Cognism uses Salesforce to convert 25% of inbound sales leads


Why a sales data firm chose Salesforce to develop a market-leading business development engine.

It’s a scenario we all know so well. The unexpected email that lands in our inbox with an offer for a product or service that we don’t need and haven’t been looking for. The unsolicited telephone call from a friendly voice, who seems to know our name, but almost nothing else about our work, life, or interests.

Today’s smart businesses know that successful sales and marketing is about acquiring the business intelligence that unlocks those priceless opportunities to have the right conversations, with the right people, at the right time.

Almost 2,000 of these organisations choose to work with Cognism, one of the world’s leading providers of fully GDPR compliant, verified, and validated B2B contact and contextual data, connecting sales teams with new prospects ready to talk and ready to buy.

Many of Cognism’s customers enjoy a fivefold increase in reach and a sevenfold increase in sales conversion rates – all achieved while cutting outbound call volumes by 80%. In a world where results are the only metric that counts, users of Cognism’s data and sales training services measure their return on investment in just days.

As a pioneer in their own marketplace, you won’t be surprised to know that Cognism’s approach to its own sales and marketing also has great data at its core. No surprise either to discover that it partners with Salesforce to operate the platform that enables the company to choreograph its end-to-end business development operation, across the United States and Europe.

We talked to Liam Bartholomew, Global Head of Demand Generation and Jonathon Ilett, VP for UK and Ireland, to understand how Salesforce is helping to consign cold calling to the history books.

“We can see which activities are working well and which content is generating the most responses by which recipients, which campaigns are delivering the best conversion rates and where we should focus our attention and resources as a result.”
Liam Bartholomew
Global Head of Demand Generation

1. Providing a platform for growth through relationship building

Founded in 2015, Cognism’s ability to turbocharge its customers’ sales performance has produced rapid growth, moving the company from start up to international success in just a few years.

Global Head of Demand Generation Liam Bartholomew joined the business in its early days, excited at the prospect of helping to shape the company’s future, with the freedom to innovate and use great technology to produce results at speed, for Cognism and its customers.

Demand generation is a strategic role within organisations that manages all the marketing content, campaigns, activities, and experiences that create interest in their products and services from potential customers.

Demand generation engages with prospects using multiple format content and conversations that demonstrate an understanding of their goals, challenges, and pain points, and how these can be overcome. Building trust and confidence in these early interactions pays dividends later when these prospects are ready to buy.

For Bartholomew and his team, by investing in these crucial information-sharing, relationship-building activities, the prospect is already well advanced on their buying journey, so when they’re ready to buy B2B contact data, Cognism is more often than not their first port of call.

“Demand generation is responsible for more than 50% of all of our new business revenue,” explained Bartholomew. “We’ve used Salesforce at Cognism since year one and I’ve used it at every company I’ve worked for. I think it’s the premier platform for sales and marketing, our one source of truth that drives all our activities. We couldn’t do what we do without it.”


2. Enabling forensic analysis and control of interactions with prospects

Bartholomew points to Salesforce Campaigns as a key driver and shaper of Cognism’s demand generation activity. A Salesforce Campaign captures all the data relating to an individual engagement or event, such as a webinar, designed to build and nurture fledgling relationships with prospective customers.

There’s a complete history of all marketing messages deployed, which prospects have responded to each component part of the campaign, such as automated emails generated in Marketing Cloud Account Engagement, and which activity has produced the best and most valuable responses.

These are then analysed to generate a total ranking and value of the potential sales opportunities resulting from the campaign, presented in easy-to-digest dashboards and reports. A campaign return-on-investment is calculated, with post-event follow up activities and lessons learned to inform the design and execution of future activity.

“With Salesforce we can track and assess the progress of each campaign, breaking it down at a granular level to see where each of our prospects have made contact with us,” explained Bartholomew. An integration of the UTM Builder online tool into Salesforce tracks the precise URLs of every single interaction initiated by the prospect, reading a blog, visiting a website, social media platform, or online advertising campaign, filling a form in, watching a video, listening to a podcast, or registering for a webinar.

“Being able to share this in-depth intelligence almost immediately with colleagues throughout the business is very valuable. Everyone is working with the latest information from the markets we are operating in - how those we are targeting are behaving and the choices they are making in real time. As a result, our content is personalised, informative, and timely.”

