Recently, The Economist published an article titled “The World’s Most Valuable Resource Is No Longer Oil, But Data.” That article focuses on the market domination of internet giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google (among others). These profitable titans use their vast stores of data to capitalize on their size and maintain their market advantage. “Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy.” Their market intelligence comes from the quantity they collect, with quality being a lot less important.

For the hundreds of thousands of businesses that aren’t one of the internet behemoths, organizations that face a treacherous competitive landscape and possess far fewer data points to rely on, the quality of data is the key to using it to your advantage.

We think of Customer Relations Management (“CRM”) system’s primary purpose as being the facilitation of the sales process. Your sales reps need something to keep track of their deals in a manner that is superior to a spreadsheet. But, the truth is, if we just want to keep track of things, a spreadsheet would work just fine.

Another, better way to define a CRM is: “CRM aligns business processes with customer strategies to build customer loyalty and increase profits over time.” That’s a pretty inclusive definition that is clearly more than just tracking a transaction. And yet, how many sales professionals treat the CRM as a tracking tool?

High Quality CRM Data is the Key to Competitive Advantage

The pitfall with treating the CRM as a tracking tool is that the data loses any perceived value once the lead gets closed out as a loss. Once the sales rep knows there is no deal to be made, there is no more value.

CRM data is, and should be treated as, an asset in and of itself. It should be validated, cleaned up, monitored, nurtured, and treated with every bit as much respect and deference as your customers. The revenue brought in by your sales department is not merely the dollar value of the deals they close, but the monetization of the data they collect and maintain. And if that data is treated with disregard, disrespect, and neglect, you will lose that revenue just as you would lose a customer who was treated in the same manner.

For example, marketing departments routinely run campaigns using CRM data to drum up leads for sales initiatives – new products, special deals, etc. These campaigns take time and money to put together and track. For every outreach that goes to an incorrect email address or telephone number in the CRM, the organization is wasting that time and money. In addition, because the correct contact information is missing, the company misses out on an opportunity that might have been profitable had the campaign reached the correct person.

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[clickandtweet handle=”@PrimaryIntel” hashtag=”#CRM #Data” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Bad data is not only a lost chance at revenue, but actually loses the organization money.[/clickandtweet]

Similar pitfalls exist when applying poor quality CRM data to win loss analysis. You cannot learn the true reasons your company wins or loses deals if you can’t reach the buyers, and you can’t reach the buyers if your contact information is inaccurate. But for win loss, the problem is more complex. There are other key CRM data points that contribute to a successful win loss program, such as fair representation of the negotiated deal size, accurate date of opportunity closure, and clear identification of the solution being considered.

When any of these categories of data are omitted or incorrect, valuable time is wasted trying to track down buyers only to learn that they don’t have the answers you need. And, because the data is not clean, there is no way to know if a buyer is one you want to hear from (or not) unless you investigate. This is a substantial investment of time and resources that could have been avoided if the sales rep had understood the value of the data and taken the time to treat it as well as he treats the person associated with the data.

When the data is complete and accurate, the information readily gained from a buyer can contribute to a wealth of competitive intelligence and help your organization win more deals, increase market share, and grow the company. But this process begins with good quality data.

As professional baseball player Joe Kuhel phrased it, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken feathers.” If you want to leverage the value of your CRM data – and you aren’t Google or Facebook, or Amazon – you have to maintain good quality data. To do so may require changing the mindset of the sales team: The CRM is not deal tracking.  The CRM, and the data within it, is just as meaningful and valuable as the prospects and decision-makers associated with it, and should be treated with the same level of care. Not to do so is – well – “chicken feathers.”

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