CRM Strategy and Getting Started with Zoho CRM

crm customer relationship management strategy zoho Sep 14, 2023

UPDATED September 14, 2023

If you are currently shopping around for the right CRM System, chances are that you already understand the value of customer relationship management. Right? 

Do you have a clear plan or strategy for how your company will use a CRM system in your business? New technology is fun and the idea of automating processes is very appealing. The hitch is that the planning work needs to be handled before you start importing contacts and setting up automations / workflows. 

If you have already created a CRM Strategy, then jump down this page to the "Intro to Zoho CRM" section.


Marketing Is About Offering Value: Listening, Watching, and Asking.

Clients often ask me how to write social media posts that will connect with their customers or emails that will get high open rates from a strong subject line. [FYI - Your goal should be click-through rates, rather than open rates].  The first thing I tell a client is to be sure they are offering something of real value. When you are offer value through your marketing content, it can actually achieve a successful results. It's important to begin with a documented content marketing strategy.

The second thing I tell clients about knowing whether you're offering value begins with understanding your ideal customers. To better connect with customers, you must begin by listening to what they say, watching what they are doing, and asking smart questions about what they want. 

If you are developing a marketing funnel or still in a place of understanding your customers, then you'll check out these two articles first:

1. Lead Generation and Funnel Basics

2. Creating Customer Personas



How to Start a CRM Strategy

When referring to a CRM Strategy, we are talking about how you thoughtfully engage with prospects and customers.  You can do this in a way that feels completely genuine and personal, while also increasing conversions and (hopefully) reducing some work by using automations. 

I always start the process by evaluating the R of CRM: Relationship. What is your relationship like with customers right now?

One of the things I did in my early days of owning a business was simply calling or emailing people on a regular basis - no sales pitch, just checking in. It may have been a calendar reminder or I simply remembered. As business grew, it became a little more difficult for me to keep track of who I had called and the result of the call. For that time period in my business it worked.

In the long-term, trying to remember to call past clients and prospects was a losing strategy. If you are at a point where the relationships with customers and prospects is at risk, then it should be a red flag. Now is probably the time to begin working on your CRM strategy, and then you can find the right software to help you manage it. 


3 Simple Steps to a Basic CRM Strategy 


Step 1: Customers and their journey

Who are your customers and what are steps do they take to go from prospect (stranger) to returning customer (loyal fan)?  Work with your team to document theses steps. If you have the time and patience, then really get into the details.

Identify the opportunities, holes, and failures in the customer journey.  Try to draw it out like a map - make a diagram that shows the flow from one step to the next. Then decide how you would like to update that journey. Perhaps it is as simple as creating a Welcome email for new subscribers or paying for a booking calendar tool to get on the phone with prospects sooner. 


Step 2: Building Relationships

There are times and opportunities when it is easier to build strong relationships with clients and prospects. What are those opportunities?

The best sales people do not have to sell at all. Instead, they ask the right questions and guide someone based on what they hear.Developing empathy for your customers is the highest priority for the sales team. When this information is tracked in a CRM, it also becomes a powerful tool for your marketing team. 

Many real estate agents use birthdays and home buying anniversaries to keep the conversation going with their past clients. It's a simple card in the mail that costs you $1.50 and it has a big potential impact.  Consider relationship building as part of your conversion conversation flow. 


Step 3: Managing and tracking 

Whether you track customers and prospects using a spreadsheet, a CRM software, or a notebook is not the most immediate concern. Start somewhere. Whatever is the easiest place for you to start. If you have never done this before, it may seem like an enormous step, so I created a template Customer Tracking Tool and you can use and make your own. Get that Customer Tracking Tool Here. The collection and organization of contact data and about those relationships is the final key to your CRM Strategy. 


Each company's CRM Strategy is unique, so Beckmann Collaborative offers workshops - both in person and online - to hash out these details with you. We do this alongside other businesses who offer valuable insights into their own experiences. 

Here is the latest workshop >


    Introduction to Zoho CRM

Over the 10 or so years that I've used different CRM platforms, I have learned that the place to begin any conversation about the software is with definitions - especially if you have never used one before.  


