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10 steps to mastering data for a more predictable sales cycle

Do not base your sales forecast on gut feelings. Follow 10 steps to create a single, reliable view of the customer with master data management.

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The more salesforce.com implementations you have, the more you encounter duplication, inaccuracies, incomplete data, and inconsistencies.

The 21st-century sales cycle does not start with “wining and dining” customers—today, it all starts with data. Usually that data resides in a CRM system, helping your sales department manage, store, and analyze customer data. But a CRM system is only a first step. If you are looking for an accurate, predictable sales cycle from acquisition to renewal, you will need to focus on gaining a single customer view using master data management (MDM).

For example, if you have offices located worldwide, or have acquired or merged with other businesses, you probably have multiple salesforce.com (or other CRM system) environments. The more salesforce.com implementations you have, the more you encounter duplication, inaccuracies, incomplete data, and inconsistencies. Your customer “Mark Smith” might have opted out of receiving your monthly email but “M. Smith” keeps getting it. If they’re the same person, you’re going to have a difficult time predicting whether Mr. Smith is a viable prospect, a real customer, or a repeat client.

A single view of the customer

To ensure that sales forecasts are more than just gut feel, supplement your CRM with an MDM solution that provides a single, accurate, trustworthy view of the customer. How? To start, take some well-planned steps:

  1. Track down your sources of customer data. Sounds easy, but you will need to find the data and turn it into actionable information.
  2. Determine the value in each data source. For instance, salesforce.com might hold the most recent email addresses, but your ERP system might have the history of previous transactions.
  3. Choose the right platform for customer master data. An outdated data warehouse will not support sophisticated analytics nor can it be easily configured.
  4. Synchronize CRM data with other systems. Look for an MDM solution that can keep salesforce.com synchronized with all other data sources.
  5. Merge duplicate records with fuzzy matching. Small variations in names can result in duplicates slipping past, e.g., Mr. Smith in the example above.
  6. Be proactive. Tackle data quality before it becomes an issue.
  7. Ensure your data is current and complete. Plug as many holes in your data as possible.
  8. Standardize data. If your CRM is so flexible as to support unstandardized text fields, make sure your reports are inputting data consistently.
  9. Establish the role of data steward. This person should know your CRM inside and out and have a close relationship with your sales and marketing teams.
  10. Build a culture of ownership. Require that sales people own their accounts and keep customer records current.

Your sales department won’t be the only team to benefit from a single customer view. Customer service can be more proactive and marketing can track campaign performance more accurately as well. And you can all rest more assured that your sales forecasts are based on more than a hunch.

For more on how to create a single view of your customers, download the white paper “10 Essential Steps to Creating a Single View of Your Customers in Salesforce.”

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