Work Harder, Not Smarter

This week’s blog is from Ben Bradley, Managing Director of Macon Raine, Inc., who also blogs on marketing, sales technology and just about everything else at

Caught your attention with that headline, didn’t I.

It’s not a misprint. The fact is that too many sales professionals are working harder than necessary because they are completely missing the obvious.

You’re going to slap your forehead in disbelief when I tell you this: It is hard to sell to someone unless you know who they are.

CRM data is crying for attention. And most of the sales people I talk to are crying about the ugly state of their data. Most complain that they don’t have time to clean it.

Data, like unrefrigerated milk, goes bad fast. In fact, some pundits estimate that 25% of a database will sour within a year. Add poor import practices and other minor mistakes, and bad things in the CRM system quickly snowball. It isn’t until senior management realizes they are making strategic decisions on the back of sub-par data that heads begin to roll.

Head rolling is a complicated thing. Do you yell at the person responsible for cleaning the data in use, the person responsible for preventing low quality data from getting into the system, the sales people for not updating contact information, or the marketing department for not scrubbing the unworkable email addresses? Or should the executive team look in the mirror because clean data was not a strategic priority?

Some organizations try to fix the problem by assigning an intern to scrub data instead of committing to a permanent process change.

Others will look longingly for new gadgets, tools, hosted software, widgets, mobile apps or various marketing automation tools to fix the problem. These things can provide a wonderful shiny distraction and may also be an incredible technology advantage…but they are no substitute for permanent process change.

Need to rationalize major process changes  to upper management? The ROI for clean data is simple. All things being equal, a company with a larger database of clean prospects will close more business than a company with a smaller database of clean prospects.

Barry Trailer, of CSO Insights, confirmed what we all know.  “The 2,800 companies participating in CSO Insights’ 2010 Sales Performance Optimization survey (being released 2/1/10) confirmed what everyone knew: 2009 was the toughest year yet.  But it was harder on some firms than others.  Those implementing higher levels of sales process implementation, enjoying higher levels of relationship with their customers, and leveraging enabling technologies fared better than the rest. Of course, having accurate data to inform your systems and processes is key.”

Data quality is not a one-time event. Cleaning your data will cost money and so will the process improvements needed to support ongoing data quality. But in the end it is worth it.

So while the option of continuing to work harder, not smarter holds its own appeal, a fast way to improve sales and marketing success is to fix things that can be fixed.  Data quality is one of those things that can be fixed fast.

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