Sales is all about understanding your customers, and you might be surprised to hear that you’re overlooking one major aspect of your ability to do that: your contact data quality.
Data quality is a way of measuring data’s usefulness.
A contact profile full of good quality data is timely, accurate, valid, consistent, complete, and unique – in short, it’s a reliable representation of the lead that you can confidently base your decisions on.
Bad data is the opposite.
It’s incomplete, unreliable, and wastes 550 hours of the average sales rep’s time each year. It has major implications for both your productivity and your effectiveness in your role.
If you want to be the best salesperson you can be, you need to start thinking about how you can improve your contact data quality now.
Why Data Quality Matters For Selling
There are two main areas in which bad data impacts sales:
lead targeting and customer satisfaction.
Both are equally important to your performance, but their effects are felt in different ways.
Getting the Most Out Of Your Leads
With regards to your leads, bad data makes it hard to:
- Use your time effectively
The most important data to a salesperson is obviously a lead’s contact information.
If you don’t have that, or the information is wrong, you can’t get in touch with the lead and can’t even try to do your job.
Even if it’s just hard to find, you’ll end up wasting a time looking for it when you could have been making more calls and possibly clinching more deals.
- Sharpen your focus
The data quality problem goes beyond just communication hurdles. High-quality data is also detailed enough to let you know if you’re pursuing the right leads.
As a salesperson, you only have so much time in your day, and you can’t follow up on every lead out there, and 50% of the ones you find will not end up being a good fit for your products anyway.
Good data allows you to pinpoint the leads who are most likely to want to buy from you and use your time efficiently by focusing on them first.
- Use high-impact selling tactics
If you know some relevant details about your leads, you can plan ahead and research the relevant pain points the product you’re selling can solve for them.
Say you’re selling some accounting software to help businesses keep track of their expenses. If the company they’re representing has many workers who are constantly on the road, you might want to highlight how well the program handles things like mileage and per diem expenses.
These personalized conversations allow you to show each specific customer where they’ll find the value in your product, making it much more likely that you’ll be able to convince them to buy.
Quality data is what makes this possible.
42% of sales reps feel like they don’t have enough useful data on hand when calling leads. There’s no telling how much potential revenue they are missing out because of the sales they miss as a result.
Giving Customers What They Want
The customer service side of your operations will also be impacted by your data quality.
Without good data, you might also struggle to:
- Connect with your leads
You can’t build a good relationship with a customer when you know next to nothing about them and may even have a hard time getting in touch with them.
Without that rapport growing between you, though, your job becomes much harder. Each lead will go through a longer sales cycle overall: you’ll have to work harder for their attention and you won’t be able to sell to them effectively when you do get ahold of them.
- Give every prospect some attention
Those delays add up, and there’s a very real chance that they could impact your ability to meet your sales goals.
Say you have 100 prospects waiting for you to approach them in any given month. If you work efficiently, you might be able to touch base with most of them.
With bad data slowing you down, though, you might only get to about half instead. 72% of companies with less than 50 prospects in their pipeline fall short of their monthly revenue goals, and that’s effectively where you’ll be if you can only process that many.
- Win long-term customer loyalty
Along with lowering conversion rate and causing unpredictable sales performance, poor data quality might also affect your long-term customer retention rates.
A customer who sticks around for years is worth far more than one who buys only once, but when you don’t have the data to fully understand their needs, why should they buy from you again?
So How Can You Solve This?
Now that you understand why you need to be concerned about bad data in your own data sets, it’s time to work toward a solution.
There are 6 main intervention strategies you can put into place to improve your data quality right away:
Sit Down With the Marketing Team
The staff in your organization’s marketing department will be sending you a lot of the leads you’re pursuing on a daily basis – to be more precise, 61% of B2B marketers send every single lead they collect over to sales reps like you.
It’s worth your while to make sure that you all understand what useful information looks like in this context so you can get the best possible leads from this source.
- What can they tell you about the prospects they’ve been sending you?
- What have they noticed about people who tend to be interested in the products you sell?
Getting answers to these questions might help you make better use of the leads they give you. Maybe more importantly, though, you’ll also want to share what you know with them.
Pick Out Relevant Traits
The next step is identifying what information you need to do your best work.
Come up with some things you would like to know about all of your leads that you think would help you make more sales. This could be something obviously useful like the company budget or something a bit more subtle like your lead’s gender; if it has meaning to you when you’re trying to close a deal, write it down.
Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll have a much easier time building a useful profile for your sales conversations later on.
Related : How to excel at quality lead generation?
Clean Up Your Database
Once you’ve figured out what your data goals are going to be going forward, you’ll need to clean out the records you already have so that they can come as close as possible to meeting that new standard.
You’ll need to go through all your old contact profiles and make sure the information written in them is accurate, valid, standardized and complete.
You can tackle this task internally, or you can outsource it to professionals to make things easier on you.
Don’t forget that just one pass isn’t enough in this case.
Contact data decays (becomes unusable) at a rate of 30% per year, so this is a job that’s never truly done.
Automate Lead Capturing
Human error is the leading cause of data inaccuracies in business databases and has been for years.
It is very difficult for a human being to copy out large sets of data perfectly every time; a human worker often gets bored, tired, anxious or otherwise distracted from the job.
If you automate this process, you can cut that problem right out of the equation.
When software is doing the work of transcribing data from your business cards and other documents into your database, you know you’re getting that data exactly as it was written on the original source document.
Don’t let the idea of having to set all this up intimidate you, either; there are many ready-made tools out there that you can use to do this even if you don’t have any technical expertise yourself.
Set Up Verification Standards
Even with an automated program mostly running the show, things can still go wrong in the data input process.
Here are a few of the things you can do to make sure that bad data doesn’t filter into your records:
- Check if each new profile is filled out completely with valid data in every field.
- Choose standardized versions of common abbreviations and switch any abbreviations used to those versions.
- Scan for duplicate profiles as you go and delete the extras from your records.
- Review your email delivery reports and weed out any invalid email addresses.
- Consider using double entry methods when you have to enter data by hand, since that should cut out the bulk of the human mistakes.
Don’t Forget to Monitor Everything
Leaders across industries have found that promoting accountability for specific tasks leads to high efficiency and better outcomes.
That’s why it’s a good idea to have one person in charge of your data quality.
This person will be responsible for all of the company’s contact data on an ongoing basis. It is up to them to make sure that everyone is following the proper procedures and that data quality standards in your records are high.
They should also be reporting to someone higher up on a regular basis so that management can stay on top of any problems that crop up. This will mean taking some productive time away from other tasks, but if it’s done right, the productivity of the sales team as a whole should go up.
Smooth Sales Depend on Good Data
You're used to relying on data to tell you how you're doing with your sales.
Now it's time to embrace its power to help you make them, too.
Taking steps to improve your data quality now is sure to lead to better results in the future.
Data is going to have an impact on your performance either way - it's up to you to decide if it's going to be good or bad.
👇 Capture quality leads and stop bad data before ruining your deals👇
Our series on bad data's effects is still ongoing. Next time we'll be talking about why data quality matters to an organization's leader.
Check in soon to hear more about that, and don't forget to join us for exclusive tips and monthly updates.
Originally published May 8, 2019, updated February 3, 2020