Since its implementation in 2018, GDPR has reshaped how businesses approach data privacy – with an emphasis on protecting consumer information.

Now, five years later, the regulation continues to be confusing for sales and marketing with so many complex requirements.

For these teams, GDPR is like navigating a maze of dos and don'ts that feel like they’re constantly changing with every campaign. With steep fines for non-compliance, it’s essential to understand GDPR to both maintain trust and integrity in customer relationships and protect your bottom line.

In this article, we'll present the ultimate GDPR checklist so you can be confident that you’re both compliant and competitive.

GDPR Overview

Before we dive into the checklist, let’s cover exactly what the GDPR is. The General Data Protection Regulation is a comprehensive data protection law that governs how businesses handle the personal data of individuals within the European Union. It aims to give individuals more control over their personal data while simplifying the regulatory environment for international business.

Although it applies to citizens in the EU, this landmark regulation has made waves that affect the internet globally and shaped similar policies in other regions.

Here are the core principles of GDPR:

  • Lawfulness, Fairness and Transparency: Data must be processed lawfully, fairly and transparently in relation to the data subject (in your case, the lead or customer).
  • Purpose Limitation: Data collected must be for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner incompatible with those purposes (e.g., if you stated you collect data for communication about the user’s account only, you may not use it for email marketing unless you have legitimate interest).
  • Data Minimization: Only collect and process the data necessary for the specified purposes (e.g., if you don’t need a lead’s date of birth, don’t ask for it).
  • Accuracy: Personal data must be accurate and kept up to date. Inaccurate data should be erased or rectified without delay.
  • Storage Limitation: Keep personal data in a form that permits the identification of data subjects for no longer than necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed.
  • Integrity and Confidentiality: Process data in a way that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unauthorized or unlawful processing ant accidental loss, destruction or damage.
  • Accountability: The data controller is responsible for compliance with the other GDPR principles.

These principles are designed to protect the privacy and rights of individuals and impose strict rules on data handlers and processors. This applies to anyone in your organization who deals with customer/lead data (i.e. sales and marketing).

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The Ultimate GDPR Checklist

Of course, every business is unique. You will need to assess your own data collection, storage and utilization practices. However, our checklist will cover the core aspects of GDPR:

1. Conduct a Data Audit

Firstly, conduct a data audit to determine all the types of data you currently need, use and store.

Not sure what a data audit is or how to conduct one? Check out our step-by-step guide.

Consent is one of the pillars of GDPR compliance. You need to get consent to collect, store and use prospect data. Here are some best practices to make sure you’re doing it right:

  • Active Opt-In: Consent needs to be given through an active, affirmative action by the user. This means using unchecked opt-in boxes on forms, where users must clearly indicate their consent by checking the box themselves. Avoid pre-ticked boxes or implied consent​.
  • Clear and Specific Information: When requesting consent, provide clear information about what the user is consenting to. Include the purpose of the data processing, who is collecting the data and how it will be used. The information should be presented in a concise, transparent and easily accessible form​.
  • Record Keeping: Maintain detailed records of how and when consent was obtained. Record the exact details of what the user was told at the time of giving consent to demonstrate compliance if challenged. That includes keeping copies of the consent form or screen used at that time, along with any related privacy policy.
  • Easy Withdrawal: Make it easy for users to withdraw their consent at any time. Publicize clear methods for withdrawing consent and make the process as easy as it was to give consent. When you receive a withdrawal request, act promptly.
  • Regular Reviews: Regularly review consents to ensure they are still valid. If your data practices evolve, you may need to obtain new consent​.

Is Cold Outreach Against GDPR?

No, cold outreach isn’t against GDPR. If you have legitimate interest, i.e., reason to believe the lead will benefit from your communication, you can message them.

However, include the option to unsubscribe and ensure the information is accurate by building your lead generation lists with tools like Sales Navigator and verifying the contact information accuracy with Findymail.

