• October 12, 2021
  • By Mark Thacker, president, Sales Xceleration

5 Best Practices for Maximizing Your CRM Capabilities

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Using the right tools for any job is essential. You wouldn’t have a call center rep answer a call without a computer and a script. The same should be true of leveraging your customer relationship management system. First, you need the right people in the right roles ready to take the right action with CRM data—otherwise, it’s just great software with limited impact.

Why is it so important to ensure updated CRM capabilities are part of your infrastructure in the first place? For one thing, older CRMs didn’t even have the functionality to be web- or cloud-based. That meant people were constantly relying on old information. Now that data can be updated and reported in real time, people expect information to be accurate at all times; your CRM needs to deliver accordingly.

And if it does—and if your teams know how to put that data to good use—the technology can transform your organization.

To optimize your CRM capabilities, follow these five best practices:

1. Include a Salesperson in the CRM Selection Process

Operational leaders don’t have enough line of sight into the sales cycle to single-handedly make a CRM decision. Because of this, members of the sales team should be involved in the selection, implementation, and customization of any CRM.

By involving your sales team, you ensure that your CRM elevates their current operations rather than impedes them. Plus, you’ll automatically get more buy-in when the most relevant people—those who will work most directly with the CRM—are involved in the process. They’ll feel a sense of ownership and know that their input is valued.

2. Balance Sales Reps’ Time With Getting the Data You Want

Considering leadership has invested resources in the CRM, they will want to see key data from the technology. That said, you need to strike a balance when asking sales reps to gather and enter that data; you don’t want your sales team entering information at the expense of business development.

For example, maybe leadership wants a detailed demographic breakdown of each prospect. They might assume this is an automated task when it’s actually a time-intensive and manual process for sales reps. Leaders need to understand that collecting, inputting, and understanding data in sales comes with an opportunity cost of time.

3. Set Clear Expectations Surrounding Data Entry

Optimizing your CRM starts with timely data. If your sales team is responsible for maintaining prospect and customer records, they need to use only the most up-to-date and relevant data. Data can’t be accurate if it isn’t updated regularly, and leaders can’t rely on any data that doesn’t reflect the most current reality.

The efficacy of this tool relies on the discipline of team members when it comes to updating the system and keeping information current, so be clear about what fields are required and how often they should be updated. Also, make sure your sales reps know how the data will be used to get more buy-in for keeping the data as updated as possible.

4. Customize Your CRM to Fit Your Company

An off-the-shelf CRM is easy to set up, but it’s not truly effective until you’ve updated it to match your company’s processes. Imagine seeing the default terms that a CRM uses only to realize they don’t match the terms your company uses.

Without CRM optimization to fit your company’s precise terminology and process, your sales team will view the CRM as obsolete and default to their own systems that are consistent with the proper terminology and tracking methods. This issue also underscores the importance of a good onboarding and training program for employees after you make a CRM selection.

5. Build Custom CRM Dashboards That Reflect How You Do Business 

When it comes to how to use CRM data, there are endless options. The CRM’s default reports and dashboards likely aren’t reflective of how you run your business, so you’ll need to customize everything to align with what you want and need to see.

Create reports and dashboards that match the way you do business and deliver the style of reporting your leadership team expects. The CRM contains information, but you need to harness that information correctly for it to be actionable. The right dashboards will provide critical business insights, allowing your sales and management teams to understand where they are on forecasting and goals. Once the right data is in the tool and represented the right way, it becomes a valuable resource to understand pipeline status while seeing whether your team is on track to meet goals, overcome roadblocks, and solve sales challenges.

The power of a good CRM is not its ability to store information—a CRM must leverage that data appropriately into actionable reports and information. With the right people in place, you can use data and CRM optimization to create powerful, compelling reports that inform your leadership’s strategy and decision-making. Include your sales team in the process, manage expectations around data entry, and empower them to appropriately customize your CRM to use the technology to its fullest potential.

Mark Thacker is the president of Sales Xceleration, a firm specializing in assessing and implementing sales strategy, sales processes, and sales execution to drive growth. Thacker has a 33-year history of sales leadership and success in diverse industries.

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