Inaccurate, incomplete sales data is a major headache for any sales team. Sales reps, managers, and executives use CRM data every day to set selling priorities, make program investment decisions, and forecast revenue. And the revenue forecast, in particular, can affect departments all over the company. So poor data leads to poor decisions that keep companies from reaching their goals. At the same time, every sales veteran knows it’s not practical to improve data quality at the expense of revenue.
So, how can you improve data quality while actually improving your sales engine? There are three key approaches every sales team should consider.
First, do everything that you can to make it easier for sales reps to keep their deals and contacts up to date. Each rep has a different way to go about doing this—whether they update as they go or dedicate Fridays to inputting the status on every deal. That second way, waiting to do a week or so of updates at once, can work for some people, but there are two bad results.
First, a week of updates takes time—time not spent selling. One of our customers calls this his Sales Prevention Day. The second problem is the later data is entered into the system, the more inaccurate it gets. Our memories fade and entries inevitably capture only a portion of what really happened.
Making it easier for reps to keep their data current is easier said than done. The answer begins with the device that is by a sales rep’s side 24/7—their smartphone. By arming them with mobile tools with a friendly user interface and two-way data flow from various sources, a “smart” app can know exactly when a rep leaves a meeting and prompt them to enter the most important information right then and there. The faster and more consistently reps enter CRM data, the more accurate the information will be and the more effective decisions based on that data will be.
In addition to what reps enter into the CRM, other actions they take throughout the day—email, calendaring, meeting notes, travel—create a huge amount of valuable data about what is actually happening—and working—in the field. This data free flowing from a rep as they go about their workday, typically referred to as “data exhaust,” can deliver a new level of insight if you simply capture it.
Data exhaust can give context to what’s been entered into the CRM and provide a more realistic picture of what’s actually happening. It also gives managers an instant view into progress and next steps. Since the data is created automatically by reps doing what they do, managers don’t need to rely on reports or wait for a meeting to get a play-by-play report on deal progress and status.
Of course, actionable insight means more than just clean CRM data combined with the data exhaust reps generate as they sell. Applying data science is the key to better decisions, clearer priorities, and a sales forecast management can trust. For example, one could correlate sales activities like email and meetings with CRM information on deal size and expected close date to predict the probability any individual deal will close. That lets a rep and manager decide whether to stay the course, double down on effort, or push to next quarter. And it means cutting forecast risk.
Your CRM data might never be a perfect reflection of what happens in the field, but you can get much closer by making it easier for sales reps to keep their deals up to date, putting data into context, and discovering insights by extracting knowledge from the data you collect.
To learn about how Salesforce can transform your data, visit salesforce.com, or download the free e-book.