If you run a business, sell a product, or offer services, you know how important it is to nurture the relationship with your customers and gain new ones. Whether you operate alone or with a sales team, you probably also know how difficult it can be to keep track of your leads, customers, and orders.

We’re here to show you that you can optimize your sales and customer workflows with two keywords: CRM and automation. Read on to learn what exactly a CRM is, why and when you should use a CRM for your business, and how to automate three common CRM sales workflows in only a few clicks.

A customer relationship management (CRM) tool is pretty self-explanatory: it helps you manage the relationships with your customers. This means that it stores information on your customers (such as name, title, company, role), the relation they have with your company (e.g., lead, opportunity, deal), and the status of the relationship (e.g., closes, open, waiting), and the monetary value of closed deals (like quote and price).

Most commonly, CRMs are used by sales teams to track their sales activities and milestones in the sales funnel, from lead to deal.

Why and when you should use a CRM

To better understand the value of a CRM, let’s take a business example.

Say you have a creative business specializing in professional corporate photography. Your visitors can book shootings on your website (which offers plenty of opportunities for automation), but you also actively network to find new opportunities. At a business event you’ve attended, you’ve met Marketing and Branding employees from different companies (contacts). Of these, a couple have expressed interest in your professional photo shootings for their team, qualifying them as leads for your business. This means they could become your customers, which is awesome! Now you need to follow up with them, make them an offer they can’t refuse, and eventually close the deal.

How can you and your sales team keep track of all these steps, for each lead, while also making sure that you nurture the relationship with your (potential) customers and organize the logistics with your team of photographers? If you think a digital calendar, a paper agenda, and a spreadsheet could do the job, you wouldn’t be completely wrong. Sure they can help you organize your time and contacts, but provide limited features, are error-prone and even unmanageable in the long run.

Here are 3 common challenges that sales-oriented teams face in their organization:

  1. Information is spread in different sources.
    You contact a customer via email, your salesperson talks to them on the phone, then you write down key information on a post-it and your colleague inserts the order details in a spreadsheet. If anyone asks something about that specific customer, you’d need to sift through emails and notes and ask several people who’ve come in contact with the customer–a highly inefficient process.
  2. Information is duplicated or missing completely.
    If your salespeople have back-to-back calls and meetings with leads and customers, inevitably they might forget to pass on some information, or even assume that a colleague has taken care of that. At the other end, two salespeople might contact the same lead because they don’t have an overview of their assignments. This is how meetings get overlooked, clients get annoyed, and you don’t get orders.
  3. Salespeople are unmotivated and exhausted by repetitive tasks.
    It’s no secret that sales is a fast-paced and high-pressure field. But the role of a salesperson can become particularly challenging if they are often tasked with repetitive work (like sending the same email to different leads) or their work is inefficiently organized. These problems lead to a decrease in performance and invariably in sales.

A CRM solves the five problems listed above, by providing you with a feature-rich integrated system that can save your business up to 10 hours of work every week. In short, you should use a CRM if you sell a product, provide a service, or deal with customers or clients in any way.

If you are convinced by the advantages of a CRM, but reticent about the costs, note that the cost of not automating is higher than the investment in a CRM, which ultimately increases the productivity and value of your sales team.

3 steps to CRM automation for the sales funnel

Now that you’ve seen the advantages of using a CRM, it’s time to start implementing it.

1. Choose the right CRM for your use case

On a first look, you might get overwhelmed by all the CRM providers available on the market. There are options for different team sizes, departments, and budgets. To help you get an overview of their features, we compiled a list of 10 of the most popular CRMs, which also come with n8n integrations that allow you to perform common CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations on your saved contacts, companies, deals, and more.

