Skip to navigation | Skip to content | Skip to footer

Blogs in 2023

Follow our blog to keep up-to-date with the most recent industry news & updates. Alternatively, you can browse our archive below.

Five jobs for your December CRM worklist


Here we are once again! Another year about to finish and everyone gearing up for the Christmas festivities and party season.

If you are a CRM Administrator, then this can be a reasonably quiet period from mid-December until the first week in the New Year. And if you are in B2B, then you know most email campaigns and other sales/marketing activity won’t really be that effective in these three weeks. So, we can use this period as a great time to reflect and plan as well as perhaps catching up on those posts or articles you bookmarked, and meant to read!

And of course, with any CRM system, there are always a host of ‘admin’ type tasks that you’ve been meaning to do but had to put off in the last few months. These tasks that need doing, but they shouldn’t just be for you to do. Use this time to galvanise your sales and marketing team to maximise their use of this period in helping you in fine tuning their own part of the CRM system with activities ready for 1st January.

The key, in my view is to have a list and to plan out the key tasks over these next few weeks, so there is meaningful activity each day.

Key Tasks for next three weeks

You can choose your own priority list, but my suggested order is as follows:

1. Data Data Data!

My own top priority is to start with Data integrity. This is where you need to review all those ‘orphan’ records, perhaps where data has not been entered in or updated in a while. E.g. recent Contact with little information on Job or Contact details.

To do this systematically, first look at your Leads. Start with say Leads created in the last few months, this makes it more manageable before going back further, plus you will get some quick wins and get a good idea of how big a task this may be. You can then go further back depending on the time it takes and your time available, perhaps setting aside an hour per day. It is also important to make sure any ‘referral sources’ are updated to enable you to review your campaign effectiveness over the last few months. Many in the sales team may not attribute a ‘source’ to the Lead or new initial Contact.

Next look at your Contacts. Again, working backwards for a few months, check you have good profiles, so as a minimum, I would focus in ensuring that you have phone numbers, especially mobiles as well as the Company and just as useful Job functions or Titles. Make sure you have no orphan records where a contact has been created but is not linked to a company or account. Also, if people have left an organisation, make sure you flag this in a consistent way, so it is clear they have left and Marketing don’t carry on sending messages to get bounce backs.

Accounts. Again, ensure Customer and key Account information is up to date. Check the primary contact as many CRM system will show a primary contact and make sure they are still important and your main day to day contact.

Then move on to your Sales Pipeline.

Make sure all your Opportunities or Deals, have their core information updated and your important key fields are up to date, especially those fields and your custom fields used for tracking or analysis, so ‘close by’ dates, ‘source campaign’, ‘stage’ or ‘next step’ and any key stakeholder information, including your own sales team are aligned with the record.

Sharing this Task

Whilst the Leads and contacts and Accounts are important, for most Administrators, you may want to commence this process yourself first and enable Sales Team to put their effort into their own Sales Pipeline and their own Contacts as their primary focus.

Make sure they run through each of their opportunities that are still open and really give it some thought as to the viability of winning and when, plus adding in any missing information, ‘next steps’ perhaps. Modern CRM systems enable you to do this quickly with editing in a List view, so Reps should be able to do this task quite fast without diving into each Opportunity as a “first pass” review and edit.

A “second pass” may involve looking at individual Deals or Opportunities, perhaps with a focus on those closing in first quarter or first six months of 2024.

Tracking progress

Make sure you have created a Report to track progress made each week and maintain the focus on progress made by Rep. For example, number of records updated and reviewed to spot weekly any ‘gaps’ or missing core data. You may want to send reminders out here each day and of course ensure you have Sales Management Support on these tasks.

2. Look to start to use your CRM systems new AI features

All the leading vendors, Dynamics 365, Salesforce, HubSpot etc have made great strides this year in bringing AI into their applications. However, likely as not, you may still be catching up on what this means to your own CRM system.

Set some time aside to research any new features and how this can be used to benefit you and your Sales and Marketing Team. You need to view these new features in my view as a specific new wave of changes and thus plan how you will introduce these and get your team using the best AI features. Many may have seen new features, but possibly ignored this.

