Who Owns Your Prospects? You or Your Employer?

by Chris Arlen on February 16, 2012

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Who Owns Prospects & their Info? Sales reps or Employers?This question has come up a number of times as sales reps consider changing jobs. Phrased differently you could ask:

Who owns prospects’ info, their digital data, the relationship?

Sales reps or employers?

Different questions that can be answered by an interesting sales strategy.  A strategy for remaining ethical and legal when reps change employers.

Before we unveil this strategy let’s set the stage.

The Scenario

If you sell, you will be changing employers. It’s not uncommon to change employers three to four times in two years, especially during these recessionary years. We have all become temps.

You’re hired because of your sales skills, and/or industry expertise and/or knowledge within a particular geographic territory.

However, you also bring relationships with prospects and their contact info. Many times you also bring:

  • Size of the sale opportunity in dollars or units
  • Insight into wants, needs & challenges
  • Incumbent’s strengths & weaknesses

When you started work at your company you filled up their CRM with your prospect info. You input digitally (Outlook into CSV files) and manually (stacks of business cards) into their database.

Over the next few months you filled in more info to your original prospects and added new ones.

Now your firm’s CRM holds a mash-up of prospect info: some you seeded along with some you’ve added as a new employee.

The Warning Signs

It’s now six months or a year later. You’ve worked diligently and produced the expected results.

However, something’s not quite right.

Your firm has just let go the other two sales reps even though their numbers weren’t bad.

Executive management is skirting your direct questions about the company’s health and viability.

Suddenly your access is blocked to all records in the CRM that you didn’t bring in when you started. You can no longer see prospect data that was there before you, or that is now part of your expanded territory (remember the other two reps have been let go).

Getting Ready to Jump

The signals are there. It’s time to look for new employment – a more stable and trusting work place.

You begin looking quietly for your next landing pad. You check LinkedIn, contact industry-specific recruiters and industry friends, such as consultants, suppliers, and trusted competitors.

The Question is “Your Prospect Info, or Theirs?”

We’re talking about the information here – not the digital data sitting in your firm’s CRM. Of course you DO NOT export that data because it’s unethical and possibly illegal.

But the question is about the prospect info you started with prior to your current employment.

Who owns that info? Who owns the relationship?

When you leave your current employer, can you use that information at your next job?

Is there a way to ethically and legally use your wealth of contact info when you move on to a new job?

Social Media to the Rescue

The answer to these questions is social media.

When your prospects participate in social media, you get to go there with them – if they connect with you.

In social media databases your contacts maintain their own information (sometimes this is called crowdsourcing).

The answer to who owns your prospects’ contact info is – they do, your prospects.

However, once they give you access either through LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, etc. you now have an evergreen prospect database.

A prospect database that is not proprietary to your employer. A database that’s kept current without your effort, which is a huge plus.

Your Job @ Every Company You Work For

At last, here’s the sales strategy mentioned earlier.

Connect with every prospect and customer you meet through LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, etc.

You won’t connect with all of them. Some are not open networkers (LIONs in LikedIn) and some only give access to those they know well.

But this makes it even more important to reach out and make that first sales contact as soon as possible.  This is contact by phone, email, snail mail, and in person.

Once contacted, immediately request to connect via their social media of choice.

It’s part of your sales job to develop relationships. Participating and engaging prospects and customers in social media is part of that process.

Connecting with prospects via social media should be your primary sales goal from day one at your current employer.  Social media provides platforms for building relationships over time.

When the Time Comes

Now, when you realize its time to move on to another employer, you notify your network of prospects through social media.

And there they are, right with you.

In the end, sales reps own the relationships with prospects, while employers own the digital data in their databases.

Prospects’ information is owned by the prospects’ themselves. Social media provides the access to those they authorize.

In Summary: Your #1 Sales Job

Is to connect via social media with as many prospects as possible, as quickly as possible.

For the good of your company. For the good of your prospect relationships. For the good of your future.

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