6 CRM Best Practices

With a couple of decades of experience helping companies with their B2B sales lead management and CRM programs, 6 Best Practices have revealed themselves that I would like to share. I’ve witnessedCRM Best Practices companies succeed and increase sales by diligently applying these practices. I’ve also seen organizations waste thousands of marketing dollars and lose thousands of dollars in sales opportunities by ignoring these practices. If you are serious about improving your sales and marketing ROI, these practices will lead you to some big wins.


1. Get your Sales & Marketing teams on the same page

First of all, Sales and Marketing need to re-think how they fundamentally interact. They frequently operate in their own “silos”. They need to learn how to support each other to release their inherent synergy to increase sales. Customers are rarely ready to sign a purchase order when reps first call.  And reps are usually not present when the purchasing decision is made.  Thus, today’s marketing programs need to nurture buyers though out their buying process and notify the rep when a buyer is ready to engage. Marketers must send the right messages out at the right time that appeal to all of the buying influences. And the sales person must make multiple calls on the right people to further cultivate the relationship. It is a team selling approach. Everyone has a role and responsibility.


Industry research shows that buyers are 60% into their buying process before they engage your company or sales person, so it’s crucial to have sales and marketing working together.


2. Define & document roles for everyone using your CRM

CRM programs are tools for facilitating strategy, driving initiatives and measuring results. Each role has responsibilities along with goals and tasks. Many users will have access, but do they all understand each others respective roles? Roles typically include administrators, sales, marketing, email marketing, social media, html and graphic designers, analytics, and management. Sales and Customer Service people are often charged with making or taking so many calls per day. Marketing people must manage and grow subscriber lists, execute targeted email campaigns, promote content on social media, drive web traffic, generate sales leads and more. Clearly defining all of the user roles and responsibilities, documenting processes and communicating it all to your team will provide everyone with deeper insight into how their role supports your organization. It will also help everyone better understand how you are leveraging your CRM and marketing tools to achieve company objectives and growth.  Update your documentation frequently so everyone can stay on top of the latest processes and responsibilities, and make sure it is readily available via your intranet or network.


3. Send only “Qualified Leads” to your sales team and require follow-up

Today’s customers are likely to engage your company with multiple interactions via your different marketing channels before they are ready to talk with a sales rep. A sales person’s time is expensive and they are tasked with making productive calls and hitting sales goals. A sales lead sent to a rep that doesn’t pan out – is unqualified – undermines their confidence in the whole process and in the marketing team. It is paramount for sales and marketing to be on the same page when it comes to defining “what makes a lead a lead”.


Marketing must also understand the difference between an “inquiry” and a bonafide “sales lead” from the sales person’s perspective. They need to talk with sales and come to an agreement on what “qualified lead” means. Marketing is then challenged with generating sales leads that meet that profile. From the sales person’s viewpoint, the number of page views, click-throughs, emails received and opened is a lot of noise. Sales people want to know who has requested a sales call or requested a quote and who is a bonafide prospect with life-time value. Qualified, detailed leads with needs and purchase plans must be passed to sales on quickly. Reps need easy- to-use tools for managing follow-up. The more leads they can close to sales the more confidence they will have in marketing’s efforts.


4. Keep your CRM data CLEAN!

Clean CRM data is the crucial for the success of your sales and marketing teams and for tracking success. Unfortunately, CRM programs are frequently “garbaged-up” making the job of everyone who touches the program more difficult.


Examples: Users enter duplicate accounts and contacts rather than looking to see if they already exist. Account and contact data isn’t kept up to date. Important data is inadvertently deleted. Call reports are not entered so contact history is not up-to-date. Order history is incomplete, etc.


CRM data quality assurance is everyone’s responsibility and that expectation must be made clear to all users from the outset and with regular reminders. It is the perfect environment for “garbage in, garbage out!” Quality data enables you to build effective business intelligence, improve customer service and drive more business. Here are a few things you can practice to maintain clean data:


Ensure the correct data is recorded at every entry point and for each user type. (Know all entry points and user interfaces in order to identify where problems are occurring.)

  • Train your staff so that data quality expectations and the steps to assure quality are well known.
  • Maintain consistency in data values. (For example United States and USA, or state abbreviations vs. spellings.)
  • Force data value selections by using drop-down lists where possible.
  • Avoid entry of duplicate accounts, leads and contacts. (Always check for previous entries first.)
  • Merge duplicate records.
  • Establish program rules ensure that unique account numbers are not overwritten.
  • Use built in dupe checking functionality for preventing duplicates or third party deduping tools.
  •  Maintain complete and up-to-date information on your records.

5. Train, Train and Train!

It is impossible to get everyone on the same page regarding your sales process, goals and expectations through a single memo or meeting. CRM programs are complex with many functions – many your team may never use. But they need to know the functions that enable them to fulfill their role. Pilots don’t become proficient after a single take-off and landing. Surgeons don’t master surgery with one operation. LIkewise your team and their CRM training. Training must be ongoing with the focus on important functions and with frequent review. There are no shortcuts. Memories are short. Mastery comes through repetition.


6. Measure Success

After all of the time, money and effort invested in your program, how do you measure CRM success? Consider the following:

  • How frequently do your users access your program?
  • Is your “qualified” lead volume increasing?
  • How quickly are your reps looking at and following up their leads?
  • What is your lead conversion rate?
  • Is it improving?
  • What kind of feedback are you getting from your users?
  • What suggestions are you getting for improvements?
  • Are you soliciting them?
  • Is your social media and other marketing activity actually delivering bonafide, new leads?
  • Is your sales team happy with the sales lead quality and quantity?
  • Are sales going up?

These are just some of the questions you may want to consider when exploring how to measure the success of your CRM and lead management programs.


When considering CRM “Best Practices”, ask yourself honestly and realistically: How good are you at applying best practices in order to improve your organization’s return on its marketing and sales efforts? Are your “best practices” leading your company to greater success?”


Russ Hill is the founder and President of Ultimate Lead Systems, Inc., a company specializing in sales lead management, CRM and support services. If you would like more information on how to improve your sales lead management and CRM results, call him at 800.323.0550.


Clients have included: Sherwin-Williams, Ridge Tool, Eaton Corporation, Lincoln Electric, CAT Lift Truck, Equipment Depot, and many others.

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