Article

How to create a sales CRM strategy

By Josh Bean, Director, marketing

Published March 16, 2020
Last modified March 16, 2020

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a powerful tool for any sales team; it saves them time and provides invaluable data insights for nurturing prospects until they become customers.

But, surprisingly, it's more common for sales reps to use Excel and email to store and manage prospect data than it is to use a CRM system. And for the teams that do use a CRM, few take full advantage of the tool. With minimal CRM usage, many sales teams are missing opportunities to attract and nurture prospects. As a result, revenue growth suffers—despite the team's best efforts.

If this sounds like your sales team, what you need is a sales CRM strategy—a plan for how you'll use your CRM to enhance your sales team's effectiveness. With a CRM strategy, your team will be able to fully utilize the tool to close more sales, boost efficiency, and improve prospects' experience.

We've identified six steps that you can use to build your own sales CRM strategy.

1. Identify your sales CRM strategy goals

The first step in creating an effective sales CRM strategy is identifying goals. This will help you understand what you need most from your tool and how you’ll use itl. Avoid vague goals like "retain customers longer" or "improve communication." These goals aren't specific, so you'll have a hard time figuring out how to use your CRM to achieve them.

Set clear goals instead. If you know what you want to achieve with the system, you'll be able to match software features to your needs. To develop goals for your sales CRM, follow these three steps.

Identify problems in your sales department

The simplest way to identify issues that a CRM could solve is to ask your team and prospects for feedback.

For your team members, ask where they need support. For example, do they feel bogged down with admin tasks? Or do they feel like too many prospects are low quality? As for prospects, assess negative feedback they’ve left about your sales process, whether that’s impersonal pitches or slow follow-up by reps.

Take note of this feedback—both from prospects and your sales team—as issues that your CRM could potentially solve.

Choose issues your CRM can solve

To figure out which sales problems your CRM can solve and solve best, learn about the tool’s features. The better you understand your CRM, the easier it will be to see opportunities for improvement with the tool. Here are a few examples of sales problems that could be solved by a CRM:

  • Minimal communication between sales and departments like marketing and customer support. Your sales CRM should make it easy to share data between departments by sharing open tickets and call notes.
  • Disorganized prospect information. Your sales CRM should help you complete tasks, like create, update, and merge contact profile data, in one platform.
  • Too much manual admin work. Your sales CRM should integrate with other apps you use so you can automatically create reports, campaigns, and contacts.

Review your list of sales problems to see where the tool can close the gap between where you are (issues exist) and where you want to be (resolved issues).

Set goals based on where your concerns and CRM features overlap

Based on the problems you’ve picked out that the tool can solve, set concrete objectives for your team’s CRM use. Say, for example, your problem is a low prospect-to-customer conversion rate, and you hope to use your CRM’s targeted prospect lists to increase the metric.

Using your knowledge of the feature, you set a CRM objective of increasing the conversion rate by 20% in three months. By setting clear CRM goals, you and your sales team have a clear framework for evaluating how much value you’re getting out of the tool.

2. Decide on KPIs

Now that you've decided on which goals to focus on, you need key performance indicators (KPIs) to track your progress. Start by reviewing the goal you set in Step 1, and ask yourself which KPIs align with that objective.

Say, for example, you hope to increase monthly recurring revenue by 15% over the next six months with the help of your CRM. To evaluate how the tool is impacting sales, you might track the following metrics:

  • Monthly sales growth: A measure of month-over-month revenue growth
  • Sales targets: The total number of sales each rep closes in a period
  • Sales closing ratio: The number of sales closed compared with the total prospects received

Along with tracking KPIs, plan to ask sales reps for qualitative feedback about their CRM usage. You might send your reps a short survey asking them about their experience. Use the results to see where improvements can be made and whether the tool is meeting the goals you’ve set.

3. Figure out which sales tasks you can automate

One of the biggest benefits of a sales CRM is that it can automate administrative tasks that typically burden reps, such as activity tracking and revenue reporting. This automation has been shown to result in 53% higher conversion rates and 3.1% higher annual growth.

Reap these benefits by figuring out which current sales department tasks could be automated with a CRM, such as:

  • The team's reporting needs. Many CRMs can create activity reports based on data like the number of sales calls per month, sales closing ratio rate, and sales rep follow-ups. They can also auto-generate monthly sales reports to track revenue and sales forecasts, along with a number of other reports.
  • The team's communication needs. Along with automatically scheduling meetings, a CRM is able to automatically send emails and texts to prospects.

One of the most significant benefits of using automation is the fact that reps save time on manual tasks. Instead, reps can focus on high-level activities that help them meet their goals.

4. Connect touchpoint channels with CRM

Make the touchpoints between your reps and prospects more seamless with the help of a CRM tool.

