A CRM application is only as good as the data you put into it. Every business is different, so when it comes to data, you have no single list of rights and wrongs to follow. In general, you should always focus on the R in CRM. It stands for Relationship, so your entire data strategy is focused on information that will help you have a stronger relationship with our prospects and customers.

Of course, you would like to know a lot of things, but you really need to know only a few things when you’re face to face with someone. Whether Salesforce is your first CRM system or you are migrating from a legacy one, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to data:

  • Required fields require patience to fill out. How many times have you started an online survey only to realize that it’s going to take way too long, so you give up instead? It’s a natural reaction. When you realize that something is going to be harder than you expected, you reassess whether it’s even worth it, and often it’s not.

    Don’t treat your own employees that way; make it easy on them to enter data. Start out with as few required fields as you can. Keep in mind that not all information is available at the beginning of the sales process. Be sure to put your required fields at the top of the page too. Nothing is more annoying than having to scroll down to the bottom of the screen to fill out even more fields.

  • Can versus will; be realistic. It’s tempting to load lists upon lists of potential customers into Salesforce so that your eager sales reps can call upon them. Don’t do it. One of the best ways that new users of Salesforce see an increase in their productivity is through Salesforce’s Search functionality.

    If you load every Jane Smith in the world into Salesforce, it’s going to be a lot harder to find the one Jane Smith that is already your customer. Nothing upsets a high-spending customer more than having to listen to a rep search through a database to find his record. It makes that customer feel unimportant, raises his blood pressure, and makes him start looking for a new vendor. Be realistic: Start with your existing customer list and a small group of leads. If your reps exceed your expectations, you can always load more data later.

  • Too much of something can be a bad thing. You can customize Salesforce with hundreds, even thousands, of custom fields. More fields do not make a better database. Imagine going to a deli and reading the menu. Would it be easier for you to choose a sandwich if the deli just listed its breads, meats, and cheeses, or would you prefer to see pages upon pages of every possible sandwich combination?

    A simple page layout not only makes data entry easier, but it also makes it easier to find information. Too many fields will not only make it harder to create reports but also stress out the administrator who will be responsible for maintaining them.

  • Most e-mails are junk. Customers often ask which of their e-mails they should log into Salesforce. If you went back and read through every e-mail you had with one of your prospects, you’d probably be shocked to see how many were just one or two lines long and really just part of a bigger conversation.

    When you book a sales appointment, it may take five back-and-forth e-mails before you have confirmed the time and location. That’s why a good rule of thumb is to always log the e-mail that your boss is going to want to see. Don’t log the back-and-forth stuff; just log that final one where you agreed on the details. It’ll make it easier to find the e-mail later, and you won’t take up as much storage space.