New Year, New You: Get Your CRM In Order

By Erica Abt on Jan 9, 2020

If you’re anything like me, the new year gives you the push you need to reset for a successful year. Personally, this meant turning my house upside down, reorganizing, and making space to enjoy my home with my husband and son. Professionally, as a salesperson in a past life, it meant understanding the year’s performance objectives, completing business planning activities, and most thrillingly (!) - cleaning up CRM records.

In all seriousness, doing these things at the start of the year always brought me a sense of excitement because I knew I had a clean slate to achieve my goals, maximize my compensation plan, and compete to win the annual awards trip. While I may be the exception to the rule, let me explain why allocating time to completing the oh-so-mundane task of CRM cleanup should be viewed as a springboard for own success in the new year.

In this blog we’ll explore the four foundational CRM data elements that your sales leaders should focus on as they ensure CRM data is up to date and accurately reflecting pipeline potential.

1. Accounts

Effective Account data should capture information about the variety of businesses your sales teams engage based on the new year’s go-to-market sales strategy, including current and prospective clients. We typically define the type of Accounts a team engages with, in addition to other important data about Accounts, like tiers, health, and the different internal roles people can play with respect to the Account. By doing this, sales leaders gain a better sense of the level of effort and corresponding performance across the spectrum of Accounts and can better prioritize internal and external resources accordingly for the year. Standardizing on Account data across the business also enables teams to do more consistent and effective Account Planning, which is critical for building a fine-tuned, client-centric, sales organization.

What’s hard about defining Account objects?

As part of the Account definition effort, sales organizations must have a client master - one set of nomenclature that defines the type of businesses they work with, which can be especially difficult for global or complex sales organizations that have been classifying the businesses in different ways, in different regions, for many years. In addition to the client master, sales organizations must consider how external industry data integrates with the CRM and ultimately maps to the client master. In some industries, like in Asset Management for example, different data sources classify businesses in different ways, which creates a bit of a cluster when trying to map to the CRM. While creating the client master and integrating external data sources can be challenging, the result drives immense benefit to understanding performance trends and informing future go-to-market strategy decisions.

2. Opportunities

Opportunities should represent sales efforts that can result in revenue for the business and can be tracked through a formal sales process. Ideally, we would define and standardize Opportunity types, values, stages, probabilities, and outcomes. Sometimes, for larger or more complex sales organizations, we will also define Opportunity teams to drive ultimate collaboration to win the deals of most strategic or economic importance to the sales team. When Opportunity data is well established, sales leaders have more confident visibility into the sales pipeline, can provide more accurate forecasting, and are able to better support and coach their sales team members through the sales process. 

What’s hard about defining Opportunity objects?

Defining Opportunity types and stages can be struggle when sales organizations do not think about their sales efforts in a structured way. Typically, we find there are 1 or 2 “obvious” sales efforts that take place and are easy to define. But there are often also more nebulous sales efforts taking place to bring commercial value to the business, for example selling through intermediaries, getting 3rd party endorsements, or upselling existing clients. Ultimately sales leaders should decide what type of sales efforts are important to track and manage via a formal process with discrete, weighted, sales stages.

3. Contacts

Contact data should capture information about individuals associated with current or prospective client Accounts. Contact data should help to indicate where the high priority access points are within the Account or Opportunity and inform smart planning efforts. We typically recommend including Contact attributes like “Relationship Strength” or “Influence Level” which can either be determined subjectively by the Contact Owner or objectively by a data-driven formal based on the Contact’s behaviors. Like Account data, well-captured Contact data will enable sales teams better understand our performance based on the types of Contacts teams engage with.

What’s hard about defining Contact objects?

When determining the right Contact data to capture, it’s important to require some information to be captured, but not all. Sales organizations tend to get bogged down in too many Contact attributes by requiring too much information to be captured – which results in information that quickly becomes inaccurate or outdated. Depending on the sales team’s go-to-market strategy, sales leaders should pick the key bits of information that they would want to know across all Contact types so that they can – you guessed it – easily view it in management reports and use it to inform smarter business decisions.

4. Activities

Activity data should provide visibility into the meaningful interactions the sales team is having with prospects and clients. Ideally Activity data will inform both the quantity of activities that are happening in addition to the quality. Quality of Activities can be measured by tracking next steps or actions coming out of an interaction. For example, creating or advancing an Opportunity, creating a follow-up meeting or task, updating Contact information, or even disqualifying an Opportunity or Account are all good Activity outcomes because they indicate that something meaningful was achieved in the interaction. Measuring Activities in this way will ensure the sales teams are spending their time in ways that will create positive momentum with current or prospective clients.

What’s hard about defining Activity objects?

Like Contact data, when selecting Activity to data capture it’s important to not provide too many options or to require sales professionals to capture too much information about the interaction. Activity data options should be intuitive to use and ideally tied to internal CRM workflows, so that sales leaders can easily track who different Activities are assigned to and when and where they are getting held-up within the organization.  

While we highly recommend focusing on these four foundational elements, there are several other elements that sales leaders like to define in order to fully optimize their CRM. For example, common other focus areas include defining Leads and the Lead Management Process and Products/ Product Codes by way of a Product rationalization effort. Once the most critical foundational elements are established in the CRM tool, sales organizations can start to use smart sales enablement tools like Seismic and Tableau to take their sales strategy execution to the next level.

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Erica Abt

Written by Erica Abt

Erica Abt is passionate about both the macro trends and the ‘nitty gritty’ of sales effectiveness. At Symmetrics Group, Erica might be found examining the generational impacts of Millennials and Gen Z on sales forces across America. Or, she might be building a detailed process inventory and training curriculum for CRM effectiveness. She brings her experience as a quota bearer and sales manager to help clients tackle complex business challenges, such as account and book of business planning, client service and retention strategies, as well as sales coaching and training.

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