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With CRM data, more isn't always merrier

David Taber | March 28, 2014
The cornerstone of CRM systems (and any sales or service transaction) is interaction between your people and your customers. But more people records in the system isn't necessarily better, as many data quality problems in CRM are caused by the cacophony of too many contacts.

Leads have low value - typically less than 10 percent ever convert to a contact - and they should be visible only to people who do lead generation, qualification or appointment-setting for a living. The life of a lead is to move from unqualified to marketing qualified (MQL) to sales qualified (SQL).

Contacts are targets who have been qualified by someone affiliated with the sales team (so they are both MQL and SQL) and have subsequently been converted. Conversion should be an explicit indication that a sales cycle is about to begin, and alarm bells should go off if no opportunity (deal) is opened within a couple of weeks. Contacts should be owned by sales, even though they should be visible to everyone in the company.

People won't ever do a sales transaction with you but still should be in the system so they can be pointed to from marketing, sales and service interactions. For example, partner reps and your own employees are always going to be relevant people. People should be visible to all CRM users, but they are typically entered and maintained by the sales operations team.

Everything in the list above works perfectly with B2C or B2B operations that work on a lead-generation model - typically with purely geographic definitions for sales territories. At B2B companies going after the really big fish, some part of the sales team will pursue Named Accounts that must behave differently.

Named Accounts are non-geographic in nature; a deal involving Mitsubishi, for example, might take place in any of 160 countries and dozens of different vertical industries. More importantly for this article, names and leads have absolutely no value, and the sales operation will enter almost all the contacts into the CRM - and do it without the conversion action).

People Are People, That's How It Should Be
The details of the solution strategy vary strikingly and must depend on your specific CRM, as well as the marketing automation, ecommerce and other systems integrated with your CRM. The general idea, though, is to impose a set of distinctions among different types of people.

Names should include an active list, unsubscribed names and "bad data," which serves a holding tank for lessons-learned analysis prior to deletion.

Leads should be divided into pre-qualified (low scorers), marketing qualified (high scorers), sales qualified (willing to take a phone call) and unqualified. The "unqualified" category isn't "dead" and shouldn't be deleted, mind you.

Contacts can get complicated:

  • Named account, uncontacted (we know of them, but we've never had a conversation with them).
  • Named account, contacted (we've had a conversation, but there's no basis for a sales conversation at this time).
  • Current prospect (though the sales cycle hasn't started yet).
  • In sales cycle (either active or on hold).
  • Prior prospect (either you lost it or there was no deal).
  • Current customer.
  • Prior customer.
  • Partner or channel.
  • Company employees.
  • Outside influencers such as industry analysts, press and bloggers.


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