Naming Conventions for a More Productive CRM Experience

Naming Conventions for a More Productive CRM Experience

As a busy professional, I don’t like to waste time looking for things that should be evident or easily found – especially on my computer. I regularly use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and thankfully most have robust search tools to find what I need quickly. However, in my years of experience with CRM, I’ve learned that some simple naming conventions help me save time and often eliminate the need for searching.

Account Names

Account names should be entered in CRM as they appear on the accounts business cards or web site. If the name starts with “The”, you may wish to omit it, or put it at the end of the name. I generally use the name exactly as it appears – even with “The”. When I need to quickly locate the account, I use a wild card and search on a unique word in the name. With this approach, I generally have no trouble finding the account I seek. The main thing is to decide on your naming convention and stick to it consistently.

Contact Names

Contact names should be entered as they are provided. The big question is “do you use the formal name – like Charles – or the nickname – like Chuck”? Either way is fine. Some clients will have a custom field for nicknames, but that is not as useful as the out-of-the-box fields for first and last name. I recommend using the name you use when you greet a contact face-to-face. In this case, “Chuck” is the likely choice. However, know that the downside is potentially coming across as too informal if you use your CRM to create official documents. If you create agreements from CRM, it is probably safest to go with a person’s legal name, unless they never use it. Generally, it is appropriate to use a contact’s name as it appears on his/her business card.

Should a middle initial be included in CRM? The answer is only if needed. A middle initial is very useful to differentiate between multiple people with similar names. However, know that having a middle name or middle initial can increase the complexity of your searching. You may have to always use a wild card, because it is unlikely you will remember a contact’s middle initial.

Opportunity Names

Having spent a lot of time in sales leadership, I’ve learned that opportunity records should have a naming protocol that is consistent across all users. (Ruthlessly consistent, if possible!) Even though a selling opportunity is directed toward an account and often a contact, most CRMs – including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Zoho – require an opportunity name (sometimes called a “topic” or “deal name”). A consistent naming convention helps both users and managers more quickly find what they need.

Because I am a big advocate for account-based selling, I like to have the account name (or a shortened version of it) as the starting point for my opportunity (or deal) name. I also like to include the product or service that I believe will be the focus of the deal. Mind you that opportunity names can change as a deal evolves, so you don’t have to keep the same opportunity name forever! Change it, if needed, to keep the name relevant.

My recommended protocol then is “Company name (or memorable abbreviation) – Primary product/service”.

For example, if I am working with a prospect from “Circle Systems, Inc.” to sell a process consulting engagement, I would create the Opportunity Name “Circle Systems – Process” or perhaps simply “Circle – Process”.

Project Names

I like to use the same naming convention for my project names. Some might worry that using the same or a similar name for both an opportunity and a project might be confusing. Never fear! Most CRMs differentiate their icons for opportunities and projects, so they are not easily confused. Also, both appear in different list views, so it is unlikely you would be looking at both an opportunity and a project simultaneously.

List Views

In a list view for opportunities or projects, you often have the account listed in a column. One might think that having the account name imbedded in the opportunity or project name is a bit redundant. Perhaps it is, but the benefits are worth it! If all users employ the same naming protocol for a given entity, the list view for that entity will be very clean. It will be easy to zero in on the specific record of interest.

List Views CRMSome of our clients give each opportunity a specific number. They include that number in their opportunity name, so they can easily search on the number and find the opportunity. Their naming convention may be “Account – Opportunity number”, for example “Circle Systems – 23456”. By using this protocol consistently, they can use the wild card search with the opportunity number and find what they want quickly and seamlessly.

Some customers like using the contact name vs. the account name in their naming protocol. This can be useful when there are multiple opportunities within the same account. However, I sometimes have a difficult time remembering names of individuals, so I prefer to go with account name, as outlined above.

Outlook Integration

The power of a naming convention is very evident when it comes to your Outlook integration. Specifically, in Microsoft Dynamics 365, a good Outlook integration will help you connect your correspondence and appointments to an account, contact, opportunity, or project in CRM.

There are times when I work with multiple people on a project, but I can only have one person associated with that project record. When I correspond with a person who is not the primary contact, I may still want to associate an email with the project. Voila! With a good naming protocol, it is super easy. I simply start typing the project (or opportunity) name into the Outlook – CRM integration app search box using the naming protocol. A short list of names will appear that match my initial few letters. The list is refined as I continue typing. Once I see the record I need, I can “set regarding” that record and know with confidence the email is attached accordingly. I save a ton of time scrolling and looking for the record.

Outlook Integration Dynamics 365

In Summary

Naming conventions are powerful. They are most useful when thought through and planned in advance of a CRM deployment. However, it is never too late to start using naming conventions. Over time, they will be pervasive in your CRM, and they will increase the efficiency of all users.

If you’d like to explore this or other methods for increasing your productivity with a CRM platform, please contact us:

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