Looking at introducing these features, my starting point is always at the top of the sales funnel or journey. Again, you need to work systematically from initial Website Forms etc improvements through to Lead (including contact/account creation with for example, better auto-completion of data). This aligns with first task above in trying to improve quality of information captured and consistency, plus helping to reduce Sales Team workload. Then move onto Sales Opportunity or Deal creation and finally through to your After-Sales processes, for example for Contract Renewals.

It may make sense to introduce and do training on these new features to the sales and marketing team by the step in the journey, so this is easier to absorb.

The key as always is looking at the time blockers in the same process so. A key AI improvement common is call or meeting recording. So, look at how recording meetings and calls can produce transcripts to enable your reps to quickly generate key notes and create email summaries.

This is just often a question of training in using your CRM own AI /ChatGPT prompt functionality, since in some form this functionality is now appearing across most leading CRM Vendor systems, although it may just need turning on.

You may need to plan training sessions for the Team on these new AI productivity enhancements early in the New Year, if you’ve not yet adopted this already.

With follow-up Team meetings perhaps in January to embed the usage and give confidence in these features.

Many clients may be reluctant to see or meet with Reps in that first short week in January as they themselves get back up to speed. This gives you a last chance to do some training or refresher sessions, especially for those people who maybe took the full two weeks off, to enable them to catch up.

3. Automation and Process Review

Review your automation processes. Are these still current and useful?

Are your customer journeys or ways of engaging changing. For example, has there been more usage of Webchat this year. Should you investigate the new AI enhanced Chatbot features being rolled out by most vendors to improve this process and engagement.

Then consider are there now other automations you can put in place to enhance productivity and help give your sales and marketing team more time back to focus on higher value work?

It is good idea to talk to people to uncover their pain points and then you can investigate and show how simple automations can help your sales team and remove some tedious task such as sharing key fields across processes or records.

4. Reports and Dashboards.

Review if these are up to date.

Should you be looking at creating new Dashboards or Reports or do you now need to include or track new metrics. Review the trends year on year, what is changing?

This is my final CRM task and this is something you can dip into and out of.


5. Begin your New Year Kick-off meeting planning.

Most organisations, especially those with calendar fiscal years, will be looking to inform the team of their budget etc and targets for the forthcoming year. Whilst a lot of this may be content driven (again AI can help here) in finding industry trends and impacts, the key thing here is how CRM can help.

So, this could be a great time to investigate the use of Goals and Forecasts if you’ve not used before. These features are now common to most CRM systems and can help and support the Sales Team to show them where there are situated. These features now show their status or progress and forecasted achievement through AI projects and through great report visualisation options.


A shorter post this month. After all, we all have a lot to do in December and this time goes by very quickly. As I hope I’ve illustrated, I do believe these next new two or three weeks offer a great opportunity to be able to catch up on those things you meant to do, but business as usual got in the way!

As a guide, assign some quiet time in your diary each day, I’d suggest a minimum of one to two hours in the same focussed slot, to run through these tasks, with the Data Task being every other day. This can be your coffee and mince pie time!

By giving a focus and short timelines to these jobs, this will give you and the team some impetus and enable you all to enter the New Year, both fresh and with some of those nagging tasks completed and behind you.

Importantly by embracing other team members, you are able to divide some of this workload across the whole team, helping to ensure your organisation is moving forward with confidence and a newly cleansed and more up-to-date CRM system ready to support the business from 1st January.

Merry Christmas to all and thanks, if you’ve got this far, for reading this month’s post.

18th December 2023

How AI is impacting CRM


You won’t have failed to notice that everyone, but everyone is now talking about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and this is partly as a result of the surge of interest and sign-ups to the now famous ChatGPT from Open AI launched in late 2022. This has now over 100 million and counting subscribers. Indeed, it reached 1m users in just 5 days!

I was introduced to this by my tech savvy son last November, signed up and started to do a few queries myself. It really was impressive and astounding, but this appears to be just the tip of the iceberg and over the last eleven months since ChatGPT’s launch, this has resulted in a seemingly mad rush for embracing generative AI across all business sectors which is really the next generation AI.

But what is the current impact from AI in the day-to-day environment for the typical Sales Rep using their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system?

Why introduce AI into CRM?