2. Develop Guidelines for New Leads/Customers

When setting up new campaigns or integrating new leads and customers, align all activities with GDPR.

Start by revising your lead generation forms. They must include mechanisms for active and explicit consent, clearly articulated and separate from other information or user agreements.

That means adjusting the design and content of forms to include clear consent options and linking directly to your detailed privacy policy, explaining how you will use and protect the data collected.

In most cases, it’s best to ask for double opt-in, where the lead needs to both sign up through the form and confirm they agree to receive communications from you via email.

Then create workflows to monitor and manage consent validity, alert relevant teams when consent is nearing expiration and guide them on the steps to renew it. It's also vital to provide users with straightforward options to adjust their communication preferences, enhancing transparency and control over personal data usage.

Regularly review and update your compliance procedures at least annually or whenever there are significant changes in your data processing activities or GDPR regulations.

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3. Appoint a DPO to Adhere to GDPR

A Data Protection Officer (DPO) is a designated role within an organization responsible for overseeing the application of data protection strategies. Assigning a DPO is mandatory for public authorities, organizations that engage in large-scale systematic monitoring or those that handle large amounts of sensitive personal data.

Even if your organization does not fall under these categories, having a DPO can still be beneficial because of:

  • Enhanced Compliance: A DPO helps you get a comprehensive grasp of data protection laws.
  • Risk Management: The DPO helps minimize the risk of data breaches and the potential legal and financial repercussions.
  • Trust Building: Having a DPO demonstrates to stakeholders and customers that your organization takes data privacy seriously, thereby enhancing trust.
  • Strategic Advice: A DPO can provide valuable insights into data management and protection.
  • Training and Awareness: The DPO is instrumental in educating staff and management on compliance requirements and data protection measures.

Plus, they act as a liaison to regulatory bodies if you operate in one of the EU countries. Even if you can’t currently hire a full-time Data Protection Officer, it can be someone from your Marketing or Legal team that individuals can reach out to when they have questions about their data.

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4. Aligning Sales and Marketing with GDPR

For GDPR compliance when managing new leads and customers, sales and marketing teams must work closely together. As you develop new campaigns, align all operations with GDPR regulations from the outset.

Everyone must know what to do and how to do it. Make sure these guidelines are documented and accessible.

Fortunately, you can also streamline your post-GDPR revenue operations with the right tools.

Findymail serves two functions. Firstly, it acts as a contact information database for key B2B stakeholders, particularly if your teams build their lead lists themselves. (And, with GDPR in place, they should.)

No matter if you manually build a contact list or use a lead generation tool like Sales Navigator, Findymail will find and verify the accuracy of your contacts’ email addresses.

Then, with the data integrated into your CRM as part of your enrichment process, Findymail will check and address any errors, so your CRM is error-free and ready to be used, as well as compliant with GDPR’s data accuracy guidelines.

With key stakeholders changing roles and companies, as well as their contact information, Findymail’s EU-based tool ensures you can always contact the right people at the right moment, increasing your chances of closing profitable deals while ensuring you stay on the right side of the law.

5. Develop Procedures for Handling Data Requests

Your organization needs clear and efficient procedures to effectively handle data access and deletion requests under GDPR. We recommend a streamlined approach:

  • Develop a Dedicated Landing Page: Create a specific page on your website where individuals can easily submit requests for data access or deletion. This page should be straightforward to navigate and provide clear instructions on how to submit requests.
  • Automate Notifications and Responses: Set up an automated system to alert the DPO when a request is received. This system should also generate an automatic confirmation to the requester, acknowledging receipt of their request.
  • Detailed Follow-Up: Ensure the DPO provides a detailed response to the requestor within one month, as required by GDPR. This response should include all the information requested or a valid reason for refusal. If the request is complex and you need more time, explain the need to the requester and don’t request more than two more months.
  • Accessibility and Ease of Process: It is important to make the process transparent and accessible, allowing requestors to easily modify their data preferences and receive communications about the status of their requests. This fosters trust and ensures compliance with GDPR's principle of data subject empowerment​.

