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Don’t Chain Your Staff to the CRM System

First published in Data IQ, DQM Group Journal, Autumn 2013

Contacting companies on the do-not-call list, asking for someone who’s moved on, pitching a ‘prospect’ who’s already a customer. When it comes to corporate reputation, it’s the small stuff – the common errors which tend to pepper databases – that poses the greatest threat. Most businesses now recognise the need for a proper focus on identifying and tackling data quality issues, yet many are still reporting significant problems.

Defective data doesn’t only damage your reputation with customers and prospects; delayed projects, reduced profitability and productivity and lack of return on investment on new CRM technology will fail to impress investors, shareholders and other stakeholders. It can also affect internal reputation – if sales teams are running campaigns on bad data, your marketers will lose credibility, for instance.

The fact is that companies are continuing to struggle with the day-to-day manual chore of keeping their data up-to-date. However, by using technology to automate the ability to recognise that important new information is “out there” and the process of bringing it into the database, you can turn the CRM into a profitability tool without dragging people away from their core responsibilities.

This involves linking internal data to relevant high-quality external business information sources, content and feeds. When a new fact on a customer or prospect emerges – in a press release, news article or analyst report for instance – records and documents like account profiles and financial models are updated automatically. The extra detail looks like it’s part of the ‘company record’, but is managed by the information provider, removing the need for manual data entry or internal data quality checks.

Data-as-a-service, meanwhile, makes keeping data clean a part of the sales team’s workflow, by allowing them to add quality data to the database on the fly. When sales reps comes across a new piece of information, they can refresh a subset of data with a press of a button and, if they identify a target group of executives in their screening list, for example, they can upload them instantly into the CRM.

By making this data highly actionable as part of the daily selling process, it can be used to actively build reputation. Business information technology enables triggers to be set up on key events and companies, which directly alert the right person to developments, such as a change of executive or major contract win that might open the buying window.

This kind of information not only provides a compelling reason to make a call and gives a rep the knowledge they need to tailor the value proposition. It also demonstrates your understanding of their business and market, and shows you’re invested in the relationship. This builds trust and deepens engagement.

Any initiative to improve data quality must be firmly aligned to strategic objectives. And here’s another place many organisations fall down, lacking a clear picture of what good looks like in the context of their business and the people with the capability and time to grapple with it.

Determining a data quality roadmap starts with understanding exactly what information is needed during specific operational processes, focusing on cleansing, updating and enhancing it, and integrating it into well-defined sales and marketing processes. Next, identify what represents the perfect target prospect – including customer profile, vertical market and contact title, along with any change that would indicate threats or selling opportunities.

As part of a customer retention or growth strategy, these simple steps will form the foundation of a roadmap for cleaning, maintaining and cross-referencing critical data that will ultimately enhance your reputation with all stakeholders.

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Scott Lutter is Vice President of International Sales for OneSource Information Services.

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