The New Year brings with it a renewed sense of hope and optimism.
Will this be the year you land that record-setting contract? Does expansion into adjacent markets represent a growth opportunity for your company? Will that “pet project” you’ve been toying with for years finally become a reality?
Business owners across the globe are wrestling with questions exactly like these. Some even go as far as setting resolutions, committing themselves to specific deadlines and outcomes.
If you’re still mulling a few resolutions of your own, your CRM might not be the first thing you think of. In reality, setting a few CRM-related resolutions might be exactly what you need.
Here are four CRM resolutions worth considering.
Resolution 1: Consolidate
In today’s web-based world, it’s easy to spread your business activity too thin. For example, your inbox houses your most important customer interactions. Project-related information is all over the place, ranging from team members’ hard drives to shared document repositories. And, of course, your pending deals are tracked in your CRM.
Without a single go-to reference point, it’s difficult to properly align resources and develop realistic plans. To make even the most basic business decision, you may find yourself checking several overlapping systems. Granted, you’ll never find a single software application that serves every business need. (If you do, please let me know!) Therefore, the next best option is to consolidate as many data points into the tool that you use most: your CRM.
Here are a few thoughts for consolidating around your CRM:
Revisit Unused Features:
If your CRM offers tiered pricing plans, is it possible that you’re paying for features that aren’t being utilized? If so, could these features eliminate the need for other third-party apps? As an example, some Insightly users are surprised to learn that all plans include project management features (at no extra charge). Aligning project management and sales initiatives could yield additional economies of scale, improve delivery, and make an impact on customer satisfaction.
There’s no law that says you must remain on the same CRM plan forever. Unfortunately, many business owners are quick to deploy additional apps (with overlapping functionality) – rather than simply clicking the “upgrade” button. Upgrading usually comes with an upfront cost, but it could save you countless dollars in frustration later on.
Identify Out-of-the-Box Integrations:
Your CRM is never going to replace the need for your invoicing software or document collaboration platform. For those third-party tools your company just can’t live without, it may be possible to get the best of both worlds. Many CRMs, including Insightly, offer out-of-the box integrations with a variety of popular software applications. Although your team will still need to log into and maintain multiple systems, they’ll at least enjoy the benefits of a more information-rich CRM.
Build Your Own Integrations:
Resolution 2: Simplify
Consolidation is a logical first step, but it’s matched in importance by your next resolution: simplification.
Remember, a CRM offers minimal value to your business if it creates confusion and chaos. Although there are countless records being managed by your CRM, it’s wise to continuously and proactively seek a more simplified data structure.
How can your data structure be “simplified”? Here are a few tips for starters:
Set a Master Vision:
Do you have a vision for your CRM? What defines a lead? When should they be converted to opportunities? What information should be fed (or not fed) in from your other apps? Take an hour or two to storyboard this with your management team. Doing so will prove valuable as you consider other simplification strategies.
Does your CRM make it easy to identify and merge duplicate records? If not, how will your team stay on top of this important issue? Maintaining multiple records for the same person or entity is highly distracting, thereby detracting from your team’s overall productivity.
I would wager that at least 10% of the records in your CRM could be deleted without harming your business. Don’t believe me? Try this exercise. If you’re using your CRM to track your to-do list, sort your tasks by due date. Now, look for items that are more than a few days past due (or have no due date at all). I’m sure you’ll find at least one task out of ten that’s already been completed. Or, you may find an idea or two from long ago that is now irrelevant. Keeping outdated records only clouds your ability to hone in on what truly matters.
Revisit Your Admin Settings:
Is your tagging structure out of control? Would adding a few custom fields enhance how your team organizes its records? Study your use cases and revisit your CRM admin settings often. A simple adjustment or two could dramatically simplify your data structure – and make your end users happier.
Set Ground Rules:
In what circumstances should your team utilize a project record instead of a simple task? How frequently should your sales staff update the probability on their deals? These are all good questions that, if answered and documented, will help your organization become more successful.
Resolution 3: Sequence Smarter
Now that your CRM contains the right information (no more, no less), it’s time for the fun part: sequencing.
All things being equal, there’s only so much work that can be done. It’s therefore incumbent that you leverage your CRM to determine what should be worked on first, second, third, etc. In other words, which projects and prospects represent the greatest impact to your bottom line.
Let’s look at a few sequencing tips:
Automate Your Sales Priorities:
Not all leads and opportunities are created equal. Likewise, not all sales reps are as gifted as your top-grossing agent. Does your CRM offer automated workflow rules that could reduce friction in the lead delegation process? Could some basic lead assignment rules pay big dividends with minimal effort?
Categorize Your Projects:
As a business owner, you never run out of ideas. That’s a blessing, but it can also be a curse – especially when deciding what your team should tackle first. Staring at a huge backlog of product and service ideas can make everyone feel overwhelmed. A logical first step might involve the categorization of your projects into subgroups. Categorizing by customer segment, department, or product type could provide the clarity necessary to make more informed sequencing decisions.
Make it Visual:
Whiteboards are particularly useful for mapping out innovative processes. The same is true for sequencing your company’s strategic initiatives. A Kanban-style board, such as the one below from Insightly, can be tremendously helpful for deciding what to do next. It also offers a bird’s-eye view of what has already been done (or what is currently in progress).
Resolution 4: Build in Accountability
Most New Year’s resolutions fail for one key reason: lack of accountability.
As January and February start to fly by, the temptation is to lose sight of your goals. After all, you have existing customers to keep happy. New priorities can wait – right?
Without the right accountability structure, you may find your goals no further along in October than they are now. You need an accountability plan, and you need to build it into your CRM.
Here are ideas for doing that:
“By June 1, 2018, we will have the new product available for beta testing. We will also have ten of our top customers ready to test it for us.” This type of explanation would likely serve as an effective starting point for a project description. Based on this, your team can then get to work and coordinate the related tasks, events, and milestones. (Bonus tip: Be sure to link all subsequent records back to your master project!)
Just because a task has been assigned (with a due date), it doesn’t mean it will actually get done. Remember, not every team member lives and breathes your CRM. Create another layer of accountability by ensuring tasks are set to automatically remind users via email. The “I didn’t see that task” excuse just became a nonfactor.
Let Your CRM Track the KPIs:
Does your current CRM allow you to build customizable reports? If so, can you bookmark them or save them for later? If you’re not sure, spend time to fully understand which KPIs can (or cannot) be easily tracked. In the product launch example mentioned above, a listing of all items linked to the master project might be especially beneficial. Once created, should you set the report to arrive in your inbox weekly? monthly? The answer might depend on your meeting cadence and aggressiveness of timelines.
Here’s to a Productive 2018
Your CRM is destined to play a crucial role in achieving this year’s business resolutions. By setting aside time to be more strategic with your CRM in 2018, you may be surprised at the many great things you can achieve.
Matt Keener is a marketing consultant and President of Keener Marketing Solutions, LLC. Matt specializes in content marketing and strategic planning, having helped numerous Saas (software as a service) companies and other small businesses worldwide. Read more of Matt’s work, get his book, or connect on LinkedIn.