10 CRM Best Practices In 2024 – Forbes Advisor

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Customer relationship management (CRM) tools have come a long way. Today’s CRMs are more powerful and complex than ever, so you need to be fully versed in CRM best practices to get the most out of your CRM software investment. CRM best practices include selecting the optimal CRM software for your specific needs, customizing your CRM appropriately and handling CRM data carefully to protect its value and integrity.

Not all CRMs are built to accommodate all needs. Some CRMs are best for small business, other CRMs are best for marketing and others are ideal for companies that are on a shoestring budget and need a free CRM. There are a handful of solutions, such as Zoho CRM, that can accommodate a wide variety of business needs.

You’ll need to do some homework to select the right CRM for your specific business requirements. Consider why you need a CRM for your business. CRMs help you create strong customer relationships and are useful for automating crucial sales, marketing and customer service processes. The right CRM will also deliver insights into customer behavior patterns, which you can use to improve service and sales.

There are several types of CRM applications available, including operational CRMs, analytical/marketing CRMs and collaborative CRMs. Understanding the pros and cons of each CRM type will help you select a strong CRM solution for your organization.

What should you look for before buying a CRM? We suggest you review several CRM software examples. Studying your options will help you get a feel for what features are available and how much different CRMs cost.

Creating an effective CRM strategy involves setting well-defined CRM goals. A fundamental goal of every CRM solution is to boost customer satisfaction by using CRM data to deliver a well-planned customer experience. The top CRM goal for many organizations is to drive more sales.

Gather input from internal stakeholders and users within your organization to get their feedback on top goals for the company’s CRM. Have frank discussions about current weaknesses and bottlenecks associated with customer data management. Take a look at business performance metrics to identify areas for improvement, and then consider which CRM goals are necessary to shore up shortcomings.

Setting specific CRM goals is a top CRM practice that you should never skip. Establishing smart CRM goals now will set you and your company up for long-term success going forward.

When CRM systems fail to produce optimal results, the source of the problem can often be linked to poor implementation. Developing a solid CRM implementation plan will help ensure that your CRM performs as expected. Your CRM software will only deliver the results you want if it is correctly configured and your team knows how to get the most from the CRM.

There are several steps involved in building an effective CRM implementation plan. The first step is to establish a team that will be responsible for your CRM system launch. Give your launch team the responsibility and authority it needs to succeed. Assigning a lead project manager and an executive leader to make the tough calls when there is disagreement among the ranks is vital for success.

CRM best practices involving implementation include establishing your CRM budget, verifying required CRM integrations, evaluating CRM providers and preparing data for the CRM transition. CRM testing, staff training and building an ongoing CRM performance monitoring plan are also critical steps in the implementation process. Get the complete breakdown of CRM implementation.

One of the more important CRM best practices is customizing CRM software to your needs, which is easier done with some solutions than others. CRM software varies regarding the level of customization allowed. As a general rule, the less you pay for your CRM, the fewer opportunities you’ll have to tailor it to your needs.

There are several excellent customizable platforms on the market. For example, Zoho CRM comes with 15 standard modules, but you can add custom modules to accommodate fields that are important to you or your industry. Zoho CRM’s advanced filters allow you to build custom dashboard views. You can also customize validation rules, create conditional fields, add custom components and create custom field dependencies with Zoho.

Pipedrive is another powerful CRM software that delivers considerable customization. With Pipedrive, you can create custom fields, reports, dashboards and sales pipelines. Pipedrive’s open API lets you customize your CRM by easily integrating with other apps and adding more functionality and power to your CRM.

Data integrity is essential; bad data results in bad decisions, and no business can afford that. Proper data cleansing and data management are keys to maintaining data integrity.

A best CRM practice is to create well-defined and implemented processes for acquiring, adding, organizing, manipulating and maintaining data in your CRM. To achieve squeaky-clean data, it’s imperative that you perform regular CRM data reviews to check for data validity, accuracy and completeness. Conducting consistent data audits will also help you identify and remove duplicate and corrupt data before it interferes with business decisions.

One CRM best practice is to create smart automations. Tapping into the efficiencies possible through CRM automation helps you harness your CRMs full power. Knowing what to automate can save your team time, reduce sales costs and ensure that important tasks do not fall through the cracks.

Content delivery is a prime function where you might create some automations in your CRM. For example, when a new lead is entered into your CRM, you might direct that lead to an automatic email welcome sequence or product-specific nurture email series.

You can use CRM automations to refine project workflows, reach out to unengaged contacts and keep customers updated on project progress. Lead scoring, sales forecasting, proposal management and process workflows can all be automated.

Automations can also be used to alert you to CRM metrics that matter most to you, such as buying patterns, sales team performance, conversion rates and performance patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Weak user adoption is a key reason CRMs fail. If your team does not understand the immense benefits of your CRM or is not properly trained on how to use your CRM correctly, your CRM is doomed. That’s why developing an effective user training program is a crucial CRM best practice.