A key metric here helps to give some context to what is driving the desire to invest in generative AI within the CRM industry,and this is Selling to Non-selling time.

The average sales rep is still spending too much of their time on non-selling activity. Sales Rep productivity studies I’ve read, consistently suggest that average time spent selling can range from only 30% according to a LinkedIn Sales 2022 report to the best I’ve seen recently is 45% across multiple industries.

All the studies are saying that sales teams are still spending far too much time in non-productive administrative tasks such as note taking, adding basic information into their CRM (e.g. job titles, telephone numbers, email and address details and any relevant coding such as Industry for new contacts/new organisations) and then creating new records e.g. Sales Opportunities and adding activities and follow-ups etc.

This administrative part of CRM has always a bane or chore for many salespeople, and many an article has been written about the need to fill in core information correctly to ensure there is good data integrity, but now with AI there is both increased assistance, but more importantly a genuine reason since AI is helping to formulate new benefits and save reps time. For example, with meeting third party AI apps such as adding Attention and Fireflies Fred with CRM and with MS Teams/Zoom now means that these apps can record a meeting, provide a transcript and at click of a button, can summarise key points and follow-up actions from a prompt and then create email templated summaries with these actions, all with only a small amount of configuration and set- up.

So, for the major CRM vendors, the key driver behind AI is this drive to maximise Users productivity and reduce the number of mundane tasks needing to be performed by the typical Rep, helping them spend more time on their core focus of selling and talking and listening to clients and prosects. The added advantage is that this should also help drive User Adoption, something that has been a challenge for many a CRM project over the years.

Now we can better answer the classic ‘What’s in it for me’ question often asked by Reps after being told to record lots of critical information on their Leads and Deals or Opportunities. The benefit goes straight back to the Rep, and not how it has been seen in the past, back to their Management, to enable them to provide key reports and dashboards, sometimes seen by Sales Teams as a stick to be hit with!

Key Day to Day AI benefits for Sales Reps

Currently, for the average day to day Salesperson and this post is focussed just on a typical Salesperson’s working day, then improving that 30-45% selling metric upwards is the key to better productivity. The core themes I see across the Sales function with the launch of the various AI or ‘ChatGPT’ suffixed Sales modules from many vendors are broadly:

1. Enhanced data entry and profile building

The ability to add in and fill core data which can be pulled directly from say a contacts details in emails for example is in my view one of the key day to day benefits. As mentioned above, having the AI within CRM create records quickly, pulling in core details and other additional information about the contact/company to rapidly build a profile enables better, more consistent segmentation and is a real time saver. Whilst this sounds a simple benefit, it is a key area since for many Reps it can be a time consuming and mundane task, with many a rep skipping useful key details and only entering in the minimal data in order “to get on with the task in hand”. This improves data value, data validity and integrity and ensures a more consistent approach for better profiling and segmentation.

2. Sales Activity productivity boosts

This theme can be divided into a number of a few productivity boosters for the average Sales Rep. For instance:

Conversations. Be this in online meetings or calls, a core function for Reps is time spent in talking and meeting online. Since Covid, for many Reps, most of their meetings and often the all-important discovery call or meeting is likely to be online through MS Teams or Zoom. The ability for AI to record and transcribe these calls and meetings with key notes and actions again helps to save valuable time. Transcripts can be quickly turned into meeting summaries and analysed for key points and key information auto-added to the relevant Deal or Opportunities.

Follow-up activities. Creating actionable and high quality, but realistic email drafts for example in a short follow-up email from these calls/meetings, for example a ‘Meeting summary and key actions” template enables these to be quickly generated, scanned for adding anything extra in to make it more personable and importantly sent soon after the meeting concludes. This is another big-time saver and doubtless, will save Reps and Managers countless hours over the course of a year of meetings.

Then follow-up tasks/activities can be auto generated as well with reminders for the Rep.

These are just two core time saving boosters for the day to day operations.

And with the abundance of rich data now being fully captured, additional benefits now become available:

3.  AI Insights

Record Data Insights. Whether this is some form of sentiment analytics or with better more consistent data entry, AI has the capability to give deep data insights, for example on sentiment from either conversations and emails and use this alongside historical data to help in for example predictive Lead scoring and Opportunity Scoring. This benefit is based on the fact that AI it is able to process and use such a large volume of data and make sense of this data across your CRM system records and engagements to give real insights into say the match and likely viability of a particular Lead or Opportunity as well as providing recommended actions and guidance to improve Sales Rep performance.

