How to Set Up a CRM and Start Selling in 3 Steps (For Small Businesses)

If you're setting up your CRM system, you're probably also setting up your sales process. 

At least, that’s what I’m assuming as we dive into this guide. And it’s probably pretty accurate—especially if you’re a small business.

You might even be selling your product or service for the first time—at least, in a structured way with multiple people involved. And all of these changes? Damn daunting.

So many people overcomplicate the whole process. They pull in unnecessary steps, consult irrelevant stakeholders, and misuse (or underutilize) key CRM features. But CRM implementation doesn’t have to go that route.

My advice? The best way to get started is just to get started. Here’s how to set up a CRM so you can get straight to the good stuff: selling.

How to Set Up a CRM and Start Selling in 3 Steps

The right CRM solution will benefit your sales team in myriad ways: streamlining workflows, automating the follow-up, smoothing onboarding, boosting retention—and ultimately, improving your sales numbers. So, you need to set up your CRM to work—for you.

Do that with these three (relatively) simple steps.

1. Build Your Initial List of Target Customers

First things first: build a version-one ideal customer profile. Use that ideal customer profile to create an initial target list of the companies or individuals you want to go after and sell to.

To do this, you need to figure out who you can serve best. Get specific on the needs of these potential customers, their demographics, pain points, and goals. Study their customer journeys, and how they arrive in your sales pipeline and convert.

Keep in mind that this segment(s) must include enough leads to justify the effort of your next sales steps.

For example, if your product or service targets local construction companies, you shouldn’t try to go after all construction companies in the country. Narrow it down to a certain state or area, company size, and role you’re reaching out to. 

Get specific on who you’re trying to reach and make that universe artificially small. It makes it easier for you to target the right people. And it makes your messaging more crisp, nuanced, personalized—and effective.

Potential customers want to know that you’re building and selling a solution—for them. For the <50 employees construction companies in NW Ohio, for example. With this approach, you’ll gain traction and get responses. 

And you don’t want to waste your time and resources targeting fruitless leads and collecting irrelevant customer data, either. (Another tip? Cross-check your ICP with the marketing team. Getting on the same page will save a world of hurt.)

Building your initial target list of new leads should be an isolated task. Don’t sell to them. Don’t email them or call them. Just build the list—and get it as clean as possible.

Pro tip: Use Custom Fields in Close to filter through new leads (according to your ICP) as they enter the pipeline.

2. Get that Data into Your CRM

Now that you have the list, what do you do with it? 

Time to import into the CRM. In Close, you can import leads via CSV or XLS file—or perform a one-time data migration from your old CRM. And if you need any help? Reach out. Our team is always happy to help.

Don’t worry about it being perfect, though. Your customer data might not look pristine—yet. Just get the email addresses, phone numbers and the basic customer information in there, and then? Start selling.

3. Start Selling

Start selling. Start making phone calls, start emailing, start texting. 

These (potential) customer interactions via early outreach will teach you—a ton. You’ll learn the right messaging, the right cadence, which sales pitches work (and which don’t), and much more.

So, don’t blast the whole list in one shot. Create a schedule and segment your list out over a two or three-week period. That way, if your messaging is bad (or your email features an unfortunate typo), you haven’t ruined the whole list. Observe and iterate—don’t crash and burn.

Here’s how you can do this in Close. Drop bulk emails based on Smart Views—so you can reach who you want, when you want—and get actionable reports. Make calls and incorporate the Power Dialer, which lets reps burn through lead lists efficiently. And our built-in SMS? Send one-click messages, with replies landing right in your Close inbox.


With Close, in short, you can crush outreach while gaining relevant insights into what’s working—and what’s not.

Here are some of the basics—click the links to learn more about each stage:

So now, you’re selling. And, of course, if you can swing it—starting to close deals.

What’s Next: 4 Keys to Take Your CRM Setup to the Next Level

Now you’re actually communicating with leads via the CRM. You’re selling and iterating. Way to go! 

When you and your sales reps apply this iterative process over several weeks, you’ll start to develop truths that you can use to build out the actual scaffolding of the CRM. 

For example, what should the opportunity funnel stages be? What data should we be logging? How do we disposition the calls, when we call? As you work in the CRM, you’ll figure this stuff out.

Now, let’s elevate your whole setup and CRM strategy. Here are the next four steps.

1. Set Up Your Ideal Opportunity Funnel

Every sales-focused CRM tool has one ultimate goal, right? Closing deals. 

At this point, you need to set up your ideal opportunity funnel—the tool that helps you identify and prioritize sales opportunities. This three or four-step funnel tracks from a qualified opportunity to deal won, cash-in-bank. 

First, decide which businesses are qualified for your product or service. This includes several things:

  1. They can get value from what you’re selling
  2. They have the budget to buy what you’re selling, at the price you’re selling it at
  3. They can buy what you’re selling within the timeframe you need them to buy it

In the early-stage startup world, the deal-closing timeframe needs to be 30 days or less. You aren’t living year-to-year, quarter-to-quarter, or even month-to-month. You live and die by the day, so if that lead isn’t ready to move forward within the next 30 days, that isn’t a qualified opportunity, and you need to walk away.

Build that process into your own CRM. What do I mean? Most CRMs have an object called an Opportunity, and they have Statuses or stages of each Opportunity—that you can define. The first one is usually "qualified."

In Close, you can set up customized Lead Statuses (such as “new lead,” “qualified,” or “customer”) as well as Opportunity Pipelines to describe each stage of the deal in your sales process. Your business is unique, and so your pipeline should reflect your own unique selling methods and customer journey.


