Who’s Leads Are They Anyway?
Business owners, sales managers and marketers alert!
You built the product, the business, hired the sales team, invested in advertising, marketing collateral and campaigns but, believe it or not, not everyone on your team agrees that you own the information about leads that result from the combined of your sales team, your marketing team and all your other efforts at marketing campaigns.
I bet you’ve guessed who I’m referring to… Your sales team.
In a way it’s an age old debate. There are no shortage of stories about sales people that take their contact list with them when they leave one business to go to work for its competitor. Of course, that’s one risk that businesses face when placing control of customer information in the hands of sales people.
Now before I go further, let me be clear. I’m a sales person first. I love sales people. But, as with any profession, there are the great, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Of course there are many sales automation and CRM tools available, in fact recently the CRM Idol competition has been in the news a lot with over 60 online CRM offerings available! Today I was surfing LinkedIn reading a discussion about online CRM, ACT databases and the pros and cons of both. That’s when I noticed a comment by one opinionated sales rep saying, “I’m the one building the relationship, I’m the one doing all the follow up and leg work, I own the lead until they pay my company for something, then they’re a customer and now the company can claim joint ownership of that customer.”
Wow! Pretty bold I think.
I’m truly glad I ran across this comment. It was a great reminder of the gulf that often exists between the perceived interests of sales people and businesses they represent. And ownership of leads, contact lists and relationships is certainly one of the most contentious issues.
Yes, there are two sides to the argument. In many businesses sales people invest a tremendous amount of time and energy to find a lead, develop it into a real sales opportunity and then close a sale. They may even be compensated solely on commission. And in return for a commission on a closed sale to one in 5 or 10 leads, they cold call, attend networking events and basically bust their butts day and night.
So, is a salesperson justified in claiming ownership of the list of phone numbers and emails for all the leads they’ve made contact with? Sure, I believe they are.
And if you own a business, manage the sales team or the marketing efforts, you’d better know that’s how the sales team looks at it.
And if they decide to move on or you decide they need to move on, you can bet they’ll be looking for a way to bring that info with them and exploit those relationships.
I’ve heard stories of competitors paying signing bonuses expressly because the rep brought an electronic list of customers with them. I’ve heard of reps selling lists to competitors even though they were moving into an entirely different industry.
So, here are a few things business owners, sales managers and marketing teams should consider:
1) Who on your team has access to contact information about all your leads, not just your customers? Remember, leads today will be customers for you or your competitor tomorrow.
2) Do sales people have access to only their own leads and customers or all of the business’ leads and customers?
3) Do you have a written agreement with your sales rep that stipulates the ownership of information about customers and leads? Are enforceable confidentiality clauses in place? What about non-compete?
4) Are you sure the information about leads your business has access to is as complete and “fresh” as the information the sales person has?
5) Given a complete and up to date list of leads and customers, do you have a plan to reach out to those leads and customers quickly in the event of a change in your sales staff?
In fact, this is one very strategic way that Online CRM solutions can protect a business. Software on your network is easier for reps to compromise. Finding the database on the server and copying it is not rocket science. Plus, many online CRMs restrict each sales rep’s access to only their own leads and customers. Wherever the contact list is stored, making sure it’s up to date and easy to access enables you to react to changes.
When your sales staff changes, give the list of affected leads and customers to other reps to immediately reach out to AND send out an email blast with updated information about how to make contact with the business. The last thing you want is your best customer to have only your out-going sales rep’s cell phone in their rolodex.