Commercial data products have long been successfully used for sales prospecting purposes. Indeed, this is the single most common use of commercial data. At the same time, we’ve seen a rapid rise in the availability and popularity of behavioral sales leads.

A behavioral sales lead is created when an individual takes one or more actions that are associated with pre-purchase research. If I look at information about three different types of fork lifts in a 30-day timeframe, I think we’d all agree that I am very likely in the market for a fork lift very soon. This creates a very timely and thus very valuable sales lead. It is increasingly easy to set yourself up to track who is looking at what types of content on your website and how often. These high torque sales leads have proven to be a very lucrative business for lots of B2B websites.

But do these powerful sales leads render commercial databases less valuable or perhaps even irrelevant as sales prospecting tools? After all, a commercial database generally will only tell you that a business exists, not if it is actively in the market for a specific product. My view is that we will increasingly see a blending of behavioral sales leads and databases. The main reason for this is that databases need to be more actionable, and sales leads need more context.

The most progressive companies involved with sales leads are already moving in this direction. It’s great that they can tell an advertiser that Joe Smith of Acme Group may be a good prospect for a fork lift. But that information in turn generates a host of additional questions – the context needed to fully evaluate and properly respond to the sales lead. For example, is Acme Group big enough to afford one of my new fork lifts? Does Acme Group already own fork lifts, and if so, what brands? What business is Acme Group in? Who are other executives at Acme Group who may be involved in the purchase decision? That’s why these progressive website owners are increasingly licensing commercial data products to overlay some of this information on their sales leads.

But commercial data providers have not been standing still. Consider EDA, a Randall Reilly company. It knows virtually every company that owns a fork lift, along with lots of deep detail about those fork lifts -- right down to their serial numbers. Even more importantly, EDA knows when those fork lifts were acquired, and thus can estimate when companies will want to replace them. This is extremely valuable sales intelligence.

You can see where I am going. Take the individual-level intelligence of the sales lead, and merge it with the company-level intelligence of the data provider, and you create sales magic. You can now identify companies that ought to be in the market based on objective knowledge and confirm this with behavioral activity of people who work at those companies. You not only get two-level confirmation as to the strength of the sales opportunity, you have the needed context (deep company information) to make an intelligent sales approach. Even better, you can see if multiple people at the same company are doing pre-purchase research on fork lifts – a way to surface and target the hitherto invisible influencers who play a role in larger B2B purchase decisions. And of course you yield the absolute gold standard in sales lead quality, because you have multiple independent signals telling you this company is ready to buy.