Once you’ve created these, you’ll see new opportunities in an easy-to-digest Pipeline View, showing you exactly where each deal stands in your process.


Once you’ve qualified new leads, the next stages in your opportunity funnel are directed by the procurement process within your specific industry. So, maybe that’s a product trial. Then, a proposal. Then, a contract. (Or something else entirely.)

You’ll also want to identify the touchpoints essential to your sales process and learn which business processes are involved in closing deals. Optimize and iterate (per usual). 

All this information will feed into the successful development of your unique sales pipeline.

2. Establish Basic Reporting

So, now that you’re selling out of the CRM—and filling out your opportunity statuses and updating the pipeline—the reporting will take care of itself. Your new CRM is capable of handling the most common metrics your business needs out of the box, without additional input. 

Here’s how Close does it. Our built-in reporting features provide real-time insights throughout the customer lifecycle—with Pipeline views, Sales Funnel Reports, Custom Fields and Activities, and beyond. Get actionable data to move deals forward and improve sales forecasting. And track only the KPIs you really need—so you don’t get lost in the matrix. Er, metrics.


But now, consider doing some manual calculations. Wait, manual?! Yes, manual. Open up your ideal spreadsheet and pull together the metrics on a weekly or monthly basis—manually. This does two things:

  1. It gets you what you need
  2. It trains you on the numbers

Automation is great. But sometimes, you’ll want to pull a specific KPI your CRM platform doesn’t support. (Even one as comprehensive as Close.)

The manual approach also provides the opportunity to dive into the numbers—and to understand the good, bad, and ugly on a granular level. You feel the pain of the loss and the thrill of the rise. Logging poor numbers? Ouch. Logging great numbers? Score! It keeps you sharp—and inspired to improve. 

Those automated reports on your dashboard? There’s no emotional connection. You look at it, and it depends on your skills and experience whether you decide to take action (and most don’t). 

So, even in the automated world—do some manual reporting. It’ll teach you humility, and provide the context you need to move forward.

3. Make Your Life Easier with Integrations

Once you’ve established an obvious and recurring process, it’s time to bring in the integrations.

Let me say it again: Don’t preemptively do this. Hook up the integrations within your CRM only after you’ve been doing the work—week in, week out—and can clearly understand which activities are done repetitively. 

Completing the same tedious task 10 to 12 times a day? Yikes. But those tedious tasks point you to exactly what you should integrate and automate. And that’s great.

Then, pull in automation tools like Zapier—or any native integrations where you can connect your CRM software to XYZ apps that will make your business processes so much smoother. 

Close offers tons of integrations for all your favorite apps—from Calendly, to Gmail, to Zoom—and beyond. And we’re always adding more, like our hot-off-the-grill ChatGPT Plugin!

4. Build Your Sales Workflows & Automation for Outreach

Ready to automate with Workflows (Sequences or Cadences—depending on your CRM)? The same laws of physics apply. That is, start manual.

Once you manually establish the cadence for success, such as 1. Call them, 2. Follow up with an email, 3. Follow up with another email four days later, you can build out the CRM workflows that work for you.

That way, when you create a new lead, you can enroll that lead into that proven workflow—and your day gets easier as you work through a simple list of tasks. 

Here’s how to do this in Close. Workflows in Close support email, calling, and SMS. Assign leads to your team members automatically (or manually), and set up automated triggers that prompt your reps for action (eg., make a call)—or push automated outreach (email = sent).


Create workflows for new leads, leads who went dark, lost leads—whatever you need.

The key here is that these workflows are built on the knowledge you gained from the steps you took manually. They aren’t dreamed up. These workflows work. And you automate that.

Pro Tip: Another benefit to automating workflows? Training. When a new rep onboards, they don’t have to go through the same blood, sweat, and tears. They’re inserted into smooth and functioning workflow processes.

Generative AI gets a lot of love—and with good reason. But it can also output bad material, due to poor prompts or AI hallucinations. So, if you leverage it, it’s important to first understand the baseline for good emails, good scripts, or a good set of notes. And that baseline is found through experience.

Final Tips to Set Up Your CRM Software for a Fantastic Customer Experience

No matter the type of CRM, the purpose is in the name: customer relationship management. You want to set up your CRM software to manage the socks off that relationship, improve the customer experience—and, by association, boost sales.

Through your CRM, you can provide stellar customer support, foster cross-team teamwork—and crush all the objectives listed above. So, we want to get this right, right?

Here are four quick tips to set up your CRM software that will (almost) guarantee a fantastic customer experience:

  • Set up lead scoring: Lead scoring will help you address the most important leads quickly—and prioritize the rest. You can track criteria in Close and establish Smart Views for each score or prioritization level. 
  • Make sure data is accurate before migrating it: Your new CRM might be powerful, but you still need to feed it actionable data and accurate contact information. This will help you get up and running quickly once you enter the CRM.
  • Connect email with Close: Connect your work email inbox to Close and see the history of all customer interactions with your team. Centralized communication? Done.
  • Use the API for more advanced integrations: API keys can connect Close to your favorite applications—or your own internal system. (Just be aware that API keys can read and modify your CRM data, so handle them carefully.)

There you have it—apply these four tips to your CRM setup process, and you’ll be good to go.

So, ready to exceed customer expectations and deliver on customer needs? You have the steps. You know the setup. Your salespeople are ready to crush the game.

And the last thing on your to-do list? Take Close for a test run. No credit card required.

Table of Contents
Share this article