Purge Your CRM to Avoid Information Overload

May 29, 2013

With all of the hubbub and rigmarole surrounding Big Data, it’s easy to confuse more data with more knowledge. For software executives, the confession that you don’t have the need or capacity for more data is often seen as a shameful admission of defeat in an increasingly analytical industry.
It’s true that data is necessary to make fact based decisions, but it’s by no means sufficient. Once you’ve assembled the data, you need to make decisions based on it, and sheer volume of data makes decision-making harder, not easier.
The difficulty for many companies, including many of OpenView’s portfolio members, is separating the wheat from the chaff.

  • ‘Wheat’ information is data that will drive strategic decisions at your company and tactically allow you to optimize your approach to prospects.
  • ‘Chaff’ information is data that your salespeople hide from their interface, or even worse, train themselves to ignore.

You may think that even if a piece of information isn’t really helping, at the very least it can’t hurt… but you’re wrong.
A haystack of useless data in your CRM will distract your sales and marketing professionals from the few needles of information that are actually relevant. Worse, collecting and maintaining that data can be very expensive.

CRM Optimization: Pushing the Purge

That’s the basic reason I support regularly purging your CRM of useless information on a regular basis. It’s about clearing the haystack and making sure that every single data point in your CRM is useful to at least one person at your company (and hopefully many more than one). If you ask me, this process is just as important as making sure that the ‘wheat’ is there in the first place, and is actually way, way easier.
Specifically, purging your CRM should eliminate three types of useless information:  

1) Companies or Contacts You Have No Way of Reaching

At some point in your company’s lifetime, a sales rep spoke to a guy named Frank at some huge company like Walmart, and entered him into the system along with Walmart’s corporate phone number and no other information.
Perhaps it seemed like a good idea at the time, but the sad truth is that Frank no longer has any reason to exist in your CRM. You can’t reach him, and even if you could, the CRM entry would add no value to your conversation. It might even lead a rep who is calling into Walmart on a hopeless quest to find out who Frank is and try to speak with him, which is quite frankly (get it?) a waste of time. Delete Frank and his information-poor compatriots and never look back.

2) Seldom-Used Fields

Around the time your colleague entered Frank into the system, he or she also had the brilliant idea to include the number of years each contact had been at their company. He/she added a field for this information before being canned three weeks later. Never mind that that information automatically goes stale once every year, it turns out your salespeople rarely collect this information and really don’t use it when they do. If its only function is to take up space in your lead view and occasionally distract your salespeople from asking relevant questions, it does not belong in your CRM.

3) Duplicate Entries

In theory, every company should have some sort of software that screens out duplicate entries before they make it into your system. In reality, some always find a way to sneak in. A purge is an excellent time to retroactively kick these out of your CRM or merge them with the proper entries to prevent the always embarrassing act of reaching out to someone who’s already bought your product or told you to screw off.

Downsides of Deleting this Info: None

I’ve racked my brain trying to think of how deleting the above information forever could possibly be a mistake, and I just can’t see it. There is useful information, which should be preserved. There’s potentially useful information that you have to think hard about to decide whether it’s worth keeping. And then there’s usually a whole bunch of information that at one point seemed like it would be valuable, but now everyone agrees it is not. That’s the stuff you should get out of there.

Added Benefits: Rediscovering Good Information that Was Lost or Buried

An added benefit is that in taking a critical eye to the information you have in your system, you’ll also discover really good information that needs more attention. For instance, let’s say you’re trying to decide whether to purge a group of leads that don’t have a phone number. Looking into theses leads, you may realize that many of them are actually really good — your reps just aren’t putting effort against them because they don’t have the information they need and can’t spend time on research. This is a good opportunity to take inventory of the information you need to collect to reinvigorate overlooked opportunities.
I can’t stress this enough: when it comes to information, too much CAN hurt. Often, when a rep isn’t properly using the system or is missing important pieces of information, it’s not because they’re lazy or inept. It’s because they’re suffering from information overload. Clear out the dead wood from your system, and point them to the few pieces of information that matter.

When is the last time you purged your CRM? Are there other pieces of useless information you’ve found helpful to rid yourself of?

Behavioral Data Analyst

Nick is a Behavioral Data Analyst at <a href="https://www.betterment.com/">Betterment</a>. Previously he analyzed OpenView portfolio companies and their target markets to help them focus on opportunities for profitable growth.