5 CRM Mistakes to Avoid

Ryan Baer

January 20, 2023
you notice your sales data is out of date
you feel like you lack clarity on current pipeline
you want to see reports on booked and forecasted revenue but can’t
you missed an important action item for a potential customer
you expanded your sales team and it’s hard to see who owns what account
you’re seeing duplicates in the data
What does “CRM set up” mean/involve?
When is the best time to set up your CRM and why?
What are the costs if you wait?
What are the benefits if you move quickly?
How do most companies implement their CRM?
Should you get Salesforce or another CRM?

Mistakes with the initial setup of Salesforce can be extremely costly and difficult to undo.  The result is inferior data quality, poor experience for your sales reps, and brittle systems that are unable to adapt as your business changes.  Let’s take a look at 5 of the most important mistakes to avoid when setting up Salesforce:

Poor Data Model Design

Getting the data model right is foundational to building a scalable CRM.  Some important considerations here are:

Maintain a Clean Account List:  A messy account hierarchy makes it very difficult to build territories as you grow your sales team. For example, if you’re bringing unverified form submissions from your website directly into your CRM, you can end up tracking Accounts that your Sales team shouldn’t waste time reaching out to.  We suggest using the Lead object as a “parking lot” for messy data, and converting that Lead to an Account once it’s been verified.

Maintaining a clean account hierarchy can be challenging for product-led growth companies, especially if 1 Account can have multiple “instances” of your product.  Rather than creating an Account for every product sign-up, we suggest utilizing a custom object linked to the Account.

Insufficient Guardrails to Pull Metrics:  Creating the right custom fields isn’t enough to pull reliable metrics - you also need to put the right guardrails in place.  This can be as simple as building a requirement to fill out certain fields at each stage in the sales process, or as complex as leveraging time stamping flows, validation rules, and dashboards to ensure your average sales cycle and conversion rate metrics are inclusive of all Opportunities.  We go into more detail on this topic in this blog post.

Unclear Guidance on Opportunity Creation & Progression:  Opportunities in Salesforce represent a sales process, and are essential in assessing your win rates and conversion rates.  However, these metrics are inconsistent if Opportunities aren’t created consistently - for instance, should you create an Opportunity prior to your first sales call, or only after once you’ve determined that they’re qualified?  The same goes for advancing Opportunities to different stages in your sales process; you should have definitions that are as clear and objective as possible.

Direct Product Integration to Salesforce

With more and more companies adopting a product-led growth motion, it’s common for sales teams to want access to product data in Salesforce.  For early-stage startups with strong technical leadership, it can be tempting to use engineering resources to build a connection between your product and your CRM.

You should operate under the assumption that your sales process will change and evolve a lot - this is especially true for early-stage startups.  By building a direct product integration to your CRM, you’ve now established a dependency on engineering to maintain and update this connection.  Changes to the GTM tech stack can often get deprioritized, so we suggest using a data warehouse and a reverse ETL tool to bring product data into your CRM rather than building a direct connection.

Field History Tracking & Lead Conversion Mapping

Salesforce also has two objects to represent people - Leads and Contacts.  Most of our customers use the Lead object as a parking lot for messy data, and “convert” the Lead to a Contact and Account when that data is verified.  It’s important to note that custom fields on the Lead object will not pass through to the Contact on conversion unless the custom field is created on the Contact, and the mapping is set from the Lead Conversion settings in the Salesforce backend.

Salesforce doesn’t track changes to field values by default because the vast amount of data that would be tracked across every field could cause performance issues.  This setting must be enabled manually, but it should be tracked for key fields.  It’s especially important to enable this setting for fields that are expected to change over time, such as Opportunity stages and any field used in integrations, as these values can change without manual entry and can be difficult to troubleshoot. 

Poor Process Documentation

An often overlooked aspect of building a Salesforce instance to Salesforce is having clear documentation of your processes and the underlying components that drive them.  Without proper documentation, it’s very difficult to make enhancements or changes to the system, onboard new sales reps quickly, and troubleshoot errors.  

We often see startups cycle through multiple consultants before hiring a full-time sales ops manager.  Poor documentation means new consultants are left rebuilding much of the prior consultant’s work, leading to a larger bill, longer lead times, and an accumulation of configurations that aren’t actively being used.  

It often takes months for the first sales ops hire just to understand the current state of the GTM tech stack, and better documentation allows for a better system and for RevOps to hit the ground running.

How Swantide Can Help

At Swantide, we specialize in helping early-stage startups set up and manage Salesforce.  As part of onboarding, your CSM will work closely with you to design your data model, surface “unknown unknowns” and avoid the common pitfalls described above.  Our repository of Salesforce workflows will allow you to reliably report on the metrics that matter to your business.  Each workflow comes with an article in our help center, as well as a listing of the individual components in Salesforce responsible for that process.

Interested in learning more?  Reach out to hello@swantide.com and we’d be happy to chat!

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