Who owns the customer?


CRM Best Practice: It’s 2:00 pm. Do you know where your data is?

Your prospect and customer database is among your company’s most valuable assets. Is it is at risk of being lost, stolen, or even sabotaged? While a lost or damaged laptop is the usual culprit behind missing data, disgruntled or unscrupulous employees are a clear and present danger as well. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst, and you can’t go wrong.

As a CRM implementation consultant I am often asked to lock the barn door after a data security disaster. There are some sales reps who believe that the leads they generate are theirs and theirs alone. Obviously, leads generated on the company’s nickel belong to the company. Avoid potential misunderstandings with CRM best practices and clear policies. How safe is your data if you have ceded control to others?

Here are 6 measures to minimize the threats to your company data.

  1. Centralize Data. You don’t have access to data that lives inside in someone’s head or only on their hard drive. Prospect and customer data must reside in a secure, central location. That might mean aggregating data from Susan’s Daytimer, Harry’s stack o’ business cards, Phil’s and Heather’s Excel spreadsheets, Jim-Bob’s back-of-an-envelope-and-shoebox filing system, and everyone’s Outlook.
  2.  Back up your data. Then make sure it can be restored. Memory has become so cheap in recent years it is one of the cost-effective investments for your business.
  3. Publish a policy that explicitly states that data is company property. This should be included in your employee agreement, along with the legal remedies you’ll take if the policy is violated. In some organizations it might be necessary to review the policy at sales meetings.
  4. Secure data. While most CRM software systems include security, a defecting employee who’s determined to take your data could spend days making screenshots of contacts. In other words, there is no 100% guarantee of protection.         As extra precaution you can host your data on the web, or change permission settings for importing and exporting data without inhibiting the user’s performance.
  5. Gotcha. If your sales department is truly shark infested, throw some chum into the database. A colleague recently shared this idea: add a few “ringers” who can let you know if they are contacted by a former sales rep (who shouldn’t have the data). This is an extreme tactic and, while I shudder to think this would even need to be implemented, some companies need more safeguards than others.
  6. No Hoarding. All leads must be added to the database. If Jim-Bob wins the lottery and says “Hasta la vista, baby”, the guy who didn’t win 97 million dollars will need to work his deals. The no hoarding rule can be tough to enforce, but there are usually indications the system is being gamed. If a rep frequently closes “Hail Mary” deals that weren’t even on the radar, you have someone who is not playing well with others. Management needs to address the issue – and should also consider how their management practices might be contributing to the behavior.

Count on making people uncomfortable when you introduce data security measures into existing sales organizations. It can be interpreted as a lack of trust (which it may be), and could hurt morale and performance.  Make sure you frame it as a program of developing best practices and don’t make it personal.

And do a little soul searching while you’re at it. What can you do to prevent or improve an “every-man-for-himself” culture?


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