Pipeline Customizing Do's and Don'ts

Written by Julia Zasso

You’ve probably stumbled across this help article because you’re interested in customizing your pipelines. Awesome! Customizing your CRM to your unique business will help you make the most of the software. Pipelines are one of the more helpful features of the CRM, but they can also be tricky if you’ve never worked with them before. Below, I’ll cover some basic do’s and don’ts to help get you started.

Note: in order to customize your pipelines, you must be an account administrator. If you do not have administrator privileges and think that is a mistake, get in touch with your account admins.

Do…

  • Learn about pipelines before you start customizing! We have tons of resources on pipelines, including videos and help tutorials. Plus, you can always schedule a 1:1 call with your CRM Coach if you need customizing help.
  • Plan out your customizations. Before you start customizing away, I suggest you consider what info and processes you want to track in your CRM account. Here are some general rules of thumb, although there are edge cases in which we might make a different recommendation:
    • If you want to track a process: use a pipeline. This worksheet will help you plan out your pipeline structure.
    • If you want to tag or categorize people: groups are usually the best way to go here. This tutorial will show you how to use groups in your account.
    • If you want to collect specific types of information: custom fields are your friend. If the information you want to store is related to the processes you track in your pipelines, you can create a custom pipeline field. If the information you want to store relates to all or most of your records, regardless of whether or not they are in a pipeline, you can create a custom contact field.
  • Think about your reporting needs. If you plan on pulling a report based on a certain step or piece of info in your process, then you’ll need customized statuses and fields to track those data points. Want to pull a report of all of your leads who are interested in a specific product? Then you’ll need a custom field to track what your leads are interested in!
  • Consider your team. If you’re not the only person using your CRM, you’ll need to train your team on any new customizations you create. Make sure to schedule time to give your team a demo of your new pipeline, or create detailed documentation. You can always contact your CRM Coach if you want to record a screen sharing call!
  • Change terms to match your own lingo. The default pipeline that every CRM account starts with refers to "leads" and "prospects". Prefer the term "potential customer" instead? Then edit your pipeline and status names to match!
  • Streamline and simplify your pipelines. The fewer pipelines you have and the simpler the setup, the easier your CRM will be to maintain. And the easier your CRM is to maintain, the more likely you are to enter information, and the more helpful your CRM will be.
  • Ask for help! The CRM Coaching team is always here to assist you. You can set up a 1:1 customizing call, or just ask us to talk a look at your customizations and let you know if we spot any red flags.

An example of a well-constructed pipelineThis pipeline covers a single process: turning leads into customers. It has relevant statuses and custom fields, and it's easy to understand and use!

Don’t…

  • Create a pipeline to track anything other than a process. If you just want a place to hold information or categories, you should create custom fields or groups. Pipelines are for tracking a contact or company through a series of statuses, not for holding static information.
  • Create a new pipeline for every product or project. Before duplicating an existing pipeline, ask yourself if you should be creating a custom field instead. A pipeline is meant to represent a single process, and you can use custom fields to distinguish between different applications of that process. For example, imagine you use a pipeline to register attendees for 3 upcoming workshops. You wouldn’t need three separate pipelines to track your registrants; you could use just one workshop pipeline with custom fields to track which workshop each person is attending. This will prevent you from creating pipelines that become obsolete, and it will make your CRM setup simpler and easier to maintain.
  • Create separate pipelines for stages in a continuous process. When you have a long sales process, it can be tempting to create several pipelines to accommodate all of the steps you’ll need to take. Although this can seem like a more organized approach, it can also make things more complicated and it can make it easier for leads and clients to slip through the cracks. For example, if your sales process has 3 stages (prospecting, contract negotiation, and execution), it may be tempting to create a pipeline for each stage, so that you can add just the statuses and custom fields you need for that particular part. But, think a little further down the line, and realize that you’ll need to attach and close 3 different pipeline items during a single successful sale. And if you forget to close or attach a pipeline, you risk losing track of a lead or throwing off your reports.
  • Over-organize and over-customize. It can be tempting to create a custom field for every potential piece of info you might gather during a sale. However, unless you are going to pull reports on that data, or you need to see a field at a glance, that’s what notes are for. I suggest starting with something simple, so that you have an easier time using and maintaining your database. Over time, if you realize you need a new field or status, you can add it after you have the hang of things.

An example of a poorly constructed pipeline

This pipeline isn't very well constructed. It will soon become obsolete (it only covers sales in June of 2019 for product A), and there are probably identical pipelines for products A and C! Plus, there aren't any relevant statuses, and some of the custom fields don't seem necessary. 

I hope this advice helps you create the perfect pipeline for your unique business! If you ever feel stuck, or you want to talk about your customizing options with an expert, don’t hesitate to contact our customer support.

Want more advice? Check out our recommended reading:

Posted on Jun 11, 2019
Filed under CRM Tips and Tutorials, Pipelines
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