Sales pipeline reporting is an essential component of the demand planning process. A well-maintained CRM platform delivers credible sales pipeline, which is the first step in the planning cycle at most product-based businesses.
To better understand best practices for this key planning tool, I reached out to 15 experts who manage their own CRM software deployments. The responses largely followed a few key themes:
- Clean Data. Keep all pipeline data clean and organized. Many experts utilize various notes sections in their CRM tools to ensure they are capturing everything relevant to each customer.
- Focus on People and Process. The tool serves the business, not the other way around. Select a tool and deploy it in a manner that conforms to your business culture.
- Consistent Adoption. Most agreed that consistent usage of the tool is essential. It’s better to deploy a basic/simple CRM tool that everyone can easily use, instead of a complex installation managed by only a few employees.
With that introduction, please see below for detailed advice from the experts. I offer a special thanks to these contributors, all of whom took precious time out of their days to provide me with this valuable input.
1. Leverage the Tool Across Functions
A CRM can be a great asset for client onboarding, as the tool makes it easy to handoff information between departments. It’s a lot easier to guide new clients through the setup process, for instance, if your teams maintain detailed records for all contacts and communications.
Key Tip: You want to ensure that all relevant departments leverage your CRM effectively and are keeping up-to-date information on record, even after onboarding is complete. This will prevent contacts and documentation from falling between the cracks over time, which could negatively impact retention.
2. Software Aligned to Culture
While leads that come in through marketing channels can be automated to enter the CRM, the partners will often receive referrals, and usually neglect to put them in the CRM as they’re just dealing with them directly via email or phone.
That was part of the reason I chose Copper, a CRM that integrates directly into GSuite. That way the contact’s existence in the CRM is more top of mind when emailing them, and so that it’s much easier for a partner to receive a referral via email, and then with a few clicks add it to the CRM.
So in essence, a best practice is to choose your software stack based on the behaviors of the people that’ll be using it, especially when you can’t always change those behaviors, like with partners at a firm.
3. Detailed Tracking for Each Prospect
Sales prospects are uploaded into the CRM in batches (assigned to individual agents) and each “batch” is updated every 7-14 days. Batches are updated 3-4 times before being abandoned and categorized as lower-level leads for entry level agents.
The key to getting the most of your CRM is to keep it updated. Our CRM has a “Notes” section where we can record specific account information, and how accounts have been contacted (via phone, email) alongside a function that shows whether they answered, if messages were left, etc. It allows us to keep track of methods of contact that perhaps are working more than others, and what might be working for certain agents.
4. Automate Processes When Possible
5. Focus on Business Processes
The CRM tool is just a tool and needs some help from humans as well. Having the data away from the tool too, makes sure that we can have some further analysis if we were to need it.
When using a CRM Tool, you want to make sure to be focusing on the business processes instead of just on the technology. The technology will not make your business run well, you will ultimately run the company well yourself.
6. Keep The End User in Mind
I think one of the best tips and practices for using and managing a CRM tool is that before you purchase it, do your research on the potential CRM ROI for each individual department and employee who will be concerned with the CRM.
You need to figure out what each employee and the concerned department wants from the CRM and what it should do for them. This is important because skipping on such an important aspect can make it difficult for the team to adapt to the system.
Key Tip: When having the system designed, keep the end-user in mind and not just the sales team. This is why I recommend not using abbreviations that can be difficult to understand. You don’t want to create any sort of confusion. Keep things simple.
Pay close attention to the interface design. I would suggest to group logically related fields together and ensure the flow of the field tabbing makes sense.
7. Keep The Data Clean
Salesforce is the system of record and the single source of truth for Revenue Ops LLC. All of our marketing automation, like Marketing Cloud and Pardot, Service Cloud, and sales enablement software like SalesLoft and Salesforce CPQ, is integrated with our Salesforce Sales Cloud.
Key Tip: Keep your data clean! Ensure that your data has been cleaned and normalized before importing it into your CRM because if you fail to do so, various automations won’t function correctly, and reports won’t reflect accurate data. Garbage in = garbage out! Your CRM should be more than just a repository for data; it should be a tool that your entire company can use to do their jobs easily and more efficiently – making it a joy to come to work instead of a chore.
8. Select a CRM That Works For You
In order to make the most of any CRM tool, we must first prepare ourselves and our teams for it. It’s important for companies to know what they need in order to choose the right CRM tool that works best for them. Not only does this simplify the training your team has to undergo, but it also allows teams to work more efficiently and companies to make the right investment and save money.
Key Tip: It’s important to frequently check and analyze the data your CRM tool provides in order to make sure that the strategies your team is practicing are up-to-date and in tune with your customers’ needs.
9. CRM: Center of Marketing
You can integrate your CRM to your email marketing campaigns to make them more tailored and comprehensive. It’ll enable you to create customizable email templates with content that your prospects wanted the most to read. And by the time they’ve opened it, you’ll be alerted and even let you see which content they’re most interested in. With it, you’ll never worry about how and when to do a perfect follow-up and close a sale.
10. Facilitates Coaching Sessions
One of the best tips I have for getting the most out of your CRM is to have weekly or bi weekly meetings with your sales team to go over the previous period’s results and CRM activity.
This will allow you to find inefficiencies in the way your team is using their CRM, which will make each salesperson more effective in their account and prospect management.
11. Real Time Update
A CRM is nothing without the data it holds, and even useless if it’s not updated in real-time. When I decided to put up a CRM in my business, I was not focused on having customer’s data logged the same day interaction was made. And it cost me valuable information out of my hand.
12. Schedule Future Touchpoints
I use HubSpot for my business’ CRM system and check it at least three days a week.
Key Tip: My favorite feature is the “task” option. I can schedule a day/time to reach out to the contact, put applicable notes, and can check them off as needed. It’s super helpful! Plus, the tasks live under the “Contacts” page, so I can see any relevant notes as well. Highly recommend HubSpot!
13. Clearly-Defined Goals
It is important to have clearly defined Key Performance Indicators tracked within the CRM. Team members should know which KPIs they are accountable for and where to view them.
All team members should be trained on the software. Vendor supplied documentation is a great starting point for new users to the system. Every company has unique workflows and uses for a CRM, so that needs to be documented for training purposes. Company-specific processes that take place within the CRM should be stored in the company knowledge-base and made accessible to team members.
14. Keeping Organized
Our team updates prospects in our CRM on a daily basis. The most important aspect of using a CRM is making sure you are organized and that your tasks are complete on time.
Key Tip: The best tip we’ve implemented in 2020 is leveraging marketing automation in our CRM so that our sales team is spending time on our most active prospects.
15. CRM Should Meet Business Needs
Failing to test the CRM according to the business’ needs ahead of time is a common mistake among SMBs. Just because the features seem to be aligned with your goals, doesn’t mean it’s worth the investment.
You need to take into consideration all the factors such as integration, which can be frustrating if it doesn’t fit your existing system.
My Concluding Remarks
An effective CRM is crucial to any business. This is especially true for any product-based business, as the sales pipeline feeds directly into to the supply chain planning cycle. Apply these best practices to guide your decision on CRM tool selection and CRM management for your own business!