  1. Agile CRM is an all-in-one CRM software for marketing, sales, and service. With the Agile CRM node you can manage company, contact, and deal details in your workflows.
  2. Copper is a CRM integration for Google Workspace and is best suited for small and medium-sized businesses. The n8n nodes Copper and Copper Trigger provide the basic CRUD operations for companies, customer sources, leads, opportunities, persons, projects, tasks, and users.
  3. HubSpot’s CRM platform provides tools for social media marketing, sales, content management, and customer service. With the HubSpot node and HubSpot Trigger node you can manage contacts, contact lists, companies, deals, forms, and tickets.
  4. Intercom is a conversational relationship platform which allows businesses to communicate with prospective and existing customers within their app, on their website, through social media, or via email. The Intercom node lets you manage companies, leads, and users from the CRM.
  5. Keap offers an e-mail marketing and sales platform for small businesses, including products to manage and optimize the customer lifecycle, customer relationship management, marketing automation, lead capture, and e-commerce. The Keap node and Keap Trigger node allow you to manage companies, contacts, contact notes and tags, ecommerce orders and products, emails, and files.
  6. Pipedrive is a cloud-based sales software company that aims to improve the productivity of businesses through the use of their software. You can use the Pipedrive node and Pipedrive Trigger node to manage activities, deals, deal products, files, leads, notes, organizations, persons, and products.
  7. Salesforce is the leading vendor in the CRM market worldwide. Salesforce provides customer relationship management service and also sells a complementary suite of enterprise applications focused on customer service, marketing automation, analytics, and application development. The Salesforce node allows you to manage over 10 different fields, such as contacts, leads, opportunities, flows, and tasks.
  8. Salesmate is a cloud-based CRM solution that caters to small and midsize businesses across various industries. Key features include contact management, sales pipeline management, email marketing and internal chat and phone integration. The Salesmate node lets you manage information about activities, companies, and deals.
  9. Zoho CRM is an online Sales CRM software that manages sales, marketing and support. The Zoho CRM node allows you to manage accounts, contacts, deals, invoices, leads, products, purchase orders, quotes, sales orders, and vendors. With the Zoho CRM node you can perform CRUD operations on deals, invoices, leads, quotes, and many more.
  10. Freshworks is a cloud-based CRM that helps businesses manage their interactions with their customers and leads. The Freshworks CRM nodeprovides basic operations for managing sales activities, tasks, deals, and more.

2. Decide what you will automate

After you’ve picked a CRM and explored its functionalities, you should define what you want to automate. Think of the tasks involved in every step of the sales funnel and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the task repetitive?
  • Is the task time-consuming?
  • Do you need to perform the task often and regularly?
  • Does the task have a high value?

If you answered yes to these questions, then your task is most probably a case for automation. Once you’ve identified the pain points in your current manual workflows, you can start defining and designing automated workflows.

3. Build workflows

Before starting to create workflows for the tasks identified in the previous step, ask yourself one more question: do you need to automate tasks that take place only within the CRM or also between the CRM and other apps or services?

For the first case, note that some of the CRMs listed above offer built-in automation functionality for simple workflows. For the second case, you can take advantage of the n8n nodes, which allow you to connect your CRM to 200+ apps or services.

To help you get started, we’ve created 3 workflows with HubSpot and Pipedrive for automation at every step of the sales journey. Of course, you can replace the HubSpot and Pipedrive nodes with another CRM of your choice.

Capture leads from Typeform submissions

Typeforms are a presentable and efficient way of capturing leads and feedback from your customers. For example, you can embed a typeform on your website where visitors can request a quote for your services, or one which asks them to submit their contact details in order to download gated content.

This workflow is triggered when a typeform is submitted, then it saves the sender’s information into HubSpot as a new contact.

Send reminders after meetings with prospects

We mentioned that a common problem within sales teams is synchronization and information transfer since salespeople might forget to note down details from their conversations with leads, jumping from one call to another.

This workflow is triggered when a client meeting is scheduled via Calendly. Then, an activity is automatically created in Pipedrive, to keep track of the lead cycle. Fifteen minutes after the end of the meeting, a message is sent to the responsible salesperson in Slack, reminding them to write down their notes and insights from the meeting with the lead.

Process newly created deals based on their stage, value, and priority

You’re reaching the bottom of the sales funnel and getting deals–good for you! From here, there are several tasks you can automate to speed up the sales process.

This workflow is triggered when a new deal is created in HubSpot. Then, it processes the deal based on its type and stage.

The first branching follows three cases:

  • If the deal is closed and won, a message is sent in a Slack channel, so that the whole team can celebrate the success.
  • If a presentation has been scheduled for the deal, then a Google Slides presentation template is created.
  • If the deal is closed and lost, the deal’s details are added to an Airtable table. From here, you can analyze the data to get insights into what and why certain deals don’t get closed.

The second branching follows two cases:

  • If the deal is for a new business and has a value above 500, a high-priority ticket assigned to an experienced team member is created in HubSpot
  • If the deal is for an existing business and has a value below 500, a low-priority ticket is created.

Apart from Typeform, you can also use the Eventbrite Trigger nodeto capture the contact information of people who registered for an event, or the SurveyMonkey Trigger node to save the responses of a survey.

What’s next?

In this post, you’ve learned about the advantages of CRM tools, when and why you should use a CRM, and what workflows you can automate with different CRMs. You’ve seen how automating different processes in the sales funnel can increase your productivity and minimize the time between the first contact and a closed deal.

This post was originally published on the n8n blog.