Is Data Quality Killing Your Lead Flow?

Guest Blog | Ben Bradley


A prospect recently asked us to review his sales and lead generation programs because lead flow had dropped significantly. This concerned him because he had just finished a significant new product launch with a well-known interactive marketing agency. We agreed to sniff around.

Every reptilian instinct in my body wanted to find a way to bad mouth the agency’s work. But the creative, positioning and execution was brilliant. We couldn’t find fault in the agency’s work.

We dug deeper and asked to look at the company’s new CRM – the foundation of the entire product launch and the basis for all of its prospecting efforts. It fueled the company’s direct mail, e-mail newsletters, catalog mailings and sales outreach.

We quickly spotted the problem. The turd in the proverbial punchbowl was data quality. The client had spared no expense building world class creative, but left the task of data hygiene to marketing interns who would rather mop the floor than scrub data.

In the postmortem, we learned the interns received various Excel files containing old data, questionable lists, incomplete lists and exports from a variety of personal contact management applications. Then, with bubble gum and bailing wire, the master list was normalized, checked for data-format requirements and imported without further quality checks into a  new CRM system.

In hindsight, the client was incredibly candid. No one wanted to “own” the data hygiene; it wasn’t sexy and it cost a lot of money to do right.

To prevent data-quality disasters, here are several tips for sales executives to get the biggest bang for their CRM dollar:

Data quality is not a one-time event – Cleaning is an ongoing set of activities. For example, after an e-mail blast, a single individual should be responsible for removing or updating un-deliverables. Salespeople also should be responsible for keeping data clean. They own the accounts and it is in their best interest to champion the data. Additional quality checks, such as automation of duplicate record checks, can also nip potential problems in the bud.

Duplicates cost you – A single company record should be tied to a set of addresses and contacts. Failure to tie together information about an account to a single company record dilutes the effectiveness of the data – especially in key account selling.

The human component – While automation of data clean-up is useful, humans are essential to the process. Computers miss things that are usually obvious to a human, such as a division’s relationship to a corporate entity.

Protect your data from good intentions – With CRM, it is far too easy for individuals without an understanding of data hygiene practices to import data from external sources. Import rules should be stringent and followed by everyone. After automated checks are complete, a manual review process should always be applied to external data before it is imported.

Strike a balance – It is easy to be compulsive about data quality, but it is not practical. Your data changes every day; making sure it is always accurate is financially prohibitive. That is why it is important to strive for “good enough.”

Good data is the foundation of effective CRM. In B2B sales, it is next to impossible to build strong marketing unless you know the names of the people most likely to buy from you. Maintaining a clean CRM punchbowl requires more than a summer intern.

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Ben Bradley is managing director of Macon Raine, a management consulting, marketing, and lead generation company. He can be reached at


Increase Sales Productivity By Personalizing Online Communication

Sales execs, perhaps more so than other business professionals, have a talent for picking up on non-verbal communication when meeting face-to-face with clients or potential clients. The furrowed brow. The fidget. Darting eyes. Nervous laughter. They are various signals to sales executives that they may need to modulate and/or adjust their strategy to make the person sitting (or standing) across from them more comfortable with the situation. After all, non-verbal communication is at least 50% -70% of all communication, depending on whom you ask.

Still, even with non-verbal communication sales executives have the benefit of being in the physical presence of clients and, depending on the signal(s), have the opportunity to make alterations right then and there. Not so online, where sales executives are increasingly selling their products and services.

As Patricia Wallace, Ph. D. and author of “The Psychology of the Internet,” told The Wall Street Journal recently, on the Web “nobody sees you yawn.”  (It reminds us of a famous New Yorker cartoon that conveys a similar thought.) We were quite taken with the quote and decided to contact Wallace to get her take on the psychological challenges of online sales.

The use of language – crafting e-mail messages or leaving verbal messages on the telephone – cannot be underestimated. Sales execs “need to understand that the Web environment is fraught with one potential or another to say something that is going to be grossly misinterpreted,” said Wallace, who is also senior director, CTYOnline and Information Technology at Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth.

Part of the challenge is how to harness the type of skills (verbal and otherwise) that click in face-to-face settings to the online environment, Wallace said. She stressed that because online sales are (generally; read: Skype) not face-to-face, sales executives must be more personal (and respectful) in both tone and delivery.

It starts with the opt-in approach and being sensitive to privacy issues “They need to lean on the side of opt-in, and ask people, ‘If I give you this information will it be a benefit to you?’” Wallace said.

She added that joining appropriate social networks is another way that sales executives can get to know prospects in their space via a more personal vein. Sales execs also might consider establishing their own social networks in which the point is not products and services, per se. Wallace pointed to Johnson & Johnson as an example of how companies can use social media to their advantage. Johnson & Johnson’s health channel, on YouTube, features a wide array of videos designed to promote a better understanding of health and healthcare delivery throughout the world.

“The idea is to say ‘Let’s provide a service,’ a place where people can obtain value,” Wallace said. “[Sales execs] need to touch buyers in ways that go beyond a click-through or a cold-blooded checkout. It’s a face-to-face meeting, followed up by an e-mail, with an invitation to a Webinar or a special event.”

Contact ZoomInfo today to see how we can help personalize your online outreach and increase your sales productivity.

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