Is Your Prospect Data Sour?

Fact #1: A portion of your prospect data starts to sour the moment you import it into your CRM or database. Some was already sour when imported! Sour means it’s off, it’s obsolete for prospecting.

That’s the problem with churn today. Your prospects move around. If not to new companies then within their own organization to new jobs and responsibilities. They may no longer be the one you sell to.

Since we are all temp employees, how do we keep prospect data current in the sea of change? No one is talking about it. Why not?

Fact #2: You won’t know your prospect data is sour. It all looks good digitally until you use it. Then you’ll know some of it stinks when you:

  • Send an email – and get a hard bounce back
  • Mail a direct piece – and it’s returned to you marked “No such recipient”
  • Call directly – and you’re told they’ve left the company & can’t get their replacement

Prospect databases require you, the owner, to keep data current. Once you have 100s or 1,000s of prospects, you’re burdened. Get lazy and you pay for it.

Work around the Souring of Prospect Data

It would be wonderful to turn over data maintenance to the crowdsourcing world of social media. That’s where prospects keep their own data current for their own benefit and you have access to sell to them (this is the model for Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, any social media).

However, that’s a future we’re not at yet. Until then, here are a few ways of working around sour prospect data.  I’m sure there are more but let’s look at these (none are affiliates):

LinkedIn into Outlook

A prime crowdsourcing tool for business contacts, LinkedIn has big positives for avoiding sour data and some negatives.

Positives of LinkedIn into Outlook

On the plus side, here’s what LinkedIn says you can do once you’re connected via Outlook:

  • Access your LinkedIn network from Outlook.
  • See who your connections are connecting with.
  • See when connections update their profile.
  • See profile photos of LinkedIn members who are on the email. Photos could take a few hours to appear after tool is downloaded.
  • Send invitations to connect directly from Outlook.
  • Access current email addresses, photos and other profile details from a folder titled LinkedIn.

Here’s some more from LikedIn about Accessing LinkedIn through Microsoft Outlook.

We’re talking about the free LinkedIn, not their premium “pay” version and Outlook 2010, which of course you must be using and Steve Ballmer thanks you for that.

Also, before connecting LinkedIn with Outlook, consider going all the way with LinkedIn. If your profile is not 100% completeness, get it there. Also, do the things gurus mention. You can work on this over time, as I am at Chris Arlen.

Connecting LinkedIn with Outlook

This is the workaround I’m using, and here’s how I got there. If you know an easier path please post up a comment.

LinkedIn says “Here’s what you can do today to start leveraging your professional network within Outlook:

1) Download the latest version of the Outlook Social Connector from Microsoft (Outlook 2003, 2007, or 2010 is required)

2) Once that is installed, download the LinkedIn Outlook Connector

3) Restart your Outlook and follow the instructions to connect your LinkedIn account to Outlook

When you’re done with step 3) above you’ll have a folder in Outlook under “My Contacts” called “LinkedIn”. You’ll also have a preexisting folder called “Contacts” under “My Contacts”.

I wanted all my contacts in one folder. If you do too, copy them, in essence a merge, into your primary contacts folder. This process is a little involved but here are the steps:

a) In Outlook, in the left navigation pane, click on “My Contacts”, then click on LinkedIn

b) In the right hand pane, select all contacts (CNTRL+A)

c) Right click all selected contacts, then from the right click menu select “Move”

d) From the “Move” fly-out menu select “Copy to Folder”

e) The “Copy Items” dialog box opens – then find your “Contacts” folder on the left and select it (it’s in alpha order). You’ll also see the LinkedIn folder underneath it but don’t select that – it’s the source you’re copying contacts from. Click OK.

f) If you have duplicates (expect that you will) the “Duplicate Contact Detected” dialog box comes up.

g) Select a radial button at the top for “Add new contact” or “Update information of selected Contact. A backup copy will be saved in Deleted Items Folder”.

h) In the same dialog box, at the bottom click either “Update” (for one record at a time), “Update All” or “Skip”.

i) You’re done.

Negatives of LinkedIn into Outlook

* You only have access to prospects who are your connections. This means you should get connected in LinkedIn with as many prospects as fast as possible. They will be better prospects because they have given you permission to connect.

Alas, this means you can’t prospect people you’re not connected to. Is that really so bad?

* Not everyone keeps their LinkedIn data fully up to date. The freshness of contact data is dependent on your connections updating it. However, it’s more likely they’ll have their data current than if it’s sitting in your Outlook or ACT db.

* Not everyone includes their email address and phone data in their profile. However, you can still send up to 50 messages from within LinkedIn at one time.

