When you think sales intelligence solutions — data companies that offer names, organizations, and contact information for leads — you typically think of old graybeard companies like Dunn & Bradstreet, founded in 1841. Or Hoovers, its subsidiary, or perhaps Data.com.

But LinkedIn?

According to a new ranking of sales intelligence solutions by 350 sales pros, LinkedIn Premium isn’t just a source for lead intelligence — it might even be the source. In crowdsourced software reviews site G2 Crowd’s latest grid, the Sales Intelligence grid, LinkedIn towers above the contenders, including newer companies like CapitalIQ and DiscoverOrg.

Sales Intelligence Grid - Spring 2014

LinkedIn has been more than professional networking for some time, of course, but I still found this somewhat shocking. This reminds me of something a former KISSmetrics manager told me, about a $10,000 data purchase from an old-school business data vendor that turned out to be 80 percent inaccurate, spurring a refund request.

“Buying data is like driving a new car off the lot,” he told me. “The value drops 30 percent right away.”

That’s likely one of the reasons why LinkedIn, while it probably still doesn’t have the broad coverage of the old boys club, is seen as so valuable by sales professionals. Since it is after all a professional networking site, members have an internal incentive to maintain their profiles — and companies have an incentive to maintain and update their profiles — which essentially means we are all keeping our data up-to-date so that LinkedIn can sell access to it.

Crowdsourcing, clearly, is the name of the game.

One type of player that G2 Crowd didn’t include in this new grid, probably because they are so new, are the sales and business intelligence companies that don’t rely on old-school data collection efforts or crowdsourcing. I’m talking about companies like Datanyze, which troll the web for the little code hooks that SaaS companies embed in their clients pages, and provide insightful information based on shifting client bases, or HG Data, which searches the web and the hidden web — PDFs, Word files, Excel documents that are connected to the web — for hints and clues about what software and hardware products companies are using.

Other leaders G2 Crowd identified are DiscoverOrg and CapitalIQ, while Lead411, IKO System, and SalesLoft all earned “high performer” status.

“Satisfaction rankings are generated from the user reviews, and market presence is calculated from vendor size, market share, and social impact,” G2 Crowd says. “Based on a combination of these scores, each software solution is categorized as a Leader, High Performer, Contender, or Niche.”

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