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How to Set Up Workflows With a CRM

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

When used properly, CRM workflows can help streamline several of your company's marketing and sales operations.

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software houses several capabilities, so it can easily automate several key workflows.
  • Using CRM workflows, you can automate the delivery of email newsletters, lead scoring and generation, reporting, account management, call logging, customer service, and more.
  • CRM workflows should automate solely low-funnel activities, and you should update your team on all new workflows and revisions.
  • This article is for business owners looking to use CRM software to automate and streamline several business workflows.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can be highly beneficial for small businesses. For your business to fully reap the benefits, you'll need to create CRM workflows.

With CRM workflows, you can automate several sales, marketing, customer support and account management tasks, thus freeing your team's time for more complex, meaningful tasks. CRM workflows can also alert your team to major lead and prospect updates that could help you nab your next customer or client. Best of all, CRM workflows are easy to set up, even if perfecting them takes some trial and error.

How CRM automates workflows

CRM software combines several tools into one, with several departments that use the software for their own purposes. A sales team can use a CRM's most fundamental features, such as lead tracking and communication logging. Outside of sales, the best CRM software can be used to establish and grow B2B or customer relationships. Some CRMs can assist a sales team with marketing.  

Some CRMs include analytics, project management tools, dialers and chatbots that streamline key work tasks from one dashboard. Regardless of their features, most CRM software comes with workflows through which one customer action, often called a "trigger," automatically generates another set of actions. Every time a customer takes a certain action, your team doesn't have to manually complete all the steps required thereafter. Instead, the CRM automatically handles it. [Read related article: How to Choose CRM Software]

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What types of workflows can CRM automate?

CRM software can automate a wide range of tasks, including:

  • Email newsletters. Any time a customer joins your email list, your CRM can set up an automated workflow to send the new subscriber an email thanking them for joining and informing them what they can expect from future newsletters or emails from your company. Your workflow could also include internal measures, such as generating a CRM file for the customer and appropriately scoring your new lead.
  • Lead scoring. A lead scoring system assigns values to all of your leads on a scale that typically runs from 0 to 100. Your CRM can set up workflows to automate this process – in the above email newsletter example, your CRM can score your lead upon list signup. Your CRM can also score leads any time they take actions that move them through the sales funnel. It can also notify your sales team of worthwhile lead follow-up opportunities.

Key Take Away CRM workflows

CRM software houses many tools, and you can set it up to automate many important workflows relating to marketing, customer support, and account management.

  • Lead generation. Before you embark on a drip campaign, you'll need to have targetable leads. To find these leads, you can set up CRM workflows that enable lead generation. Any time someone follows through on your company's calls to action, you can trigger a CRM workflow that labels the customer as a potential lead.
  • Lead alerts. CRM workflows can notify sales managers when leads that meet certain criteria are entered into your database. You can also set up workflows that alert your managers to key changes with these accounts or when urgent follow-up is needed.
  • Account management. Workflows can be created that alert you to client contracts that are set to expire soon and thus require resigning or renegotiation. These can be either one-time alerts or staggered, recurring notifications. For simpler contracts or monthly subscriptions, you can automatically send renewal emails.
  • Call logging. Automated call logging is part and parcel of CRM, and CRM workflows for call logging are the cherry on top. Zoho's CRM software can ensure that missed calls are returned by letting users set up workflows that automatically generate callback tasks for unanswered calls.
  • Customer service. With CRM workflows, you can automate the process through which help tickets get completed. You can send customer service emails, flag customers for personal follow-up and alert relevant support reps. These workflows can also escalate and de-escalate issues or close help tickets.

Key Take Away CRM Features

CRM workflows can automate tasks such as drip marketing, lead scoring and generation, reporting, call logging and customer service.

How to create workflows using CRM

Now that you understand how versatile and useful CRM workflows can be, here are some steps to create them:

1. Determine which processes will get CRM workflows.

Although automation saves time and tasks, you should never automate all of your work. For example, tasks pertinent early in the sales funnel are better suited for automation than lower-funnel processes, most of which inherently require human interaction.

After you decide which high-funnel processes you'll automate, test your automation processes, and compare your results with your ideal metrics. Additionally, your sales, marketing and customer service teams may have valuable insights into which CRM workflows are helping or hindering their work.

2. Set up your workflows.

With most CRMs, setting up workflows involves the same basic steps:

  • Open your workflow creation tool, then start and name a new workflow.
  • Assign the workflow to one or several employees and departments. Often, your CRM will include templates that help get you started.
  • Set the workflow's trigger.
  • Set the actions to which the trigger will lead.
  • Save and activate your workflow.

This process usually takes just a few minutes; further, CRM workflows are flexible and can be adjusted as needed.

3. Run your new workflows, and regularly test them.

After you set up your workflows, you and your team should observe how well (or poorly) your CRM workflows are helping your team achieve its goals. Run tests to identify workflow flaws, and revise your workflows as needed. Running, testing and revising workflows in this manner is crucial to properly using your CRM.

4. Inform your teams of all workflow changes.

Let's say your tests determine that, although your help ticketing process is automated, your team is still taking longer than expected to resolve tickets. You should inform your team of any adjustments you make to your CRM workflows to solve this issue (or revert help ticketing to a manual task).

No matter the task or department, never implement workflow changes without telling your teams. Doing so could lead employees to think that certain actions have been triggered when, in reality, your workflows no longer trigger them.

You can also gain valuable employee feedback when apprising your team of changes. Often, employees who sense that your workflow changes might pose challenges will say so. You can then use this feedback to inform future workflow strategies.

Key Takeaway Decision

To create CRM workflows, decide which processes to automate (ideally high sales funnel processes or tasks), keep your teams updated, and revise as needed.

5. Use only universally successful workflows.

A CRM workflow that makes life easier for one team may be a substantial obstacle for another. Never use workflows that empower one team at the expense of another – instead, go back to the drawing board and find a solution that works for both teams.

In doing so, your teams' input will again prove valuable. If you're trying to create CRM workflows that both your sales and marketing teams can use, speak with each group about what's succeeding and what could be improved. Keep workflows that help teams, and eliminate those that hinder them.

Don't be afraid to revise, rerun and retest your workflows as often as needed until you perfect them. The better your workflows, the more streamlined your operations will be, which can lead to a happier, more successful team.

Image Credit: fizkes / Getty Images
Max Freedman
Max Freedman
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Max Freedman is a content writer who has written hundreds of articles about small business strategy and operations, with a focus on finance and HR topics. He's also published articles on payroll, small business funding, and content marketing. In addition to covering these business fundamentals, Max also writes about improving company culture, optimizing business social media pages, and choosing appropriate organizational structures for small businesses.