Determine where and how prospects interact with your brand

To figure out how your CRM can enhance prospect interactions, you first need to list all of the channels where reps interact with potential customers. These channels might include social media, email, phone call, text, or even chatbots.

Then, ask prospects which channels they prefer using. For example, when reps call new prospects, part of the call should include confirming where the prospect learned about the brand and asking which channels the prospect uses to connect with the brand. Also, use an external research source that uses data from research studies to verify prospect communication preferences. Finally, rank the channels based on their popularity with your base of prospects.

Brainstorm how Your CRM makes these interactions run smoother.

Once you’ve picked out your prospects’ favorite communication channels, see if you can integrate them with your CRM.

Many CRMs have the ability to connect with communication tools, so reps can reach out to prospects on social, phone, text, and more from their CRM. This centralization means reps can follow up promptly and reduces the likelihood they’ll miss messages with CRM notifications.

For example, Zendesk Sell offers the following:

  • An automated power dialer. Allows reps to call prospects directly from Sell without dialing numbers manually.
  • Chat widget. Once added to your website, the widget will enable reps to live chat with site visitors from Sell.
  • Email. Lets you connect existing email accounts to Sell so reps can use the sales CRM to track email open rate and clicks.

When you identify touchpoints in your sales funnel that overlap with your sales CRM, it’s easier to show your sales reps how your system helps them. As a result, prospects flow through the sales funnel smoother because your team connects with them at the right time, with the right channel.

5. Align sales team communication with other departments

The data in your CRM isn’t just useful for the sales team—it’s also incredibly informative for your company’s marketing and support departments. Likewise, marketing and support teams have data that could help your sales reps craft more compelling pitches and close deals faster.

Make it easy for the sales team to share data with other departments by learning about how your CRM enables cross-team communication.

Sales + marketing

Sharing prospect data boosts both marketing and sales performance. If marketers know which types of prospects tend to convert, they can curate their campaigns around that buyer persona. On the flip side, sales reps may be curious to know which marketing messaging resonates the most with prospects so they can build engaging pitches.


A feedback loop enables marketing and sales teams to share information with each other.

Use your sales CRM to make it easier for marketing to share qualified prospects with your team. With Zendesk Sell, this connection works by integrating with HubSpot. When a prospect interacts with your content—for example, they download an ebook—the marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are automatically sent to Sell. Plus, all contact details, such as conversations, that either marketing or sales had with prospects are synced and stored in Sell, so your team has real-time information.

Sales + customer support

As with marketing teams, it also makes sense for sales teams to share data with support departments through their CRM. This connection works in Sell if your support team also uses Zendesk Support. With both tools connected, support reps are able to share open tickets with sales reps who originally sold the product to the customer. Seeing the ticket, sales reps can quickly give support reps feedback on the best way to solve the issue.

Connecting Zendesk Sell and Zendesk Support also allows support reps to view customer contact cards that include notes sales reps’ made while talking to prospects. Context helps support reps understand what customers have been told in the past by sales reps.

6. Develop a thorough sales CRM onboarding process

The final step in creating your sales CRM strategy is to develop an onboarding process. Set up training so new team members know how to take advantage of your sales CRM shortly after starting.

Create onboarding manuals

Create a CRM sales training manual that describes how your team’s most commonly used CRM features work. Segment the manual into chapters that each focus on a feature so it’s easy for reps to scan through the guide and find the information they need.

For each chapter, provide detailed advice about each feature. The more information you provide, the more likely new reps will be able to independently solve problems they encounter with the CRM.

Record training videos

Create tutorial videos to visually guide reps through CRM features. It’s best to use a screen-sharing software, such as Soapbox, to record these videos so reps can see how the tool is used and how issues are resolved.

In terms of video length, research from video marketing platform Wistia shows that engagement is steady up to the two-minute mark. Beyond that point, reps in a rush may abandon the video. Keep your tutorial videos short and digestible by covering only one CRM learning topic in each video.

Use resources provided by your CRM

Many CRM systems come with an online resource page. Direct your team to these pages if they can’t resolve the issue with your internal training materials.

The CRM’s educational resources are especially helpful if there’s a feature upgrade. Instead of always needing to update your training materials, you can use the CRM’s resources to teach reps about the new feature.

Store CRM onboarding manuals in a knowledge hub, such as Tettra, that reps can easily access. Remind sales reps to look for information here first before going to the sales team lead. You want to create a culture where reps defer to the knowledge hub first to solve CRM issues to save time for the rest of your team.

Convert more prospects with a strong sales CRM strategy

It doesn't matter how great your sales CRM is—if you don't have a plan to make the most of the tool, you're not going to find it very valuable. Follow this guide to build a plan for making the most of your sales CRM. With this preparation, your team will be ready to use the tool as efficiently as possible. With greater organization throughout your sales process, thanks to the CRM, your team is bound to attract more prospects and close more deals.

To learn more about how Sell can help your sales team, start your free trial today!