* Not everyone includes their mailing addresses, which hurts when you want to make direct mailings. Haven’t found a workaround for that one.

Data.com

Disclaimer: I don’t use Data.com but have spent two sessions viewing demos with their account execs. Here’s what I learned.

Data.com (part of Salesforce.com) combines 32 million individuals’ contact data from Jigsaw.com with 200 million companies’ data from Dun & Bradstreet.

Individuals’ contact data is crowdsourced from Jigsaw, meaning a community of 2 million cloud-based community (aka sales folks) enter info in to get info out in return.  Dun & Bradstreet provides big volumes of company data.

For example, I want the contact data of a particular prospect. I enter one contact (name, phone and email), and I get to pull one out (it’s really 5 points for one in/out). I can also add company data and earn/spend points too. You earn a personal rating for the volume and quality of contact info you provide, just like on eBay.

Getting Prospect Data out of Data.com

The more you add, the more points you earn and the more data you can pull out.

Or, you can buy contact data, with pricing based on volume. Note there is a limit of 300 per day.

It’s a clever barter system with very sophisticated controls to keep data true and current. It’s this community that will update contact data if they find a bad apple or sour one.

Working with Prospect Data within Data.com

Alternately to pulling data out, you can work within Data.com. It has some  tools for tracking your actions and monitoring contacts’ social media activities. I didn’t dive into this so my knowledge is limited.

Positives of Data.com

  • Contact data is kept relatively current via the cloud-based community
  • Complete contact data as Data.com requires name, title, email and phone to be entered
  • Large base of contact data (32 million individuals) to pull from
  • Integrates seamlessly with Salesforce.com (they own Data.com)

Negatives of Data.com

  • Cost involved, you have to pay if you want more data than you can barter
  • Data.com is not a CRM so doesn’t have full functionality
  • If you work in Data.com, you’ll need to transfer your activities into your non-Salesforce.com CRM
  • Though large base of contacts, what happens when you can’t find who you need? (happened to me on several test attempts)
  • Contact data is only refreshed once a community member uses it and finds it sour – this must vary so who knows how frequently?

Plaxo Personal Assistant

Plaxo (owned by Comcast) is another workaround to avoid souring of prospect data.

Plaxo is a consolidated online address book that syncs to Outlook, Google and smartphones. Their mission is to fight address book decay. Their press kit says they have 21 million accounts and Comcast another 29 million.

Disclaimer: I don’t use Plaxo or its Plaxo Personal Assistant but gave it a once over on their web site. Here’s what I learned.

This is what Plaxo says about how Plaxo Personal Assistant gets data:

“Plaxo acquires contact info for these suggestions from a variety of publicly available data sources. We then determine which portions of that info to suggest based on a number of factors, including whether other Plaxo users have that contact info in their address books, and whether other Personal Assistant users have accepted or rejected that suggested contact info in the past.

Suggested contact info only comes from publicly available data sources. It does not come from any individual Plaxo member’s address book.”

The basic Plaxo (part of the Personal Assistant) is crowdsourcing like Jigsaw.com. Once you’re in the community, you benefit by getting your contacts to join. Haven’t you received an email from an acquaintance asking you to update your Plaxo contact card?

Positives of Plaxo Personal Assistant

  • Proactively searches to fill in contact data holes
  • Recognizes outdated data and prompts with current data (don’t know how that is done)
  • Affordable at $7 per month + $5 per month to sync with Outlook, Google and smartphones (must buy a year’s worth)
  • Sync function should update contact data with changes
  • Data available from contacts you imported

Negatives of Plaxo Personal Assistant

  • You only have access to data of contacts you know
  • The freshness of contact data is dependent on the data owners’ updating it.
  • Is Plaxo old news and losing steam? Speaking for myself, I’ve stopped responding to Plaxo email requests to update my contact card – not sure if others do the same

Alternatively try Inbound Marketing

Now may be the time to stop pursuing prospects and get them to come to you.

Sales reps may need to let go of old ways and work differently to earn prospects’ trust, data and ultimately their sales?

Inbound Marketing pulls prospects in to engage with sellers. The subtle difference is that happens when the prospects are ready to engage.

Inbound marketing includes blogs, social media, organic search (SEO) and paid search (PPC).

There’s also a secret to kick starting inbound marketing so it’s not a walk in the park either.

Prospect Data & Databases Remain

Prospect databases and their locked up data will likely continue to be used. But changes are in play and the future is now.

  • What do you do to avoid sour prospect data?
  • Which crowdsourcing tools do you use?
Questions or Ideas?

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