Imagine you could get a copy of Warren Buffett’s rolodex; who would you call first? Which makes us wonder: How much is your database worth?
The most powerful tool in a salesperson’s toolbox is his database. Whether it’s in a rolodex or an iPad, your clients, contacts and vendors that make your sales career successful is far more valuable than the latest whizz-bang mobile tool, social network or techno-thingamajig. Sales remains a business of relationships. Who you know matters more than whether you connect by phone or text.
So, how much is your database worth? I don’t mean your address book. That is, unfortunately, what most databases look like, filled with re-purposed postal addresses, used for mass mailings. Some are overpopulated with purchased email lists, ending in AOL or Compuserve. That’s not your database; it’s a junk pile. It’s worth about the same.
Your database, to be worth anything, must be carefully, lovingly, curated. Think of the top one hundred people in your life who would take your call any time, reply to your email from church, or retweet you in a heartbeat. Your peeps. Your connections. Your consigliere.
That small, refined group is worth something: Today, they are the source of your business. Tomorrow, those relationships are your retirement strategy. Too often, salespeople leave the business with 100% of nothing. If you build and maintain a curated database, it might be worth a little bit of something.
Perhaps a whole lot more.
Do quality databases matter? Look at executive compensation. CEO’s are recruited and compensated for their sphere of influence, amongst other reasons. Companies want well-connected leaders who can influence and be influenced by the right people. Successful salespeople are no different: their business comes from a core set of friends, family and business relationships painstakingly developed and maintained. Time doesn’t matter, either: Highly successful salespeople create valuable networks quickly using today’s technology. In fact, today’s salespeople want to enter an industry, make some money, and move on to something else without losing the value of those relationships when they leave.
That’s their million dollar database.
Assuming, of course, it contains valuable data. What makes data valuable? Deepness. Context. Notes. Observations. Quotes, clips and snippets of conversations. Reflections upon the person’s hopes, dreams, worries and needs. Pieces of advice from peers, mentors and even competitors. Text, pictures, audio or video about the relationships that work today, and will someday help a successor continue delivering value.
In other words, a database about what your contacts value.
Forget about their last deal, specs of the purchase, or the attorney who was involved. All mundania; unsellable and useless, because products will change, services evolve. Keep such stuff only if you fear lawsuits.
Sales means adding value. That value depends upon who people are, not how you reached them or what you sold them. A curated million-dollar database helps the next person – the investor you’ll lease your database to – know what your contacts value. They can find the products and services that fit in the future.
Before your exit, a curated database delivers millions worth of value to you. Sift through it frequently, re-acquainting and reflecting upon your relationships. Know the market, but stop only riding the charts. Make sure you ride herd on the relationships, too.
Most people stop referring business to you because they forgot you were there. Nothing more.
Your database is critical to success. While you’re active, maintain it, nurture it, feed it quality. Maybe even timeshare some of it to someone freshly starting in the business, lacking connections and seeking mentorship. The opportunities are endless.
By the time you’re you’re ready to exit, it will have blossomed into the ripest of fruits. Far more valuable than any marketing piece, website or slogan, to be sure.
In 2010, Gene Roddenberry’s rolodex sold for about $1200. It contained contact cards for William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and others who trekked with him to fame. Yet it brought very little at auction, because it was merely a list of outdated phone numbers. Today’s fans can chat with George Takei on Facebook or follow Shatner on Twitter. Contact information isn’t worth so much. A relationship database is. Fans spend millions to read, watch and hear celebrities tell stories about their relationships.
Stories are just databases in another format.
Consider your database today. How much would it bring at auction? Invest some time curating it. The value of your database isn’t how many mailings or tweets it spits out. It’s the quality of the content inside. It should be useful today. And even more so tomorrow.