Collective Conversation insights. For example, Attention, a leading sales enablement AI tool that works with vendors such as Salesforce and Dynamics 365, the AI app records meeting conversations across multiple reps so this can then be used for analysis. For example, an AI prompt could be entered asking the question “What were the top five issues or challenges/pains experienced since X date for our Automotive industry prospects?” Being able to do this across a group of conversations for a particular timeframe and customer segment can give both the Sales Rep and Sales Management meaningful and accurate feedback and understanding, which can then be used to both improve training and feedback to reps, but this can also help and support Marketing in creating more meaningful and relevant messaging content and campaigns.

4. Other benefits

With these added AI capabilities to CRM and with a focus just on Sales Reps and Sales Managers, other benefits include:

Training and Feedback. As mentioned in the example above, the ability to share key themes and learnable actions, be that in prospecting or questioning skills is another key benefit. Again, prompts from conversations recorded can generate insights. All of these insights can help Managers with better guidance and focussed training for their sales teams based on meaningful up-to-date data from within their own CRM.

Automation. Various automation routines can be created and automated based on AI, for example, the updating of more recent company profile data, identifying which workflows are leading to the best results. E.g. Follow-up task from a meeting in 3 day or 5 days for example.

The overall aim is still in relieving reps of many these mundane, but critical tasks and activities and giving them relevant insights from their own CRM system and so giving them back more time to enable them to do the creative thinking so they can better target the best Leads and Opportunities and increase their conversion metrics.

All of these benefits help to make the typical Sales Rep a lot more effective and help to put the Rep back in control of their own CRM system.

And the cost?

Investment cost. In the race to add in this functionality into their applications, many of the leading vendors such as Salesforce and Dynamics 365 with Copilot for instance, are already including varying degrees of core AI or ChatGPT type functionality into their latest offerings with extra AI modules often available for added enhancement.


Ultimately, all this focus on generative AI still comes back to a key business driver which lies behind the original adoption of CRM for many companies over the last 20 or so years. That is the focus on increasing both individual Salesperson and Sales Team performance.

The pace of change and creativity unleased last November has literally moved us all onto a new digital wave.

And with this rapid pace of change in this last year, now is a good time to meet with your own CRM consulting partner to better understand how you can specifically benefit your own Sales Teams performance and embrace this new technology.

30th October 2023

Ten Data Import Challenges in CRM


It has now been quite a while since I last talked about importing data and so I thought this may be an opportune time to revisit this perennial subject, which impacts pretty much every CRM project to a greater or less extent.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are designed to help businesses manage their interactions with prospects and clients (and sometimes suppliers). One of the most important considerations in setting up any new CRM system is in importing data, such as contact, company details, opportunities or other core information from your old system or from new lists.

Top 10 Data import Challenges

However, importing data into any CRM system can be challenging, and there are a number of these you are likely to encounter. So, in no particular order, these are my top ten challenges with some examples:

1. Data duplication: A major challenge is that data may be duplicated when it is imported into a CRM system. This can happen if the data contains duplicate records, or if the data is imported multiple times without being properly cleansed or de-duplicated. With every project we undertake, we always stress to the client at the outset to allow ample time and resources to review their planned imported data. This is an ideal time to check and cleanse this data, of which more later.

2. Data format incompatibility: Another common challenge when importing data into a CRM system is that your importing data may not be in a format that is incompatible with the new system. For example, the data may be in an older file format that is no longer supported, or it may be in a format that the new CRM system is not able to read, or it may need to be changed. Good examples of this include Date and Telephone number formats which may need to be carefully considered on export and re-import.

3. Data validation: Ensuring that the data is accurate complete and up to date is a critical step in the data import process. This can be challenging because data validation checks should be done before the data is imported. So, for example, making sure addresses, websites etc are up to date. Taking the opportunity to verify email addresses is a key task here since inevitably you will have old email or invalid email addresses and is usually quite cheap to do.

