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Updated Apr 19, 2024

How to Set Up Workflows With a CRM

Automated workflows streamline productivity and customer service and help your team focus on more complex tasks.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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CRM workflows are among the most significant CRM software tools available. They allow you to automate sales, marketing, customer support and account management tasks to free your team’s time for more complex, meaningful projects. CRM workflows can also alert your team to significant lead and prospect updates to help you close deals efficiently and boost sales. Best of all, CRM workflows are easy to set up, even if perfecting them takes some trial and error.

What are CRM workflows?

CRM workflows are automated sequences fueled by CRM software that help complete various business processes and tasks. With CRM workflows, a customer’s action, often called a “trigger,” automatically generates another set of actions. Every time a customer takes a specific action, your team doesn’t have to complete all the subsequent required steps manually. Instead, the CRM automatically handles it. For example, if your business uses a CRM for lead management, you can take advantage of lead tracking and communication logging tools to set up CRM workflows that move leads through the sales pipeline.

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Automated CRM workflows can streamline a business's sales cycle by improving lead management and customer service, ultimately boosting sales.

How to create workflows using CRM

Creating specific CRM workflows will depend on the platform you choose. However, you’ll likely take the following general steps: 

1. Determine which processes will get CRM workflows.

Automation saves time and frees your team from mundane daily tasks. However, you should never automate all your work. For example, crucial tasks that must be completed early in the CRM funnel are better suited for automation than lower-funnel processes, most of which inherently require human interaction.

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

2. Set up your CRM workflows.

With most CRMs, setting up workflows involves the following essential steps:

  • Open your workflow creation tool and start and name a new workflow.
  • Assign the workflow to one or several employees and departments. CRM platforms typically include templates that help you get 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. CRM workflows are flexible, so you can improve and adjust them as needed. 

3. Run your new workflows and regularly test them.

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

4. Inform your teams of all workflow changes.

Let’s say your CRM metrics help you determine that your automated help ticketing process isn’t improving time to resolution. In fact, you see that your team is taking longer than expected to resolve tickets, even with the CRM workflows in place. Before adjusting these workflows, meet with your team to let them know how you’re planning to tweak the process to improve results. You may even decide to revert help ticketing to a manual task. 

This communication is crucial and should include all departments involved in the workflow. Failing to inform employees of workflow changes could cause mass confusion and allow crucial tasks to fall through the cracks. Your team may think specific actions have been triggered when, in reality, your workflows no longer trigger them.

Apprising your team of CRM workflow changes also allows you to gain valuable insights. Employees who sense that particular workflow changes might pose challenges will share that feedback, allowing you to adjust future workflow strategies.

Get your sales team's buy-in before adopting CRM software to ensure the platform is embraced and used.

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.

Again, employee input is critical. 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 workforce.

What types of workflows can CRM software automate?

Essential CRM features enable wide-ranging automatic workflows in the following areas: 

  • Email list-building workflows: When a customer joins your email list, your CRM can set up an automated workflow that sends the new subscriber a thank-you message outlining what to expect from future email newsletters or messages. The workflow can also include internal measures, such as generating a CRM file for the customer and setting it up for proper lead nurturing.
  • Lead-scoring workflows: A lead-scoring system assigns values to leads on a scale that typically runs from 0 to 100. Your CRM can set up workflows to automate this process. For example, when a lead opts into your email list, the CRM can automatically score and qualify the lead as they take actions that move them through the sales funnel. The workflow can also notify your sales team of worthwhile lead follow-up opportunities.
  • Marketing workflows: The marketing department uses your CRM to improve marketing campaigns by centralizing audience data access and segmenting customers. Automating various marketing workflows dramatically improves marketing efficiency. For example, through automated email drip campaigns, your leads receive a sequence of marketing emails that can help move them along the sales funnel. You can also set up automated CRM workflows to score them based on their engagement with your drip campaign.
  • Lead generation workflows. To find leads, set up CRM workflows that enable lead generation. For example, when someone follows through on your company’s calls to action, you can trigger a CRM workflow that labels them as a potential lead.
  • Lead alert workflows: CRM workflows can notify sales managers when leads that meet specific criteria enter your database. You can also set up workflows that alert managers to key changes with these accounts or when urgent follow-up is needed.
  • Account management workflows: You can create workflows that alert you to client contracts that are set to expire soon and require re-signing or renegotiation. These can be either one-time alerts or staggered, recurring notifications. For more straightforward contracts or monthly subscriptions, you can automatically send renewal emails.
  • Reporting workflows: Most CRM software can generate a wealth of analytics. These CRM analytics can inform insightful, automatically generated reports to help with decision-making. The best CRMs allow you to set workflows for any type of report.
  • Call-logging workflows. CRM call-logging workflows ensure missed calls are returned via automatically generated callback tasks for unanswered calls.
  • Customer service workflows: Customer service uses CRM software to improve customer support and solve problems. Automated customer support workflows ensure appropriate service emails are sent and can flag specific customers for personal follow-up by alerting relevant support reps.
Set up CRM workflows that escalate and de-escalate customer service issues to better manage customer relationships and ensure positive outcomes.

Best CRM software for setting up workflows

All the best CRM software platforms support workflows that will streamline operations. However, choosing the right CRM means finding one that fits your budget and specific needs. The following options are excellent jumping-off points as you begin your search. 

  • Zoho CRM: Zoho CRM is particularly helpful for businesses that must set up automated workflows for remote teams. Its gamification features foster camaraderie and team collaboration for remote and hybrid staff. Our Zoho CRM review explains how this platform’s AI virtual assistant can suggest workflow improvements to help you save more time and work more efficiently. 
  • Pipedrive: Pipedrive is an excellent, sales-focused CRM. It can help you set up automated workflows for routine tasks and administrative functions — so your team can focus on closing more deals. Read our Pipedrive review to learn how this platform allows you to automate the segmentation process for new leads and create automated lead-qualification workflows and lead-nurturing sequences.
  • HubSpot CRM: HubSpot features premade sequence templates that can help you get started creating effective CRM workflows to automate sales, marketing and service tasks. In addition to its built-in automations, HubSpot’s extensive app marketplace includes numerous third-party apps to help automate marketing processes and more. Our HubSpot review explains how the platform’s deal pipeline includes a drag-and-drop editor that makes customized CRM workflow creation seamless. 
  • Zendesk: Zendesk is an exceptionally customizable platform. It can help you create sales sequences that engage leads automatically and set up sales triggers that ensure leads and customers get appropriate attention. Our Zendesk review explains how easy it is for sales teams to build daily workflows to address tasks like cold calling, email follow-ups, return calls and more. 
Read our HubSpot vs. Zendesk comparison to see how these platforms stack up when it comes to prebuilt CRM workflows and sales automations.

Automated CRM workflows make life easier for your team

Automated workflows are an excellent way to streamline productivity and improve customer service. The first step is determining which workflows will improve your business processes. Then, you must set up and test workflows and consult your team about their viability. As you tweak your CRM workflows to enhance sales, marketing, service and admin, you’ll continually free your team to pursue higher-level tasks that can fuel business growth. 

Elizabeth Crumbly contributed to this article.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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