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Why You Need a Sales Strategy to Use the HubSpot CRM

Why You Need a Sales Strategy to Use the HubSpot CRM Blog Feature

Melanie Collins

VP of Revenue, 15+ Years of Sales and Marketing Expertise, HubSpot Alumni

September 26th, 2019 min read

Sure, you can use a CRM without a strategy — but should you?

CRMs are meant to help organize contact data, track tasks and activity, forecast sales, create sales reports, and make the sales process more efficient. If you are just using a CRM to track tasks and activities, it’s probably okay to not have a strategy. You may just want to get to work and see what you learn. 

But when mismanaged, CRMs can turn into a swampy, muddy, gooey mess full of meaningless data without intentional processes and actions. I’ve experienced this first hand. About ten years ago, I worked at an organization whose CRM was such a mess, the company scrapped it and then started over with a new platform. To ensure the rollout on the new platform was successful, the company defined its sales strategy and sales process before it determined how to configure and roll out the CRM.

Previously, I’ve written about the problems with onboarding a sales team to a CRM. In that article, I mention that sales leadership should be involved in the process of onboarding sales teams to a CRM. 

However, there's more to it.

Sales leadership should actually be involved to accomplish two things: first to establish a sales strategy and plan so that the CRM is configured appropriately; and second, to ensure that the sales team utilizes the CRM platform properly and in accordance to the strategy and plan. 

Without sales leadership involved, you’ll end up with that swampy mess of a platform. Don’t want that to happen at your company? Keep reading...

Why you need a strategy 

According to LSI Global, many businesses confuse sales strategy and sales process, often to their disadvantage. Businesses who have a solid sales strategy will outperform those who simply follow a sales process. So, what’s the difference?

Sales strategy

A sales strategy should align with a business’ overall strategy and organizational sales goals. It should define the plays a sales team makes to achieve organizational goals and seek to answer questions like:

  • Who is our ideal target client, and where should we win the majority of the time?
  • What differentiates us from the competition in the eyes of our target clients in a way that allows for premium pricing, increases qualified leads, and improves customer retention?
  • How will sales success and failure be measured?
  • What are the top barriers we face over the next 12-36 months?
  • What critical actions will we take in the next 12-36 months to execute our sales strategy and overcome the obstacles we identified?

In essence, the sales strategy defines the who, what, and why so you can achieve organizational sales objectives. If you need help defining your sales strategy, here is a great resource that showcases sales strategies from HubSpot, Salesforce, and Shopify. You can also use this free template to create your sales strategy.

Sales process 

Your sales process answers the how and when to conduct the activities needed to move prospects through your funnel and turn them into customers. The sales process should:

  • Be simple, clearly defined, and repeatable
  • Be consistently enforced and modeled by sales leadership
  • Be adopted by the entire sales team
  • Be continuously improved upon
  • Focus on helping clients succeed

I recommend mapping out the entire sales process for the benefit of your entire organization, especially if you have indirect revenue contributors like subject matter experts or folks who are on the speaking circuit. This way, as you inevitably get leads from those channels, they know exactly what to do to set up a successful sales process.

Learn more about creating a sales process with this guide from HubSpot, or use this template to build your sales process.

Align your CRM, strategy, and process

IMPACT’s Carina Duffy, a HubSpot trainer, helps businesses get the most out of the HubSpot CRM. She stresses that “success with HubSpot fundamentally comes down to the strategies and processes you build outside of the platform.”

Once you have your sales strategy and process, there are two more steps that you need to take to successfully implement the HubSpot CRM.

1. Understand how data is managed in HubSpot

Every point of data in HubSpot starts with a property. HubSpot has three property types: contact, company, and deal. Each property type comes standard with defaults, which can be found here:

The out-of-the-box property types may not be enough for your organization. If that’s the case, you also have the ability to create custom properties to track and manage data that’s specific to your organization (for example, a shoe company needs to create a custom contact property to track a contact’s shoe size).

Each property (default or custom) has a specific field type for what kind of data it is storing: a number, a single checkbox, a dropdown list, etc. You can see a full list of property field types here. It’s important to understand the different field types so you can make sure you’re organizing and managing your data in a way that makes it usable later.

Carina says, “When you don’t take the time to understand how HubSpot’s properties and field types store and manage your data, you end up creating duplicate or redundant properties which, in turn, leads to disorganized data and eventually prevents you from doing the kinds of segmentation and reporting we all want to use HubSpot for.”

2. Match your strategy and process to the correct properties in HubSpot

To best explain this, let me get a little elementary on you. A few weeks ago, I sent my son off to his first day of school. 

I started prepping for what I thought would be a successful first day about four weeks in advance. I bought him a lunchbox, backpack, and water bottle that I thought he’d like and that did the trick. Then I got a letter from his teacher with specific requests, including pictures, for each of the items I’d already purchased. 


Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 2.18.19 PM

                                      What she requested vs. What I purchased

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 2.18.02 PMAs you can see, the lunchbox I already bought didn’t have a water bottle holder. My backpack was a toddler-sized backpack, not a full-size backpack, and my water bottle didn’t have the flip-top pictured in the example. So, I had to return and repurchase all of these items.

If you think about it, this is really no different than the company I worked for who scrapped their CRM because it was such a mess and then started over. Here’s why. 

In this case, the back to school items that the teacher requested are HubSpot properties, “lunchbox with water bottle holder,” “water bottle that snaps shut,” and “full size backpack”. The properties I was ready to report to school with were different than what the teacher asked me to report with.

So, if I queried HubSpot for the items I purchased, “lunchbox,” “water bottle,” and “toddler backpack,” HubSpot wouldn’t have retrieved any data. To have been successful, I needed to query HubSpot for the teacher’s properties.

The teacher has a strategy; she knows what kind of items work well for three year-olds who are in her classroom, and her plan to execute the strategy was her letter to the parents. If she didn’t have a strategy or plan, she would’ve ended up with a bunch of school supplies that made it difficult for her to keep a clean and efficiently run classroom. 

CRM’s are no different.

What happens if you don’t do this?

You’ll become one of two things: a victim of my back to school failure or, more accurately, you’ll end up like the company that I used to work for.

Carina is a HubSpot teacher to our clients at IMPACT and she sees this happen regularly. Her best advice is to “take the time to match your HubSpot properties with your strategy and process, so you collect the data that’s really important to your organization. Otherwise, you’ll eventually get to the point where your data is so incomplete, that you’ll have to step back and re-map everything.”

The moral of the story here is unless you’re just using a CRM to log activities and tasks, you should absolutely be creating a sales strategy first, followed by a sales process, so that you can get the most benefit from the HubSpot CRM — or any CRM platform you choose to deploy at your organization.

Otherwise, you will end up wasting time and effort doing things that don’t actually move the needle for your organization.

And you’ll have nowhere to put your water bottle.

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