What to Do When Your Mother Tells You Your Data Resembles 'a Rat's Nest'

by Marshall Childs

Posted on Friday Aug 11, 2017 at 10:00AM in Finance

This post was orginally published on this blog

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Gone are the days when salespeople focused all their attention on courting every single prospect that hit their in-box. Thanks to the internet, the pool of potential clients is now global. While that’s inarguably a great thing for sales, it has also transformed lead-generation into a more exerting scientific process.

For starters, you must weigh whether a lead is worth your investment of time and resources. The time element is particularly important: Consider that 57 percent of salespeople surveyed in HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017 report said they spend up to an hour each day on data entry alone.

For many companies, this poses a problem, especially when those data points are used to size up potential clients. There’s so much noise in the market -- and so much data -- that businesses often stumble just trying to qualify a lead.

Collecting information is an important function, of course, but any number of factors -- name changes, location changes, personnel changes, etc. -- can throw off your numbers. Businesses that can prepare for those shifts, build them into their processes and better understand the information will find the search for present and future customers more fruitful. Here are some tips for better data management:

Even when you buy data lists or subscribe to a business-information service, success still comes down to data management. Otherwise, you can’t act on the data you have at hand. In fact, 93 percent of executives surveyed by Oracle said they believed their organizations lose an average of 14 percent of their revenue because they’re unable to serve customers effectively.

Here’s the thing: If you manage your data and continually work toward improving its quality, you develop a clearer picture of potential clients. You can then more effectively and efficiently qualify leads and pair them with the right people in your sales organization.

This brings up an important question: How exactly do you uncover the right kind of data in order to streamline the lead-generation process? The following tips may help:

1. Watch out for a rat's nest. Bad data can slow you down, trip you up or bring an entire company to a screeching halt. Increase efficiency and save time by clearing your data of duplicates: dirty and dead accounts, a.k.a. the rat's nest of data. Once clean, accounts can more easily be scored and distributed to the correct sales reps.

At my company, we arm our customers with the right information, such as company size, annual revenue and media content; this allows sales reps to better understand where an account is on the buying journey and map the maximum amount of leads with the highest coverage possible.

At the end of the day, isn’t your goal one of finding and extracting revenue from customers as efficiently as possible? It stands to reason that the cleaner the data, the more quickly you can qualify and process leads.

2. Streamline your system. According to an internal survey by Ungerboeck Software, its decision to prune its multiple data-entry systems to just one system saved workers three to 10 hours of work per week.

Most systems refer to accounts by name or ID number. But manually entered company names are prone to human error: Where one person enters in a company’s full name, another uses an abbreviation, leaving the system with multiple entries for one account. Meanwhile, ID numbers are nearly impossible to commit to memory, so you're just one poorly aimed keystroke away from pulling up the wrong account.

The best way to keep data clean is to use a globally known, unique identifier. We advise using URLs as unique identifiers because they’re free and globally recognizable and can be pinged for signs of life. Linking to the primary URL lets you bypass both potential problems, leaving you with clean, duplicate-free data. Instead of many entries, root each account in one identifier that all your leads can hook into.

3. Live in the now. Let’s say your company does business only with organizations that generate more than $20 million in revenue. Do you have the technology in place to automatically alert reps when an account hits that threshold? If not, when will they get the green light to work on the account?

A McKinsey & Company study found that 59 percent of respondents within high-performing companies felt equipped to handle unexpected real-time data, while only 12 percent of those at low-performing businesses felt ready.

Considering the fact that data is integral to business operations, have your salespeople work off the most up-to-date information available by utilizing real-time data integration technology. Reps will become more responsive to time-sensitive opportunities, giving your company the edge over the competition and insights into the target audience.

4. Hone-in on the target. No one needs to tell you how important it is to tailor your marketing to your audience. Carefully curate the right data to map out an account-based marketing strategy rather than using spray-and-pray marketing and hoping to lure in accounts. Account-based marketing is a personalized campaign designed to resonate with each individual account.

A SiriusDecisions study found that 92 percent of B2B marketers surveyed said they saw ABM as vital to their efforts. Furthermore, when companies align sales and marketing, they generate as much as 208 percent more revenue, according to HubSpot. Accounts represent the clients you want to bring in, meaning that clean data and an ABM approach can give your team a one-way ticket to optimal leads.

In the end, the quantity of information you gather on prospects will never be what makes or breaks your business; it’s the quality that counts. Salespeople do their best work when they're talking to high-quality leads, so manage your data to guarantee that when your folks speak those right words, the right ears prick up.

Jim Fowler is founder and CEO of Owler -- the free competitive intelligence platform business professionals use to outsmart their competition, gain competitive insights and uncover the latest industry news and alerts. Prior t...

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