The most common reason that CRMs fail to meet expectations is that businesses fail to plan scalable processes in advance. 

Without a system that considers team habits, preferences, as well as business goals, your CRM will fail to inspire or motivate team members to use it as you intended. 

Not everyone is inputting data in the same way, and some aren't doing it at all. They might think that it takes too long or not see the benefit in it, which ends up leaving your CRM database full of holes and mismatched formatting.

Creating collaborative workflows and strategies showcase that value to your stakeholders and other team members.

You’ve chosen an advanced CRM tool with an impressive list of features: workflow automation, third-party integrations, customization and more. But if your staff isn't on board, then your CRM won't help you reach your business goals.

Today we chat with Jeroen Corthout, the Co-Founder of Salesflare, a CRM solution which is tailored to SMBs looking to automate their sales processes.

Curious about the state of your CRM data? Click here to clean and enrich your first data points for free.


Jeroen Corthout,

Co-Founder of Salesflare

He has seen it all when it comes to business processes and understands what it takes to create a successful customer relationship management strategy. 

Jeroen Corthout on how to build a crm strategy

We talk about some of the issues that SMB marketing managers and SDRs face when it comes to implementing a CRM strategy, what that strategy should look like, and how to build a collaborative workflow and approach.

The common issues with businesses that manage a CRM without a CRM strategy

Jeroen notices four primary issues in businesses with no CRM strategy:

1. Salespeople don't see the point in it

One common issue that Jeroen often observes is that current CRM processes are heavily manual. They require too much effort to input data, so the sales team won't bother doing it. Salespeople want to make sales and hit KPIs. If your CRM isn't helping them reach those goals, they struggle to see the point in putting in extra effort. 

2. They aren't building relationships

The point of a CRM isn't just to house your contact data; it's to make your relationships stronger. Customer retention and customer loyalty come from maintaining connections with your leads and new customers. That means remembering who last spoke to them and why, what their needs were how if they were solved, where they are in their customer journey and when it’s time to follow-up. Without a CRM strategy, leads and customers end up getting ignored, or worse, they end up spammed by multiple members of your sales team. 

A CRM strategy allows your team to create a seamless experience for each contact. Instead of asking them the same string of questions over and over again, you will already have all that information in front of you. You will also know exactly who they communicated to last time, what was discussed and what the outcome was, so you can structure your communication accordingly.

3. Businesses don't know who they are in touch with

Your CRM is full of contact data, and your staff are using that data to market or sell to, but there is no process in place to track it. There is no way to know which prospects your business is in touch with, when they received their last communication or what happened as a result. Without workflows that are understood across the company, there might be two sales reps communicating with the same customer simultaneously, and they have no idea. The customer will end up frustrated, confused and will likely drop off as a lead. 

4. SMBs are investing in expensive, feature-rich CRM software, but their systems are falling apart.

Often SMBs will invest in advanced CRMs, but not spend the time on strategy or training. If you don’t give staff firm guidelines on how to use your CRM, data gets ugly fast. More important than choosing the most expensive software is picking something the sales team are comfortable with and that they can actually see themselves using. 

Everyone’s needs should be taken into consideration when structuring the processes you use.

How can you set up a CRM strategy that incentivizes staff to input data correctly?

To truly benefit from your CRM investment, your staff need to be just as motivated by the software as you are. How can you ensure they see the software's value and how it will help them in their day-to-day goals? How can you present it as something more than another burden on their workload?

If the data in your system is imperfect, then it starts to become unreliable. 

Bad data, to even a tiny degree means your sales and marketing teams will get in the habit of saying, "well, the CRM isn't always right."

That distrust makes them even more unlikely to input data correctly. So, what can you do to help them see the benefits?

Jeroen has a few recommendations.

1. Make sure it's not a drag to input

There are very few people who love data entry, and your team is likely no exception. The first step to incentivizing them to input data correctly is to make sure it's not a drag. It should be helping them get to know their client base and not include any pointless details that won't help in the sales or marketing process.

2. It should be easy to understand and use

The more complex the process, the more your team will resist it. It almost needs to act like a consumer app, sending relevant notifications, and providing user-friendly tracking features. The easier it is to understand and use the process, the more likely everyone is to use it.

