I always get this question: What is one of the most important pieces to building out a sales team and creating a scaleable process? Some people think it’s hiring the perfect first sales rep while others believe it’s building out a playbook. And then there are those who might say it’s defining your ideal customer profile and total addressable market.

None of those are wrong and most definitely vital to scaling a team. Yet there is one important step that is usually missing: Keeping a clean CRM.

Many startups struggle with this (we’re guilty, too); they don’t do anything to prevent it, they just spend a lot of time fixing it only after it starts hindering rep performance. I’ve scoured the web for an answer but have yet to find a quick fix to data that’s in disarray. When you have a full team of sales development reps bringing in some 300 prospects a week each, you’re looking at thousands of leads created weekly (not including the inbound lead flow that marketing might be generating). So if you’re not defining a set process to ensure data quality and accuracy, you’re going to build a large database with a ton of bad data.

What exactly is bad data in this context? For the Greenhouse sales team, it’s having duplicate leads, invalid emails, wrong phone numbers, misspelled names, wrong formats (makes it obvious your emails are templates/automated), leads in the wrong stage, and worst of all hot leads falling through the cracks. That’s a bad sales data strategy.

I’ve defined a process which I call the 10 Commandments to Keeping a Clean CRM which should help those of you struggling with bad data and deduplication. The trick is to implement this sales data strategy as early as possible. You’re not going to get it right at the first crack, but I can guarantee you’ll be thankful to have built out some sort of a process from the start, otherwise you’ll have reps wasting a lot of time cleaning data. Not to mention, you’ll have duplicate reachout from reps to customers or prospects in the buying process. All of this means more manual work for your team, time that should be spend on revenue-generating activities.

So here are The Commandments to Keeping a Clean CRM

1. Training: Make sure reps aren’t prospecting the same leads at the same time. Let SDRs know how important it is not to bring in a lead without an email/phone number, otherwise it’s just taking up space in the CRM and resulting in a guaranteed bounced email (also makes reporting less accurate) if you’re using some sort of an automation platform. There are plenty of email guessers available on the web and if you can’t find anything.

There are so many great technologies out there for prospecting leads from LinkedIn, however, it’s common to have formatting that looks robotic in your emails since those technologies are pulling information from Salesforce via the prospect’s LinkedIn account.

For instance: If a prospect on LinkedIn has a title “Co-Founder/CEO/Techie” and has their company listed as “Greenhouse Software, Inc.,” what looks better for your template?

A. Hey Joe,

“Noticed you’re the Co-Founder/CEO/Techie at Greenhouse Software, Inc and I would love  to chat about why company name would be a great fit for a partnership because X, Y, and Z.”


B. Hey Joe,

“Noticed you’re the Founder at Greenhouse and I would love to chat about why company     name would be a great fit for a partnership because X, Y, and Z.”

The latter seems more human and less automated. Invest the time to do this and you’ll get better responses in the long run.

2. Always Be Monitoring: Always measure & monitor. Whatever channel (phone, email, social media, etc) your team uses to communicate with prospects, make sure you’re monitoring the data behind it. What is my bounce rate? What is my dial-to-contact ratio? Taking a look at these type of metrics highlight the bottlenecks in your process. Our sales team had a 30 percent bounce rate, so we integrated Data.com to cleanse the emails. That brought it down to 24 percent. That 6 percent might seem small, but when you’re talking about thousands of emails, that is a lot of prospects who aren’t getting your message.

3. Data Enrichment: As you start to grow your team, you want to start thinking about efficiency and consider what parts of the process you can eliminate or automate. We struggled with SDRs investing too much time looking for the right data and manually putting it into our CRM. So we incorporated enrichment tools that populates important fields for us in real time, ultimately, saving time.

4. Dedupe Process: When you have a team of SDRs prospecting at high volumes, there is bound to be some duplicate leads if you don’t use software to automatically merge leads. This is especially true if there is a marketing engine funneling the pipeline with leads.

5. Leads vs. Accounts: Define early on what object with which you  want your SDRs to engage prospects. Whether you’re using leads or accounts, it is going to make a big difference when you have a whole sales organization. Consider how you’re going to segment or split up teams, what type of approach you’re going to take, and what kind of handoffs they’ll make. For example, enterprise teams should probably be working off of accounts for a more strategic approach. It’s going to be much easier to run reports to see what’s going on at a company from an account level rather than looking at different leads. One page with all of the information rather than multiple pages with little pieces of information. SMB teams can probably work off of leads since there might not be multiple contacts at a company they are trying to work.

6. Align Sales & Marketing: The earlier you do this, the better. Sometimes sales and marketing can be siloed. There should be a defined process in who is in charge of collecting what information between each handoff.

7. Workflow Rules: Use Salesforce workflow rules, or some type of a notifications process if you’re using another CRM, to ping a rep when an important activity happens. At Greenhouse, anytime there is a demo request on an existing lead, the SDR receives an email notification and a task is created for them to reach out ASAP. If there happens to be no activity on the lead in a while, it gets automatically routed to the inbound team. Never let anything slip through the cracks, especially hot leads.

8. Validation Rules: Ensure that your reps are required to collect any data you want from prospects or opportunities. Validation rules keep SDRs and Account Executives on their toes to fill in all the appropriate information and prevent them from accidentally leaving fields empty.

9. Salesforce Admin: Maintaining the quality of your CRM is a full-time job once you have a complete team. Bring in an admin early on to help rep productivity with custom workflows and formulas. They should also align the processes throughout the org (since marketing and customer success will probably live in your CRM as well), and create a tight-knight process where all the data is collected. This will give you actionable insights on how to improve efficiencies and reduce bottlenecks quickly.

10. Rinse & repeat. Never be satisfied with the status quo and keep improving your process. Continue to always measure your sales data.