Designing Workflows with CRM

By Lars Helgeson

A workflow is an action or a series of actions. Workflows are the execution step that connects sales to marketing and vice versa. The more complete your CRM, the more powerful your workflows. When your CRM incorporates all your sales, marketing, and operational activities, your workflows can automate all of them. This image shows the kinds of actions a workflow can take for you.

Multi-channel workflow in CRM
A multi-channel workflow.

Your workflows are the action step that you activate when a lead meets the requirements to activate a trigger.

Limiting workflow activation frequency

Limit the ability for a workflow to automatically get activated too quickly again and again. Your communication should be timely and relevant, but not overbearing.

For example, if your workflows send a message to a contact, repeated activation will annoy that contact. If a workflow schedules a CRM activity for a contact every time it gets activated, your staff could be wasting time deleting unnecessary activities assigned to them.

Protecting data

If you have a workflow that modifies CRM data, be cognizant of what triggers it, and the likelihood of that modification being unwanted. Ensure that data isn’t overwritten with workflows. To avoid accidental overwriting, set up real-time notifications to alert the CRM user when a contact’s data has been changed or updated. You may also want to consider using workflows to append data, rather than overwrite it, so you don’t lose information that is in your CRM.

Reassigning groups

If you have your contacts segmented by group within your CRM, it’s common practice to use workflows to move leads and contacts into different groups. A workflow could also add a contact to a group, or remove a contact from a group.

For example, when a salesperson deems a contact no longer viable, the contact can be removed from the leads group. Conversely, if a lead takes an action or generates a score that makes that contact an important lead, the contact can be moved into a special group for follow-up or message targeting.

Another example is to move a contact into an “onboarding” group when the contact decides to become a client. Being in this group could in turn trigger a drip campaign for all new clients, educating them and preparing them for what happens next.

Creating CRM activities

Use workflows to create a CRM activity for someone on your team to follow up or meet with that client. Workflows triggering CRM activities are a great way to convert clients who are engaging positively with your buyer journey. CRM activities themselves can appear on a calendar and are easy to track for salespeople and management.

Creating opportunities

Opportunities are created for high value, high touch sales. If a lead indicates interest in something that you’re selling that is of high value, you can create an opportunity to track that sales process. Opportunities also create a deeper level of accountability to the salesperson or team responsible for closing the deal.

Sending emails, text messages, or variable print

Workflows are a perfect way to trigger messages to your leads and contacts. Depending on the message content and urgency, you may want to send that message by a different medium. Here are the advantages and disadvantages:

  • Email: Advantages: ubiquitous for B2B communication, free, with a good CRM is likely to be delivered to the inbox, can track reads and clicks, a lot of content can be included in an email with opportunity to explain complex ideas and up-sell the recipient. Disadvantages: may be filtered, likely to be viewed as less urgent and read when the recipient gets around to it.
  • Text message: Advantages: immediate delivery, inexpensive (though not free), very likely to be read, include images, may include links for more information. Disadvantages: recipients sensitive to spam, less content included in message, may get filtered by carrier, cannot track read or delivery.
  • Print: Advantages: not as common a medium, can include more content with different display options, some tracking possible with QR codes or personalized URLs. Disadvantages: expensive, difficult to guarantee delivery to the intended recipient, delivery delay may take days.

Alerting the right people

When a workflow is activated, someone on your team may need to know about it. A salesperson can be alerted when a lead triggers a workflow, or a sales manager can be alerted when a CRM activity for a lead is assigned to a salesperson.

In any situation where someone must execute a critical step, alert that person on your team. This alert is even more relevant if that step is time sensitive. If you rely on your employees to check the CRM for their to-do lists, they may not check often enough to guarantee that timely steps are executed on time. Alerts are a good way to send these alerts and can be sent by email or text.

CRM workflow
A workflow with email and text alerts.