• September 1, 2011
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

Turbocharging CRM with Good Data

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If you knowingly filled the gas tank of a Ferrari with low-quality fuel, then took it out on the autobahn in Germany and pushed the accelerator to the floor, the drive would be very frustrating. You would watch other cars zoom by while you sputtered along. By the end of the trip, would you blame your poor experience on the car?

The reason I pose this question is that the results from two recent surveys CSO Insights conducted show that users of various CRM applications may be giving undeservedly lower-than-expected ratings. In both our 17th annual Sales Performance Optimization (SPO) and our seventh annual Lead Management Optimization (LMO) studies, the most common response we received when we asked questions related to how impactful technology is in terms of increasing sales and marketing effectiveness was, “It’s OK.”

OK? OK? Billions have been spent and are continuing to be spent on CRM, and that’s the best many companies are experiencing? I regularly get briefings from CRM vendors on enhancements they are making to their solutions. When I compare what these applications can do today compared with five to 10 years ago, it is very impressive. So why do we not have more raving fans?

One answer became clear as I drilled into the data from our 2011 Lead Management Optimization study. As part of the survey, we asked the 600+ participating firms to rate the accuracy of their customer and prospect data. The chart below summarizes their responses.

If data is to CRM what gas is to a Ferrari, then only one-third of companies are putting high-octane customer data into their technology engines. Furthermore, fewer than one in 10 companies are doing the same with respect to prospect data. What makes this second number even more troubling is that the results from the 2011 Sales Performance Optimization study showed that nearly 60 percent of the firms surveyed listed “capturing new accounts” as one of their top three goals for 2011. That prompts the question, “How do I find and close new accounts if I don’t know who they are?”

If you have invested in a lead-generation management application, such as Marketo, Eloqua, or Hubspot, you will get suboptimal results if you feed it poor data. Similarly, Salesforce.com, Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP all will underperform if data accuracy is compromised. Data inaccuracy, therefore, is a challenge that must be confronted. It would be a big mistake simply to hope that it will go away.

Fortunately, help is readily available. Our Lead Management Optimization study found that 59 percent of companies are now leveraging sales intelligence (SI) services (Dow Jones, Hoovers, InsideView, OneSource, ZoomInfo, etc.) to help improve the quality and quantity of data they have on both customers and prospects. Of those survey participants, more than half were using two or more services.

Nevertheless, you need to do your homework truly to understand what various SI vendors can and cannot do, because not all of the 39 alternatives the study participants reported using received high customer satisfaction ratings. However, on average, SI users did report higher data accuracy ratings than those who are not using these services.

So, as you start to put together your budgets for 2012 or if you have some money left over to spend this year, consider investing in higher-quality fuel for CRM. If you do, you’ll get a chance to see just what a high-performance technology engine can really do.

Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at jim.dickie@csoinsights.com.

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