The modern Formula 1 car is an elegant piece of engineering: A complex machine capable of racing at over 200 MPH at ease. But the car is also an intelligent and connected data system.
Multiple sensors across the car and driver are constantly monitoring and transmitting information, measuring lap times, tire and brake temperatures, airflow, and engine performance. Back in the days, the success or failure in a race was solely down to the split- second decisions the driver made on the track. Today, data dictates how F1 cars are built and driven.
Similarly to racing, data analysis has permeated sales as well. In this article, we’re going through the steps you need to take to build a trusted data foundation that powers your CRM and enables you to make data-driven decisions in every customer interaction.
In the age of informed buyers, real-time data should drive every step of the sales process, leading you out of irrelevancy. Company information that’s publicly available for anybody to read is enough to tell you exactly who you should be speaking with, what you should be talking about, and when you should reach out to them. And your CRM, fueled by data and company insights, will be the cutting-edge piece of technology that drives your sales process.
Step 1: Clean up what’s in there
CRMs have an insatiable hunger for data. Every day, sales organizations use their CRM systems to collect tons of customer data from different sources. When prospects request a demo of a product on your website, they usually leave personal information such as their job title or the company name. Throughout their working day, salespeople log into the CRM and jot down notes on their sales calls. Little by little, the system amasses data. While some of it is useful, some of it... not so much. Without proper maintenance, a CRM will show symptoms of deterioration quickly.
Before you can start building a foundation, you want to clean out the (data) debris from the land lot. Eliminate erroneous and duplicate entries, inaccuracies and outdated information that will make your sales process shake, crack, and ultimately collapse.
Make data cleaning a habit that sticks
Data cleaning or cleansing is the process of detecting and/or removing corrupt or inaccurate records from a set of data. When talking about sales and marketing, such data is customer and prospect information usually stored in a CRM system.
Fortunately, fixing the problem of bad data is tremendously simple:
- Identify corrupt data
- Delete, correct, and update each record as needed.
That’s the theory. In reality, companies only turn their attention to data cleaning when their CRM systems become unmanageable, with thousands of records doing no good. When this happens, perfectly good sales opportunities will go unnoticed, and inefficiencies will start to slow down sales cycles. When salespeople don’t have a data-driven reason to reach out, their calling is colder than ice, and they turn into a headache rather than a helping hand.
This gives salespeople a bad reputation.
Data decay is a very real problem, because data goes bad at breakneck speed. And like dust on your bookshelves, you can’t avoid it, especially when there’s a lot of manual data entry. Outdated and incorrect records will clutter your CRM over time, making it difficult to find valuable information. The insight you can draw from a messy CRM is an educated guess at best.
You don’t need to wait until your CRM starts to smell before seeking a solution. It’s fair to say that any organization that’s working with a CRM should look into getting a data cleaning process up and running if they haven’t already.
You don’t need to wait until your CRM starts to smell before seeking a solution. It’s fair to say that any organization that’s working with a CRM should look into getting a data cleaning process up and running if they haven’t already. The actual challenge is building a habit that sticks, since data cleaning cannot be a do-it-once-and-never-again kind of thing.
You can solve this problem by setting up projects every few months and going through the records to fix them up manually. That’s no fun, though. Cleaning the data by hand, one entry at a time, is feasible, but even when your database only counts a few hundreds of contacts, it still may take days or even weeks. It’s so time-consuming that many businesses might just give up and move on.
The smarter solution, which also scales, is to automate the process and trust technology. A sales intelligence platform can go through the companies in your CRM, find duplicates, and correct inconsistencies. More importantly, the tool does it automatically and routinely, regardless of the size of your database.
This process works because a reliable sales intelligence tool is constantly pulling data from quality sources, and comparing it to the information in your CRM. The identification of unique properties, such as business IDs or mailing addresses, eliminates duplicates, and because there’s no manual entry of data, formatting, and case issues are avoided. Once a tool can associate the right data with the right account, you can enrich your database with additional firmographic and technographic data points that will provide richer insights.
Step 2: Align your different databases
Once you have a neat and tidy customer database, you need to ensure that sales and marketing have access to the same data. Different systems, like a CRM and marketing automation platform, should be fully integrated and share the same data when it comes to company information, formatting, and needed contact information.
When the systems that sales and marketing are using speak the same language you’ll see several benefits:
- All teams have a complete picture of the buyer lifecycle, from visitor to customer.
- Sales teams can access data about a prospect’s business and online behavior, and more easily discover and understand potential patterns.
- Salespeople can better anticipate buyer pain points and proactively share relevant content targeted to each potential buyer’s situation.
- Marketers can see what content works best at the bottom of the funnel, and act quickly to fill any gaps or generate more of the content that drives results.
- When they understand a buyer’s journey across the entire funnel, sales and marketing can collaborate to fix problems and do more of what yields positive results.
Step 3: Add any sales- relevant data points
Your CRM system is as valuable as the data it contains. The more insights it provides, the richer customer profiles you can build. In short, lots of relevant data will help you make more informed decisions.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of information on pretty much any company in the world today. You only need to go online and search for it. But no company can build robust CRM data on its own—there’s only so much salespeople can research, or what they can ask prospects. That’s when the concept of data enrichment comes into play.
Simply put, data enrichment (also known as data appending) refers to tools and processes that enhance, refine, or otherwise improve raw data. More specifically, for salespeople, data enrichment mainly serves to bring internal and external data together to build a richer profile of their potential and existing customers.
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Step 4: Receive automatic updates to avoid stale data
Organizations change and people switch jobs. In a matter of months, the precious data you worked so hard cleaning is no longer valid. That’s data decay, and it affects all of us. A one-time data cleaning project will only be good for some time.
To avoid stale data taking up more and more storage space in your CRM (possibly racking up your costs), you need to schedule regular data cleaning projects and make sure a connection to a sales intelligence tool is up and running, so you can receive the latest changes in your accounts. As a result, not only will your CRM database up to date, but you will also be alerted of events and triggers within your accounts. You can then build a trustworthy relationship with your CRM.
With access to rich, real-time company data directly in your CRM, you’ll see winnings instantly. You can lower the barrier to your web form conversions, create hyper-targeted customer segments, and cause game-changing transformations in your account scoring processes, upselling and cross-selling efforts, as well become better at predicting and preventing churn.
Step 5: Set common rules to follow
CRMs are a robust piece of technology. With the right data, it has turned into the backbone of your sales process. But like racing cars, as powerful as they are, your CRM can quickly break without the proper maintenance.
To ensure your CRM works for a long time the way it should, you need to set common rules to follow, so your database doesn’t deteriorate too quickly. You need to establish regular audits with measurable outcomes, frequent data cleaning processes, promote data standardization, and implement features to limit variations on data input methods.
More importantly, you need to set up some ground rules, and salespeople must abide by them. Consider naming a data officer that specializes in data quality.
With a well-running CRM, manual intervention will be minimum, and you can set CRM maintenance on autopilot. A modern CRM will detect deals, organizations, activities, and contacts where something is off. For instance, a deal in a certain stage or pipeline is missing a contact person with an email, or the deal isn’t linked to an organization. In these situations, salespeople will receive an alert that prompts them to fix the mistake. Simply put, whenever someone messes up, the system notifies them. That’s the way to keep data in quality shape.
Transform your CRM into the backbone of your sales organization
This blog is one of the chapters included in our eBook Don't Blame the CRM! How to sell more with company insights. In this 45-page handbook, we go through the steps of building a data foundation, how to identify new opportunities, the different ways to know your prospects better than they know themselves, how to craft the right message at the right time, plus how to analyze and improve every step of the sales process.
You can download the ebook here.