4. Data mapping: This is the process of aligning the data fields from the source file to the fields in the new Target CRM system. This can be a tough task when data fields have different naming conventions, or when data fields are missing or incomplete. So, many system need exact matches on the dropdowns for instance before you bring in data. My advice here is to always have a clear Data Mapping document created which is reviewed carefully, especially if some fields are being transposed or re-mapped to new options, this document must always be signed-off and approved.

5. Privacy and Security: With the rise of data privacy laws like GDPR in UK/EU, businesses must ensure that the data that is actually imported, is in compliance with the regulations. So, make sure you are clear on data that has been opted-in and you are compliant with your importing policies, especially when dealing with B2C and older data sets, where there may be time limits on importing this data. Also, ensure if you need to send data to external parties, say for cleansing, then again this is removed and not held on local PC’s for example. If in doubt always check with your GDPR advisor here on your policies on data retention and ensure they are aware of this project and involved from the outset.

6. Data Cleansing: Data Cleansing is the process of removing or modifying data that is incorrect, incomplete, irrelevant or duplicated. This is a critical step before importing data into a CRM system. This is probably the biggest challenge for many companies. As mentioned in some of the challenges above, time spent on this exercise is time well spent. Don’t underestimate the amount of time needed or leave it too late. My view is this should be started as early as possible. Again, this comes back to the importance of a clear Data Mapping document. Doing a test export early to review core data can help here in planning.

7. Activities importing. For many clients there is often a desire to import numerous activity data, such as tasks, calls and emails, whether these are historic or just the ‘open’ items for the future. This can be a danger zone and considerably increase the cost and complexity of any data import project, so needs to be deeply thought through. For example, taking from an existing system, you are likely to need to import old or left Users of the system, or to re-map their activities to an new generic user, (many CRM licences are based on per User) which can then create more issues. If there are ‘open’ activities or tasks, then quite often this may include again a lot of activities which were created, but may never have been closed, or even mass created at some time. Just from these few examples, you can see how this can become a bit of a minefield. Generally, as discussed above, the cleaner the data, the better and activities can often include dirty or poor-quality data, so as far as possible, try to avoid this, unless it is deemed to be critical to the success of your project. Within this, also consider again the impact on storage of importing large volumes of activity data. My view here is that if it is not adding value, then it is possibly adding cost and using up your database space, so just think carefully about this and if you truly need all these activities. If not look at alternative options such as a back-up of old CRM for x months or running just a single licence in reserve for a cross-over transition period.

8. Testing. This is a very simple one, but do allow time for some Test imports. Invariably issues may crop up here, so as before, the earlier you consider this the better.

9. Scalability: I reference this earlier, but as time moves goes by, so does the database grow. Your CRM system should be able to scale to handle the increasing data volume. With data now getting more expensive, you will need to check this on a regular basis. Most cloud CRM systems have an in-built data storage limit built in, over this limit you may have to pay for more storage per Gb. Be aware of these potential costs, plus how you can manage them and what is the impact of your data retention policies.

And finally, don't forget about...

10. Training and Support: You need to be able to train your employees on how to use the new CRM system and have access to support if they run into any issues. This is all about User Adoption, and having good clean and accurate data can help tremendously in getting your Users to embrace a system fast. Nothing is worse for a User than seeing poorly imported or aligned or missing data on their ‘shiny new CRM’.

Final Thoughts

Remember, you can never start too early in giving deep thought to the challenges you may face, and this list above may serve as a useful reference point. Too many times over the last twenty years, I’ve seen clients only start to embark on reviewing their data late in the process and not allowing sufficient time for diligent data cleansing and reviewing.

Don’t underestimate the time needed for dealing with these Data Import challenges. Really, you should begin reviewing as soon as you can, since oftentimes, issues can be spotted in the likely quality of data even in simple test exports into Excel. At the very least, these test exports can give you a flavour of the size of the task ahead and help you with your planning.

With proper planning and attention to detail, businesses can overcome these challenges and reap the benefits of having a well-maintained and well-adopted CRM system. As always, in my posts, I would recommend working with an experienced consultancy such as ours who are involved in these projects every day. Working with experienced practitioners can help save you stress and many wasted hours as these are not always simple projects and data migration is just one aspect of a CRM project that does need to be carefully managed.

30th March 2023