3. Hook up systems which feed data into the CRM

When it comes to a successful CRM strategy, the more automation, the better. If more systems can feed data directly into your CRM, then less manual input will be required. Automation will free up your staff's time, allowing them to focus on actually using the CRM instead of inputting information. 

When you input data manually, you can end up with typos and mismatched formatting as a result of human error. With a CRM you can set up systems to import data in the exact format you want. What are examples of goals of a CRM strategy

Any good strategy starts with an achievable goal.

There are two common goals that Jeroen sees when dealing with SMBs looking to craft a CRM strategy:

1. Make more sales

The number one goal of any business using a CRM is to make more sales. And ideally, they want to do so by better following up what's already in the pipeline. Every single CRM customer, from a practical sales perspective, uses their CRM for follow-ups. 

They collect customer data so that they can continue to nurture leads and eventually make a sale. Many businesses lose revenue by not following up on leads properly.

If you don't have a system in place, it's tough to follow up on leads effectively. You might end up:

  • Following up with inaccurate data, such as the wrong name, job role, or gender

  • Following up too many times

  • Following up after a colleague has already reached out

  • Following up after a customer has already made a purchase

  • Following up with an irrelevant offer

  • Not following up at all

Any of these scenarios is embarrassing in the best case, and could lose you a customer in the worst case. If a lead is ready to convert and you don't follow-up, then you may miss your chance to secure a sale. A CRM strategy will prompt you to follow up at the opportune time. It will also enable you to follow-up based on a comprehensive customer interaction profile, so you can do so effectively.

2. Determine the quality of leads

Another common goal among businesses using CRMs is to determine the quality of their leads. The marketing department is working hard to deliver leads, but are they the right ones? 

You can have a considerable number of leads in your CRM, but if none of them are actually converting, then the volume is meaningless. For the leads that aren't converting, is it because:

  • the marketing department is generating irrelevant leads?

  • It was a hot lead that didn't receive a follow-up? 

Without a CRM strategy, there is no way to track or determine the quality of leads or at what stage they dropped off.

Who are the key stakeholders involved in designing a CRM strategy?

Building an effective CRM strategy is not a one-person (or a one-department) job. Different job roles will use the CRM for different purposes. 

Marketing teams will use CRMs as part of their marketing strategy to optimize marketing campaigns. For the sales team, the functionality is slightly different. 

They care more about tracking different customer interactions throughout the sales cycle and features that allow them to streamline customer communication. Here are some examples of the features that each department uses. 



Social media integrations

Follow-up with leads

Email marketing integrations

Sales forecasting

Engagement tracking

Pipeline management

Interactions with customer support

Customer activity tracking

It's vital for all users of your CRM system that customer data is 100% accurate, allowing all departments to use it effectively. For this reason, Jeroen recommends a collaborative approach when building your CRM strategy to ensure each user will benefit. The key stakeholders that should be involved in the process include:

  • The head of the company (CEO)

  • Sales leads (VP of Sales, Sales Director, Head of Sales)

  • Salespeople

  • Marketing department

Deeply involve all these stakeholders in the process for two main reasons. Firstly, to make sure that the CRM software you're choosing is something they want to use. And secondly, that the way you're going to use the software is something that provides them with value. 

It's crucial that all key stakeholders can see how they will all work together, both technically and operationally, in the platform. We wrote a post on how a CRM can benefit everyone in your team, and how to get them to buy into your CRM strategy.

Defining the customer journey in your CRM

The best way to build an effective CRM strategy is by first defining your customer journey in your CRM and their various touchpoints in the system.

 It's essential to break down exactly how each contact goes through your CRM from customer acquisition and build a roadmap of the process. The most important questions that you should ask when defining your customer journey include:

1.When do we first put an opportunity in the CRM system?

The first part of your CRM strategy should dictate precisely when you put an opportunity into the system. How seriously do they need to show interest to be classified as a lead? If you're cold emailing, you might be adding leads to your CRM before even making initial contact. 

Alternatively, you might be adding in only those who have shown interest in your brand by downloading lead magnets or subscribing to email marketing. One option is not any better than the other; you just need to make a rule around the process so that your team can follow it.

2. How do we put an opportunity in the system?

Secondly, consider how you’d like those opportunities to be entered into your system. What format do you want the data to be in, and what fields are you looking to populate? CRMs will allow you to set how you want your data to look and ensure any automated imports appear the way you want them. 

