We’ve never met a company that didn’t struggle with CRM data management. And we’ve been creating and selling better CRM solutions for over 26 years.

We know how essential clean CRM data is.

We know exactly how much CRM data management affects sales outreach efforts.

And keeping our own CRM records tidy and up to date is still a chore we can fall behind on when other priorities take over!

In this post, I’m going to outline a three-step process for CRM data management that you can start putting in place immediately: no matter what CRM system you’re using. Of course, if you happen to hate your current CRM—or know it’s past time to upgrade to one that fits your business needs—we’d love to connect.

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When you’re ready to start the conversation about your organization’s needs and what Microsoft Dynamics 365 can do for your team, let’s save some time for a product showcase.

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Why CRM Data Management is So Important

Your sales team is just like ours: it has a never-ending list of priorities. And the biggest one is staying active with outreach to your best sales prospects. Nobody wants to spend half a day (or all week) on data entry or trying to reconcile duplicate CRM records.

Until an email like this arrives.

Hi there!

Sorry for the delayed response – we got caught up in the end of the year rush. My team is extremely interested, and we think you all will be a great fit for our company. Let’s talk about getting this deal signed. Give me a call when you can, you’ve got my number.


                                                                                                                                                                Jack Taylor

Awesome! This is a huge opportunity for your company. You go to check your CRM for Jack Taylor’s record to get his contact information….

But you find that there are duplicate records with different phone numbers for Jack Taylor.

You try and find information about other calls made to Jack….

But it turns out there are no previous records of a call being made on the system.

As a matter of fact, there’s no information on who had previously contacted Jack, or what they discussed.

You’ve fallen victim to the silent killer of CRM systems everywhere: bad CRM data management.

What Poor CRM Data Management Costs Your Organization

Most companies don’t see how critical a solid customer relationship management system is until their sales team starts to grow. There’s almost always a tipping point when management teams realize that spreadsheets and their homemade system for tracking prospects and leads in their sales pipeline isn’t working.

But making the investment in a CRM solution is a lot like buying a gym membership. You’ve got to use it, or you won’t see results. And, you’ve got to keep it tidy — or pretty soon it won’t be useable. That’s one of the biggest sticking points for SMBs and their CRM. At its worst, poor CRM data management could tarnish your brand’s reputation or mean missing the right sales opportunities completely. At the very least, bad data is a huge time waster that hampers your sales and marketing efforts through outdated (or even outright wrong) information.

The Hidden (In Plain Sight) Cost of Bad CRM Data Management

There’s another reason to make a consistent investment in better CRM data management. The average sales team member ultimately doesn’t like using a CRM because the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefit to them. All that work to input data doesn’t actually help them see anything new or help them sell.

And that means that big CRM license line item in your budget is largely wasted.

Everything about this scenario is why teams with no CRM or one of the hundreds of small, clunky, expensive-or-impossible-to-update CRM solutions raise eyebrows when they see Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Business development reps, account executives, sales directors see, at a glance, how directly D365 and Dynamics 365 Sales make selling easier. So, it gets used. And it makes a difference everyone in the organization can see. All of a sudden, your CRM investment is truly paying off.

Advanced systems like Dynamics 365 Sales make CRM data management significantly easier with things like a tool that automatically fills in CRM fields in real-time during a sales call. But there is still work to do.

What You Should Have in Your CRM

You shouldn’t have everything in your CRM! Far from it. But, you should have a lot of data.

Your CRM records should capture everything from a prospect’s industry to the contact information for all known potential decision-makers at a company.

The biggest key to making CRM data management easier is making sure your CRM record fields are relevant. Which means that you’ve got to align your CRM’s configuration with your business and sales processes.

That’s why CRM implementations and CRM data migration projects are so critical. Everything about how your sales and management teams use the CRM is going to flow downstream (for years!) with the choices you make at that stage.

It’s also why having the right in-house IT expertise or CRM partner matters so much to growing organizations. They should be able to help you analyze your current business processes, make helpful adjustments, and then specify exactly what data you need to include in your CRM database records.

Healthy CRM Data Management Best Practices

Spring cleaning doesn’t just apply to your house and physical possessions. And your team will find it’s much easier to clean and manage CRM data when you start the process more often than once a year.

After decades helping companies with CRM data management—and learning how to manage our own data—here’s some of our best advice.

I. Validate Incoming Data

It’s best to start CRM data management at the source: validating your data as it enters your CRM.

  • How is data coming into your system?
  • Are staff manually entering in leads, or is the information coming from an import?
  • Do you have a form on your website that potential customers can submit their information to?

Regardless of how you get the data to populate your CRM, there’s always a good possibility that the incoming data may be inaccurate or not comprehensive.

So, the first step to better CRM data management is to idt how information is getting submitted. Then, update the process to ensure that incoming data is as accurate as possible. You’re looking for things like preventing incomplete data from being submitted, or detecting potential duplicate data that already exists in the system.

With advanced CRM systems, this process can be as easy as the click of a button. Microsoft Dynamics 365 can assist with your data validation needs. If a lead (or other record) already exists in the system, D365 can prevent a duplicate from being created with a friendly message: that information already exists!

Is your team tired of constantly seeing incomplete records? Form functionality in Dynamics 365 allows you to configure form fields to be required or optional. Our team at Cobalt never has to worry about lead records being created with missing emails or incorrectly formatted phone numbers.