The overly simplified definition of a lead is a stranger. This is someone who you have do not really know yet and need to qualify as a potential customer or client.  

If your business offers a free download on your website, then strangers will fill out your form and be added into your CRM as a Lead. Now you have an opportunity to send them emails or call them to qualify if they are just a random person looking for free whitepaper or if they have the potential to buy something from you one day.

Another example of getting leads is from a conference or a tradeshow. Maybe you collect business cards while attending different sessions or get them from people visiting your booth. Now your or the people on your sales team can follow-up these Leads and see if they are interested in buying your services or products.


NOTE: I've seen many businesses forego the use of the Leads module and that is often a mistake from both a sales and marketing perspective. This is a vital way of separating out your qualified contacts and customers from total strangers. 



After you followed up with that Lead, maybe he or she said they want to get a demo of your product or sign-up for a free trial. Or perhaps the company is requesting a proposal from you. This is a time to convert that Lead into a Contact. When you convert a Lead into a Contact, the data you collected in the Leads module should carry over into the newly created Contact record - if not, then ask for support with your "Lead Conversion Mapping." This includes documents you may have sent, email exchanges, and notes too.

Now, you have a potential customer or client who you will want to keep top of mind and be interacting with on a regular basis. Depending on your business module, that Contact may be associated with an Account (Company).



When you convert your Lead into a Contact, you'll see an option to create a new deal. This is the module that allows you to track the potential sale. Some CRM platforms call this potentials, opportunities, or the pipeline. There are multiple steps, usually, to take a hot prospect to the point of paying you for services - these are called Stages.

One of the things I love about Zoho CRM is my ability to completely customize the Deal stages and even create multiple pipelines for different product or services lines. By default, each Stage comes with the possibility of setting a Probability percentage. You can name the Stages any way you like and set the percentages you think are appropriate.  The very first stage could simply be that Free Consultation or Demo. From there, you may have a proposal, an agreement, and define whether it was a Won deal or Lost deal.

The Deal Stages are incredibly helpful when evaluating how many potential deals to forecast or expect each quarter, even more so is seeing which ones actually came to fruition. 


Your use of the Accounts module really depends on your business and sales approach. If you are selling to other businesses, it's a must-have module. An Account is where you document the company information of all your customers. If you have multiple contacts at a single company, they will be associated with the same account. If you do not use company names, then you can turn off this module or you can use it in other creative ways (separate conversation to have). 


Calls, Meetings, and Tasks:

There are three different modules for tracking your activities within Zoho CRM: Calls, Meetings, and Tasks. This is ties back to tracking your sales efforts (i.e. how many touchpoints before we closed this Deal). Note that these were previously in one combined module called Activities, but that is going away in 2023. 

When you call a Lead to discuss interest in your product or service, you want to have a historical record of when that call happened and what was said. You can track a call in a few different ways: log a past call, begin a timer for a new phone calls, or schedule a call. If you use a phone bridge, then the call logging can be automated.

You can integrate your calendar to track events such as virtual meetings or in-person meetings. Or you can send meeting invitations out directly from a Contact record. Either way, it will be tracked back to the Contacts that are on the invitation.

And, of course, you can assign tasks to yourself or other team members. Most commonly, we see tasks used as internal reminders such as "send follow-up email to this lead". Tasks are often used in workflows (automations) based on activity triggers such as a Lead clicked through on a particular email.


These are the basic functions of Zoho CRM, but this doe not cover even half of the possible topics that we could discuss. There is only so much room in a single blog post for us to share information. So what can you do next?

1. Reach out to ask us about our open Zoho Office Hours. Once per month, you can join us for a very short presentation followed by open Q&A, mastermind style with other Zoho CRM users. Click here to request more information.


2. If you prefer to use the resources offered by Zoho, you can start with their Introduction to CRM article


3. Are you looking for a more hands-on approach to get support in setting up your Zoho CRM? Then start by taking our Zoho Assessment. After you fill this out, we can get on a call to discuss what you're doing with your CRM strategy. 


 This is the first in a series of posts that introduce you to Zoho CRM


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