You knew this day would eventually come, and it finally feels like the time is right to start using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

Whether you've been selling for years without putting all the pieces in one place, or feel like you are just now finding your footing with a process you can scale, all that really matters is that you've made the decision to take the leap and get started. 

But you can breathe easy - it doesn't have to be a big leap. For all the writing and talking about how to start using a CRM system that goes on, you might be led to believe that a month of customization followed by weeks of training are mandatory hurdles to getting started. For a large organization or one making a complicated transition, that is sometimes the case - but it isn't the rule.

If this is your first foray into the world of CRM, and if your approach is one of starting small, seeing what works, and making tweaks along the way, you likely won't need a ton of time or outside help to get started with HubSpot CRM. And if you are already using HubSpot, you are already a few steps ahead.

Who this guide is for

Before we get started, let's cover a few basics of who will get the most out of this guide:

  • You are already using HubSpot's marketing tools. While anyone can follow through this guide, it's written specifically for HubSpot customers, and may refer to other parts of the platform.
  • You have access to HubSpot CRM. As of right now, HubSpot CRM is in beta, and is in the process of being rolled out to HubSpot customers. If you haven't requested access yet, you can sign up here. It takes most folks a week or two to get access, and you'll receive an email when we turn it on for you.

Step 1: Basic Setup

Okay, let's dig in. First, there are a few simple administrative steps to getting started with HubSpot CRM. We won't go into detail here - there are help articles and other resources you can dig into listed below - but here's a rundown of things to think about...

  • Have you given your team access to HubSpot CRM? If there are other folks on your team who haven't used HubSpot at all before, or folks who have limited access to HubSpot, now is a great time to add new users and change permissions. HubSpot allows you to add an unlimited number of users, and you can change user settings anytime. By default, account & marketing administrators, and any user with sales permissions can access HubSpot CRM.
  • Is there any other data you need to import? If your entire database is already stored in HubSpot, you can skip this step - all of your contacts and their companies are already in place where they need to be. If each member of your sales team has their own set of contacts stored somewhere, you'll likely want to prepare those contacts to be imported to HubSpot CRM by combining them into a CSV file.
  • Is your team set up with Sidekick? It's an important step of starting to use HubSpot CRM. Sidekick makes it easy for your team to get value out of HubSpot CRM and keep their reporting up to date without actually needing to log in and manually input data. Here are some simple instructions on getting started.

Step 2: Map the buyer's journey to your sales process

I know, I know... that sounds kind of heady when all you want to do is get started - but bear with me for a minute. Mapping out the buyer's journey just means having an understanding of how your sales process squares up against the typical purchase process your buyers ordinarily follow. This is necessary pre-work for the next two steps. We'll break it down to the two most basic and most critical questions you should ask yourself right now:

  • What signals can help you know that a lead is ready to hear from a salesperson? Are there certain actions a lead may take on your site, or other signals you use to draw a line between leads who are early in their sales process and need additional nurturing, and those who are ready for sales follow up? Here are a few examples:
    • A lead who has requested a demo, consultation or other form of sales contact
    • A lead whose score has reached a certain threshold
      A lead who answers a qualifying question on a form in a certain way

      If you aren't yet in a place where you've figured out what these signals are, or if you are working all of your leads right off the bat at this point (maybe because your volume is low), that's okay - but it's something to think about and ultimately work towards. 
  • What are the steps that a typical sales process follows? List them out. As you think about how to define these stages, try to anchor them around tangible events in the sales process (e.g., "demo completed"), not subjective stages that are open to the interpretation of different folks on your team (e.g., "decision maker bought in.")

Over time, you'll want to keep revisiting these two questions, because the answers to them will likely evolve.

Step 3: Define which leads you'll work with lifecycle stage

Lifecycle stage is a field that comes with HubSpot out of the box that lets you classify your leads into one of several different standard "stages". It's a useful field because it can help you define where along the buyer's journey an individual lead is, and thus, how you'll market (and when you'll sell) to them.

If you aren't familiar with the standard lifecycle stages HubSpot uses, you can read more about them here. For our purposes, we'll focus on two stages in particular - sales qualified leads, and opportunities. While your definitions of use of lifecycle stages may differ a bit, most folks consider any lead worthy of sales follow up (a lead who has met the criteria we mapped out above) to be a sales qualified lead, and any lead who a salesperson determines may actually buy to be an opportunity. 

  • #1 - Make sure everyone on your team agrees on the definition for a sales qualified lead. At a bare minimum, It's important for you to have a common understanding with everyone else who communicates with leads and prospects about who will take the lead on communication (marketing or sales) and when. This will help you ensure that no potential prospects fall through the cracks, and there isn't disjointed communication going on at the same time.
  • #2 - Familiarize yourself with how to change lifecycle stage, or set it up to change automatically. Lifecycle stage is a field that you can manually change on an individual lead when you start working it in HubSpot CRM, but it's also easy to have it change automatically when a prospect takes one of the actions you defined in the previous step. You can learn more about automatically updating lifecycle stages with HubSpot marketing here.
  • #3 - Know how and when HubSpot will update the lifecycle stage for you. When you create a deal in HubSpot CRM, HubSpot will do some of the work for you, updating the lifecycle stage of all contacts associated with that company to "opportunity". When you close that deal as "won", HubSpot will update all of those lifecycle stages to "customer". 

Step 4: Define the steps of your sales process with deal stages

In addition to lifecycle stage, HubSpot CRM comes with a second set of stages you'll use to organize your sales process - deal stage. Deal stage refers to where an individual deal or opportunity sits along the buyer's journey.



Like lifecycle stage, there are some standard deal stages HubSpot CRM comes with out of the box, but you may want to change them to match the stages of the sales process you outlined above. You can learn how to edit the names of your stages, along with the associated probability, here.

Step 5: Get to know your views

As a final step, you may want to build some custom "views" you'll use to actually review your leads in HubSpot CRM. By default, HubSpot CRM comes with some standard views out of the box for you to get started with, which you can learn about here. If you want to take things a step further, you may want to create custom views based on certain criteria. 

Many of the default views and the suggestions above rely on the owner field to determine who on your team sees which leads. This is a field you can set manually if you delegate leads out to the different folks on your team on a case by case basis. You can also set up some basic logic using Workflows in HubSpot to assign leads to the right person if you assign leads based on details in your database (territory, for instance).

Step 6: Iterate as you sell

We've just walked through some of the basics of getting started with HubSpot CRM and a basic sales process. While this article should give you the basics you need to get on your feet, the best way to get started is by doing and learning - so you should expect to iterate on your initial stages and process quite a bit over the course of your first few weeks and months using HubSpot CRM. For a more in-depth look at specific features of HubSpot CRM, check out the HubSpot CRM User Guide.

Were there any steps we didn't cover here that were critical to you in getting started with HubSpot CRM? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Subscribe to the HubSpot Academy blog!


Originally published Oct 16, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017