If your desk becomes too cluttered, important documents inevitably go missing. Fail to weed through your inbox occasionally and it becomes difficult to separate the email messages that require action versus those that can be ignored. A calendar is only useful as long as the schedule of meetings and appointments remains accurate. 

We routinely ensure we clean up and double-check what’s happening in all of these areas of our work, and the quality and usage of your CRM platform should really be no different. 

In the initial stages, deploying a CRM means an organization may stay focused on simply driving adoption across a sales team and other employees. There will be training sessions to conduct and new habits to encourage and reinforce. This is a key phase, because you want to ensure you see return on investment (ROI) as quickly as possible. 

The true benefits of CRM, however, are long-term ones. It could allow your team to become more collaborative, more proactive, quicker to act and better at evaluating the success of a particular sales strategy. 

What sometimes stands in the way of those benefits is a lack of regular auditing and cleansing of CRM data

Although it’s obvious that outdated or erroneous data will scuttle potential deals and overlook new opportunities with customers, CRM audits are one of those tasks that are easy to let fall through the cracks. 

Think of it almost like going to the dentist: we get our teeth cleaned because we know if we don’t, the risk of decay — and pain — is a real possibility. 

The difference with a CRM platform is that it takes more than one person to maintain good data hygiene. And all those responsible, from managers to reps, are often heads-down dealing with urgent tasks that an audit could always be put off. 

Rather than jeopardize the health of your CRM (and therefore your entire sales operation), treat audits and data cleansing as a standard procedure that gets seamlessly woven into your regular processes. Make a quarterly appointment to kick it off, and stick to it. 

The good news is that this is not an arduous process. Here’s what to do: 

Key Elements of an Audit

Even before you dive into the data itself, there are a number of areas you’ll want to consider as you assess the value you’re getting from your CRM over time. These include: 

  • Requirements review: Go back to your initial business case for CRM. How well has it lived up to those expectations? What’s changed, if anything? Where might there be gaps, particularly in terms of process or integrations with other tools? 
  • Revenue: What metrics can you apply to show how the CRM is actively empowering reps to meet their quota and increase their win rate?
  • Usage: If the revenue targets aren’t being met, this is the best place to study next. What kind of deals are getting through without details being put into the CRM? What’s getting in the way of reps sharing and making good use of the data?
  • Reporting: A good CRM platform shouldn’t simply be a collection of data, but a tool that allows you to present numbers and other facts for deeper analysis. 

Many of these areas will probably involve looking at CRM data quality more closely, and will also hopefully identify some common problems that need to be addressed. As a general rule, these are some of the things to look for and fix: 

1. Scope of data input

While it may take some reps a little time to get used to inputting data, others will be ready to dump anything and everything in the CRM. This can make it harder to find necessary information, and may confuse other reps about the extent of work they need to do. Set policies and rules early on that limit the scope of what constitutes “valuable” CRM data input. 

2. Common language

Are you targeting CEOs, presidents, or owners? In some companies these titles may be almost interchangeable, but when they’re all entered differently within a CRM things begin to get a bit blurry. The same can go for the way industries are described, or what acronyms and abbreviations are used from one record to another. Look for ways to create a standard vocabulary that everyone can adhere to on a consistent basis.

3. Data duplicates 

When reps share a territory or even different customers within a large account, there can be a high propensity to inadvertently put the same information in twice. Much like version control in a shared document, you need to be vigilant for duplicates and review processes that may lead reps to make these kinds of mistakes.

4. Aging and untrue records

The customer name, address, size and contacts may all be accurate — until an M&A takes place. Even if consolidation isn’t happening among your customers, all of those other details could easily become outdated, and it could seriously jeopardize your chance of continuing to win their business. Too often, reps have this information in their heads, but it takes a regular audit to ensure it doesn’t stay there. 

5. Casing, formatting and extra characters

As nit-picky as it may sound, the first letter in customer’s names should be capitalized, which may not happen if reps are typing too quickly. If they have preferred titles, pronouns or other forms of salutation, it should be evident within the CRM. There should also be an agreement about how things like email addresses or phone numbers should be formatted (do you use dashes or not?) and any weird characters that take up space in a field from importing data have to get deleted.

A CRM that’s clean is a CRM your sales team can trust. And when they can trust it, they’ll use it more, sell more, and maybe even realize that audits and cleansing isn’t just a chore, but an opportunity to keep improving.