(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
In the end, and regardless of what all the vendors of customer relationship management software say, these things are just databases. Plain and simple.
Sure, there are features for managing leads, opportunities, services, marketing, emails and activities. But they all rely on data. Good data. It’s the data that drives the value of a good CRM system. But when it comes to the data there are generally two big problems.
The first is managing it. That’s because a database needs care. It needs administration. It needs oversight, reviews, controls and processes. Your CRM database, if it’s to be useful at all, need to be accurate and complete. Key information shouldn’t be missing, out of date or incorrect. My best clients have people that are responsible for this data. They ensure that rules are followed. They check up on the employees entering data into the system. They train, they automate, they control their systems closely. The know that only with good data can management get the analytics and metrics needed to make decisions. And only with good data can workflows and artificial intelligence be relied upon to automatically perform actions and communications that will save time and increase profitability.
But this column isn’t about managing data. It’s about the second biggest problem: finding data. And that’s where Pipedrive comes in.
Pipedrive, a popular CRM application geared towards small and mid-sized businesses, recently introduced a new lead management toolset called Prospector. It includes a highly customizable chatbot that engages with web traffic 24/7, assists live chatting so that sales reps can qualify leads in real-time, offers web forms to capture lead data and an add-on called Web Visitors for monitoring web activity. That’s good. But the real value here is something else. Prospector also comes with data. Lots and lots of it. 400 million business profiles, actually.
Why? Because most businesses (including mine) struggle with finding new business. A lead management system is great. But it’s not very helpful if there are no leads to manage. “Research shows that prospecting and lead qualification remain the biggest challenges that sales professionals face every day,” Krishna Panicker, VP of Product, Pipedrive says in a company release. “While using technology for sales and lead generation has a direct correlation with sales success, many sales professionals are not using technology for lead generation. We want to change that and help sales teams find and close more deals with the best tools for leads.”
Pipedrive’s own data says that their customers need…well…data. Their annual State of Sales survey of 1,000 sales professionals revealed that more than half (54 percent) struggle with finding sales leads and that nearly half of the leads they find are actually generated by salespeople themselves. 55 percent of companies think that sales reps need to improve their ability to incubate promising leads for the future.
Pipedrive isn’t the only CRM platform doing this. Others, like Salesforce, Zoho, HubSpot and Microsoft Dynamics have also, in the past few years, been offering the ability for their customers to acquire lead data from top lead providers like ZoomInfo, InsideView and Lead411. These options have been available through separate integrations and add-ons but I’m expecting in the not-too-distant future the data will be a standard part of a CRM implementation’s offerings and that every mainstream CRM application will have this resource.
The lead database industry has been, for years, fragmented and in many cases lacks credibility (I get dozens of spam emails every week from dubious firms offering data to buy). Now, many CRM vendors are realizing that just providing a platform nowadays isn’t enough to guarantee the success of a CRM system. The more and better data that goes into that platform, the more use the system will receive and the more features will be leveraged. In turn, that means the continuation of monthly fees from happier subscribers.
The takeaway is that, when evaluating a CRM system, it’s not just about the features anymore. It’s about what’s going in to it. The best vendors, like Pipedrive, who offer lead data will always stand apart from those that don’t. If you’re a prospective buyer, the opportunity to receive lead data from your CRM provider should be an important consideration before you move forward.