3. Allowing customers to make their own decisions in their own time

Cognism’s rapid growth and distinctive market positioning has made it an attractive home for talented salespeople and marketers, with Salesforce the ideal platform for them to innovate and explore new approaches.

“Salesforce has so much flexibility and adaptability that there are endless opportunities to try new things,” explained Bartholomew. “And this suits our move to demand generation as our sales and marketing philosophy perfectly. The more we engage with prospects, start conversations, share information, nurture and build relationships, the more successful our efforts become.”

Because Cognism can action and track all of this so precisely in Marketing Cloud Account Engagement, there’s no need to force the pace and pressure prospects to buy before they’re ready.

“Timing is so important in so many facets of life and work. Salesforce gives us the confidence to know that sometimes it’s better to wait and allow the prospect time to make their own decision, in their own time. By allowing them the space to do that, the groundwork we have done means that they come to us naturally,” continued Bartholomew.

It’s a formula that has delivered remarkable results for Cognism, with an industry-leading 25% conversion rate from inbound leads delivering 500% in growth, from £5 million in annual recurring revenues to £30 million, in just three years.

Cognism’s partnership with Salesforce has taken on an extra dimension too, with the company established as a Salesforce AppExchange ISV partner. The Cognism for Salesforce sales prospecting and data enrichment tool is available here.

“With the help of Salesforce, our growth strategy is now more diverse”
Jonathon Ilett
VP, UK and Ireland

4. Creating a repeatable formula for success

A key differentiator for Cognism is its commitment to privacy and the importance of seeking consent from data owners to share their information with third parties for sales and marketing purposes.

The company’s data collection methods are fully GDPR compliant, the data is cross-referenced against do-not-call lists, while automation and AI are used to ensure the accuracy of contact details, with only those consenting to being contacted remaining on a database. 

This thorough, principled approach to data, chimes neatly with its demand generation strategy in which its strong conviction is that the best conversations take place by consent, for mutual benefit.

“With the help of Salesforce, our growth strategy is now more diverse,” explained Jonathon Ilett, VP for the UK and Ireland. “From our roots in the SMB world, we’re now working with more mid-market and enterprise level organisations and we’re able to target new geographies with real confidence”.

“It’s very pleasing to see Salesforce playing such an important part in our development. The modular nature of the solution means you don’t have to take everything at once, you can add things as you need them, while you grow. Everything is so easily integrated - I don’t think you get that flexibility from any other CRM,” continued Ilett.



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5. Planning and reporting with confidence

As confidence in its sales and marketing formula continues to grow, so does Cognism’s ability to plan and predict its next phase of growth, a vital factor in reporting to its owners and financial backers. Salesforce dashboards enable performance and forecast data to be personalised for the needs of a diverse range of stakeholders and roles, enabling informed decision making, improving efficiencies, and driving productivity.

“The revenue that our marketing team can generate - 50% of our total monthly figure - is now so predictable, based on past performance, and that’s a great place to be,” said Ilett.

“When leads reach our sales teams, they are much more developed and mature, and prospects have an understanding of who we are and what we do. And then Salesforce helps us to analyse those leads, confirm that they are a good fit for us, and then direct them to the right people with the right skill set within the sales team, so that we have the right conversation with the prospect.

“That’s critical because those conversations can be very different depending on the profile and needs of the organisation. With 25% of leads coming from marketing converting into revenue, that demonstrates the quality of those leads.

“And we’re constantly refining our process. Salesforce allows us to make small tweaks, which when rolled out across our operation, can have a huge impact on our revenue.”


Cognism is a sales and marketing pioneer, providing GDPR compliant, verified, and validated B2B contact and contextual data, unlocking priceless opportunities for business development teams to have the right conversations, with the right people, at the right time. When the company launched in 2015, it partnered with Salesforce to provide a platform for rapid growth - and the ability to scale and grow at a pace that matched Cognism’s ambitions.

Said Bartholomew, “We’ve used Salesforce at Cognism since year one. I think it’s the premier platform for sales and marketing, our one source of truth that drives all our activities. We couldn’t do what we do without it.”


For more information, visit Cognism.


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