees of privately held companies):

  • Their name and nickname
  • Title
  • Previous positions within the company
  • Length of tenure
  • Previous employer(s)
  • Their LinkedIn profile if they have one
  • In many cases (at an additional cost) their direct phone number and/or email address
  • In many cases their current and past annual salary and total compensation

The typical information available for a company includes:

  • Address/phone number for the company’s headquarters
  • Branch office address and phone numbers
  • Names and titles of employees (see above)
  • Annual sales in dollar volume (accuracy varies between public and private companies)
  • For many companies their Net Income or Loss  for the previous year;  their net income growth over the year before; and net income in dollars
  • An overview of what the company does including their target markets and how they sell their products/services
  • A risk assessment that gives you an idea of how long it might take to get paid by a company

OK, so you can do a lot of research of those companies on that expensive list you bought or you can create a list of your own. 

The big question is how accurate is the information?

Let me give you my experience as Hoovers was nice enough to let me play with the system so that I could have a better feel for it when writing a review of it. 

The List
I created a list of 217 prospects based on a number of criteria:

  • The companies had to be in business-to-business sectors (no, that’s not an option; you have to select by industry.  I used high-tech, consulting, printing, and financial services)
  • Companies had to have sales between $100 million and 1 billion per year
  • Companies had to have at least 200 employees
  • Company information had to include a target decision maker for us: the chief sales officer
  • They had to be US companies

 Once the list had been pulled I had someone start cold calling the list.  Call goals were to:

  • Assess how accurate the company information was
  • How accurate the information was about the individual identified by Hoovers as the head of sales
  • Make a sale if at all possible (selling wasn’t the primary goal but if we’re investing the time to make the call, by all means I want us to make the sale)

 How accurate was the info?  Well a list of 200 is pretty small to make big claims about, but that being said, we did find the following:

  • Of the 217 companies, the company contact information was accurate for 214 (98.6%)
  • Since about 48% were private companies that don’t have to report their sales and profits, I cannot say how accurate overall the financial information was
  • Of the 217 heads of sales, we confirmed that 144 were in fact employed at the company and did head up sales.  That means 73 (33.6%) search identified heads of sales were no longer at the company or in the head of sales position.

I was pleased with the accuracy of the company information—I think a 98% rate is excellent.

The accuracy of the financial information couldn’t be verified for almost half of the companies on the list, but in only 4 instances did we discover that a company was significantly smaller than expected (a 1.8% rate), meaning that the information was accurate enough that virtually all of the companies were of the appropriate size for our needs.

So we get to the big one—the accuracy of the identified contact.  Does 66.4% accuracy rate merit subscribing to the service?

I believe the answer is yes BECAUSE according to recent studies the typical sales leader‘s tenure is now only 18 months—and that’s who we were calling.  We were calling one of the highest turnover positions in the company leadership and expected to find a large number of contacts—up to 50%–to be incorrect.  Can you imagine trying to keep 65 million chiefs of sales updated when the bulk of them will turn over every year and a half?  Hoovers would have to be updating over 3 million companies every month just to keep up with the changes in sales leadership.

Subscriptions to Hoovers start at $89 per month—and that’s without a contract so you can stop your subscription at any time; or if you wish, instead of purchasing a subscription you can have Hoovers create a leads list for you based on your criteria.

Is the Hoovers and LinkedIn combination product the be all and end all of prospect research?  No, not at all.  However, if you want to really maximize your prospecting research time and make sure you’re calling targeted companies, being able to acquire a large amount of information about your prospect quickly and in one location are important.

Since Hoovers offers a free trail, I suggest you give them a shot.  I certainly can’t guarantee they’ll be your answer, but if your experience is like mine, you’ll find they have a lot to offer at a very reasonable cost.

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3 Comments »

  1. I love this post on lists because we had a team maintain our lists and new additions full-time. But what I find most compelling is “according to recent studies the typical sales leader‘s tenure is now only 18 months.”

    Paul, while this stat does not surprise me with what is happening in our profession, but what is of interest is the propellant behind the turnover and how long has this been going on (good title for a song?).

    Is this due to the economy, general failure, change management issues, a combination of all three, or other factors?

    Comment by salesdujour — May 23, 2011 @ 6:32 pm | Reply

    • Gary,

      I think I need to see if I can get Dave Stein over here as I believe I got that stat from one of his articles. I think he can shed more light on why the tenure is so short (I suspect a bit of all of the reasons you mentioned). I’m off to rope Dave into the conversation.

      Comment by Paul McCord — May 24, 2011 @ 7:21 am | Reply

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