Data Security Awareness and Its Importance for Sales Reps

Data security has become a key concern for most companies. Like many major corporations, even the US federal government, experience data breaches at an alarming rate, it is clear that everyone could benefit from increased cybersecurity measures.

Although executives and business owners realize the importance of data security and seek to take active measures to avoid data breaches, many of their employees fail to see the importance and put their company at risk every day. Sales reps, in particular, are vulnerable to bad actors, hackers, and people who buy the information from the hackers.

Here is what your sales team needs to know about data security awareness and how to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands.

Consequences of Data Breaches

Data breaches are more than just a headache to deal with: they can be detrimental to your business. A lapse in data security can be extremely costly to your company and those who work there. Some of the consequences of a data breach include:

Cost and Fines

Fixing a breach is an extremely costly endeavor for most businesses. In fact, the average cost of a data breach is $46,000 for small businesses and $620,000 for enterprises. The extra IT staff and steps that are required after data loss to restore security are costlier than putting in the extra effort up front to avoid the breach in the first place.

Not only does it cost money to restore your system, but businesses are legally liable for failing to protect sensitive information. With the enforcement of legal measures, such as EU’s recent GDPR, businesses are no longer allowed to stay ignorant of security measures and are held liable for any lapses in security.

Loss of Brand Trust

Not only does a security breach cost companies, but there is often a significant loss of business as customers lose their trust in your brand. A security breach of your customers’ sensitive information can have a significant impact on your reputation and affect your sales.

A company can spend years building a solid reputation and gaining customer trust, but that can be completely destroyed in a few minutes with one security breach. Although companies can and have rebuilt their client trust after being hacked, it takes a significant amount of time and cost. Many businesses do not have the time, money, or resources to bounce back from that.

Job Loss

Although some companies can survive after a data breach, many people face losing their jobs. Between the hit that businesses take and a lapse in judgment, employees find their jobs at stake if they do not take data security awareness seriously.

Executives at Target, Uber, Yahoo and other major corporations lost their jobs after security breaches. No one is immune to the negative effects of a security breach within a company, so everyone needs to be made aware of data security measures and reminded of its importance. The price for a lacks approach to security is steep and many may find their jobs on the line.

Why Sales Reps Need Data Security Awareness

Sales teams are in a particularly vulnerable position when it comes to data security for several reasons, including:

A Place of Trust

Sales reps are in a place of trust almost unparalleled in any organization. They are typically the first to gain a customer’s trust and have access to a lot of sensitive information. Between personal contact information to payment cards, sales have access to information that makes them particularly vulnerable to a data breach.

Hackers want access to your sales information and will specifically target them above many other departments in your company. Your sales reps need to understand this and be particularly vigilant with data security awareness.

Prone to Open Unknown Emails

Most sales reps are in contact with dozens, if not hundreds, of customers and potential customers. They are always meeting and exchanging information with new people, and they are typically more concerned with hitting quota than data security. These factors make them more likely to open emails and attachments from an unknown source.

Although salespeople may possibly be more hesitant to open an email from someone they have not communicated with in the past, they typically will open emails and attachments if they have had an exchange with a certain email address in the past. This makes them particularly vulnerable if a customer is hacked or part of a phishing scheme.

Use Unsecured Wi-Fi

Salespeople work on the go and are infamous for always being available if a customer needs them, night or day. In addition, many workers in the modern era have come to expect the ability to work from home or a coffee shop. The use of smartphones and tablets makes this easier than ever, but that does come with additional risks that they have never had to deal with before.

Although your company may have secure Wi-Fi, many sales reps connect outside on unsecured Wi-Fi. This can put your company’s network at risk without the proper attention to data security.

Lack Proper Training

Sales reps receive a lot of training every year: in fact, US companies spend about $20 billion a year in sales training. However, little to nothing of this training is in data security awareness. Only about 20% of companies provide any training in data security and a scant 33% have any formal policies relating to data security at all. Most of the emphasis in training is on products and selling techniques, but data security is just as important to building trust and maintaining a profitable business.

This is a concern because 59% of companies that experienced a data security breach stated that it was the direct result of employee carelessness and error. In order to keep your company safe, your sales reps need to receive proper training in their position of trust.

Tips to Protect Your Sensitive Data

The best way to handle a security breach is by keeping it from happening in the first place. Sales reps that practice data security awareness is one of the top ways to keep your company reputation intact and avoid the costly repair of a security breach.

Here are some practical ways your sales team can practice data security awareness:

Only Keep Information You Need

The best way to protect yourself from losing valuable data to hackers is by keeping less information that can be compromised. There may be certain sensitive information that your company needs: addresses or recurring payments, for example. However, the less data your sales reps hold on to, the better.

Your sales reps should be in the habit of destroying sensitive information as soon as it is not needed. If your customer makes a one-time payment, for example, your sales reps should get rid of the payment information as soon as it goes through.

Do not make your company responsible for anything that it does not need to be: only keep the information that is essential to your business.

Keep All Information Organized

Chaos is the hacker’s best friend. When sensitive information is spread everywhere, it makes it easier for them to get access to some, if not all, of it. In order to keep your data secure, you should know exactly where all the info is.

A CRM is a perfect way to keep all of your sensitive information both organized and secure. This will allow you to keep all of your customer information in one secure location.

Carelessness in secure information is an open invitation to data breaches: stay vigilant and keep tabs on your data. This means always knowing where your data is.

Use Encrypted Devices

In the age of smartphones and modern technology, it is not always reasonable to expect that your salespeople will work only on your secure network. Also, keep in mind that your company is liable if your sales rep has a lapse in judgment and uses an unsecured Wi-Fi. Protect your business reputation by encrypting all devices. This includes smartphones and tablets that your reps use.

Apple devices already have a built-in encryption option for all of their devices. Encryption software can be purchased for Windows and Android products. Any extra measures that your company can take will save you the aggravation and potential cost in the end.

Use Best Password Practices

Make sure that your sales reps know the best ways to store passwords: diversify across devices, change often, make sure that they include numbers, letters, symbols, etc., and not on a Post-It stuck to the computer. In a rush to move on to the next thing, it can be easy for a sales rep to get lackadaisical about the strength of their password or the inconvenience of remembering a new one. Remind sales reps about the importance of a strong password, or consider a Password Manager application to automatically create, store, and enter strong passwords on behalf of your employees.

Hold Security Awareness Training

It is too easy for sales reps to get too busy or lazy to remember best practices when it comes to cybersecurity, especially if it does not seem particularly important to the company. Security Awareness training will help remind employees of the best practices to keep data secure and emphasize their importance to your company.

In order to reinforce them to your employees, as well as make sure that new employees are well trained, these training meetings should occur at least twice a year. It is time well spent to keep your brand reputation intact.

The Principle of Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege means that each employee only gets access to see and edit what they need to. Everyone in your company should not be able to access or edit all the data. The principle of least privilege helps mitigate much of the damage should an individual account get hacked.

Broadcast Your Security

If you are going the extra mile to make sure that your client’s data is secure, make sure that you let them know. Trust is vital to brand identity, so put labels on your website and payment pages that let them know their data is secure. You may want to include blog posts on your security measures, and let your customers know specifically how you are protecting their data. It will put their minds at ease and help bolster your brand.

Data Security Starts with Sales

Do not wait until a crisis to assess your data security measures. Maintain your customer’s trust and avoid the pain of hacking by taking security measures. Because your sales team is in a particularly vulnerable part of your company, make sure that they are practicing data security awareness. Their data needs to be all in one place on encrypted devices to keep your data as secure as possible.

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