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Mary Johnson Posted by: Mary Johnson 2 years ago

In a recent survey, salespeople said finding leads is the toughest part of their job.

In sales, the close has long been thought of as the most challenging part of the process. It was considered much easier to find interested buyers, and then you worked to convince them to buy.

recent survey turned that conventional wisdom on its head. Last year, CRM provider Hubspot asked salespeople what they found to be the most challenging part of the sales process: finding leads, qualifying those leads or closing deals? Finding leads was the clear standout, with more than 40% of salespeople saying it’s the toughest part of their job.

American City Business Journals seeks to make finding good leads easier. This year, the company launched a B2B product called BizLeads, designed to ease the pain of prospecting.

Amir Tahvildaran, chief technology officer for BizLeads, is charged with ensuring it fit the needs of businesses across the U.S.

“Everybody will have different use cases, so, as we designed BizLeads, we tried to keep that in mind, creating something that was universal and adaptable,” Tahvildaran said. “Since we launched, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who say the product is so easy to use. That’s a testament to the team that they’ve made a quality product — one you don’t have to be an Excel wizard to use.”

Amir Tahvildaran, chief technology officer for BizLeads.

Tahvildaran spoke about the vision behind the product, how it helps customers find valuable leads and how it takes companies to the next level. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What went into building the technology behind BizLeads?

Tahvildaran: To start, the technology is brand new, and the benefit of using new technology is that you get the best of everything. It uses all the latest innovations. It’s a responsive web app, so people can use it from their mobile device. It’s also much faster than a traditional application.

While you used to click inside an application and a whole new page of information would have to load, BizLeads only loads the info that’s needed. That creates a more streamlined experience, and as we learned in building this product, business owners and executives appreciate the prospect of saving time and energy.

They also appreciate high-quality leads. What makes the information you can access within BizLeads so valuable?

Tahvildaran: BizLeads is part of the ecosystem of ACBJ publications, which creates lists of private companies in different geographies, industries and sectors. The data we gather to compile those lists is submitted by the companies themselves, so when you get access to BizLeads, you’re getting valuable information and insights — industry, location, revenue, contact information, estimated business value — on close to 19 million private companies across the U.S. That’s something you can’t find anywhere else.

We have also made it very easy to put that data and information to use. We know businesses use all kinds of CRM systems — everything from advanced platforms to Excel spreadsheets — so doing an integration with any of the big systems wouldn’t make sense. At the same, doing 100 different integrations isn’t feasible. We wanted it to be generally applicable and available. That’s why we built BizLeads to accommodate the lowest common denominator: a CSV file. Our data easily exports to a CSV file, which any CRM can import and which works with something as basic as Excel, too.

Introducing BizLeads 2.0! Learn More!

How does BizLeads ensure that information is up to date

Tahvildaran: Our information is not static. It’s updated constantly as we receive new data. We want our customers to be able to access those updates without incurring extra costs. In fact, we’ll notify you when new information is updated.

Let’s say you’ve downloaded information for a company. Then, one of our researchers finds a new contact for that company. That gets added into our system, and we’ll notify you that your search has a new update. Those notifications are so important because, if you’re reaching out to someone, you need to know when that information has changed or when there’s a new opportunity for an introduction.

Location is a big part of what makes BizLeads unique, too. How have you built that into the platform, and how does that benefit users?

Tahvildaran: We’ve carved up the country into over 200 designated marketing areas (DMAs). When you purchase BizLeads for a given market, you get access to all of the businesses in that market. Beyond that, you can search for things by ZIP code or within a certain radius. For example, maybe I’m a lawyer, and I’m interested in working with dentists. I could conduct a search on BizLeads for dentists within a 50-mile radius of my office. At the same time, I can only practice in Pennsylvania. So I might also restrict my search to only those businesses that fall within my given radius and are also in Pennsylvania. Then, we offer that information in a list view and a map view to allow them to view the data however they like.

Beyond the over 200 designated marketing areas, you can search for things by ZIP code or within a certain radius.

How does access work across members of a given company or team?

Tahvildaran: Along with your subscription to the product, you purchase a number of credits. One credit allows you to download all information on one company, as well as all the contacts that are listed within that company. And you can allocate those credits any way you want. For example, say I bought 30,000 credits, and I have three sales development representatives. I might give each of them 10,000 credits. It’s sort of like an allowance, and it’s another way that we’ve listened to how people want to use the product and provided different modes of operation to help.

One other interesting feature of BizLeads is that it offers information on the estimated value of a business. Why was that an important element to include?

Tahvildaran: We are the only prospecting tool on the market that provides estimated business value, and we’re able to do that because ACBJ acquired a majority stake in BizEquity last year. BizEquity is a patented software-as-a-service platform that specializes in business valuations. So really, BizLeads is a combination of the best both ACBJ and BizEquity have to offer.

We’ve always found that estimated business value is the tip of the spear for a lot of sales conversations, and it’s a much more important number than revenue in a lot of cases. For example, a financial institution could use that information to determine which businesses might be in the market for a loan. An insurance provider could look to that figure when approaching businesses about protecting their assets. It is a great conversation starter.

What are you focused on now that BizLeads has officially launched?

Tahvildaran: We constantly want to find and bring in new data sources. We also want to add more advanced searching capabilities. And no matter what we add onto the platform, we’ve built BizLeads to make the process of upgrading our system as fast and as seamless as possible. Whenever you add a new feature to a system, there’s always the chance that it’s going to break something else. With BizLeads, we’ve built in automated test coverage. That means, anytime we change a line of code, all the core functionality of the system is being automatically tested by a computer. That gives us a guarantee that the new line of code didn’t break any of the existing functionality. It’s like the Boy Scouts’ rule: Leave it better than you found it. That’s what we’re trying to do for our system and our users.

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