Getting organization-wide buy-in for your CRM will help warm users to the importance of building their CRM competencies. Establishing training programs in multiple formats, including group sessions and self-paced training, delivered in person or online, will give your team ready access to the types of training that work best for them. Incorporating gamification into your training can improve user engagement and learning retention.

CRM training is not a one-time event but rather a continuous process that requires ongoing attention. It’s helpful to have an online resource center (most CRM solutions provide these) where users can turn for platform support. When possible, provide an internal support leader or team where users can turn to when they experience a problem or need to ask a specific question.

Certain data in your CRM helps you more fully understand what’s going on in your business. CRM analytics can guide you to make better decisions, which in turn, leads to better overall performance.

Most CRM platforms come with built-in reporting tools; premium plans typically offer advanced analytics and custom reporting. Here are just a handful of CRM reports and analyses that can help you make stronger business decisions:

The contact and customer data in your CRM offers a holistic view of the current state of your customer relationship initiatives. Arming yourself with solid CRM reporting and analytics skills is a CRM best practice as it enables stronger investment decisions for marketing, sales, customer service and customer support expenditures.

Strong CRMs help you create exceptional customer journeys, thus paving the way for you to deliver a superior experience at every stage along the way. A terrific customer experience leads to higher customer satisfaction and, in turn, higher sales.

Your CRM can help you improve the quality and consistency of your interactions with customers. Housing qualitative data in your CRM, such as information on why a contact reached out to you in the first place, will help you better serve their exact needs. Keeping descriptive data in your CRM, such as professional and lifestyle information, allows you to tailor messages based on your contacts’ stage in life or career choice or personal interests.

If you’re not using your CRM to deliver an exceptional customer experience, you’re missing out on a key best CRM practice. Timely, consistent interactions along with authentic, personalized messaging via your CRM can help you deliver a bespoke experience that can transform contacts into clients for life.

It may sound obvious that keeping your CRM up to date is a best practice, yet this is where many organizations flat out fail. You simply can’t build a CRM and assume it will work well over time without proper auditing and updates.

New data is being added to your CRM regularly, new users are brought in who may or may not fully understand how to use the CRM properly and system compatibility changes over time as technologies evolve. As the world of business and software changes, opportunities for data gaps, processing inefficiencies, loss of data integrity and even possible data corruption emerge. That’s why you need a solid audit and updating plan for your CRM.

Implementing CRM best practices isn’t always easy, but the benefits a CRM brings to your business make it worth it. You need a strong CRM leadership team in place. We recommend involving power users, technical pros and stakeholders in the CRM selection and build-out process. Be sure to put a strong training platform in place. Finally, take great care in protecting data integrity in your CRM.

While CRM systems can be incredibly complicated, you’ll get the most from your CRM by ensuring it is user-friendly. When a CRM is difficult to navigate, it won’t be used effectively. Strive to create intuitive user dashboards and simple-to-use reporting processes for team members and leaders alike. Take advantage of CRM automations to eliminate tedious tasks and simplify the customer relationship management process.

A CRM is a powerful business tool for storing, organizing and managing essential customer data. A well-designed CRM delivers profit-boosting insights that would be hard to spot on your own. Implementing the top 10 CRM best practices from this guide will help you tap into the full power of your CRM to achieve stronger customer satisfaction while optimizing sales in the process.

CRM best practices include selecting the best CRM software for your small business, establishing well-defined goals for your CRM and implementing a strong CRM training program for your company’s CRM users. Maintaining accurate and complete CRM data is essential, as is regularly auditing your CRM for data integrity.

You need a CRM for your business if you have a large number of contacts and customer data to manage and you want a single repository to store that information for quick and easy access. Your CRM can help you automate tasks, simplify sales and service team collaboration, track buying signals and deliver valuable insights you can use to make stronger business decisions.

There are three types of CRM applications: collaborative, operational and analytical/marketing.

A collaborative CRM centralizes lead and customer data, making it easy for service, marketing and sales professionals to access that information. An operational CRM automates CRM processes related to customer interactions, campaign measurement and sales forecasting. An analytical or marketing CRM aggregates customer information to analyze trends and provide insights for business decisions.

The biggest “don’t” of CRM is don’t allow your contact data to be corrupted. Do take measures to ensure your CRM data is complete, accurate and updated regularly. Other don’ts include don’t select a CRM without first defining your specific needs and goals, don’t skimp on training when implementing a new CRM and don’t forget to think about both current and future needs when selecting a CRM.

The best simple CRM is Zoho CRM. Freshsales, noCRM.io and Less Annoying CRM are all popular simple CRMs too.

Open source CRMs make their source code open for all, which makes CRM customization easier. According to Forbes, SuiteCRM is the overall best open source CRM, though Odoo CRM, OroCRM and YetiForce are all excellent solutions as well.

Janette Novak is a freelance journalist and consultant who specializes in teaching online business and small business marketing. Previously, Janette owned a boutique marketing agency and served as a Chief Marketing Officer for a leading professional training services provider.