At first glance, any CRM system might look complex. This is because they have so many options to customize and tune-up. But a CRM is only confusing in case you don’t know what those options do and how you can use them to your advantage.

Here are several tips you can follow when customizing and using your CRM for small business.

1. Keep an open mind

CRM systems are different. Don’t expect one system to have every feature that another one has. Or at least that they would be called the same way everywhere.

For example, as of now, there’s no dedicated reporting feature in NetHunt CRM to get the data about the total value of all deals in the pipeline by stages. However, this is achievable by applying a summarization option to your sales pipeline. Two different features, but the end result for sales management is the same.

2. Avoid duplicates

It’s difficult to create a duplicate-proof workflow with a system that wouldn’t impair or limit its users. Most CRM systems have at least some form of duplicate prevention or notification. When you create a new record you should absolutely take into consideration what the system is telling you.

For example, in NetHunt CRM when you’re creating a new record out of an email, NetHunt will suggest you a record which you might link the message to. Otherwise, start typing in the name of a record you’d like to create and you might be surprised to find out that such record already exists.

3. Leverage default data

This is another good solution to typing as little data as possible. Once you have a more or less standardized workflow and you know your whole sales or other processes in details, replace as much simple (text) fields with drop-downs, presets or default data.

It should go well with almost any process. When you receive an email from a new lead, make sure that the new record for him would automatically go into the first stage of your sales pipeline. If you have 5 main sources for leads, don’t be lazy and list them all as presets. This way reps would only have to choose values instead of constantly typing them in.

4. Follow clear naming conventions

When entering new values into fields, keep them short and clear. This makes it easy to scan through the information in the records. But where this especially comes in handy is once you start using display fields. NetHunt displays the data from selected fields in the inbox, so you can immediately see key information about a case you’re reading an email from.

5. Automate email linking with rules

The golden rule of working with the CRM systems is to “automate as much as you can”. The very first thing you can automate in NetHunt CRM is to setup email linking based on the sender’s address.

Once an email arrives, it’ll automatically be added to the corresponding record if you’ve previously created an email rule for that address. It will also allow you to immediately see the value of display fields, bringing you into the context of relationships right from the start. When you’re using a CRM for sales, spending some time on preparation will return the efforts twofold.

6. Use the system yourself

A good leader gives an example. That’s what you should be doing in terms of CRM too. When you’re choosing a CRM system for your employees and team management, try it out yourself before you roll it out to the whole company. And even after it passes all YOUR tests and you set it up for your people, continue using it alongside your employees.

Yes, your work is probably different from your sales or support guys, but at least use the system for gathering insights. Don’t wait for someone to submit you a detailed report. Make it yourself, see how your structured workflow works in this CRM, gather feedback from your employees and make sure that the system works as intended. There will be bumps on the road. This way you can iron out the small ones ASAP or switch the system completely in case the cons are bigger than the pros.

7. Leave comments and log calls

Most CRM systems let you log conversations and comment on the task completion inside records. This is where the conversation and other active time-sensitive information should stay and not in the record’s form itself. This is the section to communicate with your teammates and log progress, so keep the record clean with only the factual data related to the client.

8. Use reminders

There is a different number of deals or tasks you have to complete daily depending on your business. Either that’s one, two, or a dozen, do not expect to remember when each one of them is due. CRM systems are used for storing data, including some current processes in your business. So it’s worth using the reminders or follow-up feature of your CRM system.

Simply putting a flag/star/checkmark and a date next to the record will let you free up your memory without fear of missing out on a deal or task due date. A view by dates will also create a nice schedule to follow, like the one you get in Calendar.

Simply putting a flag/star/checkmark and a date next to the record will let you free up your memory without fear of missing out on a deal or task due date. A view by dates will also create a nice schedule to follow, like the one you get in Calendar.

9. Set dynamic views

You might think that a record is the most important element of a CRM system. But once there are like 5 thousands of them on screen at the same time, records create more of a mess than the structured solution they should provide. Here’s where views come into play.

If you’re creating a view by stages, there won’t be any problems as the records update over time. But when it comes down to dates, you can’t use a view with last week dates every time. This is why you need to use dynamic values when creating a view. For example, when in NetHunt CRM you need a view that’ll show you the new leads that were created in the system during the last week, you don’t need to enter the exact dates. A better solution would be to create a view with a filter:

created>=”a week ago”

By doing so, this view will be constantly up to date and you’ll be presented with only the records created during a period of past seven days from now on.

10. Don’t expect Mk I to be flawless

This is not only about CRM systems, but many things in general. When you’ll mold your workflow in a CRM system, it’ll be great for some time because you’ve taken into consideration all CURRENT aspects of your business. With time you’ll start noticing that there’s a stage missing here and, that you should have used a different type of field for Assignees or that there are two fields that are responsible for basically the same thing.

And that’s OK. Well, as long as your CRM system allows you to painlessly make changes and additions. Keep in mind that your business processes are always evolving and you need to adapt your CRM system to this. Reshuffling your small business CRM is not always a task you can complete in 5 seconds, but as long as you don’t need to invite an expert for this, you’re good to go.

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