How to Launch a CRM

imageThis is the 4th post of a 50 article series for beginners building marketing at B2B startups.

Imagine the CRM (Customer Relationship Management software) as the brain or “mothership” of your sales and marketing team. The CRM is used to track every person that enters our funnel and that we interact with.

Every time a lead downloads an ebook, or speaks to us on the phone, that action is tracked in the CRM. Each time we engage with that lead, we have a record of what we have told them so far and what we need to do to move them along in the buyer journey.

Needless to say, the CRM is a primary component of your organization’s sales and marketing stack (the set of tools you use), right next to your marketing automation system. For a new B2B startup just building the team and launching your first CRM, let’s break down how to approach it:

1. Analyze your team structure and sales process

There are a myriad of different CRMs available, and each caters to different types of companies, sales processes, etc. The most widely used is Salesforce. Many other choices like Hubspot CRM, RelateIQ, Pipedrive and Close.io may also be considered. As you are evaluating which CRM is right for you, consider:

What degree of flexibility do you need?

The benefit of a product like Salesforce is that it offers an extreme degree of flexibility and customization. The downside is that it is far more complex to work with and build. Does your team need that level of complexity, or would something automatically configured out of the box be sufficient?

How large will your sales team grow?

Some products (e.g. Pipedrive) are often used by smaller teams in smaller volume sales environments. For example, if you are running an agency services business where you aren’t bringing on an unlimited volume of customer transactions, a smaller, easier to use system might make sense.

How sophisticated or simplistic is your sales process?

Are you selling multiple products at multiple price points, or is a sale typically the same each time? Do you expect to have a large team with many sales reps, or are more of your sales happening transactionally on your website?

What resources do you have available to launch and maintain the CRM?

This one is important: who in your organization (perhaps it is you) will be technical enough to get a CRM up and running? Again, robust tools like Salesforce take a lot more energy (or require expensive consultants) to launch. Consider the timeframe needed to get your CRM operational as well.

Based on these variables, you will need to select a vendor. All of these products are billed as SaaS, typically in the range of $50 – $100 per user per month. If you have a 5 person team that continues to grow, that cost can quickly add up.

It’s also important to note that both Salesforce and Hubspot offer CRMs and marketing automation systems that work together well since they are all-in-one. I use Hubspot CRM for my team.

2. Determine what data matters and create fields

When you are launching a CRM, you need to make some very important decisions early on about what data you want to track as your sales and marketing team grows. What data about each of your leads/customers is most valuable to you (e.g. location, other products used, industry, revenue size). Tracking this data offers several benefits for your team:

Insight for customizing the sales process

What information would be valuable to a sales rep when s/he is speaking to a lead for the first time? What information gathered during that discovery call could be helpful later in the process? These are the questions that you and your head of sales should think through, and build a list of fields to track.

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Let’s consider a quick example: suppose you sell education software into three verticals: K-12, Community College and Four Year Universities. In this example, you’d want to create a field “Education Type” with three drop down options that are each of the verticals describe above.

Ability to identify trends and “ideal customers”

Following our education example, suppose that after 2 months of selling, you find that the majority of deals you are closing are in the K-12 vertical. By tracking that field, you can access this type of insight effortlessly and in real-time. This insight can help you cater your marketing collateral, event strategy and a myriad of other revenue activities to your highest impact selling areas.

Flexibility as you grow and change

As you grow, your sales process will evolve, you will add new products and you will want to track different types of data. Following our same example, perhaps you also expand to create software for use in home school environments. You’ll want to make sure that the fields you create don’t make it difficult to record data for that vertical as well, even though it may have different parameters from the other three. You can do that by ensuring that your fields are based around drop-down values, and not free text entry. This is also important because standardized dropdown values enable far more robust reporting and reduce human data entry error.

3. Configure integrations

Your CRM will likely integrate with multiple internal tools, particularly your marketing automation system. Your vendor has likely already built this integration for you, so typically you just need to do a bit of configuration between the two systems. A few things to note:

Consider a CRM and marketing automation system all-in-one

Some of the vendors (e.g. Salesforce and Hubspot) offer both the CRM and marketing automation systems. This typically means that you will have very little integration work to do, and that the two stages of the funnel (marketing and sales) will play nicely with each other.

Connect your own product to your CRM

If you sell a software product, consider leveraging your own APIs to integrate it with your CRM. For example, there may be certain actions your customers could take (e.g. not logging into your product for a certain period of time) that should be logged in the CRM and flagged for your customer success team to support.

4. Import data

Once you have selected a vendor, decided what data is most important to track and connected your CRM to other relevant tools, it’s time to import your historic data. There are typically 3 sets of data that you need to import:

  • Contacts (people)
  • Companies (organizations)
  • Deals (sales transactions)

In most CRMs, these 3 data types are connected together in the sense that a Deal is transacted with a specific company, who may have multiple contact people involved in the transaction. Those contact people are who the sales team will be interacting with to close the deal. This means that when you import the data, it’s important to be meticulous in your use of naming conventions. This often ensures that the right contacts get associated with the right companies and the right deals.

The process of importing the data itself often involves a bit of Excel manipulation and likely a support call to your CRM vendor to ensure the data is formatted correctly. Don’t be surprised if the data import process ends up being tedious – it often is!

5. Create extensive documentation

If you’ve successfully completed steps 1-4, you should be at the point where your CRM is ready for action. The final (and very important) step is to document how you want your sales and marketing team to use the CRM, and train them accordingly. You need to ensure that they:

  • Enter complete data and fill out the necessary fields
  • Categorize deals, companies and contacts properly
  • Follow the team’s documented sales process diligently

Your team also needs specific rules dictating when a sales rep can create a deal (thus adding it to sales pipeline), etc. We won’t go too deep into that one since the focus of this series is marketing!

This post is part of a 50 article series on startup marketing… read them all

Greg Skloot is a technology entrepreneur and marketer. He is currently VP Growth at Netpulse, the #1 provider of mobile apps for health clubs and a $40M VC backed software company in San Francisco. At Netpulse, he leads marketing, sales operations and strategic growth. Previously, Greg was CEO and Co-Founder of Attend.com, where he built the initial product, raised $3M and hired a team of 30. Contact Greg at skloot.org/contact.



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