For manual inputs, your team needs to work from a standardized format. 

3. Are we always going to create a task to follow up? Or is it partly going to rely on an automated reminder from the system?

If you're not using your CRM to follow up, then is it nothing more than a dumping ground for contacts you'll never use? An effective CRM strategy requires a follow-up strategy. You can manually create tasks that will remind you to follow up. 

This can be done via your favorite calendar/scheduling software, and ideally in one that integrates with your CRM. Alternatively, it could rely on an automated reminder from the CRM itself that will prompt you to follow up.

4. When do we add contacts to an account or company?

You will need to decide about when to add contacts to an already established account. For example, if you are working with many large businesses, do you automatically add all their contacts or wait until they are specifically relevant?

Maybe you are working to secure a sale with a specific business. Do you collect the contact details of all the stakeholders and decision-making staff you can find and upload them all? Or do you wait until you've actually made contact and then upload only that person to the CRM? Again, either way is acceptable, but you need to set these rules to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Collaborative or individual CRM workflows?

You have multiple team members in your CRM and they are all using it for different purposes. Jeroen advises against individual workflows in your CRM as it leads to a lot of confusion and miscommunication. Collaborative workflows are more effective as everyone is on the same page and knows when something happens and what it means.

For example, if someone in marketing wants to do a personalized email marketing campaign, they need to know which contact lists to pull so that it's relevant to them. If a salesperson is about to secure a deal on a product with a contact, there is no point generically marketing it to them in an email blast. They will see it as spam.

Another example could be if one of your contacts has recently changed companies and has updated one of your team members about the switch. They may have made a note of it in their individual workflow, but the rest of the team is unaware.

 Another salesperson reaches out to them in regards to their job, and the customer is left frustrated. They already updated someone about their new job, why do they have to do it again?

A collaborative workflow allows every department, from marketing to finance, to share any information from interactions they have with contacts. They will have full access to the entire customer communication chain and all their details. Everyone can see real-time updates to the customer base, allowing them to provide better customer support. 

The most common downfalls that SMBs experience when building CRM strategies

In Jeroen's many years working with SMBs, he's helped many people navigate the process of building CRM strategies. Two main downfalls keep popping up for SMBs working with CRMs.

1. Not building a strategy at all

Business owners aren’t all CRM experts. The process of building a CRM strategy is as familiar as it is a priority (not at all). If you're in sales, then your priority is selling, so you focus your effort on that. If you're in marketing, you work on generating leads, creating content, promotion, etc. 

Neither area wants to waste time coming up with a CRM strategy. The reality is that the CRM strategy is what's going to support all those other tasks.

2. Building a huge strategy at once

On the flip side, some SMBs will have ambitious CRM goals from the start. This can be dangerous. They’ll spend months designing a robust and elaborate system and workflow for the CRM. It’s brilliant, so they thought, but it turns out there are too many kinks in the system that should’ve been tested and iterated earlier on. Take an MVP approach to your CRM strategy.

Many SMBs do the same thing when implementing CRM software. They get together with a few stakeholders, draw out how it will work, build a massive features list, and send it to some CRM providers. If they tick all the boxes, they're sure that the software will work forever, since it meets their current needs. 

Then they roll out a huge implementation and realize no one likes to use it, or it doesn't work how you thought it would. Buying an all-in-one monolithic system is often not the best course of action. Jeroen recommends approaching a CRM strategy like an MVP: start with what works and then iterate.

The most common reason that CRMs fail to meet expectations is because of a lack of strategy. Check out this interview with @JeroenCorthout on how to build a #CRM strategy that will make your CRM more effective.

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How do you create an effective CRM strategy?

When you're creating a CRM strategy, Jeroen always recommends starting with the basics and building from there. Test out what works and what doesn't with the team members that actually use the software. 

From there, you can continue to add bits and pieces to your software stack as needed. Nowadays, it's getting easier to do that with companies like SAP or Integromat, allowing you to build your systems and strategies gradually.

Curious about the state of your CRM data? Click here to clean and enrich your first data points for free.

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Markus Beck

Markus Beck - December 15, 2020

CEO with a passion for data relationships. Markus is half Finnish, half Austrian & fully committed to helping businesses keep bad data from ruining great relationships. Process Engineer by training, with digital marketing & project management skills from previous jobs.