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Cover Your Assets: Protecting Customer Data

Think about all the hard work you have put into building your business. All the long hours spent working the phones, sending e-mails, attending events and making sales calls. How about all the money spent for communications, postage, breakfasts, lunches and collateral materials to support your sales efforts? Finally, how about the cost to acquire all the information about your market and your prospects? All of this adds up to a substantial investment and this information — your customer and prospect records — is probably the most valuable asset your business has. Therefore, it is very surprising how little care is taken by many businesses with this most valuable asset.

In our consulting practice, we have worked with a number of clients without a single process or system to protect, track and measure all of the contacts, data and information in their possession.

Since telecom sales is an industry with the unfortunate distinction of having rather high turnover, it is not uncommon to find sales territories prospected by several different sales reps from the same company in the same year. Because many businesses do not do a good job of tracking prospect information, this means they end up paying for the same information over and over again.

For example, let’s say Sales Rep A visited a prospect in January and gathered important sales information, maybe even had an actual meeting with the prospect but left the company soon after and never recorded the information before leaving. Now a new person, Sales Rep B, replaces Sales Rep A in May and, without benefit of any prior information, prospects the same client again with similar results. Then possibly even a third person, Sales Rep C, visits this prospect yet again with similar results. The same prospects have been called on over and over again, yet no one is recording the information. The result is the business has paid for the same information over and over and, what’s worse, the prospect likely is questioning the credibility of a business that continues to send new sales reps to gather the same information

Protecting your customer and prospect information is essential and is one of the most important actions you can take to protect your business. So here are four steps you can take to capture and protect your business’ most important asset — INFORMATION!

Step 1. Mark every copy (handwritten or printed) of your prospect and customer lists “Company Confidential.” For that matter, while you are at it, mark every important document your company has in the same way.

Step 2. Have your legal counsel prepare documents to protect all company confidential information and be sure that every employee, subcontractor and anyone who comes into contact with or has access to company, customer, or prospect information has signed a confidentiality agreement about the restricted use of any company information during their employment and after they leave the company. Be sure to keep executed copies of these documents in your protected files.

Step 3. Buy, subscribe to, or build and implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track all customer and prospect information and control access to the data. There are many good systems and services available for even small businesses. With a little research, a few product demonstrations and meetings with product representatives, you should be able to determine what is best for your business. Much of the decision depends upon whether you want an application that integrates with an in-house system or if you prefer your CRM system to be outsourced using a subscription-based, hosted service. One benefit of subscription-based offerings is that software is always current. Choose a system that has good reporting capabilities and absolutely make certain that data is backed up every single day. This should go without saying, but we have seen so many exceptions it is worth repeating: Do not store backups in the same location as the system they are backing up!

Step 4. Be diligent in managing your data and your people. Set expectations for your employees and require all prospecting data to be input and updated daily. Management should always “inspect what you expect,” viewing activity reports frequently and asking questions about contacts, trends and forecasts.

Cover your assets and protect your information by taking proper precautions and investing your time and money upfront. It is far less expensive for your business to do this now rather than waiting until there is a problem. The savings from not calling on the same prospects over and over again may save you enough to pay for your investment.

Steps to Protecting Your Data

  1. Mark all important documents “Company Confidential.”
  2. Execute confidentiality agreements with all employees and contractors.
  3. Invest in and implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
  4. “Inspect what you expect” — track your data, keep it current and back it up.

Got Questions? Ask the Channel Coach. Send your questions to wbtaylor@corporateladders.com. Please include your name, city, state and a phone number where you can be reached. First names and locations only will be published.

Bill Taylor is president of Corporate Ladders, a management, sales and business development consulting and coaching firm specializing in technology, telecom, Internet, health care and financial services companies. He can be reached at +1 201 825 8296 or wbtaylor@corporateladders.com.


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