Categories Articles, Sales and Marketing

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

We talk to a lot of Sales VPs, sales managers and other sales executives and leaders, and some of the most common complaints and rants we hear from them go a little something like this:

“Our Salesforce.com data quality sucks!”

“I can’t accurately analyze our sales data because I don’t trust the information in our CRM.”

“Getting our reps to to log their own sales data is like pulling teeth.”

Any of this sound familiar to you?

Simply put, the struggle between sales management and sales rep data quality has come to a head. Sales reps don’t log accurate data, which leads to poor sales management analysis and decisions, which predictably comes back around to negatively affect sales reps, and the cycle continues.

It’s time to stop complaining, and start getting real. It’s time to do something about sales rep data quality, once and for all.

Problem #1: No accountability from sales reps

Your sales reps think that they’re here just to prospect new opportunities and close new business. That’s their job – to sell! To that end, they think that anything they do that detracts from actually selling is a waste of time, and ultimately not something terribly important or a priority to be focused on. When a task gets dismissed as such, it’s not long before it falls by the wayside altogether.

The solution: Hold reps accountable!

Pretty obvious solution, right? The truth is that it’s on sales managers to hold their reps’ feet to the fire and to hold them accountable for always entering accurate data, with no exceptions.

Here’s the bottom line: CRM data entry is absolutely a huge part of their job as sales reps. Part of your hiring criteria should focus on reps’ organizational skills and their ability to take direction and follow instructions. A rep who is organized and detail-oriented won’t be daunted by the prospect and potential chore of entering data into CRM.

Problem #2: CRM is for sales managers, not for sales reps  

Even if your reps acquiesce to your demands to diligently log their sales information, they might do it with a sullen reluctance. After all, this is such an act of micromanagement on your part! Not only are you regularly looking over their shoulder, but now you want a way to digitally track their actions and activities too? What are you, Big Brother?

The solution: Prove that CRM is for reps, and a huge benefit to them

It’s on you to gain their buy-in by proving to them just what a huge benefit CRM data entry is – not just to help you manage your business and team by the numbers, but an actual tangible benefit for them. Remember, CRM is for your reps. Show them how they can become more organized, track personal data on all the opportunities they’re working on, and drastically improve their own results. The best way to get buy-in is to demonstrate how it can help them do their job, not only more easily, but better and more successfully.

Problem #3: No clear guidelines for opportunity stages

Some sales teams have 3 opportunity stages, others might have more than 20! Either way, data quality suffers when your sales reps operate on an ad hoc basis in assigning statuses to opportunities and moving these opportunities along when they feel like it.

The solution: Define clear exit criteria

To solve this issue, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page. This might require a drastic overhaul of your entire sales process, but the key is that everyone operates on the same definitions, with crystal clear exit criteria at each stage. When an opportunity does X, then it can move from stage 3 to stage 4. When it does Y, then you can take it to stage 5. Everyone should know these exit criteria intimately, and be held to strict standards in adhering to them.

Problem #4: No required fields in your Salesforce instance

The way your Salesforce.com or other CRM instance is currently set up, there are precious few checks and balances in place. Those are way too complicated to set up. As a result, your reps have become quite sneaky about what they can get away with. If there’s nothing in place that requires them to enter this or log that, then why would they do it?

The solution: Put required fields in place

Nobody wants to be babied – this isn’t elementary school. But the truth is that sometimes, people need rules in place – with real consequences – before they will feel inclined to follow them. As a sales manager, you can simply set up your Salesforce.com instance to feature required fields in certain places, such as when logging Task Types or Lost Reasons. With these in place, your reps won’t be able to save the record or move on to the next segment until these specific data fields have been logged. Sometimes, brute force really is necessary to enact change.

Problem #5: No timeline or prioritization for fixing data quality

“We want to start a deep-dive into our sales analytics, but our data is so bad we don’t know where to start!”

That’s a common refrain that we get from Sales VPs and managers. They’re basically throwing up their hands in frustration and saying that their data is so bad and in such a jumbled state that trying to fix it is too Herculean a task to take on. It’s easy for them to just brush it aside and focus on other priorities.

The solution: There’s no time like the present

You have to start yesterday, in fixing your data quality. It’ll never fix itself, and will in fact get much much worse if you let it sit. Of course, it can be daunting to tackle such an overwhelming project, but you simply have to hike up your pants and get to it.

Start with incremental improvements. For example, say that by the end of next week, you don’t want any expired close dates logged in Salesforce. This will get all your reps working to clean those up immediately, lest they face real disciplinary consequences. Then you can move on to the next area.

Data quality is a serious issue, a real impediment to a deep-dive into your sales analytics to make better data-driven decisions and run your business by the numbers. Fixing it, while difficult, can certainly be done. Just follow these 5 solutions to these common problems, and you’ll be well on your way.

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