6. Don’t Forget About Children’s Data

In a B2B context, you might not deal with much data from minors. However, if you do, GDPR imposes additional protections to account for their vulnerability.

Here are a few best practices for handling data from children:

  • Age Verification and Parental Consent: Implement systems to verify the age of users and obtain parental or guardian consent for children below the age of 16, or lower if stipulated by national laws, as the GDPR allows member states to set the threshold between 13 and 16 years​.
  • Child-Friendly Communication: Ensure all communication regarding personal data processing is clear and understandable for children. This includes simplifying the language in privacy notices and consent forms to ensure they are child-friendly​.
  • Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA): Conduct DPIAs for operations involving children's data to identify and mitigate risks, especially when offering online services directly to children or using their data for marketing, profiling or other automated decision-making​.

Data privacy laws for children are more stringent than for adults, so make sure you’re on top of everything if you collect this type of data.

7. Build a Crisis Management Plan

No matter how robust your cybersecurity practices are, GDPR mandates that companies must detect, report and investigate personal data breaches efficiently.

Your crisis management plan should include the following steps:

  • Detection and Initial Assessment: Implement systems and procedures to quickly detect data breaches. It's important to understand the types of data you hold and identify which data types will trigger notifications if compromised.
  • Notification Protocol: You are required to inform the relevant supervisory authority within 72 hours of becoming aware of the data breach.
  • Investigation and Remediation: Once a breach is detected, conduct a thorough investigation to understand its cause and scope.
  • Documentation and Compliance: Keep detailed records of the breach, including its effects and the remedial actions taken.
  • Communication Strategy: Develop clear communication strategies for both internal stakeholders and external parties. That includes pre-approved messages for quick response and clear channels for escalating information within the organization.

8. Create GDPR-Compliant Cold Outreach Guidelines

Of course, cold email is the lifeblood of B2B sales. But how do you do it and still follow the law?

Understand Legitimate Interest

Always have a legal basis, such as legitimate interest, before sending cold emails. This means ensuring the content is directly relevant to the business you are contacting​.

For example, a generic email sent to everyone on your lead list is against GDPR. However, personalized emails tailored to specific ICPs and their pain points, built on the foundation of in-depth research, would allow you to contact them.

Data Types

Collect only the data necessary for your outreach efforts. In many cases, this means the email address - in addition to the publicly accessible data you would find in Sales Navigator.

Everything else, you can easily supplement with CRM enrichment to build a full picture of your prospects without compromising their privacy. However, make sure you choose the tools that are fully compliant with GDPR and maintain legitimate interest.

Your Outreach Reason Is Key for GDPR (and Prospects)

Clearly explain the reason you are reaching out in your first email. In most cases, this will serve as an excellent icebreaker to start building rapport with the prospect.

We always recommend mentioning something in common (for example, seeing their blog post explaining the issues your product can help with) or the information that has prompted you to reach out (e.g., a recent funding round, hiring freezes, company news, etc.).

The Opt-out Freedom

Finally, add the “Unsubscribe” button to all your automated outreach messages. The individual shouldn’t have to ask you to be taken off the list, as that almost guarantees they will report you as spam instead, compromising your deliverability.

In the worst-case scenarios, not allowing them to opt out might also result in legal action.

As long as you follow these rules for your cold emails, you’re free to send them. Just make sure you operate with the principle of “consent” in mind.

Keep Your Data Clean with Datacare

Since sales and marketing teams rely heavily on personal data, understanding GDPR is vital to avoid hefty fines and public mistrust. But with this checklist, you can be confident you’re following the law.

Of course, part of auditing and monitoring your data is ensuring it stays accurate. Enter Findymail's Datacare.

Datacare helps with CRM data management by removing duplicates and filling in missing information. It makes it easier for sales and marketing to find the customer information they need exactly when they need it.