Ten Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your CRM System

Jennifer Schiff

Updated · Sep 28, 2010

Last month, we asked leading customer relationship management (CRM) software vendors NetSuite, Salesforce.com and SugarCRM for 10 of their top CRM tips.

This month, we asked CRM users, business owners and executives what advice they had for colleagues looking to improve CRM adoption and get a positive return on their CRM investment. We received literally hundreds of tips, all of them good, many of them similar, which we narrowed down to the following 10.


CRM Tips

1. The CEO and top executives should set the example. Many business owners complain they can't get their salespeople to use their CRM system — when they themselves don't use the software. So if you want to improve CRM adoption, “the CEO and the rest of the C-level executives have to use it and understand it,” said Tom Smith, marketing consultant at Tar Heel Bear Ventures.

2. Teach your sales team well. “Train, train, train!” admonished Daniel K. O'Leary, vice president for global solutions at LincWare. “If people don't feel comfortable using a CRM system, they will find another way to do it, like paper or a spreadsheet. So make sure they understand how to use the CRM system, and why it's important.”

3. Introduce changes slowly. “With CRM software, a good starting point is to have the team start entering their sales contacts. Once they have fully incorporated this process, start tracking sales with the new system. Next, have them use the software to generate reports. Continue adding new elements on a regular basis until they are using every function of the new solution in their daily routine,” suggested James Wong, CEO of Avidian Technologies.

4. Be consistent with data. To get the most out of your CRM system, you need to have “agreed upon protocols for how names and addresses will be handled for consistency of data entry,” said Smith.

5. And remember that your CRM system is only as good as the data it houses. “Given that email today is the most cost-efficient channel for communicating with one's customers, it's critical for companies to validate and correct email addresses prior to entering them into one's marketing/CRM database and perform regular hygiene processes to ensure these email addresses are kept as up-to-date as possible,” said Bill Kaplan, CEO of FreshAddress.

6. Use your CRM system to track marketing results. “Simply pass your web form lead information directly into your CRM system,” advised Susan Thayer, director of marketing at Firespring, which uses Salesforce.com. “Set up a campaign for each web form or lead source so you can get real-time counts of how many leads your campaigns are getting and how many are turning into sales. You can also set up your CRM system to send an auto-response to your leads that complete web forms and ongoing ‘drip' or auto-generated emails if leads meet pre-specified criteria.”

7. Utilize pre-made add-ons and applications before investing thousands of dollars in custom solutions. “A great example of this is Salesforce.com's AppExchange, which offers many free and paid apps that can immensely streamline your business processes,” said Terra Williams, CRM director/marketing for Cibaria International. “For example, our company has made use of Pervasive's DataSynch module, effectively saving us thousands of dollars a month while allowing us to synch our QuickBooks data to Salesforce and bridge our sales pipeline in the process.”

8. Use Google Alerts to email your CRM system when it detects your customer as a keyword. “Google allows you to set up keywords that will be emailed to you or your CRM system when triggered,” allowing you to better keep track of what your customers are saying and doing, noted T.J. Bloom, operations manager at MDL Technology.

9. Make sure that you have an easy way to migrate your data before choosing a CRM system. “If you ever want to switch CRM systems, it can be very painful if the data can't be downloaded [or migrated] in an easily accessible format/way,” said Bettina Hein, founder and CEO of Pixability. “We just learned how hard switching is because we're migrating from Highrise to Salesforce.com.”

10. Reward those who influence CRM success, even if it's not their job. “If an employee gives great feedback or streamlines a process, be sure to have a reward or incentive in place,” suggested Williams.

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to Internet.com and runs a blog for and about small businesses.


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