Harvesting insights from data can yield tremendous returns for any organization, but only recently have private equity firms, family offices and other investor classes taken to the trend. Now more than ever, a lean, goal-oriented data program has been proven to provide private equity investors an edge over the competition and win more deals.
In this article, we explore the key characteristics of the technology leveraged by leading firms in their pursuit of more reliable and actionable data that enhances business development, deal sourcing and growth efforts.
The supply of privately-owned, family-backed or well-performing businesses in the United States is grossly outnumbered by the demand for such assets. This dry powder, in combination with the fragmentation of lower middle and middle market buyer types, has caused complications for investment bankers and M&A advisors who sit squarely in the middle of the dealmaking process.
Given the countless hours that these these professionals spend on planes, aboard trains, and in automobiles, how do they keep their finger on the pulse of the fast-moving, often tumultuous, dealmaking landscape? In this article, we explore the top four best practices of business development road warriors.
1. Arm yourself with apps
It’s time to accept that the modern day smartphone is a small, yet mighty hand-held laptop. While there are obviously advantages to full-size computers, constant travel becomes much easier when all the information you need is in the palm of your hand.
The effective use of applications is a game-changer for most road warriors. On every trip, make sure you’re armed with apps including Concur (or other business expense tracking systems); LinkedIn and other professional networks; DocuSign, for on-the-go NDA execution; and the mobile app for the CRM of your choosing, like DealCloud. Having quick access to these tools will help you spend less time on admin work and more time on closing deals.
2. Log notes right away
While having a full day of meetings is a powerful way to increase dealflow, not properly logging discussion points makes the meetings much less meaningful for the future. It’s completely natural to say “I’ll log it later,” or “there’s no time between now and my next meeting,” but you can always find the time if you have the right tools at your disposal. Accessing your CRM from your mobile phone is easy to do whether you’re in the cab going from meeting to meeting, or making the most of down-time at lunch.
The most effective business development professionals use CRM apps to constantly log notes and activities with several parties (both individuals and organizations), tag the related industries involved and set up follow-up tasks. Logging these business development activities right away makes it easier to gather insights from data inputs, and helps you stay organized on-the-go.
3. Work smart even while offline
When traveling, there’s always a few pesky hours where you’re required to turn your data off, or shut down your computer. When those situations arise, it’s important to have the capability to be productive and in communication with your teams. Use this down time to log into your CRM, update any tasks that you completed on the trip, and take stock of the advancements your firm has made while you’ve been gone.
The most productive road warriors will do things like check the status on an LOI that was submitted earlier in the day, view the latest interaction with a given investment banker, or run a quick search on the firm’s activity in a certain industry. If your CRM can’t help you do those things while there’s no WiFi, it may be time to reconsider which systems to use.
4. Add new contacts from wherever you are
One of the perks of business travel in the private equity and investment banking industry is the amount of people you get to meet. From industry conferences to trade shows, there’s no shortage of hands to shake. What you do with that new contact, however, is more important that the volume of people you meet.
Seasoned business development professionals leverage technology such as business card scanners so they can quickly upload the information found on any given business card to the firm’s CRM system. In addition to email addresses and phone numbers, these scanners also allow you to enter notes about the person’s deal strike zone, mutual connections, and even personal interests. This type of detail is important for you to remember, and it’s also important that everyone at the firm have access to it, making this tool extremely powerful
Given the competitive, fast-moving nature of the private equity industry, it’s more important than ever that business development professionals be plugged-in and in-the-know even while on the road. By using powerful tools such as CRM applications and business card scanners while traveling, road warriors can work smart and maintain full coverage of the market.
Last year we met with over 1,300 firms including PE fund managers, investment bankers, lenders and corporate development professionals, and consistently found that the most successful deal makers are systematic in their approach to both inbound and outbound business development. Given the recent changes in the market, taking a systematic approach is much easier said than done.
Now that you’re past the decision-making stage, it’s time to think strategically about getting the most out of the CRM system, and how to make the setup process as smooth as possible for you and your team.
In this article we explore five simple steps to getting your team prepared for the CRM implementation process.
1 – Get ready for the change
Whether switching systems, or purchasing one for the first time, it’s extremely important that members of your team see that the system has buy-in from the management and executive level. Since this system will be used every single day, it’s critical that management think about existing processes that will change, and to communicate the ways it might affect the team.
Before implementation takes place, share the estimated implementation timeline, dates for training and — perhaps most importantly — share the list of goals your organization has for the new system, and its expected benefits.
2 – Get your contact lists in order
Your team’s years of business development efforts have likely resulted in a mixed bag of purchased lead lists, individually-managed Excel spreadsheets, conference and event attendance lists, and closely-held rolodexes. Take stock of these lists and decide which are relevant and accurate enough to integrate into your new CRM software.
Not sure what needs to go and what needs to stay? Consider what information you need for a productive day of outbound calling or emailing. What data helps those conversations go smoothly? Which fields are confusing or yield inconsistent information? Take note of fields you’re not sure what to do with, and if necessary, decide on new labels or naming conventions for the fields you want to keep.
3 – Assess your data cleanliness level
In order to speed along the data integration process, you must first think objectively about your data cleanliness. Is your database in disarray? An honest assessment is a critical step.
The goal of data normalization is to cleanse your records while simultaneously weeding out the superfluous data that could potentially clog your new CRM. While thoroughly reviewing your data can be taxing on your team’s time and resources, it’s important to fill in blank fields and remove duplicates. Even one hour of cleansing per day in the weeks leading up to implementation can significantly reduce the amount of ‘dirty data’ in your CRM. Minimizing and standardizing the number of fields, activity types and statuses is often a great place to start.
As you begin the data normalization process with your team, keep in mind the ‘must have’ fields discussed above, and create consensus around a ‘less is more’ mentality. Does that piece of data help you connect the dots between a contact and a business development opportunity? Has that field shown to be instrumental in helping your team get a deal done? If not, it may become the type of data that muddies your new CRM system. It may even create the same pain points you’ve already experienced.
4 – Make New Habits
Put simply, clean data does not stay clean by its own volition. Your efforts to cleanse data can easily be undone with a few short weeks of careless use. That’s why when implementing a CRM software at your company, it’s important to get all users ready to change their behavior. No matter the size of your organization, if they’re going to touch the software at some point in time, they need to be prepared to make new habits.
Making a concerted effort upfront to train team members on the importance of avoiding redundancies and errors can significantly impact how useful your CRM system becomes over time. It’s not enough to install simple measures such as ‘required field’ functions to help your team avoid inputting incomplete data: you must stop human errors and break old, bad habits before they start.
In the weeks leading up to implementation, the team must internalize the importance of clean data and be prepared to spend more time on maintenance — and this includes everyone from the top to the bottom of the totem pole. When their outbound calling and deal sourcing efforts become more productive as a result, they’ll thank you for mandating these behavior changes.
5 – Don’t go it alone
If the implementation of your CRM system feels overwhelming and complex, rest assured that following these simple steps will get your team off to a great start.
Over 350 firms have migrated to DealCloud’s CRM because of the way it adapts to meet the complexities of modern deal making and of business development teams of all shapes and sizes. Don’t go it alone — seek guidance from DealCloud’s dedicated teams who have blueprints for making CRM implementation faster and more meaningful for the specific needs of your firm.