The Beginner’s Guide to CRM

Beginner's Guide to CRM

Welcome to the Beginner’s Guide to CRM! Our goal is to cover the basics of everything you need to know about customer relationship management systems before you start implementing a software. Even if you’re an experienced CRM user, this guide is here to help you brush up on the basics and go over best practices.

This guide will cover everything from:

  • Key CRM terminology
  • CRM data models
  • How different departments use CRM
  • Reports and dashboards
  • And more

Let’s start by defining what CRM is.

What is CRM?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a tool that helps you develop personal relationships with your prospects, customers, and other stakeholders at scale using automation. The goal is to track every customer interaction from the beginning of their journey to the sale and beyond to see how you can continue expanding the pipeline and push more people to convert.

Example of CRM dashboards on desktop and mobile

A key benefit for your prospects and customers is better and faster communication between them and your company; this increases the likelihood of them becoming and staying customers.

Here are a few examples of how a CRM benefits the entire organization:

  • Connecting reps with new leads
  • Tracking opportunities through sales stages
  • Sharing customer information across all departments
  • Accurately forecasting revenue

A common misconception is that CRM is only for sales or service teams. In reality, the system can be used by every department and has huge impacts on the entire buyer’s journey. The goal of using a CRM is to close the gap between you and your contacts while decreasing roadblocks for your users overall.

The Beginner's Guide to CRM
Don’t have time to read the full guide right now? Download the Beginner’s Guide to CRM to read at your convenience.

Why use a CRM?

The ROI of using a CRM is roughly $8 per every $1 you spend. That’s because a CRM is designed to save time and boost productivity.

These are a few aspects of CRM that help make your teams more efficient:

  • Workflow automation
  • Data visualization
  • Department alignment

Now that we’ve covered a few of the benefits, it’s time to go over some features you’ll see in many CRM platforms.

CRM Terminology

Here are a few key terms that will be helpful to know as you continue with the guide.




A standardized series of steps you must take for an action to be done. In CRM, a workflow can be automated based on rules and logic you define.

Business process

A process that your business undergoes to achieve your business goals.


A task completed by technology to make processes more efficient and reduce human involvement. 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Metrics your business tracks in order to determine whether or not you’ve achieved a business goal.


A controlled CRM staging environment for you to test out new configurations and processes.

Business unit

A division of a larger business that focuses on a specific market and/or product offering.

Introduced in Chapter 2: How to Develop a CRM Implementation Plan

Executive sponsor

Someone who has a direct influence on decisions and is accountable for a project. In the context of CRM adoption, they help garner buy-in from others in the organization and guide the big-picture vision. 

Project manager

This person spearheads the CRM strategy and manages the entire implementation process.


This person is responsible for the CRM’s technical setup. They should be knowledgeable about the platform and its capabilities. 

Pilot group

The group of users who will test out your CRM configuration before it goes live. This group can be made up of a few users with different backgrounds (i.e. seniority and department) or can be focused on a single team to test out collaboration.

Introduced in Chapter 3: Understanding Data Management in a CRM

Data model

Describes how different entities in your data are related to one another, as well as what data should be attached to which entities.


The different entities, or types of records, you work with during the course of doing business.


An individual entry of data related to a single object, for example, a person or a company.


The different attributes or categories of information you will be storing about each record.


The unique information that is input into a field on a record.


Determine how the objects in your CRM are connected and related to each other.


A record of a person who might convert, but they don’t have an established relationship with your organization.


A record of a person you have an established relationship with — whether as a customer, prospect, or a partner. Contacts must have an account associated with them. 


A record of a company or other organization that a contact can be affiliated with.


Represents a pending deal or an activity that has the potential to generate revenue.


A marketing project or other organized effort. Campaigns can be used to track interactions and ROI.


A record of a customer reaching out with an issue or question. 


A shortcut your users can use to automate repetitive administrative tasks.

Introduced in Chapter 5: How to Create CRM Reports and Dashboards


A snapshot of data that is generated based on your criteria. Reports can be filtered and arranged to provide insight into activities and performance. 


A collection of reports arranged visually to give a broad overview of performance. 

Throughout this guide, we’ll be approaching CRM primarily from a Salesforce point of view. Keep in mind that although terms will differ from platform to platform, the overarching concepts remain the same.

Starting your CRM journey

As you embark on your CRM journey, it’s important to take a moment to understand the foundations of a CRM. Before you start evaluating which platform to adopt, be sure to evaluate your business processes and understand what led you to looking for a CRM in the first place.

You can also enlist the help of CRM consultants to help walk you through how your unique business processes can be improved with a CRM. For example, our certified experts will take the time to go over your business needs and help you translate them to your CRM setup. Contact one of our specialists to learn more.

The Beginner's Guide to CRM
Don’t have time to read the full guide right now? Download the Beginner’s Guide to CRM to read at your convenience.
Chapter 2: How to develop a CRM implementation plan
Now that we have covered the foundations of CRMs, we’ll focus on implementation strategies in the next chapter. We'll discuss how to evaluate providers and how to implement your CRM.
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