When you lead the sales team for a small business, everything you do feels big and important. And that’s because it is. That $10,000 deal might open the door to your biggest customer yet. The right process tweak could be as valuable as gaining a new salesperson. Or a different way of analyzing your data might put your growth on the fast track.

But when everything you do can make a big difference, how do you know where to focus your greatest efforts? Your opportunities may be unlimited, but your time and resources certainly aren’t.

The trick is to keep your eye on the end game rather than individual victories. Cancel out the noise, set big goals, and stick to them. And there’s no better time to do that than the new year.

Not sure what your goals should be? Not to worry. I’ve discussed this subject many times with dozens of sales leaders, and three themes consistently stand out: customer-centricity, sales productivity, and company growth. With that insight as my inspiration, here are my top three resolutions to put your sales team on track for the best year ever.

The numbers back up this resolution in spades, and one statistic is particularly eye-opening. According to our latest “State of the Connected Customer” research, 80% of today’s customers say the customer experience is as important as a company’s products and services. On top of that, 67% say their standard for a good experience is higher than ever. And 57% of customers say they’ve taken their business elsewhere because a competitor provided a better experience.

I have said this many times over in several forums: It’s not enough to make someone feel like your most important customer – they want to feel like your only customer. To make that happen, you need a good customer relationship management (CRM) system that gives your sales team – and everybody else in your company – a complete 360-degree picture of each customer in one place. That way you can see a customer’s full history, answer all their questions, and even anticipate their needs as if they were your one and only.

Another great way to create an excellent experience is to make it easy for customers to answer their own questions. A good CRM will let you share your company knowledge via an online FAQ or knowledge base, and busy customers will be ecstatic when they can quickly solve issues by themselves. As a bonus, your sales teams will also be happier and more productive because they’ll be fielding far fewer FAQ calls. And since we’re talking about productivity, let’s move on to resolution No. 2.

Did you know the average sales rep spends 64% of their time on non-selling tasks? The more you chip away at that wasted time, the more revenue you can generate without adding new salespeople. And when you’re a small business, the quickest and most cost-effective way to get it done is usually with a tool that allows your sales team to be more productive while increasing customer-centricity. Yes, you got it. A CRM tool.

A CRM system can give your sales team a huge productivity boost because it automates many of your most repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Remember that 360-degree view of the customer we were talking about? Imagine if your CRM automatically pulled data from your email, calendar, spreadsheets, and support channels to create that view. You’d not only save your sales team from hours and hours of busy work, you’d also give them a picture of every customer that’s more complete, accurate, and up-to-date than they’ve ever had before.

This is an especially exciting time for small businesses to start using CRM because artificial intelligence (AI) is making it easier to be more productive not only with your typical sales tasks, but also with highly advanced activities that have traditionally been the domain of only the largest enterprises. With AI becoming more advanced and affordable, automated features like lead scoring, predictive analytics, and personalized customer journeys are now within reach for a growing business.

While the latest AI is likely more than you need today, you should be thinking about it now so you’re ready tomorrow. More on that subject in resolution No. 3.

Profitability, of course, is essential to the success of any business. But if your company wants to move past the startup phase, you need to think beyond revenue and constantly look for ways to promote growth. For your sales team that means finding new customers, new opportunities with your existing customers, and new ways to help every salesperson realize their full potential.

How do you do it? Let’s start by looking at small companies that have already been successful at it. In our latest “Small & Medium Business Trends Report,” we found that growing companies are more than 2x as likely to use CRM as their stagnant or declining counterparts.

What’s the connection between growth and CRM? Look no further than resolutions 1 and 2. Small companies with CRM are able to win and keep more customers because they provide a smooth and seamless experience from day one of the customer journey. And their salespeople spend more time selling because their CRM takes on a huge share of busy work like tedious data entry tasks.

The right CRM will also help you avoid the pitfall of outgrowing your technology. Many small businesses make the mistake of buying sales solutions that only solve their immediate challenges. Then they have to overspend time and money on upgrades and integrations in the future. Instead, you should plan ahead with a complete platform that will scale as you grow and allow you to add advanced capabilities quickly and easily. 

Ready to put these resolutions into practice? It is easier than you think. First, share them with your team and come to a common understanding of what each one means specifically to your company. Next, be sure to reinforce the resolutions regularly by discussing how you’re fulfilling them individually and as a team. And finally, remember to use these resolutions as your guide whenever you have to prioritize your time and resources. Ask yourself, “Which path is most likely to help us achieve our top three goals?” Then let the answer be your compass.

It’s not enough to make someone feel like your most important customer – they want to feel like your only customer.”

Enrique Ortegon | SVP SMB Sales at Salesforce
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