14 February 2024 726 words, 3 min. read

How to lose $840 by buying a B2B lead list

By Pierre-Nicolas Schwab PhD in marketing, director of IntoTheMinds
In this article, I'll tell you how I was duped into buying a list of B2B leads from an Indian company (Sparkling Leads). The data was unusable, and despite a claim with PayPal, I lost $840.

As the director of a market research agency, I am always looking for new ways to find customers. In addition to our inbound marketing channel, in 2023, we began exploring outbound possibilities. That’s how I got caught out one day by an automated Sparkling Leads e-mail that should have landed in my spam box. My curiosity turned into a mistake that cost me $840.

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It all started with an automated e-mail like the ones we all receive, which normally ends up in the spam folder. Except this time, it ended up in my inbox when I had 5 minutes to spare. And I made the mistake of asking for a sample. This first mistake gradually turned into a hope of reaching all the decision-makers likely to be interested in our services at a lower cost. Except that it didn’t work out as planned.

Sparkling Leads mail sparkling leads b2b lists

Once I’d paid the $840, I received an Excel file, which, from the outside, looked satisfactory. It wasn’t until a few days later that I found out what had happened when I decided to use the list:

  • 95% of the direct telephone numberswere wrong
  • 66% of the leads supplied had a job title other than the one requested: I thought I was reaching “marketing managers” and ended up with 2/3 of the contacts being in sales, having trainee status, or being “simple” marketers. So, I can’t use this list to conduct e-mail prospecting at the risk of my domain being identified as spam (see Google’s spam update).
  • I had up to 15 people with the same functionfor one company. This was simply impossible as our targets were SMEs with 50 to 100 employees.

Sparkling Leads had duped me, and despite my best efforts, my money was well and truly gone.

To help you avoid the same disappointment, here are the 4 mistakes I made.

Mistake n°1: Giving in to curiosity

My first mistake was to give in to curiosity and ask for that famous sample. You’ll notice that the e-mail teaser is well conducted. It breaks down into 3 parts.


The first paragraph conducts you towards new potential for your in-house activities.

The gift

The second paragraph proposes a gift. Who could refuse a gift? Robert Cialdini has described this persuasion technique well. He explains how sects use this technique to start conversations and recruit new members.


The third act of the scam is the call-to-action: 3 innocent questions to identify your hopes and needs. Questions are not innocent. They require minimal cognitive effort on your part, which increases the response rate.

Mistake n°2: not checking sample quality (enough)

My second mistake was not checking the qualitative quality of the samples provided. I merely checked that the list of leads provided corresponded to the job title requested.

I should have:

  • Insisted on a sample of 100 leads
  • Checked the accuracy of the e-mail addresses supplied by sending out a small campaign
  • Called the phone numbers provided to check they were correct
  • Checked that the job titles are correct and match my request

But I was satisfied with a superficial check. Don’t make this mistake.

Mistake #3: not defining quality criteria before delivery

The transaction took place via PayPal (I insisted) because buyer protection is supposed to be provided. Of course, I immediately activated it to obtain a refund from Sparkling Leads.

While the Indian company acknowledged in writing an error rate of 15-20% (!) and proposed a partial refund, PayPal finally declared that the transaction was correct and that no refund was due.

complaint paypal : answer sparkling leads error rate Sparkling Leads mail sparkling leads b2b lists

To have a chance of getting your money back, you need to define qualitative criteria before concluding the sale.

In my case, I should have been much clearer about:

  • the permissible error rate for telephone numbers
  • There could only be one person identified per role and company.

Mistake No. 4: Conducting business with a non-European company (bye-bye money 🤦‍♂️)

My last mistake was to place an order with an unknown non-European company. In so doing, I gave up the possibility of getting my money back through the courts. If you want to file a complaint in India, I wish you luck. Your legal expenses insurance will laugh in your face.

In short, one more rookie mistake that will have contributed to me losing my money.

I hope you found this article useful. Be careful with Sparkling Leads and B2B lead list sellers in general. The risk of being scammed is very high.


Posted in Entrepreneurship.

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