If you can’t automate those things with your current CRM, you’ll need to build in these steps to your data input checklist. It will probably be difficult to get buy-in and follow-through from every sales team member, but it really is critical to their sale efforts.

Find all the places data could be entered into your CRM (phone calls, emails, forms on your website, etc.) and build in validation checks for each one.

II. Standardize Your CRM Data Management Process

“Bad data” doesn’t just come from potential customers and incoming records; sometimes the call is coming from inside the house. The largest contributor to poor CRM data management is often the inconsistency of staff practices. Having standardized processes and procedures for managing and maintaining your data can save you and your staff a major headache later.

Once you’ve established what data is relevant to your business processes, don’t just inform staff what the process should be.

  • Document the process clearly and succinctly.
  • Make those process documents highly visible and accessible.
  • Revisit the process in regular sales meetings. If you consistently make it a brief agenda item, it will help keep it front of mind—and underscore what a priority this is for your team.
  • Listen to your team, too. You will absolutely find that you need to tweak your CRM data management process over time to fit their daily needs and reality.

But the bottom-line is that the more consistent and standard the flow of data entry can be, the better. While there’s still the chance of human error, you’re more likely to get good quality data as a result.

III. Automate With Workflows and Business Process Flows

This process for standardizing your CRM data management can be elevated with D365’s user workflows and business process flows.

Business process flows provide paths that are easy to visualize for users to follow throughout a specific process. Basically, they help ensure that everyone takes the same steps as everyone else on the team. These business process flows (BPFs) can be used to ensure that your staff members are entering all the relevant information for your records and prevent incomplete data from floating around in your CRM.

On the flip side, user workflows can automate a lot of the manual record creation process. With workflows, you can set logic that determines what records get created, when they get made, and that they have the appropriate fields filled out.

In essence, you can automate the entire data creation or management process without worrying about human error. By implementing a well-defined data management process, you can streamline the capturing and storing of information in your CRM.

IV. Clean Up Your Current CRM Data

Are you ready to tackle the messy CRM data that is currently in your system? Think of your CRM data as a (somewhat resilient) houseplant. Even if it has the best soil and perfect temperature, it means nothing if you forget to water it.

All data will eventually become outdated and obsolete—unless steps are taken to consistently manage it. The bad news is that there’s still no magical solution for this, even with the most advanced CRM systems. You need to regularly clean up your existing CRM data. Here’s how to approach that.

Best practices for CRM data management include looking at records on a high level to see if any significant data is missing. You should also work to identify and combine any duplicate records. And another top priority is deleting records that are no longer needed for your business.

That last task is often one of the hardest for teams. Usually, that’s because of a strong “what if” attitude.

What if we wind up needing that data later on? We worked so hard to get that lead and that data; we can’t just throw it away, can we? What if there’s a chance we could use it later?

After hundreds of CRM data migration projects, our team has seen this problem over and over again. We can promise you two things.

  1. It will make your next CRM data migration project much, much harder—and more expensive.
  2. It will multiply the effort your team has to make for your current CRM data management efforts.

Everything we’ve been outlining will take that much longer, be more of a headache than it needs to be—and ultimately have you reading another article like this in a few years.

Bite the bullet! Get rid of some of those CRM records you have little or no chance of needing.

Tools for CRM Data Management and Data Cleansing

Microsoft Dynamics 365 has tools to assist with all the basic clean-up tasks I already mentioned. You can create reports and use filters on records to identify any gaps in critical information like missing phone numbers or email addresses.

Dynamics 365 can also make identifying and consolidating duplicate records an easy task. It has advanced duplicate detection and merge functionalities built-in for teams.

Do you have multiple records for the same contact? Simply choose which fields to keep and which to overwrite and merge them into a single record.

If you find there are many records of the same type that need to be deleted, D365’s bulk delete jobs allow for easy cleanup with the click of a button. This feature has really helped our team maintain our CRM’s data quality.

It also comes with the bonus of reducing our system’s storage consumption—less bad data = more space for good data! Bulk delete jobs can be run manually or scheduled for a future start time. If there are records that need to be cleaned up periodically, you can even schedule a recurring bulk delete to run automatically.

Next Steps for Your Team’s CRM Data Management

Good, clean CRM data can enhance business relationships and boost long-term customer retention.

But the hidden costs of inaccurate, incomplete, and obsolete CRM data are things that businesses are forced to deal with every day.

Having a CRM that is full of irrelevant information will impact sales and the overall satisfaction of your staff. Don’t let your employee retention efforts get hurt just because your staff hates using a CRM that doesn’t help them do their jobs.

Following the three-pronged approach of validating data before it comes into the system, standardizing how data gets added and updated in the system, and cleaning up your existing data will help you make the most of your CRM.

Having a CRM system that fits your actual business processes is huge. Developing and using an effective CRM data management system will make a positive impact. So will having a CRM partner that can help you implement and maintain both.

Let’s connect for a consultation and Dynamics 365 product showcase. In about 45 minutes, we’ll show you how D365 can support your business while making CRM data management so much easier.  

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Our team is ready to answer your CRM questions, hear about your business needs, and highlight the ways Dynamics 365 can help.