Monday, May 11, 2009

Your Prospect and Client Database

Once you have defined the demographics of your ideal prospect, you go about searching for prospects who fit that description. No matter how you gather your prospect information, it becomes essential that you organize the details in the most efficient manner. You need that information at your fingertips.

A properly maintained Marketing and Sales Database is an indispensable tool that you can sort or mine to concentrate of particular marketing segments. The information can also be copied or exported for a variety of marketing purposes such as a direct mail or any targeted marketing project.

Conversely, a poorly maintained Marketing and Sales Database will only lead to confusion. It is important, therefore, that a concise and well-organized Marketing and Sales Database be a high priority for your sales organization.

There are many, many different database and CRM programs available in the market. Perhaps the most important thing for you to know about any of them is that none is perfect! What ever program you select you will find it necessary to make compromises in what you’d like to accomplish or program them to meet your needs.

Here are some suggestions that may help you in selecting a program. There are a variety of web based programs available today and we recommend you take a close look at those. They offer the advantage of being available anywhere you have access to the internet. If you are a sole practitioner that may not be important to you, but if you have more than one person who will want to use the program, having it available through the web is a great option.

Here is another suggestion. Keep it simple! Buy something inexpensive and begin there. In our experience the chances of you hitting the right program the first or second time are slim to none. As you develop sophistication in using your database or CRM program you will find there are other things you would like it to do for you. So we recommend you let your solution grow with your experience.

Another big topic of conversation is: what information should you house in your database? Again, our recommendation is keep it simple and don’t put anything in your database that won’t make you money, especially if you expect your salespeople to input the data. You will find them motivated to collect and enter data that makes them money, but if it doesn’t do that, don’t expect a high level of compliance.

Most companies today still use either Outlook or Excel, or both, for their database. It’s all a matter of what you want to accomplish and how much you want to spend to accomplish it.

Another big issue that both we and our clients have run into to is the quality of the data entry work. You will find that some of your employees are comfortable with data entry and using a database or CRM package. But you will find others that are not, and often these will be your most senior sales reps. You will also find that many of your sales and customer service reps lack essential data entry skills. For instance, they may not be good spellers, aren’t careful about the accuracy of the data they collect, etc. In our case we found it necessary to have our databases routinely reviewed and corrected by skillful data entry specialists.

To learn more about your available database options just go to your browser and type in “Databases”. You will find thousands of sources of information. There are even magazines devoted to the subject.

No matter which system you employee, the Marketing and Sales Database should be organized and formatted to make the process of prospecting easier and more efficient for you. Your goal is achieving a seamless call flow to ensure maximum calling opportunities. Information properly gathered, maintained, and stored is the key to a functional, accurate database. Over time, your database will prove to be a major business asset.

At a minimum you are going to want your database(s) to help in two broad areas:

(1) Prospecting, and

(2) Working with and selling more to your existing clients.

Because this blog is primarily about prospecting I will outline what we think the essential elements of a prospect database are.

After developing your marketing and sales plan, setting marketing goals and sales objectives is the next step. That process includes deciding what you want to know about your prospects and their need for your product and/or service. That necessitates creating a prospecting script to gather the information you require. If you follow that logic, then you will understand the need to have locations in your database to store the information you collect. Along with gathering information you also need to have some means of measuring and prioritizing it.

I can tell you how we solve these issues for ourselves, but I cannot tell you the best way for you to resolve them. On the other, we would be glad to provide whatever advice we can.

At a minimum you are going to want to be able to separate your suspects from your qualified decision makers and the companies that do not meet your qualifying criteria. You will also find that some portion of your prospect list contains bad telephone numbers and/or mailing addresses. I hope you can see that there is a lot of pre-planning that goes into developing any type of successful database.

I’ve not written any of this to discourage you just to help you understand the complexity of developing a database that will aid you in accomplishing your goals. Every question I have raised has a solution. If we can help, we are prepared to do what we can to point you in the right direction.

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