If your sales agents are poisoning your database to suppress competition, this article is for you. I’m going to teach you how to create a system built on cooperation to enhance the quality of leads in your database, even if your agents are paid on commission, so you can better market to your existing database. This article will help you bring down your cost-per-lead so you can get more business from your existing leads.
Diagnosing the Problem:
The Tragedy of the Commons
If the compensation for your sales department includes higher bonuses for the top sales agent and does not punish sales agents who suppress competition, then your cost-per-lead will be higher than if you were operating a team with a healthy culture.
What often happens is agents strip valuable contact information such as phone numbers and email addresses from leads or omit notes to make it more difficult for another agent to work the lead. Uncooperative agents use their own system to manage their leads, which makes it more difficult for the company to aggregate data for remarketing.
Since your sales agents are not cooperating, agents will serve their needs before the needs of the company in order to maximize their compensation, even if it means driving up the cost of lead generation. If the majority of your agents are doing this, then the expensive software your paying for to manage your leads, is probably not working for you.
This is referred to as a Tragedy of the Commons scenario, wherein a shared resource is destroyed by the collective action of individuals acting in their own best interest, but in a way that harms their collective well-being. How do we fix this problem?
This is not a software problem, although software is part of the solution. I’ve seen teams move from one software system to another because they think the limitations of the software are what is causing the problem. It’s not. The same problem will follow you from software system to software system because this is an ecosystem problem.
Your goal should to bring the ecosystem to a healthy equilibrium where cooperation and preserving the integrity of the database is something that is created as a byproduct of agents acting in their own self interest.
In other words, you need to get your team and agents in alignment so an action on the part of the agent has beneficial and productive outcomes on two levels, the individual level and the collective level.
Now that we know what is causing the problem, we know we need to take a high level approach to solving it. Here are some actions you can take to restore the ecosystem to a healthy properly-aligned state.
Recalibrate Your Reward System
Reward systems are feedback loops that encourage the exact behavior you are rewarding. Reward systems need to reward behavior that contributes to the quantity and quality of leads since both are important for sustaining your business.
If you’re seeing a lot of dud leads in your system that are incomplete or not qualified, then you’re over-rewarding agents based on the total number of leads or deals submitted. If your agents are only going for the low-hanging fruit that are perfectly qualified leads or leads with a huge commission attached instead of nurturing a full pipeline, then you’re over-rewarding quality and wasting a lot of imperfect but valuable leads.
The right balance of rewards will encourage your agents to prioritize high-quality leads but also not discard leads that are less-than-ideal but are still valuable.
In most cases, finding this balance requires subtle adjustments since the effects of feedback loops amplifies their effects.
Punish Polluters and Correct Mistakes
The other kind of feedback loop we have at our disposal are negative feedback loops or punishments.
If the department is exhibiting healthy behavior for the most part, then the best leverage point may be to punish the few bad apples. Agents who are not conforming to a cooperative culture need to have appropriate consequences for their actions. That may be enough to discourage cheating and poisoning the well for the other agents.
Negative feedback loops can also correct behavior that is less malicious. Mistakes, for instance, can corrupt your lead data but over-punishing your agents for small mistakes erodes morale and trust. For smaller mistakes or infractions, negative feedback in the form of error messages are much more effective and appropriate.
Data intake tools with validation, input masks and required fields can help you prevent mistakes from being entered. If your CRM system does not have these features, you can use a webform tool (my favorite is Gravity Forms) and then use a webhook to POST the data to your CRM.
Hide the Central Database
If rewards and punishments are not effective or available to modify the behavior of your team, then you can protect the central database of leads by keeping it hidden or inaccessible to agents. Think of it like a lake hidden up in the mountains that is protected by treacherous terrain. Polluters are not able to contaminate the lake. They can only access and pollute what is downstream. For the most dysfunctional teams with the most destructive agents, this is often the best approach.
Since the central protected database can not be modified by agents directly, you’ll need another way to keep this information up-to-date. The best I’ve found is by utilizing a software system with a robust API for your centralized database and making sure that your other systems can send a POST request to update the data in the central database. This will allow you to transmit information from one system to another behind-the-scenes.
If an agent takes an action in your phone system or CRM, you can send a POST to the central database to modify the lead data without the agent knowing. Then you can use the central database for your email marketing, targeted social media, direct mail and other marketing campaigns. You can take this process a step further and automate it by posting data from your central database to your additional software systems so everything is kept in sync and up-to-date.
In order for this to work at peak efficiency, you must use software systems with robust APIs. Keep this in mind when choosing the software systems you want to utilize. A great API can save you tons of time because it will allow you to automate the transfer of data.
Examine the Culture of the Organization
The last solution is outside the scope of this article, but worth mentioning. If the organization itself is out of alignment, then the dysfunctional behavior of the sales department will continue to manifest itself.
To determine if that is the source of the problem, you need to ask consider “what are the rules and code of conduct that govern the organization?” While you may have the rules displayed on the wall, these may not be the actual rules that are enforced. If that’s the case, then you need to approach the problem from an even higher level.
If sales agents are trying to game the system to earn higher commissions at the expense of your entire sales team, then you can modify your rewards, punish misbehaving agents, remove access to the remarketing database or you may need to realign the organization in order to fix the problem.